To get the most of your SEO strategy, ask the following six questions of SEO firms before deciding if you should hire them.
You’ve come to the conclusion that potential customers are going to search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, they are searching for goods or services that you offer, and want them to find website. In other words, if your business was located in the digital equivalent of “prime real estate” right now, customers would be arriving on your doorstep instead of your competitors.
Attracting customers through the search engines is a pretty logical step. Coming up in Google is the modern equivalent of advertising in the Yellow Pages. However, since less than five percent of Google searchers visit the second page of search results, your website is likely to receive very little traffic if you can’t get it to rank higher in search results.
So what’s the answer when you find yourself in this situation?
When you recognize that you can’t get your website to rank highly in search engine results on your own, you should consider hiring an internet marketing firm capable of helping you achieve your search engine optimization (SEO) goals. As the owner of an internet marketing company that has achieved over 100,000 top 10 organic search engine rankings for clients in a wide spectrum of industries, I would recommend that you ask the following six questions of firms that specialize in SEO before deciding if you should hire that firm.
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How will the firm decide which keywords to use for your search engine optimization strategy?
Research is an incredibly important component for achieving SEO success. If a firm cannot explain to you how they conduct keyword search research, they are unlikely to be able to help you achieve your search engine ranking goals.
Ask the company to explain their SEO strategy to you in detail, and make sure they relay the information in a language that you can understand, as opposed to using industry jargon or impressive sounding buzzwords.
Will the firm write content for you, or do they plan to use your existing content?
One of the most important factors in SEO is content. Search engines read through each page of your website, and evaluate the content of each page individually. It’s important for each page that you’re trying to achieve strong rankings for, to have fresh / unique content that’s engaging, and that properly uses (but doesn’t over-use) the keywords that you’re trying to rank for.
Find out what content the firm will be supplying such as blog posts and additional landing pages, and what they’ll do to help with your existing business-specific content. It’s equally important to understand what content writing is expected of you as the client in order to achieve success.
Does the firm have any overall SEO linking strategy, as well as the ability to promote your website via content on relevant third-party sites?
If you come across an internet marketing firm that claims to specialize in SEO, but doesn’t have a linking strategy that they can explain to you up front, the likelihood that they will be able to get your website to rank highly in search results is low.
The firm’s linking strategy should include building links to your website from industry related third-party websites, blogs, videos, article directories, images and more. You should also steer clear of any SEO firms that employ black hat (i.e. unethical) link building techniques, as these strategies can get your site banned from Google, along with other search engines.
Examples of black hat search techniques include:
- Keyword stacking and stuffing
- Unrelated keywords
- Automatically posting links as comments on blogs to increase the number of inbound links to your website.
Search engines use links to evaluate “buzz” about your website—gauging if others think that your website is valuable enough to send people to. Links from bigger, more important sites are more valuable than links from smaller sites.
Similarly, a link on the homepage of a site can be more valuable than a link on a remote internal page of a site. Even social media activity can have a healthy natural effect, but, if search engines see an un-natural pattern, such as links from pages that have too many outbound links, your SEO rankings can decline.
Related Article: Why Links Will Always Matter in SEO Marketing
Will the firm’s search engine optimization strategy include an analysis of your website’s current design, content, coding, navigation and incoming links?
Reputable SEO firms will provide you with a set of recommendations to help you improve other parts of your site that will affect how your site ranks in search. The design of your website may not have an impact on your search engine ranking, but the site’s content, coding and internal linking will.
Search engines rely on proper sitemaps to be available to lead them to all of the pages within your website. They care about how fast your website loads and errors in your coding. They even notice if your domain name is going to expire soon.
There are many factors that a good SEO team will report to you on, and either help you address, or document for your web developers to improve. It’s important to identify what’s included in your SEO campaign and what your responsibility is.
Since different websites are coded differently, I always recommend having the SEO team take a look at your coding which they can generally do without any logins to your site to see if they think your site will take well to an SEO campaign. Some teams have more experience or expertise with different platforms like Wordpress or Magento, or different coding languages like PHP.
It’s always best to know if the SEO vendor is comfortable with your site during the quotation process.
Can the firm provide you with examples of their past successes?
A credible SEO firm should be able to provide you with information regarding the successes they’ve had with current and past SEO clients, either through hard data or case studies. For example, my firm not only provides our clients with metrics that show the success we’ve had with other clients, we also provide case studies to potential clients detailing the results we’ve achieved for other clients, such as this case study for our clients, Adams Locksmiths.
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Is the firm willing to provide you with a general overview of ideas they have to optimize your site before you sign a contract?
Although it is important to learn about the successes that a firm has had with other clients, it is also imperative that the firm gives you an overview of their plans for your site in particular. But, a firm shouldn’t have a detailed plan in place as soon as you walk in the door. They have no incentive to provide a full and detailed project plan unless you pay them to as consultants, or you hire them for an SEO campaign.
However, a firm worth will provide information about general steps that they’ll be taking during the campaign, including particular steps related to your business and industry. They will hopefully also spend time with you to learn more about your particular company and focuses prior to providing a quote.
Keep in mind, that they may not have a quote available immediately. They may need to do some research first to see how competitive the campaign will be. If they see that the sites currently ranked for relevant keywords for your business are pretty well optimized, it may mean that they’ll need to expend more labor to achieve the desired SEO results, which they should be factored into their quote.
Remember that choosing the right SEO firm for your company can make or break the success of your business online. Make sure that you do your due diligence by asking the six questions above, along with any others you would like answered before you’re comfortable with employing a firm.
A good SEO firm should be able to deliver sustainable, long-term results, which requires a large degree of expertise, time and effort. Ensure that the firm has a proven track record, and steer clear of firms that provide you promises or guarantees regarding how high your site will rank.
SEO firms don’t control search engines. They can promise to complete work that is expected to yield desired results, and should have a solid track record of achieving such results. Above all, you want to work with a company that provides transparency on all the work they perform, and leverages effective, and ethical, SEO strategies that follow search engine guidelines.