When choosing a reputable company to manage your SEO, there are both right and wrong ways to go about hiring.
Today, we will discuss how to choose a good SEO company, consultant, or agency.
As we get into this topic, I want to help you understand some of the mechanics behind SEO consultancy work. This is an essential briefing because if SEO is vital to your business, then the company or individual you choose will have a significant impact and is probably one of the most critical factors in whether you get good results. Many mistakes can be made when choosing an SEO company.
Don’t make these mistakes.
Mistake #1: Using Google as your filter
If you think about it, the logic here makes sense. The simple idea is that a good SEO company or SEO consultant or SEO consultant plus the name of my city will rank well. So if I am looking for the best search engine in the UK, all I have to do is Google “best search engine in the UK,” and of course, the highest-ranking company will appear at the top.
But unfortunately, most good companies in high demand consistently achieve good results and get good recommendations that don’t need to be listed here. They have a constant influx of clients because they recommend them, and many people in their network recommend them. They have a high customer retention rate, and many are very happy. They make a lot of money and are overworked, so they don’t bother to optimize their website to attract new clients.
The result is that junk gets left here and there. Many companies rank well for best SEO plus city name or best SEO plus region or specific areas of expertise (best E-commerce SEO), but not for best. They are the ones who don’t have any clients at all, so they spend all their energy on getting new clients. Sometimes you might find some good deals there, and it’s just not a very good filter.
Mistake #2: Trusting “Top SEO” lists
Lots of people search for “best SEO” or “best SEO consultant” or “best SEO company,” “best SEO company in the UK.” They go to a website like bestSEOs.com or topSEOs.com. There are many websites like that, which are just aggregators. Their business model is that they try to rank for terms like that, and then they sell those listings, the listings on their sites, to SEO companies and firms.
As a customer of an SEO company, a paid system is not trustworthy for you. You would never trust someone to say, “Oh, which is the best restaurant in this area?” You would never go to a list that a restaurant just paid for because then you would have the consortium and those who can afford to spend the money and are the worst. Don’t trust these kinds of lists.
Mistake #3: Believing there’s a “secret sauce.”
Mistake number three believes in selling points, and unfortunately, many, I would say, poor quality SEO consultants use selling points that are the secret sauce. There is no secret sauce in SEO. When you hear “this is how Google works, blah, blah, blah, this is what we do with our secret optimization techniques,” and I can’t tell you what those are.
It’s a proprietary approach, but it works well.” That’s nonsense. If you refuse to do that, it’s for the best. If you ask, “How do you do it?” And they say, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you, it’s a secret or proprietary,” that’s a very, very bad sign. No one has a secret proprietary program.
SEO is a very, very open field. Understandably, it originated from many secrets, but that’s not the way it is today, and you should never accept that that’s the answer.
Our recommended process for choosing an SEO company:
I want you to sit down with your team, your CEO, your leadership team, your board, or whoever, and figure out what you want to achieve with SEO. Why do you want to do SEO? Why do you want to rank organically for keywords? Then determine how you will judge success and failure. In this process, there are good goals and bad goals.
- I want to reach many people who are researching this topic, so we need traffic from these specific groups. I know they are looking for this topic, and it’s perfect.
- We’re trying to increase sales and do that with new sales, and search engines are a channel to generate sales. That’s good, that’s good.
- We’re trying to increase downloads or free sign-ups, or free trials. That’s also a good goal.
- We’re trying to increase the sentiment towards our brand. If you Google some of our brand terms today, there might be some bad reviews, but there are also many good reviews ranked below, and we want to get the good ones up and the bad ones down. That’s fine. That feeling could also be something that drives you. You know many people are searching for your brand or terms in your brand, and those are worthy targets.
- We want traffic, more traffic. Why? Well, because we want it. The dreaded, dreaded goal and traffic is not a goal in itself. If you say, “Well, we want more traffic because we know that search traffic converts well for us, and here are the stats on it,” okay, great. Now it’s the one thing that drives revenue.
- Unfortunately, ranking alone is the vanity of many people who want to rank for something simply because they want it. For SEO companies considering clients, that’s usually a bad sign. It would help if this weren’t on your list of goals, and it’s not a positive goal.
- Beat a specific competitor for a specific keyword or phrase. Again, no, it’s not a goal, and it does not directly drive revenue, nor does it directly drive organizational goals.
