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How to Choose an SEO Company or Professional
This hub is dedicated on how to find an SEO company or professional and how to avoid the many so called professionals that will give you every opportunity to piss your money up against the wall!
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is one of the most important aspects of online businesses. It doesn't matter whether you write online, have an affiliate marketing business, or are marketing your local product in the online world, SEO is needed in order to succeed online. Search engine optimization can be a little daunting. As i have said in many of my previous hubs, it's not rocket science. I stand by that. It is however very time consuming. In my case, it has always been preferential to outsource my SEO work, as it frees up my time to do other things.
On the flip side, i have always been very cautious of who i pass work to. There are many companies i have hired that haven't lived up to expectations. It helps of course, that i know SEO. Unfortunately, many companies rely on the fact that the person outsourcing, in the majority of cases, doesn't know a lot about SEO.
Choosing the right SEO professional can be a difficult task – mainly because there are so many options out there. However, it is extremely important not to rush into things. You want to hire the right SEO professional for your online business. Following are some important tips on how best to choose an SEO professional
12 Handy Tips to aid Selection
1. Don't take people on their word:
Once you start your search, every man and his dog will claim to be the best thing since cliced bread. You will see pages of happy customers and many more 1st page rankings. The fact of the matter is that only a fraction of these people will be able to do what they say.
It goes without saying that getting you ranked at the top of the SERPS is exactly what you would like them to do for you, but it is equally important to critically examine and scrutinize their claims. Just because someone tells you they like kids, doesn't mean you invite them to babysit without a little check on their background.
Let's get the obvious out the way. No-one knows how the algorithms work, so no one can guarantee placements. Yes they can try, but guarantee? Second, it depends on how competitive the keywords are - to claim this without even knowing the keywords in question is ludicrous, as the more competitive the keywords are, the longer it would take and more costly it would be. They might be happy to take on competitive keywords / phrases, as it keeps them working on it for a long time, but guarantees mean little. Additionally, there are thousands of firms offering these guarantees - there are only 10 spots on the first page for each key term. In any one industry there will be thousands of businesses competing, many with considerably more money and expertise than you. It can't be guaranteed and anyone who claims it would be struck off my list right away. It makes a pretty bold statement to be claiming this in the first place, claims that you would never find with any top SEO firm.
Many SEO professionals claim to do impossible things, which are nothing more than a charade. If you want to hire the right consultant for you, you need to be practical in your approach. The old saying of “If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true” applies in the same respect, within the SEO field.
Remember by the time you realize they aren't quite the miraculous find you thought they were, it will have cost you good money and time.
2. Discuss the Strategy with them:
This is the time when you get to know about the professionalism of any SEO consultant or organization. When they make extraordinary claims to completely optimize your website, with reference to all the major search engines, they should also be completely fair with their clients in discussing their amazing strategy with them. After all it's fair that you know where your money is being spent.
If you didn't spot bogus claims on their website, you will have a much better idea as to their ability after these discussions.
3. Past Experiences and Clients’ References:
It is always wise to ask an SEO professional about his prior clients’ references and past experiences. If they have been around the industry for enough time, they should have a fairly extensive client’s list. Ask for references that you can contact. By doing so, you will be able to avail the following two advantages:
i. You can later do some analysis on these clients’ websites and see how they are performing against their competition. Are there any basic SEO principles that you see missed on the site? Cowboys are usually very easy to spot as they will do half the job.
ii. You can directly contact the references directly and ask them about the services of the SEO consultant. This can be invaluable information. He may also be able to tell you about the effectiveness and professionalism of the SEO company. Maybe to stay clear. You wouldn't hire someone in business with no references and no proven track record in the same way you wouldn't take a person on without an interview. Why would this be any different. Anyone can make claims. Genuine contenders can back them up.
The only downside is that a professional won't usually give out references that aren't to their credit.
Cost is another major factor in choosing an SEO professional. Since the internet’s great evolution and rapid growth, the SEO consultants have been charging a great deal of money for their services. Therefore, it is always better to evaluate your options in terms of cost, before signing up with any SEO professional.
Undertaking adequate research, comparing expertise, claims and cost is an absolute must. Remember a higher cost doesn't necessarily mean a better quality of work.
5. Ask Around:
SEO companies or professionals that are worth their salt, will have a track record and there will be clients online giving them credit for their work. Have a look in some of the top SEO forums. Ask around and see whether anyone has used them and can qualify some of their claims. It doesn't have to be a forum - basically any place where people post can be worth a lot more than contacting an SEO professional direct (although you should definitely be doing this too). Remember that not all claims or posts will be genuine. Some could be from the people you are looking to hire. Don't just stop with the first good comment you read.
