Ever since the benefits of SEO became known to a lot of people (especially business owners) the number of search engine optimization agencies, services, and software has continued growing over the years. With more and more claiming to be “SEO experts”, for a consumer, finding an affordable SEO package that is also effective can be a little confusing.
Any business or website owner contemplating utilizing and paying for SEO packages needs to understand that picking the right provider to help optimize their brand is crucial. Too many so-called experts tend to assess a site and come up with the conclusion that innumerable SEO tasks must be implemented in order to satisfy all of Google’s ranking factors.
This could easily mean search engine optimization tasks that are in the thousands. However, not all of these tasks are worth implementing, thus making prioritization errors could end up being costly. Furthermore, focusing on the wrong tasks may necessitate a lot of effort but could result in returns that are subpar. So how does one find an SEO service that delivers the right solutions? Here is a simple five step guide that anyone can use when searching for the best provider in the SEO industry.
1. Identify Monthly Budget and Goals
The biggest mistake many individuals make when choosing local SEO packages for the first time is selecting the cheapest one they can find. Though it is understandable for all businesses, big or small to have a spending budget mapped out, when it comes to SEO price does matter.
It is absolutely fine to try to find a service that fits within a budget, the mistake is when the budget is unrealistically set. Or they come across services priced as low as $100 and believe that this is a reasonable amount. Any rational person would conduct some research in order to check what the average industry rate is for a particular product or service.
Not to mention that common logic would dictate that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While there are SEO companies who do offer services for such low rates, more often than not they tend to underdeliver. Reputable firms will be the first to admit that optimization services do not come cheap. In fact, many businesses have been known to pay anywhere between $500 to $30,000 monthly on digital marketing.
Rates for online marketing will depend not on how well-known an agency is; many base the fees on the services that are included in each package. Thus, any brand that wants to start implementing professionally optimized content should spend the time listing down what their goals are. Other than increasing organic traffic, creating better conversions, or encouraging better consumer engagement, what are the other things the business needs?
Is there a need for a designated SEO manager to lead the company’s digital marketing team? Must the service provide real-time meetings and live reports? Whatever a business is looking to gain from availing of local SEO packages, it must be listed down and used as a reference when looking at services.
2. Get Acquainted with Google Guidelines for White Hat SEO
Having a website does not instantly guarantee that it will appear on Google. This is because Google has a set of code guidelines that it expects websites to follow in order for them to be eligible to show up on searches.
These Webmaster guidelines generally detail the best practices as well as quality guidelines that can help any site appear when searched for on the web.
Some people think it is unimportant to learn about these guidelines since they are paying a service to do the optimization for their business, so what’s the point? Well, not all marketers stick to white hat practices.
White hat search engine optimization defined
The term white hat SEO pertains to search engine optimization tactics that are in compliance with Google’s or other major search engine’s terms and conditions. It is often recognized as a practice that improves a website’s search rankings on a search engine results page (SERP). Some examples of white hat SEO include:
- Posting or offering quality content and services
- Having a website that is fast loading
- Seamless and easy website navigation
- Mobile-friendly websites
- The use of meta tags that are descriptive and keyword-rich
Black hat SEO strategies and why it’s never a good idea
With many agencies vying for a piece of the optimization profit pie, it's not unheard of for some to turn to poor online marketing strategies (grey or black hat SEO).
The reality that many cheap services do not disclose to clients is how search engine optimization is not a process that delivers instantaneous results. In most cases, it takes several months before any improvements can be seen or felt. There is no magic trick that would boost ranking, traffic, engagement, conversions, etc. overnight, especially not when ethical practices are involved.
For this reason, many companies fall prey to online optimization providers who claim to produce immediate returns. Black hat techniques are not only unethical, they are also ineffective if a customer is looking for long-term solutions.
While it is possible to use a black hat approach to quickly move up the search results ranking ladder, a business can go from page one to the last just as fast. That’s not even the worst part. Websites caught using deceptive black hat methods can get banned from Google and other search engines. That said, having a clear idea about the guidelines helps a person benefit from a selection of affordable SEO packages that only use white hat digital marketing strategies.
3. Look for Agencies by Combing the Review Sites
The best kind of advertising has always been believed to be the ones that come from word of mouth. Businesses can spend a lot of resources in producing ads that are attention grabbing and have the potential of becoming a viral hit but time and again, surveys continuously show how a large bulk of new customers come from recommendations of people they trust and know personally.
Unfortunately, not all products or services out there can come from a personal referral. The next best thing consumers will rely on are reviews. Past customer experiences are always a good indicator of what a consumer can expect from a new vendor. And if there is one thing that social media is best known for, it’s the amount of feedback that can be gathered from people all over the globe who have used a particular product or service.
But not everybody has the time nor the patience to sift through Facebook posts, Reddit threads, tweets, or YouTube videos that offer their two cents on SEO packages they have tried and tested. There’s also the matter of determining the source’s credibility.
The easiest way around this is to take advantage of B2B (business to business) review platforms. Review sites like Clutch.co, UpCity, Expertise.com, and Capterra provide a level playing field for business service providers. Here, buyers can make use of a virtual directory of industry leaders in IT, marketing, and other similar services. What makes these sites different from the results generated by searches? Review websites make it their job to provide only a list of properly vetted providers. They offer a trustworthy and transparent collection that is data-driven and intended to help improve the B2B partnership selection and purchase experience.
