44 Tips on Choosing a Great SEO Company (Don’t get Burned)

by | Oct 25, 2018

Choosing

Choosing your search engine optimization company can be overwhelming when you read all over the Internet about different approaches and strategies. Realistically no two agencies are the same which is why it can be challenging to know which one the best option for you and your business is. Here are some tips for choosing the best company:

  1. First of all, figure out what you need. Do you need link building or leaf removal or reputation management or something else that you don’t really know? Do you want to grow your sales by 20% over the next 24 months or do you want to increase your leave by 50% over the next 12 months? You need to know what it is you want, have clear goals in mind, that way you and your SEO company will be able to measure the success of your engagement.

Equations on chalkboard

 

  1. Make sure that you get consultations from multiple companies but keep that information to yourself. Many SEO firms will give you a free consultation so that they can impress you. Take advantage of that and ask as many questions as you can from this list and others you have thought of. Don’t advertise that you are looking at more than one company. If they know that they tend to compete for less to secure your business, especially top-notch companies who don’t need to fight for every dollar.

 

  1. SEO companies need to be tactical in their execution but it’s equally imperative that they are highly creative. Human nature longs for stories. We want to hear stories before we make a purchasing decision.  Studies have supported this and as such you need an SEO firm that can tell your story.

Company meeting

 

  1. Get referrals if you can from other businesses, not just those in your area or in your industry, but from all over.

 

  1. Use your professional networks and personal networks, even similar, non-competitive companies to find SEO companies that come highly recommended.

Network

 

  1. Make sure the company matches your communication style. If you walk away feeling frustrated after the initial conversations you have, or things didn’t go as smoothly as you wanted it might just be a mismatch.

 

  1. Make sure you can trust the company. If nothing else trust your gut.

 

  1. Try and go local. If you pick a local company they are not going to compromise your reputation or theirs. They have to work in this community too.  you might also prefer meeting with them face-to-face from time to time especially as you create a new partnership. If the company fails to deliver, you know where they are.

Local

 

  1. On that note, make sure you understand the deliverables. A good company should explain to you what deliverables they are going to achieve and why those tactics are important. Ask for clarity about anything you don’t understand. A good agency should articulate clearly the tactics they are going to use.

 

  1. Avoid any company that guarantees results. That’s very shady and at best it could cause damage to your website ranking because of black hat strategies.

Black Hat SEO

 

  1. Avoid a long-term contract. SEO companies that want you to sign a long-term contract right out the gate might not be confident in their work. Companies that genuinely want to produce good results won’t need long-term contracts because they know you are going to keep coming back.

 

 

  1. Ask the companies you are considering what their communication and Reporting process is. Figure out how often they’re going to report, what they need you to collect for them and what metrics they’re going to report on.

Communication and Reporting

 

  1. Figure out what work and resources you have to commit internally before you come to an agreement.

 

  1. Ask what they are going to do for you when things aren’t working. Ask them for specific examples of situations where things haven’t gone the way they planned and what that company did to fix the problem.

Sharing Ideas

 

  1. Don’t use someone who does SEO on the side as part-time freelance work. Most of the time you won’t see good results.

 

  1. Don’t use Google as your filter. Just because a company has a good ranking for the term SEO company or SEO consultant plus your city name doesn’t mean that they are good or reliable or effective. There can only be one company with a registered IP address and website in your area so by default you’re looking at the only option you think there is. In fact, it is one of the most common mistakes people make to assume that the highest-ranking search results in Google are automatically the number one companies. What really ends up happening is that the most successful companies, those in high demand that you consistently great work are overwhelmed with their clients because they are regularly getting referrals and all of their people are satisfied. They make plenty of money and they don’t allocate extra-time optimizing their own website in order to get new clients. They simply don’t have to.

SEO Ranking

 

  1. Avoid any type of list published online that says anything about top SEO companies or best SEO companies. There are a lot of websites that are just aggregators and their business model is just to rank for terms just like this. Then they sell the listings on their page to SEO companies. They might do something like call up local companies and ask them to pay $20,000 a year if they want to be listed as the number three person on their list. This is just not something you want to trust. Moreover, far too many people today who are looking to increase their own aggregate website will pay freelance writers to come up with content like this and those writers arbitrarily pick company names or are simply given a list of company names that the original client is trying to promote. This does not speak to the effectiveness or talent within the individual companies at all.

SEO

 

  1. Do not fall for the sales pitch that argues for having some sort of secret sauce or a special solution. There’s no secret to effective SEO. Good SEO takes a lot of work. If any company tries to tell you that they have some special solution or proprietary method, that’s a bad sign. Nobody has any secrets.

SEO Secrets

 

  1. If you need SEO to be a core competency for your business, do it in-house. A consultant or an agency will never be able to bring you the results you need with more limited resources and communication, but someone in-house can do exactly that.

 

  1. If you found someone who is high quality, but they simply cost too much, ask them if they would advise you on the work and you hire someone in-house. If you have the budget to bring someone in-house, having someone more professional as an advisor can help compensate for bringing on board a beginner.

Advisor

 

  1. Just because a company has a good website doesn’t mean they are a good company. Don’t make your selection based on a website alone.

 

  1. The biggest company out there is not necessarily the best. Having hundreds of employees does not mean that the company knows what they are doing.

Employees

 

  1. SEO is very competitive. You might not be able to afford what it takes to seriously engaged with SEO just yet. you have the budget and the time to commit yourself to this, it might be something that you simply consider later. This is especially true for brand new businesses. You read so much online about increasing your rank right away, but it might simply be better to allocate resources toward building the business in other areas before you stretch yourself too thin.

