We have seen an increasing number of referrals come to us looking for a reputable search engine optimization firm after poor results with other companies. Many web site designers claim to provide search engine optimization because clients ask for it. However, many clients simply do not know what kind of questions to ask when shopping for a search engine optimization company.
The following are simple, straightforward questions that should result in understandable answers. If you get complicated, jargon-filled responses, beware of working with that company.
- Ask for examples of sites that they have optimized and the keyphrases that those sites rank for on Google. Forget Yahoo, MSN and others if you want to evaluate the effectiveness of a SEO company.
- Evaluate the keyphrases/sites that you are given. Most importantly, how competitive/unique is the keyphrase that they provide. It is easy to rank a site for the name of the company. It is more difficult to rank the site for a broad term related to the category. Make sure that you are looking at the natural search engine rank, not paid advertisements. Take not of the number of results that the term returns in Google. At the top this looks like:
"Results 1 – 10 of about 7,590,000 for XXXX. (0.25 seconds) "
You can also use free tools at Word Tracker to evaluate how many times the term is searched for. This will give you an idea of how popular the phrase is and how much competition there is for the term.
- If you have the time, monitor the rank of the term for 90 days. Does it stay on top or is it just a flash in the pan.
- Demand references from satisfied customers and contact those people to see what their experience has been.
- Beware of any "proprietary technology" or other optimization techniques that are only available from a single company. While there may be short term solutions to generating search engine traffic, these "black hat" techniques will always be discovered by the search engines and appropriately penalized.
- Ask about a guarantee. This is a trick question. Nobody can guarantee natural placement on search engines unless they work for the search engine. In most cases a guarantee involves deceptive practices or fine print that makes it worthless, which is not the kind of company you want to do business with.
If the company you are speaking with is evasive or hesitates to provide these answers, move on. An effective SEO company will jump at the chance to provide you with this information. Most reputable companies get a high percentage of their new clients from referrals.