How to Hire An SEO Company
Here’s How To Hire an SEO Company
Customers complain that your website never seems to show up in an online search – or worse, they don’t even know that you have a website. Crickets chirp online when you look for your URL. It’s as if you are invisible online. What’s going on?
You need SEO, my friend – search engine optimization, or the art and science of using techniques both on page and behind the scenes to alert the search engines that your website contains useful, valuable and relevant content that should be shared with others who search online for something similar.
Many people think they can take a DIY-approach to SEO. While it’s true that many SEO techniques can be learned by the average person, some are difficult to master overnight, while others take the time, resources and experience of a dedicated SEO-strategist to truly conquer. It’s estimated that the typical search engine algorithm uses 200 or more factors when considering rank. If you think you can master all 200 overnight to get your company better placement, have at it. For most business owners, their time is better spent elsewhere.
Is Search Engine Results Position (SERP) Really That Important?
If you’re unconvinced that hiring an SEO company is a good move, take a look at these statistics. These are the percent of clicks and views received by companies with search engine results on the following pages of a typical online search:
- Page 1 91.5%
- Page 2 4.8%
- Page 3 1.1%
- Page 4 0.4%
Only 8.5% of all searchers make it beyond page one. Most people glance down page one of the search engine results and click on a link based on the description underneath it. If your site is buried among many results or difficult to find, searchers – or potential customers – won’t click on it.
Choosing an SEO Agency
An SEO agency is a special type of digital marketing agency that focuses almost exclusively on the tactics and techniques to help your website rank well on the search engines. There is no mandatory license or criteria for someone to set up shop as an SEO agency, so it is “buyer beware” when it comes to choosing the best agency for your needs.
There are some ways to tell great agencies from mediocre ones, however. The following 10-point checklist will help you discern from among the many SEO agencies online vying for your business to choose an agency that’s a great fit.
How to Hire an SEO Company: 10-Point Checklist
It’s a smart idea before interviewing agencies to put together a quick checklist to use so you can compare agencies “apples to apples.” Your checklist doesn’t have to be a formal RFP, but it should include your goals, your criteria for a good agency, and a budget. Keep it handy, along with these questions, while you are checking agencies. Interview at least three agencies to compare prices, approach, and experience.
#1: Does the agency promise you the first position on Google?
If the agency swears they’ll get your site to the top of Google in 30 days, 60 days or whatever, run like heck as fast as you can away from them. First, search engine results positions change constantly, shifting this way and that depending on search traffic, queries and more. Secondly, the question is “for what keyword phrase?” will you rank #1? You may rank #1 for one obscure phrase and 2,000 for a desired phrase. Lastly, no one can promise #1, #2 or any other number on the results. What agencies can promise is that they will improve your results, period. Look for improvement over time rather than quantifiable results backed by shallow promises.
#2: Are they willing to review your current site?
Some agencies charge a fee to review your site’s current SEO status, structure, and other elements that add up to your total SERPS rank. Others do it for free as part of the entire bidding process. They may wish to know where you stand, analyze what needs work, and prioritize the SEO work before submitting a bid. Either method is fine. An agency that simply wants to slap tactics onto your site without first analyzing what they have to work with doesn’t know what they are doing. It’s like an auto mechanic telling you that you need new transmission fluid when he hasn’t even opened the hood and checked the levels yet. First, check the levels of SEO on the site, then make recommendations. It’s logical. But yes, you will find some “agencies” who try to sell services without looking at your site first.
#3: What kind of changes are they recommending to your website?
SEO takes into account both on-page factors, which are things you and your site visitors can actually see, and off-site factors, which are things that happen elsewhere on the web that help your site rank well. Find out what kind of tinkering they wish to do on your site and how it may impact it. Will the site be down for any length of time? Will their recommendations change its appearance? If so, how?
#4: How do they propose to develop inbound links?
Inbound links, or links from good-quality, relevant websites that point into your website, are very important for SEO. But there are right ways of gaining links (called “white hat” techniques) and frowned-upon or even punishable offenses (by the search engines) if certain techniques are used. Guest posts are a good way of obtaining inbound links; link farms, an older method of plopping a bunch of unrelated links on a page for a fee, is today considered a poor method, if not one that will get your site blacklisted by Google, yet some unscrupulous agencies still try to sell this service. Ask and get in writing any plans for developing these and other strategies.
#5: Can you show me examples or provide references to contact?
Agencies work with many clients. They should be able to show you examples of their work, such as content (videos, blog posts, infographics) developed for other businesses that helped generate traffic. They should show you plans they’ve created. They may redact or black out names to keep confidentiality clauses, but they can show you work. They should also provide you with a list of references to call so you can ask questions about their work ethic, quality of work, ability to meet deadlines, and other key questions. Don’t just ask for references – check them. Make those calls!
#6: Which keyword phrases do you recommend we use and how do you generate them?
Agencies may not wish to divulge their “secret sauce” for combing the web or using various tools to find great keyword phrases, but they should give you more information on the keywords they recommend for your business. Make sure they understand your business and the industry in which you work. You are the best judge of which keyword phrases your customers will use and which ones aren’t commonly used.
#7: What kind of results can I expect in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and 6 months?
This is a different approach than promising results. Asking about typical results helps set realistic expectations. Agencies that promise incredible results are using hyperbole to close a sale. Realistic expectations provide a shared understanding and set the tone for a friendly, supportive relationship between agency and client that goes a long way towards success. While it is tempting to want results, fast, especially when you need sales coming into your website, like fine wine, good SEO takes time to develop.
#8: How many people are on your team, and who will I be working with on a daily basis?
Depending on the size of the agency, the person presenting you with information may not be the person with whom you work on a daily basis. You may work with the president at a small agency or with a project manager or account manager at a larger agency. Make sure that you know who you will work with and meet them during the agency vetting process.
#9: Why should I choose your firm?
This may seem like an ingenuous question, but agencies need to be able to share their differentiators with you. What sets them apart – experience, creativity, success rates – may be the linchpin that gets them the bid rather than their competitor. Find out what they perceive as their strength, and see how well it meets your needs. If they can’t articulate it, you may wish to interview another firm.
#10: What can you do with my budget?
The worst thing you can do is walk into an agency meeting and ask for an estimate without giving the agency a budget to work with. If you tell the agency, “Just give me an estimate” they may come back with a proposal for a “yacht” when your budget only covers a small rowboat. Rather than lengthening the discussions, give them a ballpark estimate from the first meeting. Agencies need to know what you can afford so they can fine-tune their plan for your company and give you their best estimate of the work that can be accomplished to reasonably meet your goals
The Right Agency Relationship Is Priceless
When you find the right SEO agency to work with, your business will be receiving the best support it can from a professional team dedicated to your success. The right agency relationship is priceless. How to hire an SEO company ends with a successful partnership that builds over time, leading to your business success.