Communication is the key to running a successful service based web
business. SEO firms should have no problem answering a few questions
prior to you hiring them. Communicating before business partnerships
builds trust. With so many variables in the SEO field trust is an extremely
There is no reason to make blind investments when asking a few questions
can help you find a great SEO.
Years and years of experience are not necessary, but you probably do
not want to be their first project.
Most good SEOs have no problem explaining how they do what they do.
Good SEOs want their clients to understand what they are doing. It helps
to build trust.
Building trust with clients is important so clients will know the SEO
firm is working hard to restore their rankings if search engines change
their algorithms and cause rankings to drop temporarily.
Words like doorway, hidden, or automated are usually a bad sign unless
you are willing to take large risk. While most do not, some industries
will require aggressive sales techniques. Anything that is “just
for the spiders” is usually a bad call if you are trying to build
a long-term brand.
Understanding the economics of your business away from the web should
help you discover how competitive your business field is. If their response
surprises you ask them why it surprises you and explain a bit more about
why you thought your industry was more or less competitive.
A good SEO can usually gauge how competitive an industry is quickly.
Since their workload will dependent on how competitive your industry
is your SEO should be able to tell you about how competitive they think
your industry is while or before they quote you a price.
Most quality SEOs will not work for competing websites in the same
industry. It may benefit you if they are working for similar sites that
are not directly competing because of geographic boundaries or other
limits, but I would not recommend hiring an SEO firm whom actively had
customers competing against each other.
Many sites have design flaws which make them unappealing to link to
and sometimes even confusing to the user. User confusion will equate
to a low conversion rate. Your site should make it simple and easy for
your user to do what you want them to and look appealing to the eye.
They should tell you if they think there are problems with your current
design because they will likely need to be changed, and the changes
will have associated fees the firm will need to justify.
You should also make sure your SEO is comfortable working on a site
built with the technology your site is using. Optimizing an ASP (or
other dynamic language) coded site requires additional knowledge which
optimizing a straight HTML site does not.
A good SEO can do a good job on small sites and large site alike. Different
sized companies have different policies and it would be helpful if your
SEO had worked on a site owned by a company of a similar size/ in a
similar position as your company.
If you site is not in a competitive category you may not need a great
SEO. If you are in a category such as debt, consumer electronics, casinos,
world travel, pornography, or prescription drugs you need an SEO whom
is aggressive and has a proven track record. In these competitive fields
you likely will spend at least $10,000.
If you are doing pay per click marketing they may be able to have you
set up in a week or less. Regular SEO takes a good bit longer.
For most SEO projects you should expect at least a two-month wait to
see results. If a person tells you that you will have top rankings in
only a few days it is typically a reason to be suspicious. The SEO firm
should commit to a rough time table. It may not be a firm one but they
should at least give you a time range where they would expect you to
see results in.
Some search engines occasionally have major shifts in their algorithm
which can delay results, but usually your SEO should be able to give
you some idea of how long the process should take and when you should
start seeing results.
If you are in a competitive category you should expect to pay the SEO
ongoing monthly fees for keeping up with the competition.
For an SEO to quote you a solid price they should know what goals you
have. To do this they should know some of terms they are going after
(perhaps not all of them, but at least some of them).
Basic economic knowledge should help your SEO guess at how competitive
each industry is, but much of the work done in the SEO field is on a
keyword or keyword phrase basis.
Do not pay an SEO until you and the SEO firm both understand what they
other’s intent is.
Some sites may need a few dozen links from a few dozen different sites.
Many sites need a ton of links to compete for competitive phrases. By
looking at some of the top ranking sites for your keywords (and checking
their backlinks) you can determine how competitive your keywords are.
The word automated is often a sign of bad things if you are trying
to build a long-term brand. The key is to get a bunch of links (with
your keywords in them if possible) from various sites. If you can get
links from related sites they should help more than unrelated links
since they may also send direct traffic to your site.
Some search engines may use filters to penalize artificial link building,
so you want to make sure you use a couple different link text phrases
in some of the various links pointing at your site.
Quality link building takes time, but you should see more links pointing
at your site a few months after you hire your SEO firm than you saw
the day you hired them.
Cloaking and other deceptive techniques in and of themselves are not
bad. What is a bad thing is when an SEO firm uses deceptive techniques
without letting you know. In certain competitive fields aggressive SEO
techniques may be necessary, but most keywords do not require cloaking
or other aggressive techniques to gain top rankings.
If you have a pharmacy or gambling type website expect to need to use
risky techniques, spend a large sum of money, and build a large linking
Getting a single site banned is not necessarily bad. Some of the most
respected SEO professionals have been too aggressive and had websites
banned from search engines (though many SEOs are conservative and never
have had this happen).
You do not know what the limits are unless you test them. Most webmasters
buying SEO services are not interested in donating test sites though.
Ensure your SEO firm knows how much risk you are willing to take.
It is not important whether they have got any sites banned, but what
is important is the language of their response. If they sound defensive
and rude then they probably would be a bad SEO partner.
Many top SEOs work off their reputation and do not have any guarantees.
Many SEOs will explain why they do not have guarantees or what their
guarantees are. Make sure you understand exactly what keyword phrases,
search engines, and time frame they guarantee.
Many SEO firms keep many of their clients secret so they may keep their
competitive advantage. It does not hurt to ask and talk with a few clients
Some SEO firms may have buddies sing for them. Check out site details
of the sites they worked on from sites like Internet
Archives. If a client says they have worked with the firm on their
current site for 3 years and the site is 2 months old it is likely a
shady SEO firm.
Also use your best judgment! If something seems like it is questionable
or it is too good to be true then you should look elsewhere.