Expert Interview: How to Choose the Right SEO Vendor for Your Business

Business.com / Business Intelligence / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Want real world advice you can use to choose a vendor? Marketing expert Andrew Raso provides answers to important questions.

Choosing a vendor for SEO (or anything in your business) is a critical step.

Making a decision too quickly could result in poor results and a wasted investment.

On the other hand, taking too long could also waste resources and slow down productivity.

It’s important to take your time to ensure you’re choosing a quality vendor that will be able to meet your needs effectively and efficiently.

I interviewed Andrew Raso, the co-founder and director of the Online Marketing Gurus, to see what he had to share on the topic.

Related Article: Successful Business Leaders Tell All: Top Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

Gail Gardner: Before I dive into choosing a vendor, will you share some of your background so readers know why you’re an authority on this subject?

Andrew Raso: Sure. I started my current company with no money, and a $1,000 investment. In less than three years, I turned that into more than $7.5 million. I’m well versed in business development, client relationships, sales and marketing, both online and off, and management.

GG: What’s the best advice you have to offer businesses choosing vendors for the first time?

AR: Don’t feel pressure to do it right this second. You first need to identify your goals, and assemble a team of people who will be working with you to make the decision.

If you’re choosing an SEO vendor, for instance, you will want input from your sales and marketing team, not just the CEO.

Set up a timeline, and do your best to stick to it.

GG: What’s the first thing you do when it’s time to choose a vendor for your company?

AR: Take time to figure out why we need a vendor, what goals we’re trying to achieve through working with a vendor, and who else needs to be part of the decision. Once I establish my team, I think about the roles we’ll all play in the decision making process.

GG: Are there any circumstances when you’d recommend going with a relatively new vendor?

AR: Every company starts somewhere. Just because they’re new doesn’t mean you should automatically count them out.

Going with a younger company is a big risk, so take the time to research all the major players on staff.

If the CEO left a Fortune 500 company to start their own venture, it’s a good sign. But, if the CEO is fresh out of college and has no real experience in the industry, proceed with caution.

GG: What should businesses be looking for in a vendor?

AR: Look for the same basic qualities regardless of the type of vendor you’re choosing. Look for: company longevity, customer satisfaction, affordability, open communication, fast response time, etc.

In terms of SEO specifically, vendors should:

  • Provide excellent references
  • Offer status reports
  • Customize a strategy specific to your business

Related Article: Digital Marketing Trailblazers: Who's Changing Our World?

GG: What are immediate “red flags” to watch for?

AR: Obviously, if you run into a vendor who says they can guarantee #1 rankings, there’s a problem. Google doesn’t like it, and even the best experts who do everything above board with white-hat techniques aren’t able to make that promise.

Also watch out for:

  • Promises to “fix” your SEO in a set period of time, like a month. SEO is ongoing, and rankings only change when Google refreshes or updates their algorithm.
  • Claims that SEO is all it takes. SEO is far more than keywords on a page. Strategy that includes a plan for content, blog, social media, and published elsewhere, matters too.
  • Promises of thousands of backlinks. The number matters, but not nearly as much as quality. Fewer quality links will do much more than thousands of low-quality links.
  • One-size-fits-all approach. Your business is unique, so it needs and deserves an equally unique approach to SEO.

GG: How do you evaluate vendors? Do you take the time to call their customer service? Call references?

AR: Yes, always call references and speak to someone in customer service. Ask questions and pay attention to their attitude. If they don’t seem helpful, or eager to assist you before you’re a customer, how do you think you’ll be treated once you are?

GG: At what point is price an issue?

AR: Price is always an issue. You want something you can afford, of course, but you don’t want to use price as an indicator of quality. Many times if you go with a company just because they’re the cheapest one out there, you’ll spend more in the end. Why? Because you’ll have to hire someone else to fix what they didn’t do correctly.

GG: If you have two companies that you consider equal on every level, what’s the deciding factor that makes you choose one over the other?

AR: This is a tough one, and varies based on what type of vendor you’re choosing. I’d go with my timeline; How quickly I need their services, and how quickly they can provide the quality I need.

GG: Do you have any advice for companies looking to switch vendors, who may be afraid of the “break up” with the current vendor?

AR: Make sure that you have control of all your site assets i.e. website logins as there are companies out there who use this as a bargaining chip to prolong an engagement. Be fair to your current vendor and provide several warnings in advance before deciding to ‘breakup’ with them, and provide them feedback to ensure they continue improving moving forward.

GG: Any additional words of wisdom you’d like to offer?

AR: Make sure your values marry with the values your SEO vendor and ask them about how they generally provide value. Keep them accountable and don’t let them work into the dark, otherwise this will lead to disappointment and a waste in time and money.

Related Article: Stay In the Know: How to Keep Up with Digital Marketing Trends

Choosing a vendor can be stressful, but following Andrew’s advice should help make the process run a bit smoother.

If you apply these strategies to your decision making, you can act confidently knowing you’ve done your homework and made the right choice for your business.

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