What You Need to Know Before you Hire a SEO Company | Part 1
There are many different perceptions of what search engine optimization (SEO) is, what it should cost, and what value it offers in terms of website marketing. There are thousands of individuals and SEO companies available who can do your SEO and other internet marketing techniques with varying degrees of effectiveness; some are amazingly good, but regrettably most are amateurs at best and scam artists at worst. So, with too many providers to choose from how do you determine the right SEO company for your internet marketing needs? How do you find a SEO service provider who knows their stuff, who does not use “black hat” or other negative techniques, who has a track record of success, and who provides reasonable assurances that your site will be effectively promoted? These are questions we come across frequently. As a starting point, ask yourself if you are sure you know what you need, and what internet marketing techniques are going to be most effective for your site? Frequently we find the answer to those questions is “not really”. Internet Marketing is a fast moving and very dynamic market place which requires high levels of expertise and constant education and training in what is new and effective and what no longer works. Sometimes major changes in what works and what doesn’t occurs in less than one month, particularly when search engine companies such as Google or Bing come out with new updates to their algorithms to try and provide the best answers to your customers’ search queries. It is a constant struggle to maintain good search engine rankings and you have to know which battles you can fight and win and which ones to avoid. That’s where a good SEO company comes in.
“Over the last three years, the number of active websites has almost doubled. Literally tens of millions of additional sites divide consumer attention. “
The Future of the Online Customer Experience by Moira Dorsey, Forrester Research January 2010
So, to help you weed through the SEO offers you may have seen or received, we’ve put together a few blog posts that provide a more in-depth analysis of everything we think you need to know before hiring an SEO company.
What should I be considering before hiring an SEO company and what questions should I ask?
Let’s start at the beginning with your website itself. Is it attractive, well structured, with good content and a clear message to your potential customers? Can your site be successfully marketed, and if so, will it generate the business you want? Just remember: if it is not an effective site, then no matter how good your website marketing campaign, you may not get the best results possible on your bottom line. A good SEO company will be able to help you figure the answers to these questions out. Once you have sorted out the issues with the website itself, you need to ask yourself what your needs and objectives are, both short and long term. There are many internet marketing techniques that can be used including: Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Advertising, Social Media Marketing, e-mail campaigns, blogging and on-line video. To know which of these best fit your budget and requirements, you need to have a good example your needs and goals. For example, Pay-per-click, can be very effective in the short term and as a “research” tool longer term, but becomes far more expensive than good search engine optimization in the medium to long term. If your budget only allows for one or the other, are you spending it all on short term pay-per–click, or taking a longer view that sees quality results taking 3 -6 months to achieve, but ultimately providing more bang for your marketing buck? One of the true beauties of internet marketing is that it not only gives you the ability to cost effectively reach millions of possible customers, but it provides great feedback on who is looking at your site, from where, and what they are interested in. Try that with a newspaper ad, or the yellow pages and believe us, you won’t see the same kind of metrics available. So, are you using the analytics tools that are readily available? Are you paying attention to your analytics results? Yes, such analysis will take time to set up and manage and like most things the effort you or your marketing company put into it will be reflected in how valuable it is to you. If you are doing analytics are you changing your marketing message, medium or customer targets because of what you learn? If not, you are missing a big part of the benefit that internet marketing offers you. At a minimum you should always be getting the four following SEO services from the company you hire to optimize your website:
- Keyword Research – This determines which keywords will be most effective for you to target to help you rank well in search engine result pages (SERPs).
- Meta Tag Development – Properly created and implemented meta tags are essential to an effective SEO strategy. If they’re not going to develop and optimize your meta tags, they’re selling you short.
- On-Page Optimization – A good SEO company will get access to your website and make sure that the on-page optimization (including meta tags) are implemented effectively to help you rank well.
- Reporting – How are you going to know if what they’ve done for you works? An accountable SEO service provider will send you ranking reports (usually on a monthly basis) to help you track your success and measure the results of your investment.
Hopefully we have opened your eyes to some questions that you should be asking prior to shopping for an Internet marketing company to help you with your on-line campaign. In our next blog in this series, we will look at some aspects of figuring out how much you should be paying, and some pitfalls to avoid when shopping for a vendor. Was this information helpful? Make sure you come back for the second part of this post series on evaluating SEO companies.