How To Choose An Internet Marketing Or Search Engine Marketing Firm.
Every internet marketing firm is going to tell you the same things about their performance on past accounts or current clients, and they are going to use the same terms to describe how they do it. You will be hearing the same terminology over and over as you interview them, and they will all probably sound like they know what they are talking about. This is because they have people on staff who have the only job of representing the company professionally, and getting your account any way they can. The reason they are all using the same terminology is because there are only a few components to search engine optimization strategy, and we all use them. Some seo companies are better than others, and achieve better results. This is usually because they have a better grasp on the current algorythm that the search engines are using, and what it is seeking. It could also be becasue they work harder at developing your website appropriately, write better content, or have a better link building program. We believe that our successes are made up of a combination of these two elements.
There are also companies out there who may be able to show you some dramatic successes that have happened in time frames that seem unrealistic. They may tell you that they have a secret formula that they cannot discuss, or even that they are on a list of Google’s “preferred companies.” We even know of one company who pitches clients by telling them that Google “meets with them once a month to discuss how they can improve their services.” Heres a heads up….Google does not meet with search engine marketing firms to ask their advice. There is also no “secret formula.” There are companies out there who use methods that get results dramatically fast, at the risk of being banned from the index. If this happens, you are out of business and they are on to the next. Here are some of the ways to make a good hiring decision with regards to internet marketing firms, and what you can do about it to protect yourself….
The first thing you should do is download the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and get familiar with the specifications. You do not have to learn it, but just listen for clues that the seo company you are talking to might not be following it. If they are not, do not hire them because you might get your site delisted. Google does not have to list your website, they are a private company who can list you if they want to, and delist you if they want to. They will delist you if you go against their approved methods.
Second, Google offers a list of useful resources and guidelines in it’s Webmaster Central Tools, just search for “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and you will find it. The easiest portion to understand and assist you with a hiring choice is the list of questions to ask an SEO (the following is paraphrased, but is straight from Google):
- Can you show examples of your SEO work or previous successes? (We actually allow you to contact our clients so you can hear it from them personally.)
- Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
- Do you offer any other online marketing services to compliment your organic work?
- Describe the projected results and time frame? How is success measured?
- Do you have any experience with businesses in my industry?
- Do you have any experience in my city?
- Do you have any international development experience?
- What is the most important search engien optimization technique for success?
- How long have you been in business?
- How will we communicate and will you share the info about changes to my site and why they were made?
Additionally to Google’s advice, here is a little of our own:
- Do not respond to unsolicited spam emails offering better rankings, they have not reviewed your wewbsite and actually know nothing about your situation. These emails are auto generated when they find your wewbsite online. Even Google gets spam emails offering them better rankings (you can read about this.)
- Do not assume that because someone points out that you should be ranking for a certain term that their advice makes sense. Many times SEO strategies will choose targeting one term over another for better traffic numbers or a potential closer match. It is possible that you might be fed something that seems to make sense that might cost you traffic in the long run.
- Ask for portfolio specifics. Many companies will put a big company name in their portfolio when they did not do a certain kind of work for them. If I was hired to mop the floor at Pepsi, I can claim I worked for them. If I now own an SEO company, I can still claim I did work for them. It might not be SEO that they worked on so make sure they specify their work experience and are not misleading you.
- Ask to see the length of time they have been working with clients. If the resume is filled with companies that worked with them for three months, there is a good possibility that they are not achieving results, and are being fired over and over. Once again, just because you worked for a company doesn’t mean you succeeded.
- If you are a local business, amke sure the SEO company understands how “local search” works. It is differenet than global search.
- Avoid “cheap seo.” If the price seems unrealistically low, its because what they do doesn’t work.
- Avoid companies that say they can do work for a very short time frame and “then you are done.” SEO is an ongoing process, a good SEO campaign doesn’t end, but instead keeps growing your traffic and sales.