Outsourcing SEO Services: Nine Tips to Remember

ben francia | by Ben Francia | Last Updated: September 29, 2012

Search engine visibility is essential to the survival and profitability of most online businesses today. Web statistics show that 90% of all online experiences begin with search. Each day, more than a billion queries are entered on Google alone by people who seek information, entertainment, socialization and commercial activities.

It doesn’t take much to deduce that if your site appears in the top searches for a keyword that’s representative of its content, there’s a better chance to receive more visitors that are interested in what it has to offer. For people who know how to make money online, every visitor represents an opportunity to advertise, sell or generate leads. To that end, a lot of companies hire search engine optimization (SEO) companies to help them improve the placement of their webpage listings in portals like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

A good SEO company can help you identify areas of improvement as far as website optimization is concerned. These specialized firms can then put together an optimization strategy which they will execute once you hire them for the job. At the end of their proposed activity timeline, your site should be positioned in the first page of search results for most search engines that are of any consequence.

However, there’s a grim reality to the world’s SEO situation: for every good SEO service provider out there, there are three other SEO snake oil vendors who are waiting to scam you and do your site more harm than good. Ineffective tactics, questionable methodologies and outright rip-offs are just some of the things associated with bad SEO vendors that are littered all over the Web. It’s usually up to you as the consumer to make the best judgment on whether an SEO firm can be trusted with handling the fate of your online business or not.

But how exactly do you know you’re outsourcing your SEO to the right firm? Here are a few tips that’ll eliminate 99% of the frauds out there from your list:

1. Check the Site’s Own Rankings – How comfortable would you be if you’re being serviced by a dentist who has a mouthful of cavities? Unless you have supreme faith in your oral health service provider’s skills in his profession, you’ll probably wonder how much he can help you when it’s obvious he can’t even take care of himself. The same principle applies when you’re trying to choose a SEO company to help build up your rankings. The provider’s website should serve as the first case study that will demonstrate just what they bring to the table.

Check the title tags and meta keywords of the SEP firm’s website to get some ideas about what keywords they are targeting. You can then use simple apps like SEOBook’s rank Checker to see how well the site ranks for its keywords. If the site is in the first page for its main keywords, that’s a good sign. It means they’re doing something right in their own campaigns. If they’re on page 3 and beyond, take their claims with a grain of salt and focus on websites that readily prove their rank building abilities.

2. Google the Site’s Name – SEO has never been an exact science and you don’t need a degree, a license or a certification to declare yourself an expert in this field. Since there are no sanctioning and regulatory organizations, reputation is your best bet in getting a feel of the service provider’s credibility.

A simple Google search can tell you a lot about a prospective SEO company’s track record. Enter a query for the firm’s name and see what kind of results appear. Is there a lot of bad press (complaints, negative reviews, scam alerts) associated with their brand? You’ll want to check out the first 4 pages of the search results to make sure they have a good track record. If you find anything suspicious, read up on the matter and use best judgment to tell f the negative feedback has basis or not.

3. Ask for case studies – When looking for a SEO firm that will directly impact the performance of your online business, you’ll want to work with companies that have proven track records. Look for case studies of past and current clients in their website. If they don’t show any of those there, try contacting them and asking for some examples before getting into serious business talks. Not being shown at least three good case studies is a red flag. If they can’t show you any proof of past success, walk away and take your business elsewhere.

4. Ask for references – If you want a deeper background check with more telling signals, you can request for the contact information of past clients. A good SEO company that has satisfied customers should have no problems in hooking you up with past and current clients who will tell you about the experiences they’ve had with the service provider. Ask for at least three and if possible, call them. Be courteous but at the same time, be straightforward with your questions. Thank them and factor their feedback into your decision later on.

5. Check for Satisfaction Guarantees – While it’s true that it’s almost impossible to guarantee a number 1 placement in search engine rankings for competitive keywords, some firms actually believe in what they do to an extent where they’re willing to guarantee success. Look for firms that have these guarantees and don’t forget to read the fine print if there’s any. Money back guarantees and pay-on-result deals are the gold standard as far as SEO-related guarantees go.

6. Don’t Base Your Choice on Pricing – One of the most inaccurate indicators of SEO service quality is price point. Just because a firm charges you exorbitant rates doesn’t mean they’ll get you to the top of the SERPs effectively. Similarly, just because a company offers you dirt cheap rates doesn’t mean you’ll get great value for money. While price is indeed a significant factor when choosing a partner for the job, track record is your best bet when making this crucial decision. Ask for information about sites that they’ve helped in the past and inquire about what kind of techniques they use. Make sure to stay away from companies that use questionable tactics to give yourself a better shot at long term success.

7. Ask About Reports – Every search marketing company has the responsibility to provide complete and transparent information about the activities that they do inside and outside your website. All the tweaks they make to your webpages and every link they build should be trackable in easy-to-understand spreadsheets that will provide you quick reference. Traffic analytics and ranking reports are standard statistics that will help you monitor the progress of your campaign.

8. Inquire About Customer Support – The success of every SEO campaign relies heavily on how good the communication is between the client and the service provider. Good SEO companies often have multiple, easily accessible customer support channels that you can use when you need to reach out to them for instructions or updates. Phone support is always king, but live chat, a ticketing system and dynamic email support are great too. If the SEO firm you’re looking at seems to be shady and hard to talk to when you need something fixed, take your business elsewhere. These guys don’t deserve your money.

9. Check For Trust Signals on the Site Itself – Little things can tell you some significant things about a website and the company it represents. Is there a phone number? How about a business address? If you don’t find either, you can assume that the site’s owners don’t want to be found easily in case you have complaints about their services. Examine the avenues that the site provides for you to contact them. If it’s a simple email address or a contact form, it will be tough for you to go after these guys if things turn out to be a mess. Credible SEO agencies are willing to face and serve clients anytime even when things don’t go so good.

Following these tips should help you steer clear of most of the bad guys out on the Web. Spend your money, time and efforts wisely when trying to market online. With every good decision you make, a positive impact on your bottom line happens. Good luck!

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