Hiring an SEO company: 7 dealmakers

Contracting SEO, Pt. 1

We’ve worked with a ton of small businesses to help them build amazing websites and make sure that their website experience is optimized for both users and search engines. Each business we work with has slightly different goals and challenges, yet they have many of the same questions and concerns:

  • What’s the difference between SEO, SEM and PPC?
  • What will I need to provide the SEO company?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Should I hire an SEO company that offers a “guarantee?”

We’re going to get to those important questions in the second part of this series — but first things first:

What should I look for when hiring an SEO company?

Unfortunately, there are unethical SEO companies and individuals who are just looking for a quick buck and don’t have any vested interest in growing your small business. Beyond the basics of making sure whomever you choose to do your SEO has the skill set to provide high-value campaigns, it’s important to make sure they have the following:

1. They have a detailed and established SEO process.

If they won’t tell you, they either don’t have one, or their process is based on spam tactics.

Small biz tip: If you hear them talking about strategies like directory or article submission, bookmarking or doorway pages, or saying things like, “we guarantee rankings” or “Google won’t catch it,” you’re talking to the wrong company.

2. They stand for something.

It is important that your SEO partner knows why they do what they do, and are not just offering services. You also want to work with a company that has a core culture that supports doing the right thing in the face of client issues. This is hard to fake. As leadership expert Simon Sinek said at TEDxPuget Sound

“Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

3. They include monthly reports outlining everything they’ve done so far.

They need to provide you with what they’ve done each month. If they won’t tell you what they’ve done, they probably didn’t do anything of value, or worst case, they only created spam.

4. They include training for your team.

This can be a great way to get to know your SEO company and the team members that you’ll be working with. It will also help provide detailed insights into their SEO methodologies.

5. They provide a list of people who’ll be working on your website, with each role outlined.

Prior to signing any contract, knowing who will be working on your website is important. In many cases, agencies don’t cast a team based on experience; to keep cost down, they’ll assign junior people to your account whose only qualification is that they have time.

6. They have reviews from actual people at established businesses.

Anyone can get their friend to write them a review. Make sure they provide the name, title and company of each person who’s written a review about them.

Small biz tip: If you’re worried about the validity of these reviews, search for the reviewers on LinkedIn to make sure they are real.

7. They have a website design and SEO experience that you’d be proud to have.

This is the easiest way to learn how they approach marketing a business. Make sure they have a web design that you would be proud to have, and are presenting their business in a way that you’d want your small business to be represented online.

Now that we have outlined what to look for when choosing an SEO company to help you grow your website traffic, let’s dive into the details. Part Two of this series will cover more specifics about what SEO is, what you’ll need to provide your SEO company, how much it will cost, and the popular question: should you hire a company that offers a “guarantee?” Stay tuned!

Bill Ross
Bill is the founder of Linchpin, a Digital Strategy and Web Design Agency, and Epik Interactive, a design agency built to help small businesses create great online experiences. He started both agencies on the core belief that all companies, irregardless of size, should have the same opportunities in regards to quality of work and access to senior-level digital marketers. Bill’s 10-year background in digital marketing and building online companies has helped him rise to strategic lead for some of the largest online brands and content websites in the world. With a degree in psychology, Bill believes the priority to understand the user surpasses most others; the end product must provide value through engaging content assets that drive traffic, engagement, search rankings, and ultimately conversions.