There are thousands of companies who are offering “SEO” services. Many are freelancers who offer website design and SEO (with link building outsourced to India or the Philippines) and whilst there are those who are experts in their field, there are also thousands of “companies” with very little experience and knowledge that will try to lock clients into contracts which prove to have very little benefit.
Unfortunately, some of you may know a friend or business associate who has had a bad experience with a so called SEO company. SEO for some people has almost become a dirty word and unfortunately, there are a few cowboys who end up getting the industry a bad name. Some of them employ black hat SEO tactics which are far from ethical and may give you a short term boost in rankings, but will end up harming your website traffic in the long run. Hopefully, this post will help you to avoid them!
Few companies have money to gamble with when it comes to search engine optimisation. There are a large number of low quality cheap SEO companies who are offering results which are not realistic, check your junk mail box and you’ll probably find plenty. There is a great phrase, “If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys” and this is certainly true in this industry. If you don’t have a realistic marketing budget, then hold onto your money rather than wasting it. SEO isn’t something that you can test on the cheap. A successful SEO strategy requires research, planning, a knowledgeable team and often lots of skilled work to get positive results.
Avoid Unrealistic Claims
For any business currently trying to find an agency, they will find plenty of claims on marketing emails (Click on this real example to read the email) or banners on numerous SEO company websites which claim to guarantee page 1 results on Google, high rankings within a few days and top of the rankings within a month. None of these claims are true; good quality work takes a number of months to show real results. If the results sound too good to be true, then trust your instincts as they probably are. It’s about research, ground work and discarding all those cheap SEO agencies who offer glamour over substance before drawing up a short list of companies you feel you would like to make an initial call to.
Trust, Honesty and Communication
When looking to find an SEO company to work with, the main areas to think about are trust, honesty, communication and long term mutually beneficial working relationships which have come from a nurtured working partnership and positive results over a prolonged period of time. The main goal of Search Engine Optimisation should be to improve your profits. It is not about ranking for irrelvant keywords which add little to no value to your business. There’s no one size fits all solution to finding a company, so it really is a case of finding a team who can deliver to your needs within the framework of what can actually be accomplished through the use of SEO.
After you have discarded any unrealistic and unprofessional companies, you’ll have a shortlist. Before making any calls, it’s time to do some research on each one. Google them to find reviews of their reputation but don’t just look at the first page. If a company can improve the rankings of a client, it can probably do the same to its own reputation so dig deep to see if there are any less than favourable reviews which have been relegated in a bid to try to bury information.
Making the First Call
The first call counts when gaining an initial impression. Listen to the questions being asked of your own business just as much as the answers to your own. The company should show interest in finding out about your own knowledge of SEO, your past use of techniques, your budget and what objectives you already have for planned outcomes. The first call is almost the same as a traditional ‘dance’ between a couple who have met for the first time that evening; sizing each other up for suitability and compatibility at the same time as gauging knowledge and experience. Look to find a company who are keen to work with you as a long term partnership rather than one which sees SEO as a single one-off task. It’s important to build the relationship past a quick freelance job into an all-encompassing part of the overall marketing strategy for your business. Good SEO services will provide your company with leads which in turn could be converted to sales. This in turn should be a stepping stone to further strategy recommendations which enhances the bottom line.
Following the initial call you will need to discuss the overall SEO techniques that will be implemented and discuss the use of keywords, forecasting, scope, benchmarking, return of investment and measures of success. They should be proactively talking about long term scope; this means that they have good business knowledge and are looking to cultivate a long term relationship.
Communication is a key cornerstone within an SEO relationship, so look to hypothetically put in place how often updates would be made available and exactly the kind of information which would be provided. SEO takes time to show actual results so a communication strategy is vital. It should include the point of contact, frequency of contact and the communication tools employed.
Project accountability is important as whilst the end results are real when a high quality SEO company is utilised, there is a great deal of process work along the way and you should be looking for a company which is happy to discuss the implementation of a project accountability strategy. This element of the partnership is about measuring and ensuring customer satisfaction during the SEO process so choose a company which can talk detail about a project management plan and how they will record tasks, timelines, objectives and resources.
Understanding You and Your Business
Good SEO companies will have original and innovative ideas to help improve your sales. They have support from designers, writers and work with people with a creative mind. Look to speak to the SEO consultant personally to see the kind of initial impression gained; this is someone you are looking to build a long term relationship with and it’s important that you feel this person matches with both your own personality and the ethos of your business.
A good way to assess a company is to find out the thoughts and opinions of past clients. Take a look and see if a website has a testimonial or portfolio page to see any case studies. This will give you food for thought as to the industries worked with in the past and the size of the jobs handled – does this fit with the kind of business you run and the size of operation you manage? Using a cheap SEO company may seem like good financial sense at the time but if they don’t or can’t deliver then it is back to the drawing board with a hole in the accounts.
The overarching thought when looking to find an SEO company to work with is to exercise caution and common sense. Whilst you may ideally be looking for the magic bullet which is temptingly offered by many companies, it is about being realistic and knowing that SEO strategies are ones which are about longevity, sensibility and openness. An SEO company who you know you can work with will display all these traits as well as being honest, trustworthy and have a long-term attitude to the expected results. Any less than this and it could well be a waste of precious marketing budget and the possibility of slipping further down the rankings if level-headedness gives way to temptation and the dangled carrot of a quick fix solution is grabbed, rather than the slow but steady success of a metered and measured campaign by those who know their industry and will make it work for you.
Author: Julian Saunders is the founder of High Impact.
You can find on him on Google + here.