If you are planning to outsource the SEO responsibilities to a partner organisation or a consultancy, you need to analyse the resume of the company before going ahead. You should also create a questionnaire to try and determine the integrity and the level of expertise the company possesses. It is recommended that you team up with an SEO consultancy which provides ethical SEO services, even if it costs a little hire because it pays back more in the long run. There are companies that adopt spammy, underhand tactics to increase your page or website rank but this leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the user, peers, search engines and can get you penalised and also lose business in the long run. Protecting your brand image is far more important than making a quick buck by increasing your rank quickly.
One seemingly logical solution to look for the best company which fits your choice and description is to make a Google search which includes your geographic location or the one for which you want to rank plus the word “seo”. However, beware that almost all the companies that appear on the search results pages would promise you the same exact deliverables. They would promise to make your company or a product or a service or an idea reach the top page in Google natural search results. They would promise to offer you the most robust keyword research service, the best analytics service, the best SMO service and everyone would claim to have the best knowledge of inbound marketing.
Had it been as simple as shortlisting the top one, two or three companies from the Google results, there would have been no need for this article. It is more complicated than that. Understanding the work ethics as well as the efficiency of a company is important although is not always discernible at one glance. Many companies would offer competitive rates, cost benefits, add-on services, etc. However, consider the offer not just in terms of short-term cost benefits but long-term returns also.
Why do many companies consider outsourcing their SEO assignments to specialist firms?
It can’t be contended that the main purpose of SEO is to boost visibility or increase traffic to your website, a certain landing page, your blog or some social media account. You want your website to rank very high for as many relevant keywords or key phrases as possible. Creating and maintaining a website will be futile if it doesn’t get visitors. The rate of conversion is directly proportional to the rate of traffic received by your website or other online resources. One of the most effective ways to precipitate sales conversion or other conversions is through investing in ethical SEO services.
Here are some reasons why some companies look for expert SEO firms to collaborate with.
- Lack of knowledge and/or time: One of the most common reasons is that you are new to the concept of SEO. Someone has impressed upon you the need to get your website or blog search engine optimised but you don’t have the knowledge, skill or experience to handle the task yourself. It could also be that you don’t have enough time to focus your energy on SEO. It has been empirically proven that SEO requires a consistent and concerted effort. You can’t discontinue it or keep it suspended just because you are busy. Same is true with your content strategy which is an important part of SEO. If you post one article on your blog every six months or if you update your website every year, these actions will yield very little result. You need to have a proper strategy and a calendar. Since many entrepreneurs lack time, they outsource it. Also, keeping a digital marketing expert on your payroll is not an economical proposition. Hence, many find it convenient to get into a contract with a freelancer or an SEO firm.
- No in-house capability: SEO is still a very new concept and there aren’t many experts on the subject. So, it is not impossible to be in a situation where your company doesn’t have an employee with a decent knowledge of SEO. Then again, being just about good may not give a big boost to your incoming traffic figure. You need a company which understands its job and which is willing to lay down its life on the line to achieve its target.
- Better return on investment: The right SEO techniques can help you attract the right kind of traffic to your website. That makes conversion easier. Quicker and more efficient conversion increases your return on investment. A professional SEO company can do a market research to determine the right audience for your content and also attract people who match your defined buyer persona. Attracting the right audience has become easier with inward marketing because the right audience itself seeks out your content and eventually gets converted. A professional SEO team can not only do a keyword research to find out the words or phrases for which you want your page to rank but also specify the words for which you don’t want to rank. This allows you to send a targeted message to your prospects.
A couple of mistakes to avoid when selecting an SEO firm
- Selecting a company just by its size: There is an inherent flaw in the assumption that if one company is big, it must be doing things right and that means it automatically fits your criteria. That may not be true always. The company may not have the required expertise to rank you in Google, Yahoo or Bing natural search, in a particular domain. It may also be true that their vision doesn’t align with your objectives. Hence, don’t use size or number of employees as a criterion for selection. The right SEO firm may be a startup working from a basement or a garage!
- Selecting a company because it appears at the top of SEO searches for a geographic area: A company can get a high rank if it has an old domain, had been listed in a number of online directories a long time back, has appeared in social bookmarking sites, there are enough social proofs, has a strong linking structure and is doing a good job. However, a company can rank high just because it has an old domain and not because it is getting the other things right. So, don’t use the high rank as a single ranking criterion.
Tips to help you choose the right SEO partner
- Look for recommendations: Look for references. Look for their work on past projects. Talk with their past clients. Do thorough background checks. Also, talk to your business contacts and find out which firms they work with or recommend.
- Ask them about their link building and content strategies and philosophy: It can’t be denied that backlinks are still an important factor in SEO. However, quality links should always be preferred over quantity. Also, having a strong internal linking structure is important. However, you should take claims of getting you a certain very high number of links to your site, with a pinch of salt because black hat SEO techniques won’t get you far. Make sure that the company complies with Google’s webmaster guidelines which prohibit 12 practices. You can get penalised for not adhering to the rules. You may actually be pushed down for using underhand strategies. So, don’t partner with a company which engages in unethical practices. Also, see if they have a strong content creation culture because varied content and good quality, evergreen content can take you a long way in improving your website ranking.
- How do they propose to improve the ranking: You may encounter companies that don’t freely discuss their methods. They want to maintain a veil of secrecy over their operations or style of functioning. It is best to stay away from such companies. Ask a potential partner to submit a blueprint or a plan. Ask them to make a presentation as to how they propose to improve your website ranking. Only encourage white hat SEO strategies. See if their list of services include providing a technical review of your website and providing on-page optimisation. This will help fix the problems like broken links, not getting your pages crawled quickly or having a high domain rank. Next and importantly, look at their off page optimisation strategies.
- Understand their keyword research policy: One of the main reasons why you are hiring a professional SEO firm is that you want to rank for certain keywords. Ask them about the strategies or tools they use for finding the right keywords or phrases for your website. Also, the focus is increasingly on natural language and long-tailed keywords. Keyword stuffing is being looked down upon and Google is also starting to penalise companies for this strategy. Also, social proofs are important. This is because this indicates the level of engagement and goes a long way in building strong relationships. What is their opinion on this and what can they do to create content that goes viral, gets shared, attracts more comments and gets more likes, etc.?
- Enquire about the reporting process they follow: What analytics tool do they use? What kind of reports to they submit? What is the period of reporting? Can they help you identify where exactly the traffic is coming from? Do they have a solid plan for growing your presence? A comprehensive report should give you an idea of your business health. Are they delivering what they have promised and how are they doing it?
Apart from these considerations, talk to them about their fees, the payment structure or mode preferred. Ensure that everything is transparent. Choosing the right SEO firm may not be easy but doing your due diligence should put you in a safe position and get you what you want.