If you are looking for the best SEO company to optimize your website, let me caution you, be watchful of the traps laid ahead for you.
Don’t get carried away with promises of top rankings in weeks or within days. These agencies might be confidence tricksters waiting to pounce and rip your pockets apart for nothing.
All that said, SEO is still crucial if you want to drive organic traffic, leads, and sales to your website.
I can confidently tell that there isn’t a better strategy out there for long-term results, at least now.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or whether you have a small, medium, or large business; SEO helps you promote your business effectively.
If you’re a business owner, then there are chances that you may already know about the basic SEO principles, like keyword research, link building, and others.
Also, you might be doing SEO for your company without any professional help. Nothing is stopping you from doing so, but there comes a time when you need a professional SEO company to streamline the process.
That’s because once you see the initial traction to your website after doing the basic SEO, you need an expert to leverage it to the next level.
If you don’t do that, the organic growth of your website can stagnate.
That’s when the competitors accelerate and go ahead of you, literally stealing your leads and customers.
I know nobody wants to go through that.
But what if I told you there is another threat that’s far worse than this.
Think of an agency you hired for the jaw-dropping recurring payment, doing things that break your website.
I know that will hurt you from the core, but my decade’s experience can tell you such instances are not isolated.
How can you find an SEO agency that you can trust? What are the characteristics of such agencies, and how can you evade such leeches before they even get access to your card details. So that’s what we are going to discuss in the checklist below.
So, let’s begin with the litmus test to identify genuine SEO agencies that can move the needle for your business.
1. Good SEO Companies Come With Great Experience
The first thing you need to check before hiring an SEO company is their experience in providing SEO services.
Most SEO service providers claim that they are experts in the field, but do they have the experience to back these claims?
This is something that you need to check before even committing for a call.
In 2012, Google launched the Penguin update that targets SEO companies who use black hat techniques. But that hasn’t stopped at least a few from continuing to do the blackout job.
This is why you need to make sure that the company you choose knows about what’s working in SEO today and not some antediluvian link building strategy that can ruin your website’s ranking forever.
An SEO agency’s job profile goes beyond setting up a company and providing the basic SEO services.
It’s about helping clients implement strategies that can pass the test of time.
It’s also about helping the website navigate through search engine algorithm updates, and tough competitors.
Only an experienced agency will be able to guide you all the way to the finishing line where you see all the goals achieved.
Stan Ventures has been in the industry for 13 years and we have seen Panda and Penguin up close.
That means, we have had first hand experience of two of the worst near-extinction events but we survived like the Arthropods. This is the reason why we have clients latching on to us for years even after achieving their goals.
They believe we can help them sustain it.
2. Best SEO Companies Provide Services and Results that Delight their Clients
It is easy for an SEO company to talk about what they can do for your website, regarding SEO. However, it is very different when you ask them about what they have done for their other clients.
Remember, a good SEO company provides you with case studies and portfolios about their work. Some may also provide you with a list of all their clients and the services that were provided. This will give you a general idea about the efficiency of SEO marketing companies.
While you cannot expect an search engine optimization firms to be successful in all their projects, you need to make sure that there is a decent number of projects completed by the SEO company.
Also, you can directly get in touch with the clients of the company and inquire about the efficiency of the provider in achieving its SEO goals.
Remember, do not trust everything that SEO companies claim, check for their authenticity and references for their claims. This ensures that you get a good SEO service provider for your needs.
3. High Level of Understanding is a Typical Trait of a Good SEO Company
If you think SEO is all about getting your website to rank higher or getting a boost in the online traffic, think again.
SEO has a broad scope that contains various things, like getting traffic, search engine ranking, brand promotions, and also boosting your business conversions through a good campaign. This is why, while choosing an SEO company, you need to test their level of understanding.
While most SEO service agencies that you come across may claim to provide all types of SEO services, it’s essential that you know what to expect from them.
There are various aspects to an SEO campaign, like on-page SEO optimization, off-page SEO optimization, and some technical aspects too.
The on-page SEO factors include SEO measures done within the website, like meta tags, HTML, hyperlinks, internal links, and various other things. Off-page SEO factors involve creating quality backlinks, link-building, and others.
You need to make sure that the so-called best SEO company you’re hiring, for your SEO needs, knows everything about your on-page and off-page SEO needs. This will help you find the right SEO services provider and achieve your SEO goals.
4. Make sure the SEO company has a proper plan that meets your expectations
Hiring an SEO service provider, or SEO expert, for your business needs doesn’t always assure you of successful results.
It is tough to determine if an SEO plan will be successful by the looks of it. However, you need to know about the plan that the SEO expert or provider will offer you.
The first thing you need to do before latching onto any SEO provider is to make your goals and objectives clear.
Once you relay your needs and objectives, the potential SEO service providers, or experts, should lay down a plan that will help you reach your targets.
If someone tells you that, “We can assure you increased traffic in 5-6 months”, that’s not enough. You need to have a metric, like 10-12% increase in traffic every month. This is the best way to expect any plan from any SEO expert.
5. Good SEO Companies Adhere to SEO Best Practices
No matter how skilled an SEO expert is if he doesn’t follow the guidelines that are laid down by search engines, your website is more than likely to go on a downward spiral.
While it’s true that the SEO experts have no control over new guidelines and updates of the search engines, they need to be proactive enough to anticipate and adapt to changes in the guidelines.
Remember, never get lured in by SEO companies that assure you easy and fast traffic. There are chances that they might be using a blackhat SEO technique to get quick traffic.
