If you have decided to take your website to the next level and are looking to hire an SEO company, here are 5 steps that could save you from hiring the wrong company and will help you get your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign off to a good start:
1) Educate Yourself About SEO
Before hiring an SEO company, try to do a fair amount of research first. Educate yourself about SEO, the overall process involved and what can and cannot be accomplished with a proper SEO campaign. Educating yourself about SEO will help you weed out the bad SEO companies by understanding industry standards. For example, you will learn that companies promising #1 ranking for all your top keywords for $95/month are probably not your best chance at succeeding. As the saying goes: “If it looks too good to be true, it usually is”.
2) Do a Thorough Background Check
You have educated yourself about SEO and now have a realistic understanding of what can be accomplished and know the industry standards. You have crossed a few SEO companies off your list based on that knowledge. A comprehensive background check should be done on the remaining companies. Here are some things you want to check out:
- Years in business: It’s important to hire an SEO company that has experience, has grown with the search engines and can adapt themselves easily to market changes (changes of algorithm, new tools, new channels…). Chances are SEO companies who provide valuable services with proven results have been in the SEO industry for many years.
- Their own rankings: If an SEO company can’t rank their own website properly, how do you expect them to rank your site?
- Success with clients: Check their website testimonials, case studies and call a few clients randomly from their client list to get first hand feedback about the results and customer service provided.
- White hat or black hat SEO? Make sure the company you hire only uses proper white hat SEO techniques that will not get your website banned in the long run. Simply ask them if they follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. It’s best to be upfront and direct. If you wish to be trickier, you could ask them: “If I authorize you, will you use some black hat tricks on my website?” If the company says yes, run away.
- Complaints: Look at third parties accreditation like the “Better Business Bureau” to see if there have been any complaints against them. Try doing a search on Google for: “Company name sucks” or similar queries and see what you get.
- In house or outsourced? Some SEO companies will have a sales office where they handle customer service and outsource the remainder of the technical work to India, the Philippines etc. I believe it’s always best to have the person you deal with on a weekly/monthly basis to be the one also doing the work. It limits opportunities for “broken telephone” messages and avoids a disconnect between sales and operations.
3) Set Up an Internal Structure
Before you hire an SEO company, it’s a good idea to set up an internal structure: Decide upon a liaison who will be your company’s point of contact with the SEO company. The last thing you want to do is hire an SEO company and then involve a whole bunch of coworkers or employees in the project. It usually ends up wasting everybody’s time and makes each discussion spin in circles. Book some time in the liaison’s schedule for the next few weeks because the beginning of the process requires feedback and can take up more time than you think.
Another thing to consider is that the SEO company you choose to hire may not be able to implement all the recommendations they make. There are many changes such as website design tweaks, site architecture modification, and server level changes which may require the help of a website designer, a programmer and/or a server admin. Having these resources ready will fasten the SEO process.
4) Determine Your Budget
Now that you have an internal structure set up, it’s time to determine the budget you want to allocate to SEO. It’s best to have a price range in mind and know what you can and can’t afford. With that constraint in mind, the SEO company should prioritize the things they want to do with your website. Hiring an SEO company without a clear budget in mind can make the goals you have defined very hard to reach.
Quick tip: SEO isn’t instantaneous. Depending on your industry as well as the status/activity on your website prior to SEO, it could take a few weeks/months before your website starts generating significant revenue. It is important that you make sure you have planned some alternative sources of revenue for the time being.
5) Define Some Measurable Goals
Before hiring an SEO company, it is also important that you set up goals you want to measure success with. Because you have educated yourself about SEO and have a budget in mind, your goals are realistic in terms of competitiveness and timeframe. You can then compare them with the goals the SEO company gives you and see if they are under or over achieving – ask them why and how they plan on achieving these goals. Having specific goals will also help to put your SEO campaign on the right track from the start.
These 5 steps are not a guarantee to find the right SEO company. It has to feel right and be a good fit but it should prevent you from getting burnt by bad SEO companies and from wasting time and money by diving head first into an SEO campaign without being prepared.