The world of internet marketing is a fast changing one. Especially with SEO, growing competition and changing search engine algorithms have made it an extremely competitive space with more and more SEO agencies mushrooming and offering a variety of SEO services. Many guarantee results to sign on clients, others offer performance based pricing, some offer a number of freebies. How then, do you decide which SEO company to partner with? Is a low cost service always such a great thing? How do you know that the agency is giving you value for money, without cutting any corners on SEO best practices and ethics? What should you look for while choosing an SEO company? This article tries to help you in your SEO agency selection process by providing some of the most crucial factors you should consider while evaluating an SEO company.
Do some analysis:
Even before you start contacting SEO companies for proposals, you need to know where your website stands. Some basic analysis can provide you with a lot of information to help you understand what your website is doing well and what its needs are. Verify your website with Google Webmaster Tools. By doing this, you will get access to things that Google sees in your website including what keywords are ranking where, what problems Google sees in your website, who is linking to you and much more. If you haven’t done so already, analyze the traffic to your website. Google Analytics is a free analytics solution that you can install on your site and study the traffic. You can find out how many visitors you get, where they come from, what keywords bring visitors to your site, what visitors do on reaching your website, and more.
Define your SEO need:
The next thing to do, based on the above analysis is to define your SEO need. While SEO should always be an ongoing effort, the analysis can tell you the most important needs. It can help you answer questions like: Do you need long term or short term SEO? What’s lacking most in your site — technical SEO compliance, content or incoming links? If you already get a lot of traffic, is SEO reporting and maintenance the greatest need to ensure that you stay on top of changing algorithms, competitor SEO activity and changing behavior of your target audience? Do you need strategic SEO consulting or operational support? Answers to these questions will help you prepare a meaningful brief and select an SEO company that is strong in the areas that you have the greatest need for. SEO is a vast field and all SEO companies are not equal in their capability and expertise. Defining your need will help you select a company that can serve you best at a price that fits your budgets.
The pressure to save costs where possible is always on. An agency that charges less, guarantees results or offers performance based SEO services would naturally seem to be the most desirable. However, not always is it a wise decision to go this route. Consider this:
- How can an SEO agency guarantee results when search engine algorithms change a few times each month? How can they know what changes are around the corner? How would they know what the competitors are up to? It’s wise to be suspicious of any SEO agency that guarantees results — more often than not, it is a result of desperation. Some even resort to short term black hat practices that can land you in trouble in the long term.
- Similarly, an SEO company that offers performance based SEO is offering to take a risk on your behalf. This is almost the same thing as guaranteeing results. When someone is willing to work without payment till results are achieved would need to know future changes in search engine algorithms, future competitor activity, etc.
- When someone offers you cheap SEO, a simple math can tell you how much the SEO professionals working on your project are likely to earn after taking away company profits, overheads and other costs. This will give you a fair idea of either the skill level of the SEO assigned to your project or the amount of time you may be getting. Since SEO is a skill-based practice and a time consuming endeavor, cutting corners on costs may be getting you either very little time and effort or unskilled SEOs who may do things that could hurt you in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that SEO needs to be expensive. If you get a breakdown of the time for various activities and the costs associated with them, you can do a quick reality check about whether you are getting value for your money or not. If you have defined your need well, finding the right solution that gives you good value for money can become relatively easy.
Shortlist SEO companies that are the right fit
Not always is the biggest SEO company the right solution. Besides being expensive, a large agency may not be the right fit for your needs. You may be paying for things you do not need. For a large SEO company, you can be a small client and that can mean you do not get the best in talent, intensity, and commitment that a large enterprise SEO client would get.
At the other end of the spectrum are freelance SEOs and small SEO agencies. While they can be cheap, they may lack the experience, exposure or expertise you need. You may get a good deal out of desperation, but if the SEO isn’t knowledgeable enough, it can hurt your website’s SEO in the long run.
Evaluate the SEO mix
SEO isn’t just about linking or content. Any meaningful SEO company recognizes that holistic SEO is a combination of technical SEO compliance, content, linking and user experience. SEO companies that focus heavily on only one or two of the elements in the SEO mix either lack the requisite skill or just do not understand SEO well enough. When evaluating the proposal from SEO companies, make sure all aspects of SEO get their due attention.
Insist on transparency
Whether it is reporting on performance or the effort, make sure the agency is transparent in its reporting. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Number of keywords: Many SEO agencies report on progress made on 3-10 keywords. Your business is not limited to these few keywords. A good SEO company would cover all or most of the keywords that are relevant to you and not limit the reporting to just a handful of keywords
- Access to login details: When an SEO company works on getting links to your site, they would be setting up accounts on your behalf on a number of sites, submitting your site to directories, etc. When they do this, check if they share the login details. If they do not, you would not have control and wouldn’t be able to make changes in the future if you need to. You would be locked to the agency because they would be the only ones with access to all this information.
- Reporting detail: Check the level of detail and transparency in the reports the SEO company shares. Do they report on all the effort made in your project? Do they list the sites they contacted, sites that your website was submitted to, etc?
Among the last things to check is the company’s track record. If you have done all of the above, you would have eliminated a number of SEO companies that are just not the right match for your needs. When you are left with a final short list of a few companies, the track record can be the deciding factor.
Make a commitment
Once you have decided on the SEO company you want to work with, make a commitment. When you commit to a project, you will get the commitment and involvement from the SEO company as well. Decide on an indicative budget and don’t aim too small. No one likes to constantly be on test. If the SEO company is legitimate, a long term commitment will get you the involvement from the SEO company that can make a lot of difference to the success of your project.
Don’t just leave it to the SEO company
Any outsourcing is a partnership. A good SEO company can achieve much more if you are involved as a client. When you take a proactive interest in making sure recommendations are implemented quickly, discuss possibilities, ideas and opportunities with your agency, it will fuel further ideation and move your project along faster and more aggressively. There’s a fine line between being involved and interfering. While you need to trust your SEO company and give them the necessary operational freedom, your involvement in the project can be the magic ingredient that makes the greatest difference. Consult and involve your SEO company in your other marketing initiatives.
Let us help your website get on Google
There’s a lot that goes into the success of an SEO campaign. Working with specialists in the field is advisable because you can benefit from the agency’s experience in working with a number of other websites’ SEO. Flying Cow Design is a company that specializes in helping companies build a web presence through a host of design, content and internet marketing services. Talk to us about your online marketing needs and let us help you get your website on Google.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area