Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hiring an SEO Company: What to Look For and the Questions to Ask

There are a number of important thing to consider prior to hiring an SEO company to manage your online campaign. As one would expect, digital marketing for most companies, small or large, has become essential in order to reach their target audiences. We no longer live in a world where consumers grab the Yellow Pages to look for a company, or grab their note pads and scribble down a business' information after listening to a radio ad. Why would they? People have become accustomed to the comfort of knowing that if they happen to forget a piece of information, a phone number, or an address, all they have to do is "Google it." For businesses, this means that ranking well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for keyphrases that will generate valuable traffic and a steady revenue stream is absolutely vital. So what should these people be looking for in an SEO company to help them achieve those rankings?

 Questions to Answer Before Researching SEO Companies:

1) What is your monthly budget for an SEO campaign?

Understanding what your business can afford is extremely important, as some SEO companies will charge more than others. It is necessary to understand when speaking with different companies the services they are able to provide with your budget; allowing the SEO company to establish your budget is unwise.

2) What level of customer service do you expect?

For the sake of brevity, I will put people in to two different categories here. The first encompasses those that need to be kept apprised of everything that is going on with their campaign. The second encompasses people that want the SEO company to get the results but aren't concerned at all with the process. A lot of SEO companies may cater more to the former, while others may be better suited for the latter.

3) Are you interested in organic rankings or paid advertisements?

It is possible that the answer is both. And for companies with larger budgets, I definitely encourage launching organic and paid campaigns in unison. But understand what you want first, as many SEO companies will specialize in one or the other. Ideally, you want a company that specializes in both, as this is a good indicator that the organization has more experience.

Questions to Ask While Talking to an SEO Company

1) What do they charge?

To reiterate, most will bill out by the hour. Industry standards typically fall between $100-$150 per hour, with some of the more prominent firms charging well above that.

2) What on-site changes will they recommend?

A lot of SEO companies will assess your current site and make a number of recommendations that will set the campaign up for success right from the get-go. Ideally, you want to work with a company that will provide you with analysis after conducting a thorough review of your site, including recommendations for optimizing the HTML coding that has a significant impact on rankings (title tags, H1 tags).

3) What link building strategies does the SEO company utilize?

I think it is important that an SEO company should be somewhat transparent when it comes to link building, and what they actually do to acquire backlinks for a website. Some of the more common tactics include: blog commenting, guest blogging, paid links, directory submissions, and article marketing. While every company may utilize one strategy more than another, if they are unable to share some of their strategies with you, that is a red flag. In reality, link building strategies should be unique to the client, and some work better depending on the industry and what the business actually does.

4) How long will it take to rank on Page 1 of the SERPs for my main keyphrases?

This is very simple. If an SEO company gives you an exact date or time-frame as to when this may happen, they are misleading you. There is no way to definitively anticipate when Page 1 rankings may be achieved. A good SEO company will tell you that, and be honest about the fact that it depends on where the website currently stands in the SERPs, the current backlink profile etc.

5) Do you work with other companies that do what we do?

This is a very important question to ask. If the SEO company is servicing anyone that you are competing with for rankings, that obviously isn't good. You want to ensure that your business is the only one of its kind that the organization would be working with.

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