There is a lot of information floating around about search engine optimization (SEO) and how to know if you are getting the services and results you really need. It can be a confusing and overwhelming at times, but there are some simple things you can do to choose an SEO company and feel confident about your choice.
Make no mistake, this is a pretty big decision – but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start the process with some simple questions and you’ll soon have the foundation you need to make your decision an informed one.
What Questions Should You Ask an SEO Company?
As you go through the discovery process and start to learn more about your potential SEO provider, there are some questions that really need to be answered before you make any final decisions. Start with the following:
- Do you have any case studies or specific references that you can share?
- What special client wins can you share that required special actions or a unique approach to an SEO campaign?
- What are your current SEO tactics and how they differ from the tactics you used 2 years ago?
- Do you strictly follow search engine guidelines or do you think it’s okay to push those lines (or jump clear past them)?
- In what time frame do you expect to see results? (While you should be very suspicious of anyone who promises results in days or weeks, you can expect a reasonable timeframe based on their past results.)
- Do you have any experience working in my industry?
- Do you specialize in a specific facet of SEO or online marketing? Why or how has that type of focus provided better results?
- How long have you been in business?
- What communications and reports I can expect during the campaign?
Do I Need to Know Something about SEO before Starting the Conversation?
Many people are hesitant to begin seeking out an SEO company because they don’t feel they have enough base knowledge on the subject. They have a legitimate concern that their lack of information and experience will leave them with services or contracts they don’t actually need.
It’s important to have some basic understanding of SEO before you begin talking to different companies, but you don’t have to be a master of the subject.
There are several good sources for this kind of information, and your friends, family, and former employees do not fall into that category. Instead, go to the source: Google offers some basics on the subject and there are some good blogs that can act as a good primer. Do a little reading, but you don’t need to know everything before you contact an agency.
Have a Specific Goal in Mind
You should set some specific goals before you start looking at SEO companies. When you can express these goals clearly, it will be easier to know if the agency is the right fit for you.
Ask yourself what you really need and want to accomplish with an SEO campaign. Goals that are too general, like “get more traffic” or “get better rankings,” won’t be very effective. More specific goals might include:
- Starting a new website on the right foot
- Expanding your reach through paid search or social media
- Getting out of a Google penalty
- Cleaning up an older website and getting it in line with modern best practices
- Grow sales by a specific amount
These types of goals will help you be clear with your SEO agency so you can work together more effectively.
Set your goals, know your success metrics, and you can get a lot more out of your talks with SEO companies.
When Do You Need an SEO Company?
According to Google: “If you're thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you're considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up.”
While you may see immediate value from an SEO company during those suggested times, that doesn’t mean your long-established website is out of luck. It just means that the SEO company will have to change their tactics a little bit.
You may also want to seek help when you experience a sudden and detrimental drop in website traffic. This is most often due to Google’s regular algorithm changes, and when it happens, you’ll need to refocus your strategy to restore your traffic levels.
Getting and Understanding an SEO Proposal
Unless you have an entire legal department on standby to read over proposals and contracts, there’s a good chance that these types of documents are not exactly your idea of a relaxing, weekend read. Still, it’s important to make sure you understand what the proposal is saying so nothing slips by you.
The process of getting a proposal is pretty simple. After your initial conversation (or after filling out a request for proposal form on the website), someone will take some time to examine your website and your current standings in the search engines. They’ll gather some important data and come back in a day or so with an outline of the services and the pricing structure that they believe will provide the best return on investment.
Now that you have a proposal in hand, how do you know that it covers what you really need? Are you sure you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing?
Never make assumptions about what you’re seeing, and never limit yourself to a single proposal. Take the time to look at different offers, but you have to go beyond simple price matching. Look at the types of services they recommend. Are they the same? Are they recommending completely different strategies? When you see the similarities and the differences, you can go into your next conversations with some very specific questions.
What Are Common Misconceptions about SEO Companies?
There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there about SEO and SEO companies, and making decisions based on these misconceptions could potentially lead to poor results and serious business ramifications. Some of the most common misconceptions include:
- SEO campaigns can be fully automated – Generic, one-size-fits-all campaigns may take care of some foundational elements of an SEO campaign, but every company has different needs. While it is possible to automate some elements, you need strategies and tactics that are designed specifically for you.
- The size of the SEO company proves it is successful – Well, it does prove that the SEO company has had some success, but that won’t tell you how much success its clients have had.
- You can “SEO a website” and be done – SEO is not a one-time activity. There are no magic switches and no formulas set in stone. SEO is a strategy that must be implemented, tested, modified, and tested again.
- A pretty website is an indicator of success – A lone person working out of their basement can have a gorgeous, modern website. It doesn’t mean they’ll be able to deliver a great campaign.
- If something doesn’t happen in the first month, then something is wrong – SEO takes time. While it is possible (and sometimes probable) to see some initial movement in that first month, you have to be ready to play the long game. The first month is the time to build a foundation. From there, you can continue with the strategy and start to see some major improvements.
Making the Final Decision
Choosing an SEO company is not something you should do on a whim or without examining all your options. At the same time, it’s not a decision you should put off for too long. The longer you wait to start building your online presence, the more time your competition will have to establish themselves at the top of the search engine rankings.
Set your goals, gather your proposals, and compare their offerings to your needs. In the end, you’ll feel great about your final decision and be confident that it will deliver the best long-term results.
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