Why won’t sharks attack SEOs? Professional courtesy!
One of the biggest challenges we face as a Search Marketing firm is helping client understand that SEO is a legitimate, productive marketing endeavor, especially when that client has previously experienced poorly managed programs (which we hear about 90% of the time). Every business understands that a strong online presence is key factor to driving new customers, but very few actually understand the complexity and amount of resources necessary in delivering the goods. Due to this, many (most?) “SEO firms” engage in predatory sales practices that serve only the interest of the firm selling the program, leaving clients frustrated and the poorer for it.
However, there are a few questions you should ask, and red flags you should avoid, to ensure that the next SEO firm you hire actually gets the job done as promised. On that note…
1) Any SEO firm that ‘promises’ or guarantees rankings is not the SEO firm for you.
Search engine algorithms are complex, constantly changing, living, breathing organisms that strive to ensure that the end user receives the most relevant results possible when searching for a given keyword. There is simply no way to accurately predict that your site will rank #1 for any term. Period.
2) Any SEO firm that requires a lengthy contract is (typically) not the SEO firm for you.
This is the lazy man’s approach to SEO. Once in a contract, you are basically at the mercy of that firm, which provides them with an avenue for under-performance and excuses. There are exceptions to this rule, but few: Many well-managed SEO companies do require contracts for various reasons, just make sure the contract requirement is not in conjunction with any of the stipulations below.
3) Any SEO firm that engages in robo-dialers and spam mail as their ‘sales’ division is not the SEO firm for you.
Stay local. Get to know your SEO company. Meet with them in person. Ask for client referrals (and follow up). SEO is not a one-off solution…it should be part of an overall marketing strategy that makes sense on the whole. Make sure their company ranks in that locale. For example, if you want a San Diego based SEO company, search “SEO San Diego” and if they rank pages 1-2, it’s likely they at least have a clue.
4) Any SEO firm that does not provide comprehensive, transparent reporting of traffic and site stats is not the SEO firm for you.
Ranking reports and traffic stats are a SEO’s report card. A prerequisite for engaging a SEO firm starts with ensuring that the reporting they deliver is timely, accurate, and transparent. You need to know how your dollars are being spent so you can measure the return on that investment.
5) Any SEO firm that makes excuses is not the SEO firm for you.
“The Google algorithm changed and that’s why your rankings dropped” is a common excuse we hear. Just like anything else in life, quality work endures. Well done, quality, comprehensive SEO does not have a shelf life…there are only 2.2 billion articles online at the moment that reference Google’s approach to junk sites and poor content. There’s a reason why.
6) Any SEO firm that provides ‘canned solutions’ is not the SEO firm for you
Your business is unlike any other, even if competing in the same industry. SEO is an extension of your marketing program overall, and the online campaign should mirror that outreach. Pre-packaged SEO programs don’t work, simply because your business is unique, your customers are unique, and your online marketing program should be custom-tailored to reach that audience. We especially love the “bronze, silver, and gold” packages….what is that? SEO Olympics?
Unfortunately, many business owners looking to gain an online edge are not equipped to deal with the slick, used-car salesman approach that many SEO firms engage in as a method in building out a client base. Again, you know you need it, you just need to know the right questions to ask and the trappings to avoid. If, in your initial engagement with a SEO firm, you get that “knot in your stomach” simply walk away and look elsewhere.
The ‘Ugly Side of SEO’ is pretty easy to spot. Next week, watch out for the ‘Bad Side of SEO’ where we will help you navigate some of the more difficult to recognize (but equally disastrous) tactics SEO firms use in sucking you dry of your marketing dollars.
Co-Founder and CEO