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Finding SEO marketing companies that proclaim their services are top notch is easy – these days you can hire so-called SEO experts for as little as a fiver. However, finding SEO marketing companies that will do a good job, at a fair price, use ethical processes and provide transparent reports, is often a more difficult challenge.
The SEO industry is still in its infancy – Google is only 17 years old, and before Google, SEO was almost unknown.
The first written reference to SEO is thought to have appeared in “Net Results: Web Marketing That Works”, which was published in June 1998. The book recounts the story of how Bob and Leland Harden coined the term Search Engine Optimization after they helped Jefferson Starship rank their new website.
Unlike other business-to-business services, such as marketing and public relations, there are still no specific qualifications or accreditations for SEO marketing companies. A search on The Open University website for SEO returns no results. So, how can you determine if your SEO is a professional?
Word-of-mouth recommendations from your business network are often the best option. The best SEO marketing companies retain their clients for years and their reputation will grow. Ask businesses contacts if they have used SEO, and if so, can make a recommendation.
When you find a company, see if they have a testimonials page. SEO marketing companies that have testimonials on their website have nothing to hide. In the current search environment, this is a very strong indicator that they are doing a good job.
If you see testimonials on a website, make some calls to check that they are genuine and ask if they are still a customer. Use the opportunity to try to pry a little more information about the SEO Company and how they operate.
An SEO company that does not tie you into a long-term contract will have to make a great impression from the first month, or risk losing your business. For this reason, ask to be on a rolling monthly contract.
Ask What They Will Do
This may seem obvious, but there are so many different ways to approach SEO. Some SEO marketing companies still outsource all of their link building and copywriting, essentially acting as a project manager.
SEO is a complex and ongoing process that requires work to be carried out on your website as well as off-site link building. One of the key parts of any SEO campaign today is an effective content strategy that optimises website content and performs outreach to boost natural links to your website.
The days of creating spammy, keyword-stuffed doorway pages, hidden text and automated link-building are long gone – but this does not stop some unethical SEO marketing companies doing it.
An effective SEO campaign needs to work in partnership with a company. SEOs should be aware of the work that a company does, help with press releases, cover positive news stories and assist with social media campaigns. Good SEO is very closely aligned with marketing.
A good SEO company will carry out a site audit in the first week and provide a written report of problems that need to be addressed. Optimised content should feature high on the list of suggestions.
Each month you should receive a totally transparent report of all work undertaken to improve content and acquire new links. As well as this, you should be receiving regular ranking reports that demonstrate how your website has been improving in Google search.
This may seem obvious, but many people find SEO marketing companies online, and many websites are not connected with registered companies. If an SEO agency registers a limited company, this is a very good sign that they are serious about maintaining their reputation.
As above, an SEO agency that has a physical office that you can visit is far more likely to be an ethical business. Those who have offices and advertise their services across traditional media, such as newspapers and in industry magazines, are far more likely to provide a professional service.
Although not all SEO marketing companies are going to be mentioned in the press, if you can find citations in major publications such as The Guardian and in local press, this is a strong indication that the company is working hard at creating a professional image for itself, and happy to invest in its own marketing campaigns.
Many companies have a bad experience with SEO, usually because their SEO provider fails to produce results, and sometimes because bad practices have resulted in them getting a Google penalty.
Google has gone to great lengths to make it difficult to manipulate its search engine. It uses over 200 ranking signals and makes hundreds of minor changes, and several major changes, to its search engine every year.
SEO is a constantly changing and never ending process that requires a competent professional who stays abreast with the latest changes while implementing the most effective methods to get the best results for your business.
About the Author
Danny Hall has been working with SEO for the last several years and makes a point of staying abreast of the latest news from Google. He is the Co-Director of FSE Online, a well-established SEO marketing company in the UK.
- License: Image author owned