Things to Consider When Choosing an SEO Firm

by Harry Lennard on October 24, 2010

selecting an SEO firm

If you think all SEO firms are alike - think again.

Most small to medium-sized companies lack the knowledge and time needed to successfully manage their SEO (search engine optimization) efforts in-house and choose to outsource the duties to SEO firms or consultants.
Choosing the right one for your needs can be confusing, and selecting the wrong one can be frustrating and expensive. Here are some tips to help make the process easier.

For the most part, you should rule out firms that offer SEO along with a laundry list of other marketing services. Although your SEO and offline marketing efforts should support each other, there are distinct differences between how the two are implemented and managed. Firms that claim to have expertise in a wide variety of online and offline marketing methods often deliver mediocre results in both areas.

If an individual or firm offers a guarantee of No. 1 rankings in Google, Yahoo or Bing, rule them out immediately. Although No. 1 ranking in top-tier search engines is always the ultimate goal, no one can guarantee those results.

Avoid any firm or individual that offers to accept you as a client without first thoroughly assessing your Web site’s strengths and weaknesses and gaining a complete understanding of your goals.

In order to provide a realistic assessment of your Web site’s potential to rank high with top tier search engines, a reputable SEO firm will look at the quantity and strength of competitors for your target keywords, the number and quality of backlinks to your site, the amount and quality of content on your Web site, the internal link structure, layout and design and age of your site along with a number of other factors.

Although backlinks are a key element of any SEO strategy, you should avoid firms that promise to quickly add a tremendous amount of backlinks to your site. In most cases, the backlinks they provide will be from low quality sites and will typically have little or no long term impact on your rankings. Even worse, having tons of new backlinks appear overnight can be seen as link spamming, which can actually hurt your chances of being ranked.

Avoid SEO firms that refuse to discuss their tactics and strategies openly and honestly. Don’t expect them to walk you through every step in minute detail during the bidding process, but they should be willing to discuss how they propose to help you in general terms. Firms that refuse to discuss such matters typically lack the necessary knowledge and experience, or use tactics that could ultimately backfire and cause you more harm than good.

They should be willing to provide a written proposal that includes their strategy and the associated costs for their services.

Always ask for references. Any reputable SEO firm will gladly provide you with a list of at least a few satisfied, long term customers.

Speaking of the long term, you should avoid doing business with firms that offer a “one time SEO solution.” Such “solutions” may result in rapid results but they will typically be short lived.

SEO is a long term proposition that can take months to yield significant results. As such, it should include ongoing management and monthly reporting on a number of factors including rankings for your target keywords, visitor traffic, conversions and other appropriate metrics.

Finally, like most other things in life, going with the lowest bidder can often end up costing you more in the long run. By the same token, the highest bidder may not provide the best service or deliver the best results and ROI. In the end, your choice of an SEO firm or consultant will be largely based on trust. Good SEO firms realize this and will go the extra mile in order to earn your trust, maximize your ROI and keep you as a client for years to come.

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