How do you find a good SEO company to outsource your SEO? How do you know who to trust and what kind of questions to ask during the first contact to ensure that this is the right company to manage your online presence? In this post, I will give you all the answers you need, based on my 13 years experience of working online.
To set things straight from the beginning, I should clarify that I run my own SEO business for a number of years now but the purpose of this post is not to sell you any SEO services but to give you some guidance on how to select the best possible SEO firm for your company.
What to expect from SEO?
Before even getting into the process of selecting an SEO provider, you need to have clear in your mind what to expect from SEO. Setting your expectations correctly from the beginning will help you evaluate the effectiveness and ROI from the SEO investment you will make.
A super quick overview on how SEO works?
SEO has two parts. The first part is what we call on-page SEO and has to do with the structure and content of your website and how well this is optimised for search engines. The second part is the ‘on-going SEO’, a process that involves monitoring and further optimising your website for particular keywords based on a number of factors. During this process a good SEO may also engage other digital marketing tools like content marketing, email marketing, PPC marketing and social media marketing.
So, the main point to remember from this short explanation of SEO is that there are ‘once-off’ tasks that need to be done to make your website SEO friendly and that for SEO to really work, you also need the help of other digital marketing processes.
What are the SEO gains for your business?
SEO and digital marketing in general can help your business grow in a number of ways:
- Can get you more traffic from Google and other search engines.
- Can drive more traffic from social media and other sources.
- Can help you establish your business online.
- Can help you promote your personal or business brand online.
- Can make your website more friendlier to users.
The outcome from all the above benefits is increase in targeted traffic which is equivalent to more business (more sales, customers, leads etc).
How much does SEO Cost?
Different companies use different pricing schemes but in general there are 3 ways to pay for SEO.
Fixed amount – For the tasks related to initial on-page optimisation usually you can get a fixed cost based on the required work. The SEO provider can analyse your website and create a list of things that need to be fixed and give you a quote for the implementation.
Per month – For the on-going SEO, i.e. for the work that needs to be done on a monthly basis, you can pay a fixed amount per month. The actual cost depends on what tasks are included in the monthly engagement.
Per hour – Some companies (including ours), offer more flexible seo packages where you pay per actual hours worked. This is in my opinion the most fair option for the client because they only pay for the actual SEO worked performed and not a fixed amount per month.
How much will you actually pay for SEO?
Based on the three SEO pricing models described above and according to industry research on SEO pricing, the average amount you will pay is:
Fixed amount: project based pricing is a very popular way to pay for SEO and the range is between $1000 – $7000. Of course this depends on the work that needs to be done but this range is a good indication.
Per month: Per month packages are in the range of $500 – $5000. Anything beyond that is unlikely to produce any real results. Usually the monthly SEO packages include other activities like content marketing and social media marketing.
Per hour: The average hourly rate according to the survey is between $76 – $200. In my opinion this is overestimated, a reasonable rate to hire an experienced SEO is between $50 – $150 per hour.
How long do you have to pay for SEO?
SEO takes time to generate good results and should be consider as an investment and not a cost. If you haven’t done any SEO work on your website so far then the best approach is to fix your on-page SEO (that’s the fixed amount described above) and then work on a monthly or hourly engagement for at least 6 months.
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After the 6 month period, if your SEO provider didn’t manage to give you measurable results then it’s time to look for other options. Everything in the online World can be measured so are the results from SEO. What you are after is improvement and increase in website traffic.
In the case that you did see an improvement from SEO then the decision to continue investing in SEO is easy. The actual amount you will spend per month depends on your budget; what you need to have in mind though is that more monthly budget does not necessarily mean better results.
How to select a good SEO company
Now that you know what is SEO, understand the necessity of using SEO for your business growth and have a clear idea of the costs, the next step is to select the best SEO company for your budget and needs.
Where do you find SEO providers?
One of the nice things about SEO services is that you don’t need to search for SEO providers in your area but you can find them online. SEO is a service that can be provided online and no physical contact is required. Everything can be done by email and Skype and this saves time and money for both the client and provider.
From my experience you can find good SEO providers by:
- Searching Google for “SEO packages”, “SEO services” or other similar keywords.
- Reading authority websites on SEO like MOZ and see what they recommend.
- Searching Google for SEO related information and if you find an article interesting and convincing you can check if the author provides SEO services.
- Recommendations from friends or colleagues who used an SEO company and they are happy about the results.
How to pick the right SEO provider?
Whichever the method you select, you will find a lot of companies to choose from, how do you know which one to hire?
Check their website and try to understand how their services work, what kind of SEO practices they are using, how is their pricing scheme etc.
Check their portfolio – What kind of clients do they have, check their client’s website. If they don’t have a portfolio listed online then this is a signal that something is wrong.
Check for client testimonials – What do their clients say about them, are the testimonials real, can you contact their clients and get feedback or there is no contact information available.
Do they make too good to be true promises – Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to SEO. If they promote too good to be true promises then most probably they are fake.
Contact them – Make an initial contact with them. Did they respond back in time? Is someone available from the company to talk with you and explain how their SEO process works?
Who will do SEO for your website? – SEO is a critical process and if you don’t do it correctly you may do more harm than good. When selecting a company it’s good to know in advance who will be working on your website, what is their experience and results so far. If you decide to go with big SEO firms then most probably a lot of people will work on your website and while this is not bad, you will not have a specific person to speak to (other than the project manager) in case something goes wrong or in case they use practices that are against Google webmaster guidelines.
How do they track progress? – SEO is all about progress and it is important for you (the client) to know the return from SEO. Good companies give detail reports to their clients explaining what has been done for SEO and what was the real return.
When do you pay? Usually SEO services (with the exception perhaps of SEO audits), are NOT paid in advance. You should pay AFTER the work has been performed and AFTER you receive a detailed monthly report.
Ask them for a draft plan for the next 3 months – To understand if they have a clear idea for the tasks that need to be performed on your website, ask them to give you a draft plan for the next 3 months. What kind of activities they will perform and how much you will be charged per activity.
No-long term contracts – Don’t commit on long term contracts. SEO companies that are confident for their work and results don’t ask for the client to commit to any contract. Their work and results keep clients to continue using their services and not a contract with setup or cancellation fees.
How much do they charge for their services? There are companies that offer SEO services at very low prices. While this may sound like a good way to save some money from your marketing budget, it’s not a good approach. Good SEO work that can bring in more business to a company takes time and it costs. I have outlined above the actual costs which you can use as a guide.
How long have they been in business? While this may not be a very important factor, it is normal that companies who have been in the SEO business for a number of years to have more experience with SEO. The fact that they are operating for many years also means that they have happy clients otherwise they would go out of business.
Do they use up-to date practices? SEO is changing all the time. Every month there is something new that can benefit your business or something that you need to fix to avoid getting a Google penalty or experience a decrease in traffic. It is important that you choose a company or SEO consultant that is aware of the latest SEO changes and new practices.
The best way to understand if this is the case with the candidate companies is to ask them and to check their blog. Usually professional SEO’s maintain a blog to showcase their expertise, case studies and approach to SEO.
SEO is important for your business success
As a final word don’t forget that in today’s competitive online World you have no choice other than optimising your website for search engines. SEO is important and if done correctly can really turn things around and get you more customers and revenue.
When it comes to choosing the right SEO company, don’t believe in too good to be true promises, don’t select a company that offers too low prices and always check for their experience, testimonials and portfolio.