How to Choose the Right SEO Company

Posted by Lindsey Bowshier on Sep 9, 2021 12:45:00 PM

Tribute Media Office in Meridian Idaho
This post was originally published in 2015 and was updated in September 2021 with new info, resources, and current best practices. And like so many things at Tribute Media, Lindsey is taking the credit for something Corey originally created. 😆

You may have decided that you want to outsource your search engine optimization (SEO) services in order to get your site to show up on search engines like Google. But, how do you find the right person or agency? What questions should you ask, and what answers should you be wary of as you start to have these conversations?

The Most COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT SEO SERVICES

When it comes to search engine optimization, there are many misconceptions and things we find ourselves educating new clients and prospects on early in our relationship. If we had to boil it down to one statement, it would be this:

Search engine optimization is not one thing that happens one time to get you to the number one position on Google. Rather, SEO is a variety of tactics (employing multiple skillsets from copywriting to coding to data analysis) that require consistent effort (and investment), and that must change in response to search trends, competition, and the performance of your website. 

Here are some questions you should ask a web marketing company you are engaging for SEO services to make sure you get the best ROI.

HOW WILL MY SEO TEAM DETERMINE THE TARGET Topics and keywords?

Keyword research is an important element to SEO success and can help guide an informed keyword/topic strategy based on REAL, recent data provided by Google. If your SEO team doesn't have a research tool at their disposal, your engagement likely will not be successful.

SEOs have a different, more user- and data-driven approach to website optimization than business owners often do. Therefore, their suggestions and recommendations may not align with exactly what you think you want to do. A common example is a business that wants to target a broad, highly competitive keyword on a national level. A good SEO company will suggest researching long-tail keywords that have a good search volume but are not highly competitive and starting there. It doesn't mean they won't make a steady long-term effort on more competitive keywords, but they'll want to show you some early success and return on investment by going after some of the low-hanging fruit where they are more likely to make an impact. 

On the other side of that, as someone who knows your industry inside and out, you may have some ideas about niche keywords you want to rank for, but your SEO's research might indicate that your target audience doesn't actually know those terms at the point of the buyer's journey at which they are googling for answers.

It doesn't matter if you are ranking number one for a keyword if no one is searching for it.

Keep an open mind, but go with your gut -- if their ideas radically differ from your goals or your company's vision, it's okay to look elsewhere. 

WILL THE OPTIMIZATION STRATEGY INCLUDE AN ANALYSIS OF WEBSITE DESIGN, NAVIGATION, CODING, CONTENT, AND INCOMING LINKS?

A good SEO firm will be able to provide you with recommendations on improving other areas of your website that either affect search engine placement or the site visitor's user experience. Site coding, content, and incoming/outgoing links all affect how you rank in the search engines.

Technical SEO is an important part of your strategy, and the SEO company you choose should have an understanding of and an ability to assess that area. 

WILL They Conduct COMPETITOR Research TO DETERMINE WHAT WEBSITES IN YOUR INDUSTRY ARE PERFORMING WELL AND WHY?

If there is no competitive analysis, then how will they know how to help you beat your competitors online? If your SEO company doesn't understand the difference between your online and offline competitors, then they probably won’t understand how to surpass them.

Additionally, it can be helpful to use a company that has experience in your industry. However, that doesn't always have to be a dealbreaker. Many marketing and SEO agencies are pros at learning the landscape of any industry and will take the time to learn about your company, your competitors, and your industry as a whole.  One could even argue that if a company is only serving one niche, their view of what works and what doesn't might be too myopic. There's much to be learned from what's happening across industries and B2B vs B2C. If the SEO company doesn't have any interest in doing the work to learn your industry, however, that should be a red flag. 

WILL AN SEO BE WRITING NEW CONTENT OR Optimizing EXISTING CONTENT?

Both are fine strategies and depend a lot on your existing content. However, you should find an SEO company that sees the importance of both and can help you get the most out of the content you already have by updating it and optimizing it for their keyword strategy, in addition to creating new content based on that keyword research. 

Buyer Beware: If the firm does not do SEO copywriting, look elsewhere.

ASK PROSPECTIVE SEO COMPANIES WHAT ON-PAGE AND OFF-PAGE SEO TACTICS THEY WILL THEY BE USING.

While no SEO company will give away all the secrets of how they do the work, they should be transparent about the specific tactics and when and why they'll be doing them. For example, they might suggest updating content, optimizing titles, headings, and metadata one month and a new navigation structure and compressing images the next.

Tribute Media, as an example, creates a 12 month SEO Roadmap for each new client that shows the mix of tactics and the cadence at which we'll perform the work based on the clients current performance, goals, and budget.

The key is that the suggestions they make should be based on your site, your goals, and the data they can gather about your site's performance. As we've said, there's no one-size-fits-all approach, nor is SEO a single tactic or action, and that should be evident in the recommendations they make. 

THINGS TO ASK YOUR SEO COMPANY:

  • How will your site be monitored and maintained over time, and what reports will you receive to measure your progress? Remember, SEO is not a one-time event!
  • What strategies beyond SEO does the firm engage in? What offerings do they have for traffic generation or conversion rate optimization? (Basically, how can they help you after the SEO starts working?!

You can also read through this list of questions to ask a potential SEO company, direct from Google. Notably, Google suggests that the company you choose should be familiar with Google Search Console and Webmaster Guidelines, and offers some examples of common "shady" tactics you should avoid. 

COMMON MISTAKES WHEN CHOOSING AN SEO COMPANY

Here are some common mistakes and once-popular "black hat" tactics that some SEO agencies still employ. 

  • Going with the SEO vendor that promises a No. 1 position or first-page placement.
  • Engaging in questionable linking schemes that generate reciprocal links with sites that have no relation to your business or industry.
  • Buying scads of paid links from sites you know nothing about. There are a very few specific directory sites that provide value from a search engine optimization standpoint. Stick with those.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations. Search engine optimization doesn't deliver results on a deadline.
  • Thinking low-cost providers will yield high-value results. 

It's worth your time to learn a bit about SEO so that you can have reasonable expectations and an instinct for ineffective or dangerous strategies. 

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Lindsey Bowshier

Written by Lindsey Bowshier

Lindsey is the President of Tribute Media. Her degree is in English and Communication with an emphasis in Journalism, her background is in copywriting and content marketing, and she's had pretty much every job at Tribute Media since she joined the agency in 2014. Outside of work, Lindsey participates in a "super-cool-not-at-all-nerdy" writing group. Her favorite writer is Dorothy Parker.

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