Choosing the right SEO firm for your business is a particularly difficult decision. SEO campaigns are exceedingly complex, and you’ll have to consider many factors in order to make an informed choice that will best benefit your business.
Are you looking for an SEO firm to integrate with your marketing plan? Or are you simply looking to drive more traffic to your website and improve your Google rankings?
Either way, if you take the time to do a little bit of homework before your first meeting, you’ll be in a better position to articulate your needs and negotiate your contract. Sounds difficult? Don’t worry, we’ve made a little cheat sheet to help you out before, during, and after your initial SEO meeting:
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Before you set up your first SEO meeting:
Do your research
It’s helpful to understand the basics of SEO if you want to have a productive discussion. Here’re some good resources to get you started:
- The Beginners Guide to SEO – Moz.com
- Googles top 3 Search Engine Ranking Factors – Search Engine Land
- 1 Million Google Search Results Analysed – Backlinko
- Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015 – Moz.com
- Google SEO Starter Guide
Decide how much you want to spend, but keep it flexible
Look around and see what companies are typically charging. Take your location (and that of the SEO firm) into consideration, as this will affect cost.
Once you’ve determined what a suitable budget is, remember to be flexible. You’ll need to be prepared to adjust your budget depending on your business goals and your websites’ current SEO position.
See how their SEO performs
Once you’ve identified a potential SEO firm, check out how their own SEO efforts are performing. Search to see if they rank for obvious target keywords, such as “SEO firm ‘your city'”.
However, this isn’t the most important factor and you shouldn’t necessarily base your decision on their rankings. Many excellent SEO companies don’t have top rankings due to certain factors. While you may be thinking ‘this is their business; they should be in the top position’, that’s not always the case. It could simply be due to internal resources, perhaps SEO isn’t their primary service (which isn’t a bad thing), or maybe they’re currently working on improving their rankings.
Look at their portfolio and their reputation
- Who have they worked with?
Check out their clients, and read any relevant case studies they may have on their website. If they’ve generated success for a company similar to yours, they likely have the resources to do it again!
- Any Awards?
Most countries have some sort of SEO award programme, and winning is particularly difficult. But this shouldn’t be the golden deciding factor. Many award-winning companies have joined certain associations to submit their results for consideration. This means hundreds of other SEO agencies who aren’t part of the association, won’t even get considered even though they also produce fantastic results!
What is their point of difference?
Can they make you an offer you’re unlikely to refuse? Can they throw in some extras you may never have considered? Are they able to manage your entire online marketing strategy under one house? A point of difference can give your SEO that extra boost to outrank your competitors and also make the deal so much more worth it.
Download our awesome 21 Point SEO Company Checklist and be ready for your meetings
During the meeting
Have they given you insight into SEO?
During your meeting, did the firm attempt to give you a brief insight into how SEO works? From your understanding of SEO, ask the company to provide you with some insight in your websites current SEO position. They may not have an in-depth view of your sites’ SEO position in the first meeting, but a good SEO partner will be able to pick up any issues with a few checks.
Are they trying to learn about your business?
A good SEO agency will try their very best to understand your business and your market. This insight allows them to make better decisions for the campaign e.g: pushing focus on products/services that have upcoming seasonal sales.
In early 2016, we partnered with an Auckland electrician. In the meeting we discussed where the business is and how their money is made. The discussion brought to our attention the client had two vehicles and was only able to service a certain geographic area until further growth was seen. We also found out small fix jobs brought in the cash flow which could build up the business quickly. We then built the campaign around this, focusing on the serviceable geographic areas and the small jobs in the first phase of the SEO campaign. The client recently purchased his fourth vehicle.
If they’re not doing this they don’t really care about your business in the long run and how this marketing tool is going to help you succeed.
Have they addressed the 3 main factors of SEO?
Based on your pre-meeting research, you should be more or less aware of the three factors that affect SEO:
- Links: A link is created when an external website references your business with your URL. The most authoritative offline businesses have references for their products or services. In the same manner, your online business requires references to build its online authority and credibility with Google.
- Content: All content (text, images, videos, etc.) must be relevant and of the highest quality. It’s also good practice to link your content to external sources.
- RankBrain: Essentially, RankBrain is an AI machine created by Google to monitor large amounts of data from trillions of websites. The machine then users this data to adjust the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) to provide the most relevant website for a search query.
Can they show you examples and client success stories?