Do searches online. if their company is called Bestseo.com, do search for things like 'Bestseo.com reviews' or 'Bestseo.com complaints'. Someone will have used them before if they are all they claim to be. If you can't find anything, then any amazing claims will more than likely not have much standing, in my book anyway.
6. Practice what you preach:
Do they have a company website? Do some checks and see how they have optimized their own site. To do this, go to their home page and view the Meta Keywords they are targeting. This will show you what keywords they want to rank for. Now go to the search engines and see where they rank for each keyword. Are they on the first page? If they claim to be able to give you top spots in the rankings, and they're not part of your company, why wouldn't they do the same for their own business? The answer is simple, because they aren't good enough. Common sense prevails.
Another check is their Alexa Rank and Page Rank (PR)? A well optimized site will likely have a higher PR and Alexa rank. It is usually a good indicator.
7. Ask where they source their backlinks from:
The value of backlinks in off page SEO is huge. It is also huge when you outsource to the wrong people. It is perhaps the most important of all things you will do to rank well. Make sure that they aren't intending the build backlinks from link farms or from other eyebrow methods, as this can do more damage than good. Don't take up promises of thousands of backlinks. That's not what you need. You need to make sure they are building links from reputable sites, and this takes time when done properly.
8. Undertake price comparisons:
Undertake price comparisons on any price you are quoted. Remember that price and quality are not linked. If you are quoted two prices, see how they stack up against other competitors. Take the top 10 and see what they offer. Anyone vastly over the average is likely not that good, unless they have a great proven track record, and any pricing too low is probably not what you are looking for either.
There are a number of SEO firms that i have found that are managed by the same entity and play quotes off each other. This is similar to price fixing so be sure to check the IP address of the parent website.
9. Don't reinvent the wheel:
What you're looking for isn't revolutionary and certainly isn't new. Visit sites like Elance where you can hire professionals to undertake your work. These sites act a little like Ebay, in as much as you can see how many jobs they have had, how much they have earned, customer feedback, certifications (on Elance) and lots more. Whilst these sites have a lot of garbage, a little research can turn up some real gems, at competitive prices.
The top companies, much like Ebay users, try hard to protect their reputation (they want 5 star recommendations), so they work a little harder for their money. It also means you don't have to do lots of analysis on the background of a company.
9. Don't make it easy:
If you are going to ask questions of them, don't make it easy. The good professionals in the industry will be able to deal with tough questions, and will respect you more for it. Use trick questions, questions that you expect the 'we don't do that' answer. A good one is to ask them how many Search Engines or directories they will automatically submit your site to. The correct answer is none - you want manual submissions to relevant sites. Cowboys will usually try to impress you with big numbers.
10. Ask for a trial:
Don't be scared to ask for a trial. Often i will give them one page, and one keyword and let them prove themselves at a reduced price. If they perform they get more business. You will often get their services for a vastly reduced cost or better, free. Obviously, this would only be once you were satisfied with other elements of the work they had performed.
Don't however, under any circumstance, give your FTP passwords and access to your server on a free trial. You don't know them and shouldn't trust them, yet. You might as well give them your ATM card and password while your there. There is plenty you can check on a trial without them having access to your server.
If need be, give them the pages to perform any on page SEO.
11. Don't be fooled by big numbers:
Stay clear of SEO firms that offer the promise of submitting your site to thousands of search engines. A good SEO firm would not offer this. Remember, you want your submissions to be relevant. Most of those directories are not used by many people and will not be relevant. If a site is well optimized, it actually doesn't need to be submitted to the Search Engines (they would find it through the relevant backlinks you have). Secondly, over- submissions can harm your site. A good steady flow of links shows strength. Thirdly, if you really wanted to do this (and i would recommend against this), there are loads of free tools out there, so why pay someone?
12. Low monthly recurring costs:
I have already stated that SEO is a time consuming and costly exercise. Professionals towards the top of the industry can charge thousands of pounds / dollars an hour for their work. You will get for what you pay. Hiring someone at $200 a month will get you a few hours here and there (as they will be managing lots of projects at that price) and the benefit will be negligible. You would be better to spend the few hours here and there yourself. Buy a book. You will probably do more than they would do at that price.
Spending the little extra time in getting the right SEO professional will make a huge difference, especially in the long term. I recently outsourced some of my directory submissions to the wrong company and started finding links that had been added to pages with over 8000 links! Unfortunately, it took a rankings drop to notice. Lesson learnt. Do your homework and avoid the cowboys as there are plenty out there.