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General, SEO strategy and planning, SEO-Search Engine Optimization

14 things to ask when hiring an SEO Firm

Over the last month, we have been doing a lot of competitor analysis. We did this to make sure that we can offer our customers the best prices on search engine optimization. While doing this research, we came across some pretty scary things that many of these other SEO companies do to their customers. Because of this research, we can quickly pick out which SEO companies are bad apples in a matter of seconds just by checking out their websites. We have noticed several things that these bad apples have in common which allows up to quickly pick out which companies really want to help and which want to give customers a run for their money. Here is a list of 14 things to watch out for when shopping for an SEO firm:

  1. They sell tiered SEO packages focused on quantity not quality. An SEO package is code for “the more you pay, the more we care.” While the better companies structure their packages based of performance, the less than legit companies base it on quantity. A package based on quantity makes the order convenient and easy for the SEO company. It allows them to make a profit without having to really do any work. If you are interested in learning more about how companies can use packages to earn a profit without having to care about their clients, check out our post on SEO Packages.
  2. They don’t rank. If the company doesn’t rank for competitive phrases, then they aren’t very good at SEO. Period!. It’s a good idea to ask the SEO company for examples of keywords they rank for or have helped other clients rank for. The good thing about SEO is that anyone who sells their SEO services should be able to prove how well they perform. If the company refuses to give out this information or they offer a list of phrases they rank for that each contain three or more phrases, then they probably aren’t legit. If the keywords they give have less than 5 million search results, then they are choosing keywords that are not competitive. If this is the case, then it’s a good idea to find an SEO company that can rank for more competitive keywords.
  3. They only monitor rankings. Another question to ask an SEO company is how they measure the campaign to see if it is working or not. If they respond just by saying that they monitor rankings, that’s not a good sign. No matter how high you rank for keywords, this doesn’t make a difference unless you actually get the conversions and performance you need. A good SEO company will not only monitor your company’s rankings in the search engines, but will also study the traffic data and focus on your conversions and performance.
  4. It is also important to ask what methods they use to make necessary changes in order to update your on-page SEO and what they do to get links. Finding out how they add content and where they get it is also important. A good SEO company should focus on creative thought to find ways to add value to your site. It is important to find a site that is interested in talking with you about content concepts and finding out what exactly you want out of your SEO campaign. A shady SEO company will care little about creativity, but instead rely on methods that they’ve created over time and use as a one size fits all template. Each website has specific needs and in order to meet these needs, a company should custom tailor an SEO campaign that meets these needs.
  5. Ask them to show you one of their other client’s sites where the SEO company changed or added content. When viewing one of these sites, look out for low quality writing with overstuffed keywords. Many SEO companies will churn out tons of articles that, because of their poor effort in writing quality content, aren’t written for an actual audience other than search engines. If there are many articles on these sites that are poorly written, don’t make sense , or is made up of nothing but rehashing the same idea over and over again in different way, then this is a warning site of a bad SEO company. Another thing to look out for is duplicate content which are articles and psots that have been copied and pasted from another site.
  6. Billing – How is the company’s billing set up? Do they require payment in full before starting the campaign? This is a bad sign. A good company will charge either per service as they are needed to get your site ranking number one. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method when it comes to SEO. That being said, there is no way for them to know what will be needed for your site upfront. A large part of SEO is testing and finding what works for a particular site and niche. Those who charge a flat, upfront cost generally don’t custom tailor their SEO efforts on a per client basis, but instead reuse the same method over and over again without putting in the required thought and creativity needed to help a client have a successful SEO campaign. There are a few parts of SEO, that can be charged as a flat rate, but when it comes to the whole job, there is no way a ‘one size fits all’ method can work. This is why it’s important to be wary about those charging a flat rate for SEO services.How They Link- Ask the company how many back links they plan on obtaining for your site. If the company says they plan on getting hundreds or thousands of backlinks, you can be guaranteed that the company may be doing volume SEO. This can actually hurt your efforts by making your site look spammy to the search engines. If the company tells you that the quantity of links is more important than the quality, then the company doesn’t have your best interests in mind when it comes to SEO. A good company will realize that the quality of links is very important and that they need to be wary in their effort of obtaining back links to make sure that your site not only has quality back links, but that they look natural to the search engines.
  7. Information – Ask the company if they’ve written or produced any information about SEO. Many good companies have written articles on the subject. Ask them if they can refer you to any oblog posts, books, videos on the subject that they have created. Take a look at their material. This is a good way to see if they know their stuff and to get an idea of how they work. If after reading it, you don’t get a positive vibe from the company, you know to avoid them.
  8. References – It’s a good idea to ask for references. Remember that YOU are hiring THEM. If they value your business, they will provide references. It’s also a good idea to ask what their client retention rate is and how long they keep clients. If you can get a hold of any of their clients, ask how their experience was with the company. Make sure that these are actual previous customers and not those working at the company themselves. While this can be difficult to identify, there are some ways to check this out, such as running a WHOIS on their domain. Also, while you’re on their website, take a look at their keywords. Search for their keywords in top search engines to see how they rank!
  9. Contract – Find out if they require you to be on a contract with them. If so, see if they are willing to allow you to try a month of their service before being locked into a long term contract. Many reputable companies allow this so they can give their potential customers peace of mind. There are few things scarier than diving into a contract with a company without knowing how well they perform.
  10. HQ – What is the address of the company? If they use a PO Box, they may work from home. While a company based out of someone’s home isn’t necessarily bad, but SEO consultants who actually have a physical location usually have their business as proof that they are there to get the job done. A high quality firm usually has at least a few employees and an office.
  11. Education – Where did they learn about SEO? Many people working at SEO firms learned from different news sites or blogs. Get an idea where the company you are about to hire has learned the tricks of the trade. A good company won’t be afraid to answer that question. If they have the confidence that they can perform online, they won’t worry that you might be trying to learn from them. Ask them what SEO sites they participate in. Check out these sites to see if they are legitimate and offer valuable information.
  12. What do they use for reference – It’s impossible to know EVERYTHING about SEO. Ask them where they go when they need help. Even great programmers need to look in a book to find some information. Ask them where they look things up. If they say they don’t use any websites or books for reference, they probably don’t know what they are doing.
  13. Trade Shows – Has the company you are about to hire ever been to a trade show? What reason did they attend the show? Did they have a booth, were they are speaker, or did they attend the show to learn more? Most legitimate SEO companies have gone to a few trade shows. Ask them about the shows they went to and their experiences there.
  14. Do they offer any kind of performance guarantee?  For example here at GlowHat we guarantee a minimum of 30% improvement in rankings typically 70-90% visibility is what we achieve in the first 6-12 months for most clients though.

