If you’re asking this question, it’s likely your a small business owner who understands the value of advertising, in particular the value of being visible on the web. Knowing that is all well and good, but how do you figure out who should be your partner in making this happen? If hiring an in-house SEO is out of your budget, you’d look to an SEO Agency, but how do you know who to work with? How do you separate the pretenders from the contenders?
Do A Google Search
Sounds simple enough, right? If you were Skyler White and needed to promote your new car wash business online, a search for “Albuquerque SEO Company” might be a good start. SEO is a competitive marketplace, and if a marketer wants to prove their chops they’ll want to be ranking well in their local city or region. If the SEO company your considering can’t manage to rank themselves well for relevant search terms, you might want to look for someone else.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go with the first guys on the list. The results Google displays can change from day to day, and even more whenever there’s an algorithm update. The guys at the top may have been using untoward tactics to get themselves there, which usually means short term success. Also, just because they’ve got that spot, doesn’t mean they’ll be a good vendor to work with.
Ask A Friend
Referrals are bar-none the best source for clients for any business (even more than SEO!). Ask other business professionals about their experiences with local companies, or put the word out on your linked in feed, tweet, or maybe ask your local chamber of commerce. If you can get the opinion of someone who’s already worked with a vendor for B2B services, that can go a long way to helping you make a decision.
SEO companies naturally don’t get the same kind of attention on review sites like Yelp as your local ice cream shop, but it’s a good place to start. See what others have to say. If you can’t find anything there, see if you can dig up their Google Places profiles, or even see if they’re accredited by the BBB. Learning from the mistakes from others is always more affordable than making them on your own!
Try and work with someone that’s at the very least in your local region. The ability to have face to face meetings with someone can be very valuable, not only that, you’re supporting your local economy. Local SEO agencies often have relationships and insights about the area that someone from across the country might not.
You get what you pay for. It’s true for EVERYTHING! Never sign an contract for SEO services solely based on price. If you’re paying less than $200 a month to market your law practice in a dense metro, it’s likely your SEO is taking you for a ride by either outsourcing everything overseas, using cheap and spammy tactics to get (short term) results OR doing nothing at all other than cashing your check!
There is no typical price to look for in SEO because approaching every business, website, and client with a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make any sense. A taxidermist in Fresno is naturally going to pay a whole lot less than a plastic surgeon in San Francisco because the demand and competition is completely different.
Get It In Writing
Whatever price you pay, make sure you define your expectations with some sort of written and signed agreement that gives you a sense of what the “deliverables” are. I use quotations there because in SEO it’s impossible to make a guarantee of first page results, but there still needs to be an understanding of what it is you’re paying for and what you’re getting out of the deal. A good metric to look at in proving you’re money’s well spent would be the amount of traffic to your site. Has it gone up? Or how about links built for your site. Are you able to see some samples?
“Page One Guaranteed!”
Don’t fall for that one. What good is page one position one ranking if it’s for the term “Handyman Services in San Francisco County California”. That’s useless to you, no-one is searching for a term like that. Also, anyone guaranteeing you service is likely just the pitch man and has no idea how SEO works.
“Can I Speak with the Decision Maker in Your Company?”
Hang up. Immediately. Don’t hire an SEO company that cold calls you. They might call telling you they’re working with Google, they might tell you they have a special arrangement with Google, or heck they sometimes even say the ARE Google! They’re not. They have no special “in” with the big G. When was the last thing anything worthwhile came your way from a cold call? If they’re calling you, hang up.
Trust Your Gut!
Finally, trust your instincts. If you have to wait 3 weeks for a quote, or maybe every time you call the prospective agency you get voice mail, just imagine how much worse it will be once you’ve paid your money! Are they running a real business, or is this a side project or hobby?
There’s of course many more things to consider, but with all this in mind, you’ll be ready to go out and at least speak with some local SEO agencies! Good luck!