SEO is a tricky thing to get right. If you don’t do it right, you stand to lose a lot of time and money. So, what are your options as a business? You can go the DIY route and try to learn as much as you can. After all, there is no shortage of SEO related content and tips online. But then, you’ll need to invest in a number of tools, which have a learning curve. Once again, there is the issue of time and money. And, if you get it wrong, you may cause more damage than good.

For most SMBs, it makes sense to outsource the SEO work. This is also a tricky thing, because there are so many people and companies offering these services. Unfortunately, many of them are ‘shady’ and use techniques to get fast results that often lead to long term pains. These techniques are referred to as ‘black hat’ and will ultimately have your site penalized by Google and other search engines.

Continue reading to learn the steps to hiring a trustworthy SEO company.

Establish Goals

Why are you looking into SEO in the first place and what are you looking to accomplish? First of all, you need to do some research and determine if SEO is a good option for your business. For most industries, it is essential, but you still need to complete some research on keyword volume, your competition and determine how much you want to focus on search engine optimization.

Establishing goals is a key element to any successful business and should not be overlooked when considering search engine optimization. Make sure you put some time into this and be specific. Examples of good goals would be:

  • Improving conversion rates on website pages, forms, etc.
  • Increasing downloads of product
  • Increasing online product purchases
  • Growing brand exposure in a market
  • Increasing the number of trial sign-ups

Once you have some goals written out, apply S.M.A.R.T. criteria to them.

SMART is an acronym for:

Specific – The ‘W’ questions.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Why do you want to do it?
  • Where will you focus your efforts?
  • Who will you be targeting?

Measurable – How will you measure your progress? What metrics will you use to determine if you are meeting your goal?

Achievable – Is your goal realistic? Do you have the tools, skills and assets to accomplish your goal?

Relevant – Does this goal make sense? Does it fit with your overall business goals?

Time-bound – Specify the duration for achieving results. Place a start and stop date for your goal.

Your SMART goal might look something like this: ‘Over the next 6 months, we want to increase sign-ups of our online course by 25% and will do this by increasing targeted site visitors by 50%, as well as improving conversion rates by 15%.

SEO Company, Freelancer or Full Marketing Agency?

When you have your goals set and are ready to start looking for someone to help with search engine optimization, what type of vendor should you consider? Should it be a consultant, an SEO-only company or maybe even a full marketing agency?

  • SEO Consultants – freelancers
  • SEO Companies – focus solely on search engine optimization services
  • Full Marketing Agency – offers a variety of marketing services, including content, email, social media, marketing automation and search engine optimization

This will be different for each company and will most likely depend on the goals you are looking to accomplish. If you are already managing other processes, such as email marketing, social media and content, you can look at SEO only companies or freelancers. Deciding between those two may come down to your budget. If you need other services to be managed, a full marketing agency might be a better choice. Going with a marketing agency can be beneficial, because they’ll put a marketing plan together for your business and tie all of the digital services together. Agencies that focus on inbound marketing normally include services such as SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media Management and Email Marketing. If you don’t have the personnel in place to manage all of these, it probably makes sense to go the marketing agency route.

What to Look For

Once you’ve decide what type of company you want to manage your SEO, you need to vet them out. Don’t focus solely on budget and look for the cheapest options. SEO takes time and costs money. You need to understand this and be ready to invest.

Should you ask for references? They are only going to provide you ‘good’ references, so it probably won’t be much help. It’s best to get an understanding of what exactly they’ll be doing, how they’ll measure progress and how they will communicate everything with you. Transparency is important!

Are they realistic? If they tell you that you’ll be ranking #1 on Google in 2 months for 3 of your target keywords, you should look elsewhere. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right? Ask them what techniques they’ll be using to improve your rankings. If you don’t understand some of the jargon, they should be able to explain it to you in ‘layman’s’ terms.

During your initial vetting process, they should be able to provide a few examples of keywords they feel you should target and an explanation of how they intend to boost your rankings for those keywords. If hired, you should expect a longer list of keywords they’ll be targeting with related data.

A good company or person should also provide a site audit for you. With this audit, they’ll be able to uncover any technical issues holding your site back, as well as identify opportunities to improve your site’s content and backlinks.

What to Beware of

As mentioned previously, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many people and companies have learned how to ‘hack’ Google search by performing ‘black hat’ techniques. Black Hat tactics include things such as, keyword stuffing, buying links, article spinning, duplicate content creation, hidden text or links, adding unrelated keywords to pages, producing content solely to attract search engines and not humans, cloaking, etc. Using black hat SEO tactics, people are usually able to get you ranking fast. However, Google and the other search engines catch on quickly and you risk the chance of being de-indexed for severe violations.

If a potential vendor is unwilling to explain to you how they will go about performing your optimization this should raise a red flag. If they do explain their tactics to you and they seem manipulative or unethical, you should continue on with your search.

Good Questions to Ask Potential Vendors

  • What is your process to help us accomplish our goals?
  • Can you give us an itemized list of the services you’ll provide?
  • What are your steps to optimizing our content?
  • How will you report on the progress of your work?
  • What will your reporting include?
  • Do you feel that our goals are realistic? If not, why?
  • Do you always follow search engines’ best practices?
  • How will your work tie into our other marketing activities?
  • What will you need from us to help you succeed in your efforts?
  • How often will we meet?
  • Do you require a contract?

In Conclusion

SEO is a long-term investment, so you should do your due diligence. When you set out to find a company to manage it for you, you need to be prepared. In addition to the other information listed above, you should also make sure you feel comfortable speaking with the vendor.Are they interested in your goals, or are they only interested in telling you what they’ll accomplish? Do they talk over your head or do they explain things in a way you can understand?  Are you able to ask questions and get ‘understandable’ answers? You should be prepared to work with them for a minimum of 6-9 months, so it’s important that your comfort level is good with who you hire.

Many companies offer a free consultation, which is a good starting point. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation with us, please Click Here!