Stijn Amundsen is the Founder and Principle at GlowHat of Scottsdale Arizona. He enjoys sharing his passion for internet marketing and helping others reach their true potential in business and life. Stijn has been helping clients market high performance web sites for over 10 years, generating millions of dollars of business through high ROI strategies.

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  1. You’ve given an easy to understand explanation of what to look for.There are a lot of seo companies out there that are unethical and don’t care about the client. Clients have to do their research and find a reputable seo firm with proven results before signing any contracts. My advice, educate yourself first, read the top seo blogs that explain the different services. Don’t go into it blindly. You’ll be better equipped to weed out the bad ones.

    • Very good Advice Pat thanks for you input, when we take on a new client we like to educate them about SEO basics and our process as we work them. I’ve found that by fully disclosing everything we do and educating the client they’re much more appreciative of the work we do and unlikely to switch to another SEO company when they’re armed with the truth and can then quickly see right through the myths and distortions many SEO providers prepetuate to prospective and existing clients.

  2. I’m not one to typically blow out someone else’s candle to make mine burn brighter…however considering you’re giving advice on hiring an SEO Firm…

    Wouldn’t a more relevant title for this article be ’13 things to ask when hiring an SEO Firm’?

    (wrapping it in a h1 tag opposed to a div wouldn’t hurt either)

    • haha, no problem our fires are still burning brightly, sorry we made a quick edit and lost one of the 14x tips. It’s added back in, the last one “Performance Guarantee” was added. Thank you for the suggestion on the title HTML code. We’re actually redesigning the site right now and will probably be going live some time tonight. Thank you for your input!

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