Many companies struggle with the realities of online marketing. While traditional marketing focuses on content, online marketing is much more technical.
You must deal with ever-shifting search engine algorithms and website best practices. These often involve issues like website loading speeds that relate to the quality of web programming on your site.
That’s all before you even touch on keywords, content types, and posting schedules. It’s a big, complicated, and often technical problem to overcome. To make things worse, most businesses lack the expertise to manage all of the hurdles.
It’s a strong argument for hiring an SEO company. They’re experts, right?
It’s not quite that simple. You don’t just need SEO experts, you the right SEO experts for your business.
So keep reading to find out how to pick that company.
Find Out If the SEO Company Meets Your Budget
Discussions about outsourcing often revolve around saving money. Outsourcing your SEO needs is a potential path to cost saving. For example, it lets you avoid the expense of hiring an in-house SEO expert.
It’s not a guarantee. SEO companies serve industry niches, companies of particular sizes, and at different price points.
You need to establish a firm budget for outsourcing your SEO before your first phone call or web search. Once you fix that budget, be up front about your price range with the SEO companies you contact.
Most companies will tell you if your budget is too small to hire them. This saves everyone time and frustration. It also lets you move the search forward until you find a company that does work within your budget constraints.
Avoid companies that hard sell you on packages that cost more than your established budget. If they don’t respect your stated budget, you’re probably looking at ongoing communication and budget issues.
Research Reputation and Seek Recommendations
Just because a company turns up at the top of a Google search, it doesn’t mean they’re the best choice. High performing companies often get new clients through referrals from their satisfied customers. In short, they don’t focus on ranking well in search engines because they don’t need to bother.
Make a circuit through the usual review sites, the BBB, and social media. See what people say. Companies that overpromise and fail to deliver get burned pretty fast.
Put some time into researching the company owners. If they ran a shoddy SEO firm before, you can probably find some evidence of it. While it’s possible they changed their ways, the odds are good that they just changed names and started over.
Ask other business owners you’re not competing with for referrals. If they’re happy with a company’s services, it can help you develop a short list.
Avoid Companies with “Secret” Methods
Restaurants might use secret sauces, but an SEO company never does. SEO evolves over time, but there are no secret methods that will make your business more successful.
Secret method sales pitches rely on the premise that you don’t understand SEO basics, such as:
- keyword research
- on-site keyword placement
- on-site tags
- internal linking
- content marketing
- mobile optimization
The fact that someone can write a list like this stands as proof that there are no secret methods.
Not all secret method pitches get stated so obviously. The salesperson will imply the secret by saying things like, “Our competitors don’t have our software.”
The best defense against the secret method sales pitch is education. Do some preliminary research on SEO essentials and standard methods. Research the big players in SEO and see what services they offer.
Odds are good that if the big companies don’t offer it, someone is trying to pull a fast one.
Some SEO tasks require human input, like on-site optimization and most content creation. A lot of tasks lend themselves to automation.
Let’s say you’ve set up a landing page for your new product, The Better Mouse Trap. The goal of the page isn’t sales, but lead generation. Software can help generate potential keywords automatically.
Of course, the line between pure SEO and digital marketing often gets blurry. Many SEO companies will also help you automate additional parts of the process.
Your landing page captures the names and email addresses of people interested in The Better Mousetrap. You can always set up your own software or autoreply system to contact those emails.
If you use Online Marketing Muscle, for example, they provide software that automates follow up with leads. This lets you consolidate marketing processes, which can save time and money.
Ask potential companies whether they use automation and for what aspects of SEO. Companies that don’t leverage automation at some level are wasting time and customer money.
Ask About Communication and Team Members
Outsourcing any process successfully hinges on good communication. Ask them about their communication process.
Do they report weekly or monthly? Do they send summaries or detailed breakdowns? If they use summaries, will they send detailed breakdowns on request?
Also, make sure to ask about who will serve as your main point of contact. Once you hire the SEO company, you won’t talk to the salesperson again.
Make sure to talk to your point of contact at least once before you the hire company. You don’t want to hire the company only to find out you can’t stand the person who reports to you.
Also, make it a point to ask about the team working on your account. Focus on their experience and responsibilities.
While it’s normal for junior staff to work on accounts, you want someone with a few years of experience in charge.
Picking the right SEO company isn’t something you do overnight.
You need a company that works within your budget. The company should either get recommended to you or get solid reviews online.
Watch out for companies selling secret methods. Ditto for companies that don’t leverage automation. Both will cost you money.
Ask a lot of questions about the team and the communication policy. You want at least one experienced person on the team. The communication policy must meet your needs.
Not ready for SEO outsourcing? Check out our post on SEO basics to get the ball rolling on your own.