Search engine optimization is increasingly being accepted
as a powerful and critical component of the marketing plan. With the
costs involved in other forms of online marketing growing
significantly, it has become almost a necessity for companies to
include SEO in their overall marketing mix.
It’s thus no surprise to know that professional SEO today is
big business and this industry is growing at a fast pace. There are
however many different types of SEO firms out there and finding a
reliable service can be a daunting task.
Search engine optimization firms employ varying methods to get high
rankings for websites and not all of these techniques are considered
ethical. With the increasing number of ‘black hat’ SEO firms,
(companies using unethical and unfair methods and techniques to
manipulate search engines), and the thin line between actual ‘black
hat’ and ‘white hat’ SEO practices, it is crucial to be well
informed of the methodology the company plans to use for your
website before you decide to hire them.
Here are 8 simple tips to help you in your evaluation and
selection of a trustworthy and professional search engine
1. Educate yourself with the basics
Make sure to do your homework carefully before you venture out to
hire a SEO service. It’s imperative you understand in advance
exactly what a firm can and will do for you to enable you to
evaluate them. There are several resources online dedicated to
search engine marketing and search engine optimization and taking
the time to understand and learn the basics will go a long way.
2. Fee structures and your budget
There are no standardized fee structures and most companies offer a
range of packages instead. A package may in itself contain a variety
of services like keyword research, optimization of a certain number
of pages, directory submissions etc. Selecting a company should not
be only about cost. A firm that charges more may not necessarily be
better at SEO and likewise a firm that charges less may not
necessarily be providing you the same services. Use prudence while
understanding pricing models and the risks behind them. One way to
go about deciding what your budget should be is to first identify
your website’s and business’ unique needs, tailor a package to meet
these requirements and then compare firms’ pricing models to decide
a realistic baseline budget.
3. Size and specialty of the firm
Depending on the size of your website and requirements of your
company, it might be a good idea to check out whether the firm is
adequately staffed and what their customer to SEO team ratio is.
Another important thing is to ensure that the company specializes in
all areas of SEO and has a team of professionals experienced and
accomplished in each of the areas including design, development and
The location of the firm largely depends on your comfort level. You
may favor a local company or one at least within your country or
prefer to outsource completely to another country to benefit from
their lower costs. There are also few companies using a blended
offshore delivery model with marketing and client services offices
in one country and the actual design and development work being done
in another. With the combination of lower costs plus client
servicing available within reach, this upcoming balanced model may
be a good option to consider.
5. Client testimonials and references
References are a great way to start and should be freely available.
If they haven’t been provided, ask and make sure to use them to find
out exactly how credible and trustworthy the company really is based
on their past client’s experiences.
Most firms won’t guarantee top position results and shouldn’t. It is
justifiable for a company to guarantee increasing your traffic or
rankings from its current positions; however if any SEO service is
guaranteeing you a specific position/ranking in any search engine,
make sure you read the fine print of the agreement.
7. Ethics / Spam
Ethics is of paramount importance when it comes to selecting a
search engine optimization company. There are a variety of unethical
practices a firm can use right from while selling their services to
you, to, the actual methods they employ while optimizing your site
(keyword stuffing, cloaking, etc to name a few). Make sure to ask as
many questions as possible and specifically about the methodology
they use. If the firm does not offer you ready explanations of the
process they undertake to optimize websites, you probably need to
8. Reporting and success measurement
Some of the key questions to ask – How long will it take to see
results? What type of reports will the SEO firm furnish and how
often? How will success be measured? Will a maintenance plan be
It is largely up to you to define the goal and success level of your
SEO campaign. It may be an increase in the traffic to your site,
potential leads from a mailing list subscription, or an increase
from last years sales. Make it a point to discuss and articulate
your goals with the SEO firm and come to an agreement before you
hire them. It is however important to set realistic expectations.
Unlike PPC and other forms of paid advertising, SEO is a time
consuming process, both in terms of implementation as well as
To conclude, hiring a SEO services firm can have a significant
impact on your company’s bottom line, however the decision to
partner with a particular SEO firm should only ensue after a careful
evaluation of the firm and after you have done the groundwork
necessary to help you decide your own goals for the program.