- A measure of vanity. I still see people saying, “Hey, does anyone know a great SEO company that can help us improve our domain authority or our Majestic trust flow, or worst of all, our Google PageRank?” Google gave up on PageRank a few years ago, and that sucks. A vanity metric and a bad idea.
Once you have a list of these reasonable goals that you’re trying to optimize, my recommendation is that you should gather a list of usually three to five, which, I think, is the correct comfort zone. If you can assess more, you can do more, but at least three to five consultants or agencies, and those are probably following a bunch of criteria.
You might say, “Hey, listen, we need someone in our area so we can meet with them, or at least someone who can fly into us regularly.” Maybe that’s a requirement for you. Or maybe you’ll say, “It doesn’t matter. Working remotely is great.” Well, great. You might say, “Our price range or our budget is for this particular thing.”
You want to find those criteria and make sure you have a list of three to five people that you can consider each other. Have some conversations with them and dig up references.
- The same goes for your network of friends and personal and professional networks.
- Similar non-competitive companies. You will find that you can build these relationships if you, for example, have a non-competitive e-commerce company that is friendly with you in the B2B sector or the e-commerce sector. You should certainly already have those relationships. Talking to those people about who they use and whether they are successful is an excellent way to find good people.
Good questions to ask:
- By the way, I like to ask SEO companies. What procedures will you use to accomplish our goals, and why do you use those particular procedures? That’s an excellent place to start.
- Ask about their communication and reporting process. How often? What is their cadence like? What indicators are they reporting on? What do they need you to collect? Why do they need to collect these indicators? How do these indicators fit with your objectives, and how are they aligned?
- What work and resources do you need to put in place internally? You should know this before you go into any arrangement because it can get very complicated. If your SEO company says, “Great, here’s a list of suggestions,” and you say, “Well, we don’t have the development bandwidth, or we don’t have the content creation bandwidth, or we don’t have the visual or UI or UX communication bandwidth to do any of that. So what do we do?” Well, now your path is blocked. You should have had this conversation much earlier. *By the way, SEO usually requires some intensive resource allocation. So you should plan.
- What do you do when things don’t work out? I like to ask this question and ask for specific examples of when things don’t work out and what they’ve done in the past to fix the problem.
- I like to ask a wide range of questions. Especially when you start a conversation, especially if you feel like, hey, I want to understand this company’s approach to SEO and their understanding of Google, you can ask them questions like, “Hey, tell me how Google ranks results and how you as a company are influencing them?” You should hear a good answer, yes, this is how Google does things, here’s how we know, and here’s how we influence those results. That’s good.
I like to suggest that people choose these four things:
- The trust you build with a company. That’s through references, through conversations, through people you’ve talked to in your network.
- Through referrals. If you’ve heard great recommendations and you trust those referral sources, that’s a beautiful sign.
- By matching communication styles. If your communication style, even though everything else was great, left you feeling a little frustrated when you had the conversation, maybe you got what you needed. Still, it didn’t go well, and I would suggest that maybe it’s a cultural mismatch and you should look for another supplier.
- Pricing and contract structure. Many SEO companies have a contract structure that is month-to-month and for a certain length of time. You should expect to pay something upfront and then some ongoing monthly fees. There is usually a time period when the payment will reappear and will renew the contract. This is quite similar to many other services, consultancy type agreements, so you should expect that. If you see something very non-standard, this can sometimes be a bad thing, but not always. A lot of the time, SEOs have more creative pricing, which is all right.
Three pro tips:
- If SEO requires to be a core competency of your company, then keep it in-house. An agency or consultant can never do as much as an in-house person with as many resources or communication. Starting with an external consultant and bringing them in-house is a great way to go.
- If the quality SEO person you’re considering is too expensive, my advice might be to say, “Well, how about you just advise us on the job, and we’ll hire an in-house person, maybe more junior, and you’ll mentor that person?” That can work well, again, especially if you have the budget to hire this person in-house.
- Remember, SEO is not for everyone. SEO is highly competitive. Page 1 gets over 95% of the clicks. The top three or four results get over 70% of the clicks, 65% or 70%. So many times, if you are not yet capable of doing SEO or seriously engaged in it, going from your fifth-page ranking for many key terms to the bottom of page two or page one may not be worth that much. Unless you have the budget and energy to commit to SEO, it may be an avenue for you to consider later.
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