2015 may have been the height of the creation of Digital Marketing and SEO companies, but unfortunately not all of those companies knew what they were doing. Also, they likely weren’t looking out for your business – they were simply trying to make a quick buck off of something they knew few people actually understood and that many businesses would pay top dollar for.
After all, if there is one thing smart business owners know about SEO, it’s that they need it. They just aren’t quite sure why they need it. And they aren’t sure how to measure that it’s working.
So, in true sleazy sleaze-ball fashion, people in career limbo decided they were going to build a makeshift digital marketing or search engine optimization company and feast on unsuspecting business owners. They were going to suck them dry for every penny they owned and not produce a single online lead, sale or deliverable to prove that what they were doing was working.
We have personally heard horror stories of companies paying upwards of $2,000 per month on SEO services without ever receiving a single speck of data to prove that any SEO was actually taking place. And, in some cases, the business experienced less web traffic and a decrease in online leads as a result of these “optimization” efforts. The SEO companies were also tying small businesses up in lengthy 1 to 2 year contracts, which means some companies were paying $24,000 to $48,000 for diddly squat. Sure, their website now had more keywords in the text and were now on a few online listings – but this is hardly the complete SEO picture if you’re wanting impactful results.
Because Davies Media Design is in part an SEO company, we have taken it upon ourselves to repair the damage that these knockoff companies have done by creating a list of things to take into consideration and/or ask an SEO company prior to signing anything. Our goal is to help you find a real SEO company that allows you to see the results of their work while letting you leave if you’re not happy with their performance (without needing a cease and desist letter). So, get ready to arm yourself with some face-melting insight and enough knowledge to make the next fraudulent SEO consultant you confront turn redder than the devil himself.
What to ask and look for when hiring a real SEO company:
- Length of Contract: How Long Are You Stuck With Them?
This won’t be the first thing the company mentions as they want to keep their monthly retainer system hush hush until they’ve got you on the ropes. However, it’s very important to determine whether or not the SEO company is going to keep your business hostage for the next year or more, or if they are going to give you the freedom to leave in the case that the relationship isn’t working out.
The fair SEO companies won’t let a contract exceed 6 months. Some may only ask for as little as 3 months or 1 month of commitment. Here’s my advice: take the 3 month commitment and be patient with the results. A 2 year contract is far too long because apart from poor results, you may just not “gel” with the first company you hire. On the other hand, SEO isn’t a magic trick. It takes months to develop and start paying dividends. You’re going to need to commit to it for at least a couple of months – even if you decide to go with a month to month option. You won’t be on page one after a month.
So, take the 3 month contract so you can get to know the SEO company and see how hard they are working for you (and how transparent they are), and then think about signing another 3 month or upgrading to the 6 month contract as a reward for their efforts. Don’t ever sign a 1 or more year contract – especially with a new company. That’s just sketchy.
- Deliverables: What Data Can They Provide You With?
If an SEO company asks you to take their word for it that SEO is just too complicated to nail down with numbers – run like hell. SEO is a multilayered practice, but there are tons of ways for your data to be measured and delivered to your business.
For example, you should be able to see exactly what keywords your website ranks for and how many clicks and impressions those keywords are getting. Backlinks (I hope I didn’t just send shivers down your spine) can be measured so that you can see how many external websites are linking from their website to yours (and how much credibility that website has). You can also compare those numbers to your competitors to see how you’re web traffic and keywords rankings are holding up against the competition.
Finally, an SEO company should be informing you on how healthy your site is and what has been fixed to improve site health. For example, you should be in the know about duplicate page content, 404 errors, page speeds, meta data (the stuff that describes a page and shows up on Google), and any crawl issues. If these things aren’t being fixed, Google is going to keep referring a healthier page over yours.
- Content Creation: What Will They Be Making for You?
Content: you always hear about how important it is to drive traffic to your website, and yet the bad SEO companies never want to invest any time or money to help you develop more of it. The good companies, on the other hand, heed the advice of the internet and are eager to get new content up on your site.
Ask if a content strategy is included with your SEO services. If so, what is it? You should be getting at least 1 blog per month, and they should be encouraging you to write your own articles as well. If it never even comes up, or they don’t have an answer for you, then you just exposed another SEO troll and need to head for the exit.
It’s more than just content for your own site as well – you need to be sending content to external websites so that you are reaching audiences beyond your own and showing Google that other sites are willing to reference you. Guest blogging is the easiest way to accomplish this, and having your company constantly doing interesting and industry leading things is the most effective way to get outside coverage.
- Cost: How Much Will You Be Paying Them?
Great SEO companies can charge whatever they want – keyword being great. Unless your SEO company helped Amazon.com go from nothing to what it is today, there’s no reason they should be charging you $5,000+ per month for their services. The only exception to this is if you have a 200+ page website. In that case, it’s going to take a lot of work to make your site 100% optimized and therefor will cost you more money.
Keep your website size in mind when shopping around for search engine optimization. If your site is under 20 pages, you don’t need to be paying more than $1,000 per month on SEO. In fact, you can likely find a company (like Davies Media Design) that charges $600/mo or less for a site of that size. The price may go up as you add on more blogs per month or increased content creation, but standard packages shouldn’t cost you thousands of dollars.
- Supporting Services: What Else Can They Offer You to Support SEO?
There are digital marketing companies out there that offer SEO as a standalone product, but will also offer supporting services that help make optimization more effective. For example, some companies offer Social Media Management, YouTube Management, Paid Search (a.k.a. Online Advertising), and Web Design. Having these services to support your SEO is vital in that they help to drive more traffic to your site and keep people there once they land. Of course, you’ll need a higher budget to pay for these additional services.
For example, Google’s algorithm takes into consideration how well your site is designed, how good your social media presence is, and how much traffic you are getting from external sources (such as YouTube) when calculating your position on SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). If your site isn’t getting a ton of traffic, you can turn to Paid Search to see instant traffic increases. This will help you determine how much users like your site based on new data containing metrics like bounce rate and pages per visit.
Digital marketing companies with knowledge of all of these areas are going to be able to give you a more complete solution than companies that simply focus on keyword injection and/or backlink building. In a nut shell, the more complete your business’s marketing is across the internet, and the more references you have to your site or content, the more Google is likely to recommend you to its searchers.
Don’t let an SEO company make you feel like you’ll never understand SEO and therefor don’t need to know what’s going on behind the scenes of your website. Transparency is key when finding the right company, followed by affordability. Digital marketing businesses or SEO companies should be partners with your company, and should have as much of an interest in helping your business get as much traffic, leads, and sales as possible as you do. When you do find a company that is willing to work hard for you, you just might lose that bad taste in your mouth that the previous sleazy SEO company left behind.
Need SEO services for your business? Get real SEO from Davies Media Design.