In the past, I’ve had disappointing experiences hiring the wrong firms to manage my startup’s SEO needs and it wasn’t fun. Not only that, it was an extremely frustrating time because I had paid a considerable amount of money for a what I thought was going to be top notch guidance. As much as I liked chasing “professionals” for reports that I never got, deficiencies in communication and lackluster SEO results, I had to let that firm go. But it wasn’t all bad, despite wasting time and money, I did come out of that process wiser. To help you avoid the pitfalls I went through with hiring the right SEO firm, read my “tips, tricks and red flags” below:
The SEO firm I described above had a great reputation and that was why I placed so much trust in the hands of their professionals. At the time my startup was just getting its bearings and I didn’t know much about SEO nor did I have very much time to research SEO, so during our initial consultation I deferred a lot of direction to the manager of our campaigns. I didn’t know the turnaround time for results so I didn’t explicitly set up a schedule to go over progress consistently with the firm, thinking that they would just fill me in when needed. That was a bad idea. It got to the point where I would lose touch with them for weeks and I’d have no idea if anyone was working on my campaign. If you’re paying a professional, it’s important that you create a schedule in the beginning and ask them to send you timely reports. It’s not being pushy, requiring that you’re updated every two weeks or every month with statistics lets you know that you’re paying for results.
You should be curious about SEO, at least to the extent that more knowledge will help you understand how to better your site exposure. A good SEO firm will take the time (as in calls, emails and even in-person meetings) to guide you through even your most basic questions. Not only that, a great SEO firm will provide and explain to you the different avenues that your company can use to improve, for example, how to get more relevant users so that not everyone is immediately “bouncing,” or mapping out site usability direction so that more visitors will lead to conversions. A fantastic SEO firm doesn’t keep knowledge away from you, but is willing to enrich you with information that would be conducive to your success.
I’m not downright advocating Pay for Performance SEO because SEO is a complicated process with many factors and a campaign can take even a year to show results. But don’t flat out pay the full fee that the firm asks for before you investigate the level of effort the campaign will take. Also understand when you’re expected to see results (if results do occur) and what your unique measures of success are. Simply put, spend some time to work out a tiered compensation plan with your SEO firm. Most firms will ask for a down payment, ask them what you’ll get in return for that fee and also talk about bonuses for when good work produces exceptional results. But remember, nothing is instant in the world of SEO. Gauge with metrics over time and you’ll see what works over the long run and what are happenstance flukes.