Businesses today are inundated with unsolicited offers to help them get more leads, and land more sales though online marketing companies and search engine optimization consultants. You probably receive dozens of these types of emails and phone calls every week. Let’s say that you have decided you do need help and would like to hire an expert to help you with your digital marketing. How do you go about determining who is a good vendor to work with and who is just going to take your money and provide no return on investment? There are a few factors that you really need to consider, outside of just price, and where their websites rank on Google. The following are a few of the key factors to consider.
The first question I would ask is what specific SEO strategies they will implement on your website. This is critical because transparency is essential when dealing with web marketing. There is no secret sauce that cannot be disclosed, and if an agency does not want to tell you exactly what they will do, how will you ever know if there efforts resulted in gains, or even if they have done anything at all to justify their bill. In addition, there are certain things that can harm your website ranking, such as reciprocal links (offering to link to another site, only if they link to you). Also, adding a bunch of keywords to your pages that don’t make sense or hiding those words with white text on a white background. This shows that the agency is using either outdated or “Blackhat” techniques that at best will only result in short term gains and ultimately will fail.
Social signals have become a huge factor in Google and Bing’s ranking algorithms. Meaning how your company engages with its audience on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc., and how many reviews of your company are found on Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare can impact your rankings. As such, you should ask, what social strategies the company will use for SEO. Will they create content to post on Facebook and Instagram and will they boost those posts to try to get likes and shares? Will they engage your followers to provide reviews?
Being found locally on Google is so important for mobile searchers. You need to know if an search agency has a strategy to come up on the maps when someone searches for your businesses service and city location. Not appearing in the first 3 listings under the map would mean losing visibility and business from your local community. Ask if “Google Places” is part of their strategy and if so, how they optimize your local listing.
Noting is a guarantee in life and being #1 on Google is no different. With that in mind, ask if they guarantee #1 ranking on Google for any of your competitive keywords. If they say yes, then they are likely going to buy the keyword phrase for short-term proof, but once they stop spending money, you will lose your ranking.
What type of reporting will you get from your SEO agency? As I said before, transparency is critical and if your agency does not have some way to show you the results and trends of keywords, clicks to your site, and where people are coming from, then how do you know if you want to continue with the marketing campaign. Often, a good search agency will also provide you with a unique phone number for your social media and SEO efforts which can be tracked. This way you know exactly what traffic is contacting you directly from their marketing efforts. Most successful agencies will have a dashboard you can log onto 24/7 to let you see real time reports and results pulled directly form Google Analytics.
Finally, and although not critical, I would ask what industry blogs and websites they stay current with. Most good SEO analysts will follow search engine journal and search engine watch religiously to keep up with the latest SEO, social media and pay per click strategies and major algorithm updates.
At the end of the day, you will have to gauge the credibility of these answers and compare them to other SEO vendors, but at the very least you will be armed with information and be able to ask the questions that need to be answered.