Why you should test an SEO firm before hiring, and what to look out for.

Once you are determined you want SEO services, the next step can be quite tricky and that is picking a firm that is good, delivers results and is transparent with you.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is to ask around, get word of mouth referrals. If you can’t then due diligence is in order; get quotes and speak to firm’s customer testimonials to validate their results. Bear in mind you are after relevant, recent results here. Old results could mean the SEO firm hasn’t moved with the times and practices are outdated (or even get you into trouble).

As your business is your reputation not to mention the time and money factor you will be investing, you should be sure you are hiring the right firm. At the initial stage, the important things to look out for include:

  • Is the company and their working methods easy to get on with and use? Look for speed of response to your queries and determine if this is good for how you wish to work.
    e. if someone takes a week to come back to you before you sign up with them do you think they’ll be quicker or slower when you are signed up?
  • Does the company understand your business and it’s ever-changing needs? (Remember they are there to serve you!) and should be asking the right questions in order to work out the desired online marketing strategy and areas where you should be found
  • What systems are in place and what do they use? Do you know what the SEO firm is providing you each month as reports/KPI indicators and what they will be working on.

After assessing these initial points there are general questions and factors you may want to find out more about. Some of these are mentioned below.

What is their style of reporting?

Is it just a keyword report? Does it report on organic traffic to your site, conversions, uplift in sales etc? These are the values you want to get at and a SEO firm that gives just a keyword report is really misunderstanding SEO as a whole.

How detailed is reporting information?

A few lines and a brief explanation is no good to anyone. Whilst you may not want to know the full intricacies of the campaign, you may want to know a high level account of what they have been spending your time on, what this led to and what results have been achieved.

There needs to be a certain amount of detail in the reports for you to be able to learn anything. The reports need to be in ‘plain English’ or at least some description of any technical language is needed. Ensure these points are asked about and ask for examples.

Furthermore, does the company have the scope to tailor the reports to different businesses requirements? A generic ‘one size fits all’ report will not be suitable for big corporate organisations that probably need to be aware of things such as financial KPIs in their reports. Find this out.

Does the SEO information provided, drive my business decisions?

A good SEO firm, will constantly recommend and give important suggestions on where to improve your website and offering from key information gleaned from SEO, PPC and analytics reporting.
E.g. you may want to know what part of your site was accessed – was it the blog section or the contact us section? What converted and from what source?

Knowing this helps you to refine and target any marketing and promoting campaign, meaning you aren’t wasting money and are getting a solid ROI.

What is the short and long term strategy?

The company needs to be aware of what your priorities are now and should communicate freely and openly what it thinks are the areas of work which need doing now in relation to this.

The future also needs to be considered: bear in mind that SEO is a rapidly changing environment and you need to be safe in the knowledge that the company providing your services can be on top and ahead of changes in the area. Equally your own business will evolve over time and you need to be happy that the SEO company is aware of your changing environment and what this means and how they should adapt online to reflect this.

The importance of second opinions.

Just like when applying for a job, references are required. You are perfectly entitled to ask the company for testimonials from former / current clients and see the evidence / results for yourself. It is worth asking to see a company on a similar scale to yours (recent results are key), so you can make a more reasoned judgement about success.

Now you know the right questions to ask, please don’t expose yourself to poor SEO agencies and practices.