How to Choose Your SEO Company
Finding the right SEO company can be like shining a light on your company. It’s a great, big internet out there, and many small business can get lost amid the noise of large, multinational corporations.
That’s why finding a company to provide search engine optimization (SEO) is so critical for creating, developing, growing and maintaining your company’s online presence and authority.
But how do you go about choosing the best company for you? Here are a few tips to help you make sure you’re actually ready to choose an SEO company and how to ensure you’re getting what your business needs to stand out.
Establish Your Goals
You don’t have to be an SEO expert to know what you want to accomplish. If you knew exactly how, you already would have done it, right? But you need to know specifically what it is you want to accomplish.
Here are a few reasonable goals to get you started:
- Increase website traffic by 25 percent within six months.
- Improve ranking for main keywords to first results page.
- Raise referral traffic year over year.
- Reach a certain dollar amount in online sales.
While your specific goals will vary depending on what your business does and your current SEO strategy, your goals should be measurable and tied to a specific timeframe, whether a quarter or a year.
Once you know your goals, you can engage in dialog with possible SEO partners, using those goals to drive the conversation.
Look for Exclusivity
Once you start searching for particular keywords in specific industries, you quickly realize that the marketplace for your goods or services is probably relatively small (much smaller than the entire internet), and this is especially true for brick-and-mortar businesses that get most or all of their revenue from their local communities.
That’s why it’s important for your SEO provider to offer exclusivity, whether that means your business is the only one in your city or region they’ll work with or the only one in your particular industry they’ll work with — or both.
Though it’s true that audiences are somewhat segmented, all internet traffic really comes from one big pot. So if a provider has two or three other clients who do the same thing you do for the same customer base, you’ll have no sense of security that you’re getting the value you’re paying for.
In addition to being bad business for you, it’s also ethically questionable, and if a company is displaying bad ethics from the outset, that’s a good warning sign that you should stay away.
Establish a Budget
Think about SEO as a necessary part of marketing. Most companies set aside marketing and advertising budgets, and SEO is simply one channel for advertising and marketing messages.
How much you’ll need to spend depends on a few factors, such as:
- The size of your business.
- The number of pages your site has and how much traffic it gets now.
- How much content you want to produce and how you want to promote it.
Because so many factors go into how your company ranks for the keywords you’re targeting, each company’s situation is truly unique. But there is some broad research out there done by Ahrefs, one of the leading SEO tool providers:
- Most SEO providers charge monthly retainers that generally don’t exceed $7,500 per month.
- For those that charge hourly rates, the most popular rate is $100-$150 per hour.
- SEO providers who only serve their local markets tend to be more affordable.
Understand Their Process
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to hire an SEO provider, but you do need to develop an understanding of their process.
For every SEO company or partner you’re considering, ask questions about how they do their work. This will help you ensure they are getting everything they need from you, but it will also set you up with better insights so that you can ensure you’re getting everything out of the service.
Delving into their process also allows you to get a good sense of their SEO philosophy and what kinds of search factors they focus on. You should ask them things like:
- What specific services will you provide and how much of each service?
- What technical aspects of the website and content will you be optimizing?
- How many pages of the website will you audit and optimize? When can we expect all pages to be optimized?
- Will you create new content?
- How many backlinks can we expect per month? What ideas do you already have for potential contacts to secure links?
- How often will you be available to update us on results, and how often will you deliver reports?
- What assets or time will you require?
- What case studies can you show us to verify your success?
You should take at least as much time asking specific questions of potential SEO providers as you would in hiring a new employee because, in essence, that’s what you’re doing. You’re hiring an expert to provide a service you can’t or don’t have time to do for yourself. And if you hope to build a positive long-term relationship with an SEO company, you shouldn’t be afraid to demand transparency.
If It Sounds Too Good to Be True …
The internet is chock-full of snake oil salesmen, those who will promise everything and deliver almost nothing. When it comes to SEO, it’s not uncommon to see companies promising triple-digit increases in traffic and exponentially higher conversion rates. Remember that everyone you consider will be putting their best foot forward, and if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
Good SEO practices are not easy, and building the kind of reputation your company needs takes time. Anybody guaranteeing double- or triple-digit increases in any of your metrics, overnight results or thousands of links is either lying or using disreputable practices — or both.
If you take time to thoroughly interview prospective providers, you should be able to tell an ethical provider from one who is either unqualified or, worse, will use black-hat practices that may get your site penalized.
SEO services are a multibillion-dollar industry and growing every day, and the marketplace for SEO companies is competitive and confusing, but with a bit of legwork, your company can be well on its way to enhancing your online presence for today and years to come.