SCORE Small Business Blog

Web Marketing: How to Choose an SEO Consultant. And What to Watch Out For

“Should I do SEO myself or hire a firm to do it?  If so, which one?”  After my post If You Don’t Know About SEO, Start with Pre-SEO, I got that comment from Jo.  My answer is: if you can afford it, hire the right firm to do it.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is too complex and technical to accomplish more than the basics by yourself.   But how do you choose an SEO provider?

There a many companies selling these services, and it’s important to know what you are buying.  SEO can involve:

Keyword research
Optimization of existing web pages
Creation of new web pages
Submission to major search engines
Submission to major directories
Link building
Web page revisions
Tracking of website traffic
Monthly reports

Selection Criteria
Mark Jackson of SearchEngineWatch, in his post How to Select a Search Engine Optimization Firm, says you need to consider four factors:

1.  Your goals, like brand building or measurable revenue growth from the process over time
2.  Special challenges with your firm, like you or your staff’s ability to write copy, spend time building links or implement technical changes to website copy
3.  Experience of the SEO provider, including years doing SEO and examples of satisfied clients
4.  Transparency about their services, so you understand what they will do and how to help and evaluate them.  Selecting a Reputable SEO Provider (ClickZ) provides an excellent outline if you are trying to nail down the scope of SEO services.  Or see Ten Tips for Choosing the Right SEO Partner.

Vendor Links
Here are oft-sited lists of providers whose SEO techniques, business practices and services are peer-reviewed.

SEO expert Jonathan Ashton advises:

Treat this like any other service and ask for recommendations from your network. Contact your connections at LinkedIn. Check the Chamber of Commerce for a local professional. Ask friends or colleagues for positive experiences. You will quickly find worthy recipients of your RFP and likely will learn of others to avoid.

There are good firms other than those listed in the two directories above, but you need to talk to principals, examine contracts and check reputations to know what you are buying.  Read on.

Buyer Beware
Beware of SEO services from companies that promise you will be “on page one of Google,” or will “rank in the top ten on search engines.”  These promises come with many caveats in the fine print.

And watch for SEO scams .  Check these links to learn how to avoid them.

Look Before You Leap
Finding a SEO consultant

More FAQs on choosing the right SEO provider

SEO Consultation is Ruining the Reputation of the Entire Industry
Read this before you choose the “consultation option” to save money.
SEO Submissions Are A Scam

In soliciting comments on this post, I find that SEO consultants differ widely on what they think works and what they term hogwash.  I’m providing a variety of links so you can make up your own mind.

It takes time to see the results of SEO-type changes.  Pros say that at minimum, you should wait two or three months to evaluate results.  But year-over-year evaluation is more meaningful.  What does it take to succeed?  Here’s the opinion of Mat McGee (Small Business Search Marketing): SEO Success Pyramid.

Related Posts:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Intro, Video and Links
If You Don’t Know About SEO, Start with Pre-SEO

Do you agree with this advice on SEO?  I know it’s a very controversial topic.  Fire away in a comment.

-Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago
View more posts by Peg

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Discussion (8) Comment

  1. Bill TreloarVisitor

    Sorry – here are the blog post URLs:

    Can You Trust That SEO Consultant?:
    10 Signs Your SEO Consaultant Is a Quack:

  2. Bill TreloarVisitor

    I disagree about meta tags; they’re the least valuable factor in search engine rankings, unless you’re referring to the page title tag. That one is very powerful.

    Sadly, there are many incompetent SEOs out there and finding a good one is often a matter of luck. However, these two blog posts should help:

  3. Pat WilliamsVisitor

    There are a lot of seo companies out there that are unethical and don’t care about the client. You have to do your research and find a reputable seo firm with proven results before signing any contracts. Educate yourself first, read the top seo blogs that explain the different services. Don’t go into it blindly. You’ll be better equipped to weed out the bad ones.

  4. Good informative article. Certainly You don’t make the decision lightly when Choosing the SEO firm. You have to do research well because SEO is a long-term strategy and you should take the time to do your research before buying or you’ll probably be buying again. It can not only really enhance the reputation of your company but also improve your site’s business and sale performance.

  5. This is the most definitive article I’ve ever read on the subject. Written without an agenda, the information is laid out and lets the readers come to their own conclusions. Congratulations on a job well done and please continue to cover this.

    • Peg CorwinAuthor

      Hi Gervais Group,

      I thank you for your kind words praising my post on choosing an SEO consultant. I’m blogging to help people and companies like you.

      Best wishes in your internet marketing, and let me know if you have other pressing questions that I might blog about.

      Peg Corwin

  6. I always prefer to put meta tags in every page.

  7. RichmanVisitor

    For me, just the root for SEO – most revenue growth from meta tags. For my websites, I’ll was create the meta tags for every pages. Put some authentic only on main page/ homepage and do not to try putting the wrong meta tags which it happen it will ruining the crawl.


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