The concept of search engine optimization (SEO) is simple: Set your website up correctly to rank for particular keywords within the organic search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo. In contrast, the process of SEO is complicated, and costs can add up. Through my years in digital marketing — including founding Pepperjam (an online performance marketing and technology company now owned by eBay) and founding LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps (which was selected as one of the top boutique mobile app development firms in the U.S.) — I’ve learned that when outsourcing your SEO, a strategy to identify the best company for you is critical.
One easy way to compare companies is to leverage an independent research company like Clutch.co. Clutch conducts research and reviews on top development, design and marketing companies. A recent study by Clutch looked at reasons that small businesses select SEO firms and found the following:
- 45 percent of choices were based on established relationships.
- 43 percent stated that company attributes factored into their decision, including thought leadership, knowledge, staff experience, reporting and transparency, or customer service.
- 15 percent wanted to use a local company.
- 14 percent explicitly mentioned evaluating past performance, such as online reviews, references, case studies and client lists.
- 13 percent mentioned culture fit or personality.
- 12 percent emphasized price or value as a deciding factor.
- 11 percent cited the importance of company focus, as in the company specializes in the exact type of service that they needed.
- 5 percent decided to work with the company after receiving a cold call or email pitch from them.
How can we use this research to ensure you consider all of your options and make the best selection? Based on my experience advising businesses in the past 18 years, I suggest that you consider the following four key areas when choosing an SEO company: expertise, past performance, company attributes and value.
Focus Areas of Expertise
When choosing an SEO company, always seek one that is focused on what you need. Some SEOs offer things like mobile optimization and on-site SEO, but not local SEO or website redesign; others offer everything. For example, if you’re a restaurant or a plumber with a fixed geographical customer base, you’ll want to focus on local SEO.
Most of this information is readily available on a company’s website, but never be afraid to reach out via telephone; a company can’t bluff you as easily on the phone or video call. Do some research and be prepared to ask questions — the more questions, the better.
Past performance should always be a factor when researching an SEO company. Check for client testimony on the SEOs website and websites like Clutch.co, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the testifying company for input. If an SEO firm is presenting positive work, its customers should offer positivity. As well, always ask about customer service, which should be at the top of any company’s profile.
When researching an SEO company, pay particular attention to the following: reporting and transparency, customer service, thought leadership and knowledge transfer, and company position on outsourcing work.
The first is an absolute must: Concrete reporting and complete transparency are imperative for success in any company, especially an SEO firm. The reporting will not only show performance results from work completed, but also signify areas that need improvement.
Customer service will be apparent from the first meeting. If possible, meet with the team members of the company, which will also help you evaluate the company’s thought leadership. Also ask about knowledge transfer and if any members of the team speak at conferences or events in the SEO space. The importance of leadership is that it often equates to structure, which equates to smooth processes. As for knowledge transfer and attendance at conferences, these attributes help strengthen the company’s brand. To make things easier, simply Google some names on staff; the ones with a reputation in the SEO space will surely stick out.
Ask about outsourcing as well. If any work is outsourced, find out the name of the company that is being used. Outsourcing isn’t necessarily bad, but it should be investigated and vetted.
Within the SEO sphere, you usually get what you pay for. Sometimes a company may charge much more than a competitor, but if you find all the things mentioned here in this article, it may be worth it to make it work. For SEO, cheaper is not always better.
Free SEO Company Evaluation Tool
To help companies select an SEO company, Clutch has developed a valuable SEO Company Evaluation Tool (which can be downloaded in an Excel format here). Luckily, selecting an SEO company that delivers on its promises doesn’t have to happen by chance.
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