There are a lot of very good search engine optimization firms to choose from, and there are a lot (too many) of firms that say they do search engine optimization but end up being a waste of time and money. I hope today’s article will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
When you begin your vendor selection process, you should start by defining your needs and goals. So many people enter into the selection process with no idea of what their goals may be other than, “We want to rank on page one of Google.” Here are some other issues to consider.
What Are Your goals?
Are you interested in branding, or more likely, are you interested in how search engine optimization can help you grow your business? To me, growing your business at a good ROI should be the ultimate goal. Just like you would measure any form of marketing, you should determine what the ROI should be from your search engine optimization efforts.
If you are not an e-commerce Web site, but you have a lead form on your site, you can determine a value to place on each lead that comes through your search engine optimization efforts and measure against that. If you get a majority of your leads/inquiries through someone calling, perhaps your goal is an increase in relevant traffic to the site. In that case, you can determine the value of each “click” from your search engine optimization efforts and then tally up the total clicks per month, measuring this against the cost of the program.
Saying this, I should remind everyone that proper search engine optimization takes time, so it’s best to evaluate year-over-year increases. This valuation should occur after the recommendations from your provider have been implemented for a minimum of two to three months. It has been my experience that measurable increases from your search engine optimization efforts will occur no sooner than this timetable, but each Web site is unique.
No two Web sites are the same. Every search engine optimization project will have its unique set of challenges/needs. If there’s anything that irritates me, it is search engine optimization firms that have “packages.” Some Web sites are new to launch and will require a lot more work to get the ball rolling (link building, among other things). Some Web sites are high-quality but may lack visible text, so they may require copywriting assistance. And then there are some that have many technical challenges, which may require a talented Web development team to sort through the issues.
Another thing to consider here is your available human resources pool, or lack thereof. Do you have a Web developer who can take the recommendations provided by a search engine optimization company and can accurately implement these recommendations? Would your company allow an outside vendor access to your Web site to make changes that may be necessary to assist in the search engine optimization efforts?
The catch 22 of all of this is a smaller company will probably require the most amount of help. A smaller company would probably not have a copywriter on staff, a development team, a public relations department, or any other resources to assist in these efforts. That means you would depend on your search engine optimization provider to bring all of its resources to the project. The more resources needed, the more amount of time the provider would be involved in. The more amount of time needed, the more money you can expect to spend.
Once you have managed to match your needs/goals with a list of providers you would like to contact, it’s now time to ask some very important questions.
How many search engine programs has your provider managed? I’m not saying that a shear number of projects is the key in the selection process, but years of experience can be very beneficial. Knowing what works in the long term is key to your achieving results that last and are not overly dependant on algorithm updates.
A good rule is to avoid firms that work with Web sites in the porn industry or gambling. Chances are, these firms are accustomed to risky behavior and could get you associated with some bad neighborhoods. It’s like your parents used to say, “Who you hang out with says a lot about who you are.”
If they guarantee top-ten rankings, run. Don’t walk. Run. There is no such thing as guaranteed top-ten rankings in organic search engine optimization. We (search engine optimization companies) do not own the search engines. We are similar to a public relations firm in that we know how to best position you with the search engines, but the search engines – ultimately – will rank you based upon their criteria. A good search engine optimization firm understands the criteria and can, over time, help you to enhance your presence in the major search engines.
If they tell you they are going to submit your Web site to hundreds or thousands of search engines, you might want to consider another provider. Submission to the major crawler-based search engines, other than possible XML feeds, is not necessary. Quality link building (internally and externally) will get your site well indexed.
Can they show you live examples of their work and the results? Any firm worth its salt will be more than happy to point you to live examples of rankings and testimonials from clients. They should have a deep pool of references for you to call and speak with.
I think this is one aspect of the selection process that is often overlooked. Many search engine optimization companies are not willing to divulge what it is that they do. Again, there are many very good search engine optimization firms that will want you to be educated in the process. The more you understand search engine optimization, the easier it will be to work with you.
After all, you will know why certain recommendations are being made, and you will become a champion in the efforts to get recommendations implemented and in pushing the program forward. There is little more frustrating than working with a large company that cannot seem to get the IT team to buy off on the recommendations or puts them on the back burner for weeks. So, the more you understand, the more you will be able to help the search engine optimization company do its job, and the more successful you will all be.
Hope this helps! If there are any topics you would like me to cover in future articles, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!