You’re a business owner. You want to grow your business. You know that your website isn’t generating the leads it should. You know you need to make some changes. You know that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
So you decide to find the best SEO company you can afford. Good move.
Here are a few tips for selecting the right partner:
1. DO ask the SEO company you’re considering to walk you through their process.
If they can’t explain it in 1-3 minutes—in plain speak—a) they probably don’t know what they’re doing and b) you’re probably going to find working with them exhausting and frustrating. Most SEO companies are run by people who know nothing about business (especially YOUR business), but the best SEO companies are run by people who understand SEO and business. If an SEO company can’t relay their concepts to you in plain English or you find their process convoluted, turn and walk away.
2. DON’T start the conversation with “what’s your cheapest SEO package?”
A great SEO company can deliver a higher return on investment than any marketing strategy you’ve ever used. A single blog post can deliver millions (that’s right, millions) of dollars in business. I own multiple small businesses and I’m very fiscally conservative, but SEO is NOT a service where you want to start your evaluation based on pricing. Which is a better deal—a $2,500 website that generates $500 per month in business or a $25,000 website that generates $500,000 per month in business? Like most things in life, when it comes to SEO companies, you get what you pay for.
Now, this said, there are also “name brands”—SEO companies that charge extreme fees because their owners are out speaking at all the conferences and they’ve got a rep for being the best. Only you can decide whether it’s worth it to pay for a “celebrity SEO.” I like celebrities and people doing exactly what they were put on earth to be doing just like the next guy, but if you own a small business, I’d find the best company where the owner is worried more about YOUR business than building/maintaining his or her own personal celebrity. You’ll get the same (or better results) without paying the celebrity premium.
3. DO ask the SEO company how they measure and track progress and success.
For most SEO companies, tracking and reporting means creating a “custom” report in Google Analytics and having it emailed to you once a week or month. This is, in a word, bullshit. A great SEO report will give you an end-to-end look at your SEO performance—target keywords, rankings, web visits, leads, sales, revenue, profit, and ROI.
4. DON’T tell them you don’t want to pay for the reports and tracking—that you’ll know whether it’s working or not.
I hate to break it to you, but when it comes to marketing, your gut intuition stinks. The best SEO reports will quantify just how “off” your spidey-sense really is. If you’re going to invest in SEO, you’re going to need accurate measurement and tracking and the best SEO companies charge for this.
5. DO ask the SEO company to define some goals for working together.
Top SEO companies are goal-oriented—for both their business and their clients’ businesses. Before you hire an SEO company, ask them to articulate 3-5 goals by which they wish to be judged. Explain to them that, if you agree, you are going to use these goals to hold them accountable. If they refuse to do this, walk away. If they agree, read the goals they come up with carefully and make sure they make sense to you.
6. DON’T sign an SEO company’s proposal without reading it.
SEO can change your business—dramatically. Although the best SEO companies can convey their process to you in a 1-3 minute fashion (step 1 above), the devil is in the details! Read the proposal you get. When you’re finished, re-read it. It’s very frustrating to clearly articulate the details of an SEO engagement, have a client sign it, and then, at a later date, have them claim ignorance. Be engaged. Know that most successful businesses are run by people that pay attention to the details. If you don’t operate this way, no amount of SEO can save you.
7. DO set aside at least 10-20 hours to work with your SEO company at the start of the relationship.
Hiring an outsourced SEO firm is a cost-effective alternative to hiring a full-time employee, but just like you wouldn’t expect a new employee to onboard themselves, you can’t expect your new SEO company to move forward intelligently without some initial help from you. No matter how much your SEO guy knows about your industry, he/she is going to need additional information from you.
8. DON’T check “hire a top SEO company” off your list the moment you sign the agreement.
SEO is one of the most powerful marketing channels ever created, but success is a process and (whether you like it or not) you need to be involved and take some responsibility for some aspects of it. If you treat it like another item on your to-do list, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Think of hiring a top SEO process like you would any other long-term business relationship. Along the lines of the previous tip on this list, even small business owners would be wise to set aside at least 6-10 hours per month to help get their new SEO company up to speed and onboarded properly. Don’t shortchange the engagement and SEO process and then pull a Pontius Pilate.
There are a million self-proclaimed “SEO experts” out there. Finding the best SEO company for you requires some thought and planning on your end. Hopefully you can use these tips to get yourself pointed in the right direction. And of course, you can always drop me a line if you want to have a candid conversation about improving your website’s performance!