Step-By-Step Guide To Evaluating an SEO Company
by Mike Khorev
In our previous post we have discussed the importance of planning your SEO manpower. We have also discussed that there are generally three options to achieve this: building your in-house team, outsourcing to an SEO company, and hiring an SEO expert freelancer.
Outsourcing to an SEO company is generally the most beneficial option, especially for businesses willing to try SEO for the first time. Not only it is generally the most affordable, you can generally get the whole end-to-end package. So, you wouldn’t need to worry about executing the plan and planning contents as they will also be handling that job.
However, choosing the right SEO company can be a daunting task, especially for companies less experienced with SEO. So, in this article we will discuss a step-by-step guide to evaluate an outsource SEO company, with the aim to help you have a more successful SEO outsourcing.
Before we discuss the steps, let us first begin by discussing the things you should AVOID.
Mistakes You Should Avoid When Choosing SEO Services
1. Believing in A Secret Scheme to SEO Success
While it is true that in the early years of internet and search engine SEO successes are built through secret tricks and recipes, that is no longer the case today.
Nowadays, SEO is a very open field with consistency and well-executed plans being the only secret remains. So, when an SEO company pitches you with their ‘secret optimization techniques’, it is a very big red flag.
So, when having an SEO sales pitch, make sure you ask how they will do it, and never accept answers like ‘proprietary’ or ‘secret’.
2. Trusting Solely in Google Rankings
The seemingly obvious logic is the best SEO companies should have the best-ranking websites when you are Googling keywords like “best SEO New York” or similar ones. While there is certainly truth to that logic, unfortunately, a lot of the best SEO companies actually don’t rank well.
The ones in high-demand are often overwhelmed with clients’ projects, and they always get great referrals. Not only they don’t have time to optimize their websites, they simply don’t need to do it.
So, actually, the ones that rank well for “best SEO+city” or “best SEO+specialty” are the ones without any clients, most of the time. Although you probably can find the needle in the haystack here, it is simply not a good filter.
3. Trusting in Paid ‘Best-SEO’ Lists
There are many websites listing best SEO services, but the fact is many of them offers consultants and agencies to pay to be on their lists. This type of scheme happens in just any business. For example, we know there are a lot of sites listing the best restaurants which are also paid.
The thing is, this type of lists is simply not helpful for customers, and in fact can be misleading. There are, however, several trustworthy lists, such as Moz’s and other respectable websites. So, if you want to rely on this list articles, make sure you are getting the ones from trustworthy sites.
So, now that we have discussed the mistakes to avoid, let us shift our focus on what we should actually DO.
Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluate an SEO Company
Step-1: Set a Goal
You won’t be able to determine a good SEO service for your business if you don’t really have a clear goal. So, sit down with your team and actually figure out what you are trying to achieve with SEO. Be specific and clear, because there are also bad goals you should AVOID, such as:
Traffic and Ranking
Both traffic and ranking is obviously necessary, but shouldn’t be your sole goal. You should be more specific on how SEO can bring direct benefits to your business. We all know how ranking well can lead to more traffic and traffic (hopefully) will lead to sales. It is simply a terrible goal.
Beating a Specific Competitor
Annoying and beating your competitor might be fun, but it won’t directly translate to revenue and your overall business goals. Well, if your business goal is also just to beat a specific competitor, you should definitely think again.
So, what are the examples of good goals? Here are a few:
- Boosting traffic from a specific group looking for a specific keyword
- Boosting revenue through SEO as a sales driving channel
- Boosting brand perception and sentiments by using SEO
By having a specific goal, you can also try to find SEO services that specialized on your specific goals, if any. Nevertheless, this first step is really important, so plan it carefully.
Step 2: Filter Your Options
Now that you have figured out your goals, find three to five SEO companies to evaluate. Choose those that you feel can align with your specific goals. If you have more time to evaluate, you can certainly choose more than five. However, the more options you have, keep in mind that generally the more confused you will be.
We have mentioned that you should avoid using Google searches to find your prospective SEO service companies. So, how should you find your options? Here are a few good sources:
- Your trustworthy friends both on personal and professional networks are always a good source
- Non-competitive companies, such as B2B companies on your network.
- Industry insiders. For example, don’t be afraid to reach SEO professionals you’ve followed on Twitter for recommendations.
After you’ve figured out your three to five options, set up a meeting if possible, and here are a few questions you should ask:
- Ask for samples of successful results, and check their validity
- Ask for references, and also check for their validity
- Ask a little about their company histories, how long have they been in the business, and their general digital marketing experiences
- Ask about their preferences on reporting and monitoring, including how they will report their progress
- Ask for a specific quote, including how many websites they are going to optimize for that price
- Ask for their specific ways to optimize your sites, remember that there are no secret recipes. You can get technical here and ask a few trick questions, such as whether Local SEO and Google Places are similar to general SEO strategy
- Ask whether they are offering other digital marketing services that can support their SEO strategy, you might get a bargain with the package
You can add other questions as necessary, including questions specific to your niche, industry, or goals.
Bottom Line and Final Step
Now that you’ve got your prospects and have asked the necessary questions, the final step is to finally decide the right SEO company for you. Here are three common criterion you can use:
Trust and Communication Match
You’ve checked their success stories and references and they are satisfying. You’ve had good conversations with them and felt like they are a good match. Cultural differences can be a major hindrance in the future, so it is a factor worth considering.
Price and Contract Structure
Of course, their price should match your budget, and they should have a clear contract structure. Make sure everything is clear, including how they are going to be paid and their accountability.
If you hear great referrals from trustworthy sources, it is a very good signal to sign them.
While choosing the right SEO expert or company for your business can be a hard task, it is definitely doable. Remember after you’ve decided on hiring one, you should also evaluate their progress over time, so it’s just the beginning of a journey. Consistency and long-term focus, the keys to SEO success.