How to Identify a Good SEO Company
First of all, kudos to you for doing a little homework before contacting anyone (company or individual contractor) to manage the SEO for your website. Too often business owners or marketing managers plug “SEO in (their city)” into Google and start completing contact-estimate forms without much thought into whether or not these SEOs deserve their business. You’re about to put the online version of your livelihood in the hands of someone that isn’t you. You should enter into this prospective relationship with as much information as possible. That’s what I’m here for. It all begins by considering a few questions, determining the respective answers that are acceptable to you, and putting them to those very same SEOs that are vying for your attention (and online marketing budget). Read further to find out five key things you need to watch out for before making your SEO picks for the year ahead.
5 Questions to Ask When Considering an SEO for Your Business’ Website
1. Forget the Age-Old Testimonials, Does Their Current Work Actually Rank?
Coming from an agency background I can tell you right now that most Testimonials are gamed. This is not to say that those clients providing an SEO firm with glowing reviews are not indeed satisfied customers. They probably are (or were at some point). However these notes of braggadocio offer very little insight into an SEO’s entire client background. If an SEO has been in business long enough they can dig up at least a baker’s dozen of great references. But what does that ratio of satisfied to unsatisfied clients look like? You’ll never know. These testimonials also don’t speak to the challenge (or lack thereof) in getting their clients ranking on Google. An SEO can coast by when specializing in long-tail keywords in an industry with no real competition, putting their clients up on Page One with relative ease. It wouldn’t be hard to garner a slew of “XYZ SEO took us from nothing to the first page of Google in one month!” type of reviews. So how do you tell if the SEO is worth their weight in your marketing spend? Simple. Find out right now if their work is ranking for anything that is searched on a regular basis and that has significant online competition. This will let you know if they are currently effective and relevant to search engine marketing here and now. The industry changes very quickly and very few SEOs adapt. Have them show you this proof in the pudding and you will gain comfort in knowing that your website is in good hands.
2. Are They SEOs for a Vertical Market or a Diverse Array of Industries?
In some circumstances there are SEO firms that focus on one specific vertical market. If your business falls within this niche this can be great for you. Performing an online search for “SEO for (your industry) industry” will unearth results potentially relevant to your business. For example, I provide content writing services to an SEO/design firm The SEO Chefs (theseochefs.com). They work specifically with restauranteurs. If you search “SEO for restaurant industry” they are among the top three organic results, and most often first. In such a case, you have found an SEO made explicitly for your industry AND one that fulfills the mandate above – being able to rank well for a searched term in a competitive field. However, there are a multitude of industries that do not have specialized SEOs, or ironically these SEOs do not know how to get themselves found online. In such a circumstance you will come across general agencies or individuals stating that they can provide customized SEO for your business regardless. You need to find out how diverse their experience is. They may not have worked in targeting your target market before, which is fine, but you at least need to be able to identify similarities between their past or existing client base and your own brand. If an SEO has done work for a dental clinic then they understand the nuances of performing the same for a medical clinic. If an SEO has worked with luxury real estate such work can translate over into boutique hotels. You get the idea. Some SEOs become niche not by choice, but because they simply have not been able to build a background of industry clients that allows for the diversity that you need.
3. Do They Understand On-Page Technology?
The most recent search engine ranking report from SearchMetrics has proven that on-page technology is essential to your website’s ability to rank well on Google. Only SEOs with a solid understanding of the technical matters of website marketing will be able to “set the table” so that your site has a shot at ranking well from the day of release or re-launch. So how do you know if your prospective SEO has a sound understanding of on-page technology? Keep an ear out for a few keywords when talking with them about the technical aspects of the job. During this meeting many SEOs will throw around a few fancy terms and pour honey down your ear that sounds like “content content content” and expect you to swallow it all while handing over your wallet. Listen for any of the following during your meeting:
- We will mark your site up with structured data (schema.org)
- We will optimize your SEO title tags, h1/2/3 headings, and meta-descriptions
- We will check to see if your website page speed is optimized and make recommendations if not
- We will check to see if your website is optimized with mobile-friendly responsive design and make recommendations if not
- We will optimize your Google My Business page (for local SEO, Google map placement)
If the SEO does not address any of the bullets above, bring them up yourself to gauge their response. There’s nothing like a well-informed client to get an SEO shaking in their boots.
4. Do They Provide a Content Strategy for Ongoing SEO?
I know I made fun of the “content content content” assertion by most SEOs. But that is because they too often use it as a crutch. That being said, once the aforementioned on-page technology table has been set, it truly is all about the content. The flipside of the concerns around SEO companies is that when you have ones that specialize in the technical aspects of SEO they are often at a loss when it comes to content strategy. Our industry is separated by the two concepts, with each being quite far apart from the other. But if you want your website to rank in the long term, you need to make sure that your SEO will provide a content strategy as a part of the ongoing package. What does an SEO content strategy look like? The SEO will layout a requirement for new product/service landing pages, a weekly blogging schedule, and a distribution program for this content to be delivered on your social networks. This strategy will dictate that the content be interesting, informative, engaging, and media-rich (complemented by photos, graphics, and video) to meet the demands of search engines AND consumers. The SEO will be able to provide all of these services and be willing to provide instruction to your staff (billed for this instruction, of course) should you be willing and able to manage some of the content in-house.
5. Are They Transparent with Keyword Data and YOUR Analytics?
Finally, it is absolutely essential that the SEO be forthcoming will all data and analytics related to your website. This begins by providing you with a keyword analysis at the beginning of your relationship in order to gauge the current state of affairs of your website. It is important for you to know what you are ranking well for, or not ranking well for, before the path of your SEO plan can be identified. Granted, the SEO firm is allowed to keep the bulk of this information “close to their chest” until a contract has been drawn up between the two of you. But ensure that you will be provided with a monthly keyword report AND a Google Analytics report so that together you can chart the progress of your website from the moment you enter into the relationship with the SEO.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of what to look for when selecting an SEO to manage your online marketing plan you are ready to take the next step towards improving the rank of your business/brand website. If you want to move forward, or have further questions that I can answer for you, please feel free to contact me for a casual conversation on the matter, at any time.
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