Once upon a time, on the Internet, before sites like AltaVista and Dogpile gave way to the almighty Google, getting a top page rank on a search engine was as easy as repeating a keyword over and over again on a webpage.
Well, the Internet’s search engines are a whole lot smarter now. So are their scammers. Google’s PageRank system is their way of determining which websites are the most applicable and useful for every search term. A SEO specialist’s task is to make a page as applicable and useful as possible, thereby improving its rank. As service providers, many SEO firms will offer you the stars and the moon when it comes to SEO, but few will be able to deliver the sustainable change they promise. So when you’re choosing an Essex SEO firm, you’ll have to weed through a lot of empty promises to find a trustworthy specialist.
How to find th SEO company to suit your needs:
Find a firm that are a good strategic fit3>
This might surprise you, not least of which because it’s number one on my list but the reason it is there is because a good SEO firm must be able to align their work to your business strategies and help you towards your goals. Far too often SEO firms bowl in and start talking about ‘how much for how many keywords’ without actually having any understanding of what your firm actually does. In fact we should right now blow the ‘keywords’ idea out of the water. It’s not the most important thing in your strategy and focusing on far too many short tail keywords at inflated prices is guaranteed to do only one thing – help you spend your cash quickly.
Ideally therefore you want a business that understands your business, your vertical and has a deep understanding of the market. Only with this approach can they truly advise you on the best course of action rather than the best one for their pockets.
Find a firm that you actually like
This might sound obvious but you will be working with them on a long term basis. At the start of the contract you will probably be speaking to them quite a bit, so you need to be comfortable that you get on with the people you are talking to and that they understand what you need. Let’s be clear, it’s not going to be plain sailing and the road will have bumps, twists and turns, so when you encounter difficult situations you want people who are on your side; people who want to help you. They need to be part of the team; think of it as your outsourced marketing team. Oh and make sure they do the work themselves in house. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in external expertise when needed but what you don’t want is to find that you’ve contracted £5000 a month for SEO and it’s an individual working in their bedroom and outsourcing all the work for £1000 a month to a firm in another country (trust me, it still happens).
Find a firm that is current and has an opinion
Finding a firm that is up to date with the latest changes in the Search Engines, who understand where Social Media fits into the strategy and who understand how technology is changing the way we search and find things online, is critical. It is no longer about buying the most links you can and ranking at number one, it’s about understanding what is important to rank both today and tomorrow and ensuring that the work they do brings long term benefits to your business. Check out their website, their blogs and find out if they are published anywhere else online? Do you like the tone of what they write? Are they the same as everyone else or are they different? Do they have a different viewpoint and does it make sense? Just search for the name of the business and/or the owners and see what comes up. Writing a blog for something like the Huffington Post might count in this respect…
Find a firm that thinks beyond SEO
You want to find a firm that is technically proficient but you also want someone who can help you beyond the relatively simple process of optimising your website. Do they have any background in Marketing or Advertising, Digital Marketing or Strategy and can they bring that to bear on your firm? For example, do you want a company that can tell you that the issue lies, for example, with the way your staff answer the phone rather than just telling you that they have got you the traffic it’s your job to make sure it converts? Thinking beyond SEO means that they understand the overall strategy (see point 1), have the ability to tell you about what needs doing (point 2) and are prepared to help you move quickly to meet changes in the environment (point 3).
Find a firm that speaks plain English
Of course you want them to know the difference between 301’s and 404’s*, however whilst you want to be sure that they know their stuff you don’t want them to baffle you with it.
Now these are just my top five suggestions for how to choose a good SEO company but there are lots of other indicators you can use such as, can you visit them at their offices, are they VAT registered and can they offer you different payment options including Direct Debit? Finding firms that tick these three boxes can help to quickly weed out your short list.
You might also want to look at the experience of the workforce to see whether they are purely ‘digital’ or if they have experience in other fields? Quite often people who work in other disciplines bring some excellent transferrable skillsets and particularly those who have worked in Advertising, Marketing, Journalism and PR. In fact with the way Google is currently going it is these people along with Content Marketers who have a distinct advantage.
If possible you should also seek out a firm that doesn’t work for one of your competitors. This might sound daft but there are a great many SEO firms out there who prefer to work within a single vertical such as travel, legal or finance. Whilst there are some excellent single sector agencies out there that specialise in a particular vertical and these firms are generally very good at what they do there is always a concern if both you and your competitors are going after the same market or keywords. If two companies in the same vertical are with one agency and going after the same keywords, success generally comes down to who is spending the most. To avoid getting into an escalating price spend war it may be better to consider an alternative agency that have no conflicts.
Finally, don’t be fooled by the guff that people write on their websites. As a great example there are many SEO firms out there who will put up lists of both the firms they work with and the results they have obtained for these clients. If they are foolish enough to do this then the least you can do is check this out. For example, if they say they have got a client to page one on Google for a search term, why not check yourself? The majority will be nowhere near where they say they are.
In the final analysis your decision may well be motivated by other factors that I haven’t mentioned here, such as price, availability or location. Whatever criteria you choose remember that there are a great many excellent SEO firms out there, all you have to do is choose one!
How to best reflect your existing corporate identity
After you have been dealing for some time with SEO on your own, you discover that no matter how hard you try, your site does not rank well or that your site ranks well but optimizing it for search engines takes all your time and all your other tasks lag behind. If this is the case with you, maybe it is better to consider hiring a SEO company to do the work for you. With so many SEO companies out there, you can’t complain that you have no choice. Or is it just the opposite – so many companies but few reliable?
Think about asking the company you choose a few basic questions;
Do they promise to guarantee #1 ranking?
If they do, you have a serious reason to doubt their competencies. As the Google SEO selection tips say, no one can guarantee a #1 ranking in Google. This is true even for not so competitive words.
High price does not guarantee high quality.
If you are eager to pay more, this does not mean that you will get more. Just because a firm costs more DOES NOT make them better SEO’s. There are many reasons for high prices and high quality is only one of them. For instance, the company might work inefficiently and this is the reason for their ridiculously high costs, not the quality of their work.
Cheap is more expensive. This is also true. If you think you can pay peanuts for a professional SEO campaign, then you need to think again. Professional SEO companies offer realistic prices.
Use tricky questions.
Using tricky questions is a double-edged sword, especially if you are not an expert. But there are several easy questions that can help you.
For instance, you might ask them how many search engines they will automatically submit your site to. If they are scammers, they will try to impress you with big numbers. But in this case, the best answer would be “no automatic submissions”.
Another tricky question is to ask them if they will place in you top 10 for some competitive keywords of your choice. The trap here is that it is them, not you, who chooses the words that are best for your site. It is not that probable that they will choose exactly the same words as you suggest, so if they tell you that you just give them the words and they push you to the top, tell them “Goodbye”.
Do they offer subscription services?
SEO is a constant process and if you want to rank well and keep on like that, efforts are necessary all the time. Because of this, it is better to select a company that includes post-optimization maintenance, than get a company that pushes your site to the top and then leaves you in the wild on your own. You may even want to see if they offer SEO Pay Per Click services to help you maintain an ongoing PPC campaign to further optimize your site’s online marketing.