Depending on how long the SEO firm has been around, the answers they’re able to provide will vary. If the firm is fairly new, don’t go in expecting an extensive portfolio. Also, remember that SEO is a fairly new business model in and of itself.
What software do they use and how will they report to you?
Try to get to know the names of the top SEO software in the market before the meeting. Companies that use the best software are usually able to provide better reports, as well as track and react effectively to issues.
Who will manage your account?
Depending on the company, the person who will manage your account will usually depend on the size of the account. While a senior strategist will overlook small accounts, you won’t get the same attention as a large account.
At TWC we have a senior specialist for each marketing channel. These specialists create a strategy for each campaign and manage the workflow across a team of juniors who each have a skill set they use to implement the strategy.
Why should you choose them?
Look for a point of difference the company has when compared to competitors. If it’s not obvious, ask the question.
Do they care?
Feel the company out. Have they asked you questions about your business? Such as “what amount of leads can your business handle”? Or are they selling you an affordable pre-made package and have no interest in what your business is going through?
What kind of relationship will you have?
Constant communication is a vital component of a successful SEO campaign. The SEO agency you decided to work with will need a dedicated approach to understanding your business’ long and short term goals. Will you be able to establish a professional open relationship?
What happens if you cancel?
Cancellation of most SEO contracts should be straightforward.
Depending on the nature of the contract, the agency may remove the links they’ve created in your campaign or may charge a cancellation fee. Sometimes they won’t do either. You have the opportunity to negotiate these terms up front to get the best deals in case you do choose to cancel.
What is their price point?
Do they have a point of difference over the competing offers you’ve received? If you’re happy with the company then trying stalling in the meeting to get some additional value or simply ask the company ‘What makes your service better?. There’s always a few extras a SEO agency can throw in to sweeten up the deal.
Ready to choose a SEO Company? Book a FREE SEO Consultation with The Web Company today!
After the meeting
Read your reports (no really, read them).
This may sound obvious, but in the beginning many clients don’t seem motivated to fully understand their initial SEO reports. Six months down the line, these clients end up questioning everything that went into the campaign. Communication with your SEO firm is essential! No one will ever know your business better than you do. It is in your interest to understand the reports so you see how the increases and decreases in traffic relate directly to your business. Furthermore, insightful dialogue with your chosen firm strengthens the overall campaign. It gets easier and easier with time, so before long you’ll be able to move through reports with confidence and speed!
Provide your firm with what they request
The first few months of the campaign will likely be the busiest, and the firm will establish a strategy that requires resources from you such as content, product information, videos, and testimonials. Do your best to get these resources across in a timely fashion, so the firm can work on improving your Google rankings as soon as possible.
Keep them in the loop
Keeping the SEO firm up to date with business happenings is like adding fuel to the fire. The more they have to work with, the better their work can be (in most cases).
For example, providing them with a company update can lead to the creation of a blog post or a press release. Providing statistics on your market can lead to an infographic to post on your blog or social media. Information is key to relevant content creation.
Don’t get impatient
SEO can’t happen overnight! Google takes time to index onsite changes and verify new links builds. Furthermore, making these changes across your site takes time as well. Consequently, results will only begin to show in three to six months. Remember to consult your firm before making content changes to a strong-performing page, as this could also affect your rankings.
Be patient, as certain rankings are very difficult to compete for.
Keep an eye on your traffic
Check your traffic stats as often as possible. Big drops usually mean something is wrong with your site or with the tracking code. Either way, you’ll want to know when improvements are happening as this is an indication of the campaigns’ ROI.
Whoever you choose as your SEO partner, make sure you don’t…
- Choose the company that promises first page rankings
- Sign up for a campaign that offers a bulk quantity of low-quality links, such as search engine submissions
- Select an SEO firm that uses out-of-date SEO practices
- Go with a firm who will develop your site in frames, as this frequently causes problems for search engines trying to index your site.
- Choose a firm that sets unrealistic expectations, such as rankings within 30 days.
So there you have it. You should now have a good understanding of what’s required from a SEO company. Keep in mind that no SEO agency will satisfy every one of these requirements, and they’re not supposed to! The main requirement is a positive improvement in your search engine ranking. The rest are bonuses that will add more value to the campaign.
SEO is a vital part of a successful online marketing strategy. Contact The Web Company today and allow us to assist you in making this decision an easy one.