Don't Hire an SEO Company Until You Consider These 5 Important Factors

Why partnering with the right search engine optimization company can make all the difference

Have you been duped by SEO companies in the past?

If so, I think you'll agree with me when I say that it's one of the most frustrating experiences, and can be financially devastating for a small business. If not, count yourself lucky that you've made it here before any damage was done.

I've been in the SEO industry for a long time -- more than 20 years. Sitting at the helm of an SEO company, I've seen search engines and the online marketing industry as a whole evolve dramatically over the last two decades.

But one thing that has been around since the very beginning is schemers trying to "beat" Google's algorithm with dishonest and ineffective practices - what we in the industry refer to as "black hat SEO."

The really bad thing about black hat SEO is that unknowing business owners frequently fall into their traps. They promise immediate rankings and traffic for an unbelievable price. But after months of failing to provide, or a short-term boost followed by a harder fall, the SEO company takes your money and runs.

Here's the deal: If you don't want to end up duped like the thousands of business owners before you, you should make sure the SEO company you hire doesn't raise any red flags. By considering the following five factors, your business can find an honest partner that delivers sustainable, long-term rankings, traffic growth and conversions to your business.

1. Pricing

Each company's pricing model will look a little different, and the overall cost will depend on the specific services and level of effort your business requires.

The main piece of advice I can give you here is not to ask "How much does SEO cost?" but rather "How much SEO is needed to rank my website on Page 1?". Many factors can determine the level of SEO investment your business requires to achieve the rankings and results you are looking for, most notably:

  • Keywords. Are the keywords you want to rank for competitive? Succeeding in competitive keyword markets take more effort, more time and, therefore, more money.

  • Competitors. Do your Page 1 competitors have strong SEO in place? Displacing competitors with a strong online presence will take more effort and time.

  • Inventory. What resources do you currently have that can be used for SEO? Analyzing your existing website is the first step in determining how much work is needed.

Be wary if a company is quick to quote you a price without at least first considering these factors. And remember: If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

2. Authenticity

Any SEO company you hire should be able to prove their legitimacy with industry accolades, partnerships, registrations and more.

Also, make sure they practice "white hat" SEO - as opposed to black hat. Black hat SEO refers to practices that are not sanctioned by Google and other search engines. While your website might see a temporary spike in rankings and traffic from certain black hat SEO techniques in the beginning, your website will eventually be woefully punished and, worst case, disappear from the search results entirely.

To achieve long-term positive results from your SEO strategy, make sure the company you hire practices white hat methodology. One quick and easy way to tell is to look for a Google Partner badge somewhere on their website:

This badge shows that the SEO company adheres to Google's webmaster best practices which specifically prohibit certain black hat SEO tricks such as spamming, duplicate content and hidden links.

3. Success

Every company likes to talk big (a skill us marketers are especially good at), but as the saying goes: "the proof is in the pudding." Make sure the SEO firm you hire can back up their promises with measurable results before you sign a contract.

One way to check into a company's results is by looking at their case studies, portfolio and customer testimonials. These are great insights into how an SEO company makes decisions, how they treat their clients and how they intend to follow-through with their objectives. If not listed on their website, don't be afraid to ask for a list of current and past clients.

4. Size

Like any business, SEO companies come in all shapes and sizes - from single-person enterprises to major agencies that staff hundreds of marketers. You can benefit from more personal attention with the small, one-man operations, but they may lack the resources and turnaround time that a large marketing agency can provide.

To get the best of both worlds, I recommend going with a medium-sized SEO company with anywhere from 10 to 30 team members. These companies tend to offer the best combination of personal attention, creativity, resources and efficient project turnarounds.

5. Experience

This should go without saying, but make sure the SEO company you're considering has real experience as a successful internet marketing firm. Better yet, ask if they have experience working in your specific industry.

For instance, if you're an attorney looking to acquire better search engine rankings and website traffic for your law firm website, consider searching for a marketing company specializing in legal SEO. Each industry poses unique marketing challenges, so a company with prior knowledge and experience working with businesses like yours can help give you big jumpstart.

While hiring an SEO company with experience in your specific industry is preferred, it isn't necessary. Finding such a reputable company may be very difficult depending on how niche your industry is. At the very least, make sure the marketing firm you're considering can show proven results and has years (if not decades) of experience in search engine optimization & online marketing.

Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Company

When choosing an SEO consultant to help achieve your website goals, it often boils down to asking the right questions. Questions like:

  • How do you intend to improve my search engine rankings?

  • Do you adhere to search engines' webmaster guidelines?

  • Can you guarantee my website will achieve a #1 ranking on Google, Bing and Yahoo? (Hint: If they answer yes, run far away! No legitimate company can guarantee such rankings.)
  • What local SEO services do you offer?

  • How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns?

  • How will we communicate and how often?

  • What is your SEO approach and philosophy?

That's a good start. Good luck in your search. And remember:
Black hat SEO companies are out there and eager to take your hard-earned money. Don't let them take advantage of your business!

Are you looking for the best SEO consultant to help grow your business website's rankings and traffic? Contact us to get your free quote.

About SEO Advantage®

Led by Stone Reuning, SEO Advantage®, Inc. is an online marketing and search engine optimization firm that helps businesses turn their web presence into a powerful revenue generation medium. Our clients enjoy dominance on Google, Yahoo and Bing through a suite of unique pay-for-performance search engine optimization and online marketing services implemented by a multidisciplinary team of SEO engineers, copywriters and web designers. You'll find us referenced in books such as "Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale" and the BusinessWeek bestseller "The New Rules of Marketing & PR," as well as the popular ebook "The Small Business Blogging Blueprint." Find out more today by calling us at 1-800-366-1639 or email us here.

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