We’ve written about this idea before but simply Googling your city and ‘SEO service providers’ won’t necessarily give you the results you want. And your quick-fire Google search especially won’t always provide you with the ‘best’ company out there to meet your needs. But the world of SEO can be confusing so how do you know where to begin and how to find the company that’s the right fit for you? Here are 7 tips to help with comparing professional SEO service providers.
It’s easy to fall into the fallacy of thinking, ‘Oh, wow! This SEO agency has a super-awesome-amazing website; they must be the best.’ Web design is its own thing. Some SEO agencies incorporate web design into their services, but others do not. A nice looking website isn’t why you’re hiring your SEO company. You want their services not their pizazz. Of course, many companies do try to have a nice website to entice potential clients, but you want to dig deeper than surface looks because, after all, that company whose Comic Sans 90s website still has flashing graphics may actually be the company that provides the best service. (Well, maybe not.)
Bottom line is that some fantastic SEO agencies spend time helping their clients and their website might be really far down on their ‘nice to have’ list. Which leads us to our next point…
Again, it’s easy to think that Google has it right every time and when you Google your city plus ‘SEO agency’ that you’re going to find the best agency. Funnily enough, sometimes the opposite is true. Either your agency spends all their time working on their own website because they barely have clients or because they don’t really offer many services, more often the case, they happened to have registered their domain in 1998 and they were the only agency in your city at that time because SEO wasn’t even a ‘thing’ back then.
I’ve heard stories from some other SEO agencies that go something like, ‘We used to rank number one in Google because we had an old domain and we did a decent job, but we definitely weren’t any better than the other forty-five firms in our city that rank for the same keyword.’
Google puts a lot of weight on domain age and keyword rankings, so that’s great for those companies, but not so great if you’re looking for the right fit for you. Sure, ranking is a factor, but certainly not the only one.
So, how do you find an SEO agency if you can’t count on the first ten rankings in Google? Ask around. Word of mouth often is the best accolade.
A large company size isn’t always a sign of success for you, especially when it comes to SEO agencies. If your potential SEO agency is making millions and has hundreds of employees they’re great at making money, sure, but are they great at SEO for your company? They may have just picked up the right retainers early on--some big-name, wealthy companies--but then they resorted to cookie-cutter SEO, providing the least amount of service for the largest price all the while their name carrying more clout than their service.
The truth is, you might get a better SEO service from the guy (or girl) working in their pajamas in their basement than from that big, international firm with over five-hundred employees. Don’t automatically write off smaller agencies; shop around.
The most important factor before shopping around and comparing companies is understanding what exactly you need. Do you need one of the following?
Or you may need one of the other twenty or so services that firms offer.
If you aren’t sure about what you need--because maybe you aren’t familiar with SEO, then ask yourself what your goals are. Do you want to increase company sales by 25% over the next year? Or do you plan to double sales in six months? Do you want to increase rankings? Or were you just the person in the office tasked with doing ‘something’ about SEO?
Either way, you need to have some goals in mind so that you can measure how successful your agency’s SEO efforts are. You want a measurable starting point and a measurable endpoint. A good agency will help you figure out your metrics if you’re unsure.
A good SEO agency will want you to find a partnership that’s the right fit for you and vice versa. Be wary of any company that is trying too hard to get your business at any cost. You want someone who understands you and, quite frankly, someone who you actually like working with. When you chat with your potential agency on the phone, do you have a good rapport? Is there some good banter going? Do you feel comfortable, listened to, and helped? Go with good vibes as well as other more tangible factors. After all, if taking to your SEO agency and getting on the same page is like talking to the ‘dry eyes’ commercial guy, then you’re in for a difficult journey.
Try not to tell each agency that you’re consulting with several companies, but most SEO agencies are happy to chat or email and give you details of the services they offer and how they can help you achieve your goals.
Some newer companies may not have had time to write up their case studies and success stories yet but some more established companies will have such a page. Check out an agency’s website for their case studies or stories of past wins. If the agency has no such page, don’t be alarmed and don't rule them out just yet. You can ask them to tell you some stories over the phone or via email.
If your company is an outdoor clothing retail company, for example, then you want to see what past success your agency has with similar companies. If they’ve gotten results for ten companies before you, then it’s a quick bet that they’ll help you get results. On the other hand, if your company is more niche, you’ll want to find a more general SEO company. But also don’t be afraid to take a chance on a newer SEO agency. After all, everyone has to start somewhere and newer agencies will often try harder to get results--even if it takes more hours than you’re paying them for.
In case you’re curious, check out our past work and past successes here.
You wouldn’t hire a builder to add an extension on your home without asking the price. Don’t hire an SEO agency to do what they want and charge you what they want. Ask for pricing details up front and agree on the services you want, the time frame you want, and the cost of those services. Most SEO agencies will do anything from one-off projects to long-term SEO management with a monthly retainer.
Consider all seven of these factors and write down your ‘answers’ on a spreadsheet so you can compare companies side-by-side on everything from price to your impression of the employees as people. We have some further tips on how to hire an SEO company here or more general tips on SEO here and in our SEO academy.
Wait! Before you finish comparing providers, you landed on our page for a reason, why don’t you start with a free SEO audit. Then, you can check out our piece on SEO pricing and some of the services offered in general at SEO agencies. You’ll go into your meetings (email, phone, or in person) armed with enough knowledge to make the right decision for your company.