5 Tips for Hiring the Right SEO Firm

Regardless of your company’s growth phase, it’s social media footprint and web presence are critical determinants of its financial results. A social footprint is controlled in part by social media marketing, which grants the brand visibility that helps a company establish a brand identity and authority that will ensure a business is of consequence in its target markets.

Social marketing goals are supported by search engine optimization (SEO), which contributes to the likelihood that search engine robots consider a website’s content sufficiently useful to warrant its top placement in search results. To implement an SEO marketing strategy, you might partner with an SEO firm. But hiring a competent and appropriate SEO  partner is no simple task. It’s a matter of understanding your company’s SEO needs and evaluating a firm using the correct criteria.

Base Your Evaluation on the RIGHT Criteria

You may assume a firm’s placement in a search engine ranking of SEO firms reflects client satisfaction with the company or its dominance in a target market. But many factors (which are neither public knowledge nor influenced by public opinion), determine this ranking. For example, the number of years an SEO firm has been in business and operated with a certain domain name will influence the firm’s search results ranking. This and other ranking factors have nothing to do with the quality of an SEO firm’s work. A first step in the  selection process is to understand your company’s SEO requirements and determine how you will assess that a company’s expertise will enable them to meet these goals.

Understand Your Company’s SEO Requirements

An SEO firm can accomplish a number of tasks, including reputation management, the conduct of an SEO audit and link removal and link building. It’s important to identify which of the approximately 20 services an SEO firm can provide will meet your company needs. For example, you might seek SEO support to increase website traffic to meet a revenue growth objective or increase sales leads by a certain percent. For us, SEO is always viewed holistically and typically within the inbound marketing methodology. Whatever the goals, it should be measurable and time-delimited.

Learn About the SEO Firm’s Plan of Action

To best ensure an SEO firm will meet your requirements, narrow the field by requesting proposals from firms with the needed skill set. The field of SEO is broadening rapidly – so when screening the proposals, it’s likely you’ll get a wide range of approaches and differing routes to accomplishing your SEO objectives. This means less “like for like” comparisons. Depending on how big you are and how many proposals you have in your inbox, you might want create a shortlist before meeting up with the best of the bunch to talk through their proposal. As a word of wisdom from the firm’s perspective – it’s really difficult to get a perfect fit at first attempt – so follow-up meetings to discuss requirements usually help iron our the kinks.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for revised proposals or “final and best offers”. Quality SEO firms usually ask for a 6-12 month initial commitment so it’s worth getting the price right at the start. See examples of how companies might price their SEO services.

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Evaluate the Probable Effectiveness of Each SEO Firm

It’s impossible to anticipate the exact outcome of any SEO project. It should go without saying but if a firm says anything like “we promise to get you first place on (insert keyword) in less than 3 months” you should already be halfway out the door. But! It is possible to anticipate a project’s probable/likely outcome based on results a firm has achieved on previous projects. A big part of the relationship will be down to managing expectations, setting realistic goals and communicating clearly and regularly. So if you’re checking references – make sure you ask questions related to those factors as well as ranking achievements and timescales.

Also, some SEO firms support one industry and others are generalists. Consider the degree that your project’s success is dependent on working with a firm with years of experience supporting companies that are similar to your own.

Ask the SEO Firm to Describe Its Projects

Good SEO results require a tactical plan and a creative approach. When an SEO firm describes a particular project, you can get an idea of hurdles the firm was forced to cross and if those hurdles were self-imposed. You can also learn the degree a firm’s creativity was critical in addressing project risks. Also, you’ll learn if costly problems arose due to a lack of effective planning, a shortage of skilled personnel, or failed communication between the firm and its clients. These discussions will help you identify the origin of the firm’s successes and its failures.

Although selecting an SEO firm is not a simple process, hopefully this should help you think about what to consider when choosing one. Please remember, it’s your company’s responsibility to set SEO partnership goals and carry out due diligence. In turn, it’s the SEO firm’s responsibility to provide the information you need to make good decisions regarding your SEO project and to set valid expectations.

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Posted by Cameron Clark

Lead creative and CEO at Catch22 doing my bit to make the web a better place. Connect with me on Linkedin or Twitter

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