Competitive SEO analysis

 

  1. When reviewing companies ask them about the links. Not all backlinks are created equal and one good backlink might be worth well over a thousand low-quality backlinks. So, when an SEO company says they will build links into your website to increase your rankings, make sure they are doing good backlinks.

Backlinks

 

  1. Good companies will send you regular reports at least once a month, sometimes once every week. You will have to give an SEO company access to your website, but you should ask them how they are going to keep you informed of any changes that they make with that access.

SEO Reports

 

  1. Speaking of which, make sure that the SEO company is diligently tracking any of the changes they have made to your website so that if something goes wrong someone will be able to figure out exactly what caused it. If the company says they are going to track changes internally that is insufficient. You need to know what caused the problem if something goes wrong and you can’t know that if the company doesn’t send you a detailed log of the changes they make.

Website tracking

 

  1. You should check out case studies, testimonials, and reviews. Look at who the past clients were for the company you are investigating the same way you would for any other company. They should be able to give you at least two or three big-name clients and ideally show you results they have achieved over a long period of time.

Clients

 

  1. Ask the companies you are considering who their longest active client is. You don’t want companies that only have short-term clients because they used risky tactics. SEO firms like this don’t care about jeopardizing the site long-term. You want a good company that can grow your business buy a consistent 5% upwards of 15% every month. So, make sure they have long-term clients.

 

  1. Make sure they follow Google’s best practices. Google produces around 500 algorithm updates on an annual basis in order to provide better results for people making online searches. If you violate these rules Google punishes you. So, make sure the company that you use remains up-to-date with any of the latest best practices.

Google algorithm

 

  1. Ask the companies were considering what tools they use. There are plenty of tools out there such as reporting tools, link building tools, technical SEO tools, and research tools. Be aware of the fact that pure link building tools are very bad. That is considered a black hat tool and you will be punished for it by Google. So, make sure you verify that the company you are going to use does not use this and they only use tools that help you comply with Google’s guidelines.

SEO tools

 

  1. Ask the company is what type of SEO work they are going to do. They should respond that they need to conduct a basic technical SEO audit after you hire them. Technical SEO is responsible for verifying all of the background aspects that search engines care about such as redirect issues, site navigation, web-crawler errors, and 404 Pages. A good company will do this immediately.  If this is not a service they offer you should probably find someone else.

 

  1. Remember that no one can guarantee number one rankings every time especially not for a specific length of time. No SEO company knows the exact Google algorithm. No one can predict how the Google algorithm will change. And penalties are based on an algorithm, but they can also be manual which means you could be hit with a penalty out of nowhere. Do not work with any companies that tell you they can guarantee a specific spot in Google ranking or that they know the algorithms, or they know what penalties will hit when.

SEO Ratings

 

  1. Ask them what’s the activity and result reports will look like. Again, it is pretty standard to get a monthly report, but you want to make sure that the companies are providing in that report a summary of activities, search traffic, search rankings, and conversions.

 

  1. Check out the payment structure. You need to know exactly how much you are going to pay your SEO company and when you have to pay for it. Over 70% of SEO companies charge on a project basis in which case you are going to pay between $1,000 and $8,000. Retainers might range between $500 and $5,000. You can also pay by the hour which is great if you want to work with a freelancer, but you will probably pay between $75 and $200 per hour. And Freelancers like to be paid immediately so you will probably have to pay on a weekly or monthly basis and likely not any longer than that.

payment structure

 

  1. Figure out how you will get into contact with your SEO company. If you have an issue that you need to discuss immediately, or something goes wrong figure out how you can contact them in cases where there is an emergency and how they prefer to be contacted and all other cases. Make sure they know your preferences as well.

 

  1. Understand that SEO is no longer separated from marketing but is instead of partnership so there are plenty of SEO agencies out there that refer to themselves as digital marketing agents or something along those lines. This is perfectly fine. Just make sure that you know what services they are going to offer you and how the SEO work is going to tie into whatever marketing efforts you are going to pay them for.

SEO & Marketing

 

  1. Always ask what happens if you have to terminate the contract just for your own protection. Most of the time you have to sign up for a minimum of two or three months because that’s how long it takes to produce significant results. But if there is a company crisis you need to know what your options are. Likewise, it’s good to know your options if you choose to break the contract because you are disappointed with the work that it’s been produced. Figure out if you’re going to be charged for an early termination.

 

  1. Ask if the company has worked with a penalized website and what they did to fix it.

penalized website

 

  1. Ask the SEO company to describe a few of the algorithms from Google like a hummingbird, Panda, pigeon, payday, or pirate. Experienced SEO companies should be able to explain what these are and in effect confirm they know what they’re doing.

 

  1. Make sure companies are up-to-date on the latest changes by asking them to name a few of the most recent algorithm updates. You can look these up yourself before you ask just to confirm.

up-to-date

 

  1. Verify how the team will adapt their company strategy to your industry. Not every tactical strategy works for all industries.

 

  1. Ask companies how they determine whether they have been successful. You are going to feel frustrated if your expectations are not met which is why you both need to know how you respectively determine success.

Ask Questions

 

  1. Figure out what metrics they track. They should track things like on page metrics, search traffic, keyword rankings.

 

  1. There is no right answer to this question, but you should always ask a company why you should hire them over other companies. While there may be no right answer there certainly are a few wrong answers. If a company says that they are cheaper than the competition, that’s not what you want. This is an investment and it’s going to cost you. If they say that they can get you faster results, you also don’t want that. Results take time. If they say that they can build you more backlinks rather than building you better quality backlinks, again, hire someone else.

 

Overall, be patient. Try not to rush into things even if you do have an immediate need, remember that waiting one month to properly evaluate different companies is worth losing that one month’s worth of potential clients when you consider your long-term gains.