When you consider that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the most cost-effective form of marketing today, it’s not a question of whether you need it or not but a question of who can deliver quality results. Thousands of digital marketing companies that claim they are the best SEO company for small business will compete for your signature on the dotted line but it doesn’t mean that their promises will come true and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll get a quality return on your investment. To avoid the pitfalls of potentially hiring a company that not only can’t deliver on results but might harm your online presence, you have to put a strong emphasis on research and background checks into each company to see your company grow in the online space.
Picture your hand as a fist. To open it up and eventually shake hands with your new SEO company, utilize these 5 tips that will help you truly hire the best SEO company for your small business.
1. Are you sure you need to hire an SEO company or can you do the work in house?
SEO work is not a one time purchase. It takes effort month over month and if you’re a small business, it may be a challenge to dedicate a marketing budget to completing this work on a monthly basis. Before you even begin to put work into researching companies, ask yourself, “Is this something we can do on our own?” If you’ve never stepped foot into the online world to promote your business it is likely that the answer would be a resounding “no”.
Also ask yourself how you’re currently promoting your business. While most companies would say they can always take on more business, that’s not the case with everyone. When there is a considerable time investment associated with search engine optimization, it may be more fruitful to look at your current marketing strategies like email, direct mail, social media, trade shows or other more traditional methods and place whatever available time you have left into those channels. Remember, SEO is not quick and it’s rarely easy but most of all, it takes a massive amount of effort. If the budget is tight and you don’t have a lot of extra time laying around, it may make sense to stick to the marketing you know until you’re ready to invest more time and money into learning SEO in house or looking for a company to do it for you.
2. Once you’ve decided on a company, do a deep dive of their services.
The internet (and likely your email inbox) is flooded with people offering to provide SEO services for your small business but if you pay any attention, these offers can range from work that only costs a couple hundred dollars as a one time fee all the way up to companies whose prices start in the five figures per month. Needless to say, there is very little middle ground when it comes to buying SEO services. Once you’ve identified your budget, it’s time to do a deep dive of the services provided by agencies.
Some companies will freely advertise their packages in great detail, giving a list of all their deliverables, what months they plan on executing them and how much each task may cost in contributing to the total. This may seem like extreme transparency but it can often be a red flag. Companies who post their prices with every single deliverable often offer cookie cutter services and don’t actually treat your company with individualism and care that you’ll need to be truly great at marketing in Google, Yahoo and Bing. While it’s not always the case, companies that put their pricing out in the open agree to a “one-size-fits-all” model and support their business by short term contracts after people’s opinion is soured.
You’ll also see companies that do a “Starting At” price or no pricing at all. These agencies shouldn’t be eliminated by this condition alone. Agencies who don’t post their pricing may do so for a variety of reasons like:
- Other agencies who do similar or poorer work will undercut these prices
- The agency doesn’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” model
- The agency may be highly selective with who they decide to work with
SEO is its own world in a lot of ways. When you’re shopping for a product, you want to see the price clearly marked with a description and reviews if possible. For SEO, if the website shows everything, that’s not a bad thing, but it is a cause for you to look further and make sure you feel that the company themselves is as transparent with you on the phone and in email as they are on the website.
3. Once you’ve looked at the services look at what their clients say on their site.
SEO companies that serve small businesses will make a lot of grand claims and many will offer you the moon and the stars when it comes to what they can do for your business. A lot of companies do this because search engine optimization is so foreign to many. Once you’ve identified a few companies who you think might fit your budget, it’s time to see what their clients say.
While on their website, the agency should have case studies and testimonials clearly displayed. Case studies should clearly mark who the client is, what industry they are in, what the biggest challenge was, what strategy the agency utilized to meet that challenge and the results of their work. Keep in mind, these case studies and testimonials are going to be the best of the bunch, as they’ll be handpicked by the agency to make them look good.
To take it a step farther, contact the agency either online or by phone and ask for a reference list and, if possible, a reference list of clients in similar industries so you can hear directly from the clients what they think of the agency and if they’ve received a reasonable return on their investment.
4. Check reviews off of the website
Since the SEO company’s website will be picking and choosing the reviews they post on the site, it’s important to check the reviews done for the company off the site of well. Checking Google Reviews, Yelp and Clutch are fantastic places to get started. Just search by the company name and see honest reviews.
5. Get to know the individuals who will make it work.
The truth is when you’re looking for the best SEO company for your small business, you don’t necessarily need the biggest SEO firm out there. You can get quality SEO for reasonable prices and you don’t need to be paying $10,000+/month to see results. But you will need a group of experts who can provide the services they promise.
One quick way is to check out the “About Us” or “Team” page on the SEO company’s website. Not every company will have actual team members names on the site but if they do, it’s an easy way for you to get even more info on the individuals you may be working with.
Treat hiring an agency like you would hiring a new employee. It’s a great idea to look at each team member’s individual LinkedIn page and it certainly doesn’t hurt to Google their names as well. This will allow you to identify how long they’ve been working in the industry and if they have any individual references on their own to confirm them as an expert in the field.
By following the above steps you’ve already identified whether the agency can get results through case studies, asking references and through testimonials. Now check individuals at the company to make sure they have a good online presence of their own and have sufficient experience doing the work.
When it comes to hiring the best SEO company for small businesses it’s really just one big background check. Agencies should be transparent on their website and in conversation with you. They should have a technical knowledge that is compliant with Google, Yahoo and Bing best practices. And they should have a fantastic reputation serving their clients.
It’s not all about which agency is the biggest or which agency is the cheapest. It’s about which agency has the capability to deliver and care about the improvement of your company.