4. Get Free Website Assessment from Various SEO Providers
Similar to many services, SEO providers are often more than happy to provide a free assessment. These audits are designed to educate and help a potential client understand how their business measures up to the competition. Furthermore, it helps give everyone an idea of how the site is doing overall and which areas will require some improvements the most. To break it down, here are the usual things that search engine optimization services look into when they provide complimentary assessments.
As previously mentioned, the assessment will provide a company with a report that pits them against competitors. Data will help identify the unique value proposition of a client’s product, along with how it differs from the competitors. It collects information on the things the competitors are doing right and where they are falling short. This info is critical for ensuring that a company’s products and marketing campaigns stay relevant and are outperforming the industry standards.
Using keywords does not equate to a website or its content ranking well. Free assessments from affordable SEO service providers will compile data that will show how a company ranks under the keywords they have implemented. For example, if a brand’s target keywords/keyphrase is ‘’best auto shop near me’’ then the audit will show where the site is ranked under this specific keyword. This is a good test to see if some pages are in need of re-optimization.
On-page optimization checks on technical SEO tasks of the site like metadata, loading speed, mobile usability, media, content, and internal navigation. Analysis conducted discusses each of these elements and what possible implementations can be made if there are indications that they are not meeting standard requirements.
Evaluating off-page SEO primarily focuses on external elements that have impacted the website’s search rankings. Most of which is composed of links (link building), as well as any social media marketing endeavors or mentions.
The average website visitor expects a page to fully load in under 5 seconds. Quick appraisals conducted by service providers will determine how quickly a site can load, how easy pages transition, and how fast it generally responds to user actions on both desktop and mobile browsing.
A large portion of any assessment analyzes the client’s website content. This includes examining the average length of the site’s content. Various studies of first page results show content that ranks highly are average 1,890 words. This total includes all words found on the page.
SEO experts will also look into the information that a website covers. Are they the right topics when compared to search results? Tests can pinpoint if a site is lacking a vital element that can help the page stand against search intent and ranking. Lastly, reports identify if the content is formatted in a manner that allows easy skimming. The average reader spends only 30-40 seconds on an article which means page content should be formatted so it is easy for people to skim through.
Many marketers today have some basic concept of how SEO works. Even if the techniques and methods are simplistic, they are still contributing to the website's performance. When a free test is conducted by a provider of SEO packages, it goes without saying that data collection will include any optimization practices it can find whether intentional or not. If techniques were implemented in the past, a service can share insights on how useful the campaign was and if it requires updating or supplementing.
Digital advertising is not limited to the adverts that were deployed for a business. This also covers how well the brand was relayed through the use of graphics, brand logo, colors, fonts, etc. It discusses how effective the efforts are and which factors consumers are drawn to. When compared to the competition, how well do the brand persona and its visual campaigns fare?
Ask any user and they will instantly point out security as the underlying reason for choosing or foregoing a website. For the most part, a well-maintained website should not have any security concerns. Nonetheless, an assessment will show if the security is up to date and is in keeping with current standards.
On a scale of one to 10, how easy is the website to use? Is it designed to allow any user to find the solutions they are after? Are all the links working well? Do visitors have any trouble clicking through or do they just drop off because the website is just too complicated to use?
Revenue and lead potential
SEO expert services should provide an assessment that also helps point out reasons why the business is generating the leads and the profits it currently does before discussing with the site owner how SEO packages for small business owners can boost these sectors for them.
5. Talk With at Least Three Agencies
Selecting a company to handle the optimization of a business is usually a process of elimination. Avoid picking the first company that shows up on results, is referred, or offers the best deal. It is always best to take the time to meet with the potential agencies first.
Schedule a meeting in person or through a virtual video conference. Consider this just like any employee interview. Any responsible employer will take the time to ask the necessary questions. Some standard questions revolve around work experience, credentials (certifications, awards, accreditations, etc.), success rate, and referrals.
Businesses can also use this as an opportunity to inquire about affordable SEO packages — how each package differs from the other, how much they cost, and other areas of clarification. Having a list of questions that were compiled prior to the meeting is advisable so that no stone is left uncovered.
The main objective of the meetings is to determine amongst the potential providers which one can deliver solutions that best suit the overall needs of a business.
Red flags to watch out for when looking at SEO agencies
Not everyone in search of an SEO service is aware of the warning signs that may show up during the vetting process. Failure to spot these red flags could result in an individual or business being saddled with a horrible contract or an unreliable agency. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:
- An SEO firm that over promises and makes bold claims. Remember that SEO is not a quick and easy process. Making specific claims like guaranteeing a page one ranking in x days should make any person suspicious.
- Experts should be able to explain their methods and show past work. Inability to discuss how certain results were achieved shows they are either lying about their accomplishments, or they are using black hat methods.
- The firm outright discusses the black hat SEO techniques they will be implementing to take business from page five to page one in little to no time. Watch out for an SEO expert who talks about buying links, using negative SEO tactics on the competition, keyword stuffing, etc.
- Inability to provide SEO strategies that tie with the goals of the business. Vendors who are just eager to implement methods to increase organic traffic, boost search engine ranking, produce high click-through rates, etc., are just running through the motions. They need to be able to discuss how they plan to get the business to reach its objectives.
Ready to Pick an SEO Package?
Optimizing a website goes beyond driving a lot of traffic to it. It’s also not as simple as adding as many target keywords as possible into every nook and cranny of the site. Correct campaigns can improve the overall performance of a company’s marketing and even sales techniques. It helps individuals understand why their current strategies aren’t working and what elements of the site require an overhaul. When properly implemented by an experienced digital marketer, these SEO strategies become beneficial to a business for years to come.