How to choose a good SEO company
At a rough guess, how many times do you believe you’ve paid for a professional service that simply didn’t deliver? We reckon it’s about 20-30% of the time, so depending on your consumption of services, chances are, you’re paying good money for little return far more often than you should be.
To look at an example specific to digital, SEO (search engine optimisation) is perhaps the biggest trap, and one many business owners unwillingly fall into. It’s difficult to call out every single common SEO scam – there are loads of them – but it is possible to approach negotiations with your SEO company in a more well-informed position than your competitors. You can do this by knowing how to ask the right questions, understanding what you need from your SEO campaign, and appreciating the position and focus areas of the other companies with whom you’re competing for search engine rankings.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of these topics, with a view to educating you better, and thus reducing your chances of becoming the next “SEO scam statistic”. If nothing else, you should at least be able to “wing” your way through SEO contract discussions, ensuring your chosen SEO agency is kept on their toes and works to drive your dollar further.
So let’s start this post with a meme… We love this one; it pretty much hits the SEO conundrum front and centre. Why? Because the trouble with SEO is that no one can guarantee you results
– there are just way too many variables. As result, some people pay for success and others just pay for “something”… that is, something that may not have done anything at all.
Before we even get to evaluating whether or not your SEO provider is pulling their weight, let’s first consider how to choose a provider in the first place… And, central to this, is knowing how to ask the right questions.
Five Questions You Should Ask Prospective SEO Companies
1) “How will you plan my SEO campaign, and what methods will you use to determine target keywords?”
Planning is critical to most things in life (we know that sounds a little boring, but it is kind of true!), and SEO is an area where a strategic road map is critical to keeping your campaign on the straight and narrow.
The kind of things you should expect to hear in response to this question are: comments around competitor keyword analysis; utilisation of keyword planning and domain rank/backlink analysis tools; content strategy and calendarised content updates; regular SERP (search engine results page) reporting; and performance optimisation strategies.
2) “How will you help me with my digital copywriting?”
If your SEO company can’t write good copy, just cut them loose. The most critical and time-consuming element of good SEO – and the one that will deliver lasting value for users and search engines alike – is copywriting and content. Search engines want to crawl content that demonstrates your relationship with your target keywords, just the same as your users want to understand your product and/or service offering, as well as learn about your brand through the words you use to describe it.
Any company with a basic SEO toolkit can deliver you quick ranking wins, but these SERPs will only last as long as there is an ongoing content maintenance strategy. What you should expect from your SEO provider is that they help you edit and audit your copy, ensuring it has an appropriate keyword density and relevance; or, at the least, that they provide you with a detailed checklist so that you can do it yourself.
3) “How will you help me optimise my website design and technical architecture?”
If their goal is to provide you with a holistic and full-featured SEO service (which it should be!), your provider should also help you improve the general design and user experience (UX) of your website. Getting traffic to your property is the first step, but keeping it there is just as important – your SEO crew should know this, and at least have some pointers to give you.
Outside the design elements, though, you should also expect some support with optimising the technical elements of your website: improving page load times and optimising content should definitely fall inside your SEO agency’s program of work.
4) “How do you feel about no-follow links?”
Just so we’re clear, no-follow links are links to your site that carry no ranking weight (i.e. they won’t really support a strategic SEO backlink strategy), but are, of course, still capable of driving traffic to your site. The kind of answer you should expect to this question is one that notes that no-follow links are important, because – when chosen correctly – they can be major contributors of quality traffic flow, and a great way to grow your brand exposure, in turn increasing the potential for future search traffic around your company.
One of the best examples of no-follow links are those coming from social media sources… it would be hard to argue that these carry no weight, yet some SEO practitioners won’t even give social the time of day, simply because it takes time and effort, and doesn’t immediately improve SERPs.
5) “How long will it take to get decent results?”
This one is a bit of a trick question. If you get any response containing mentions of “days” or “weeks”, turn and walk away… or, you know, don’t reply to their email – you get it. The point is, good SEO takes time – months, or even years, in some cases – so any SEO provider promising quick results will be doing one of two main things: either conducting black hat SEO tactics that will punish your domain in the longer term; or just making promises they’ll never be able to keep.
Beyond any of this, though, it’s really important that your SEO company is local and doesn’t outsource your project to a third party. The best results come from providers that take time to plan strategically, to work hand-in-hand with your company and its search objectives, and offer a broad digital skill set. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that specialist SEO providers generally lack the breadth of skills required to realise ongoing SEO success. The reason for that is that good SEO is influenced by so many digital touchpoints – web design, copywriting, social media, technical architecture etc – that knowledge in all these areas is quite important. Accordingly, it’s really only genuine digital agencies that can offer the breadth of services you need.
Finding an end-to-end digital partner, then, has never been so important.