This will eventually lead to your site getting penalized by search engines. Be careful, make sure that the SEO expert you hire adheres to the guidelines instead of taking shortcuts.
6. Top SEO Companies Send Consistent reports
Before you hire an SEO company, you must ensure that you get consistent SEO reports of the progress and success of the campaigns.
Remember, a good SEO company will always send you a professional white label SEO report containing all the details regularly.
There may be a time when you may come across SEO companies that only provide you with reports of the website’s performance when you ask for it.
We recommend that you don’t choose them; instead, you can go for an SEO company that assures you consistent and regular reports that contain all the values regarding the campaign and metrics of the SEO strategy.
Also, communication is crucial while choosing an SEO company. You need to make sure that the SEO company has SEO experts who can communicate appropriately and makes you understand the SEO plan in detail.
Remember, if the SEO company cannot assure to provide you regular reports then you can try out the other options that you have.
7. Questions to Ask Before Choosing the Right SEO Partner
So, how do you know someone is the exact SEO partner you need?
Ask the following 15 questions to see fit.
Let’s delve in.
1. What SEO services do you offer?
SEO has multiple facets, including link building, blogger outreach, guest posting, content writing & marketing and more. Not all SEO companies offer all these services.
For instance, if you need link building services, there is no point in opting for an agency offering content writing & marketing services. So, check if the company offers specific SEO services that your business needs.
If you think your SEO needs will vary from time to time, it is best to look for an agency that offers all services under one roof. This way, you can save the trouble of hiring a different service provider for a new SEO requirement.
2. How long have you been in the SEO industry?
Scammers in the SEO space are not likely to have a robust presence or a consistent business history.
Ask your SEO partner how long they are in business and do a background check to confirm the same.
Also, make it a point to choose an SEO agency backed by proven expertise and experience instead of random startups with very minimal to no experience.
Established SEO agencies are likely to have worked with businesses like yours. So, they will be able to address your challenges in terms of SEO effectively and arrive at a solution at the earliest. You cannot expect the same of budding SEO agencies.
3. Can you share your clientele and how you drove results for them?
The previous clients of an agency and their reviews can tell you a lot about them.
A good SEO company will be glad to let you know who they have worked with and how they helped them achieve desired results. They know that’s how they can win your confidence.
You need not check the entire clientele. Just two or three big brands and how they reaped benefits using the services of the agency are a good sign.
On the other hand, if an SEO agency can’t show anything profound, consider they have failed to fetch results for reputed brands or haven’t worked with them at all.
4. How will you improve my SEO ranking?
Well, no SEO agency will be able to give a definitive answer to that question without knowing what the exact problem with your website is.
However, this query will give you transparency into their process.
A good SEO company runs a technical SEO audit in the first place to identify the root cause of why the client’s site is not ranking low on SERPs or not ranking at all. Once they find out where the site is lagging, they will devise an SEO strategy (often focused on link building or keywords) to help rank the site higher on search.
Alert: If link building is what your site needs, make sure the SEO agency builds high-quality links from authoritative sites. Low-quality links can hurt your website’s SEO.
If your SEO partner’s answer is weaved around this context, you may count on them. On the contrary, if they don’t give you a convincing response, it’s a red flag.
5. Can you guarantee #1 Google ranking for my site?
That’s the best way to identify (and stay away from) SEOs who are blatantly sales-focused.
Google keeps updating its algorithms to ensure a better user experience. While it is possible for SEO agencies to keep track of these algorithm changes and optimize websites accordingly, no one can claim they know the Google algorithms from top to bottom. That’s exactly why SEO is something you can’t do overnight.
That said, no SEO agency can guarantee that they will rank your site #1 on Google for a particular search term, especially within a specified timeframe. The best they can do is use their field knowledge and experience to devise and execute SEO strategies that help your website rank at the top of Google.
So, if someone guarantees #1 Google ranking for your site, they are probably just eyeing sales opportunities.
6. How updated are you with algorithm changes?
As said, Google (and other search engines) update their algorithms from time to time. Sticking to outdated algorithms will never improve your site. The chances are, they will impact your website’s SEO negatively.
Your SEO partner should be up-to-date with algorithm changes so that they craft the SEO strategies for your site around the same. Before you hire an SEO agency, ensure that they optimize websites in alignment with the newest algorithm changes.
Remember that this means a lot for your website’s health and your business.
7. How will you keep me posted about the changes you make to my site?
When you hire an SEO agency, giving them access to your site is one of the first things you do.
A genuine SEO company keeps you informed about the changes they make to your site in order to optimize it for search engines. They send you weekly or monthly reports. You can also get consolidated reports from them on request.
If an agency claims that they track changes internally and refuse to give you transparency into what they do to your site, that’s not a good sign.
What if they simply stop responding to your queries or damage your site while handling it without your knowledge? Never hire such an agency.
8. How often will you send reports and what will they contain?
Most people prefer an SEO partner who sends you reports at regular intervals to those who don’t.
It’s pretty good if they provide you with month-end reports. You can ask them to provide you with bi-weekly or weekly reports as per your preference, though. A company that wants to keep its clients posted will never hesitate to report as frequently as they want.
A comprehensive report should contain the following information.
Activities: The number of links built, the number of active outreach campaigns content created, and other specific details.
Web Traffic: The web traffic status, the percentage of increase/decrease in traffic compared to previous months.
Rankings: Seach engine ranking status for keywords targeted.
Conversions: The number of website visitors moved down into various stages of the sales funnel.
9. How do you measure SEO success?
While the increase in web traffic, social engagement, and search engine ranking are all a green signal, the real success of SEO campaigns is measured based on the conversions they bring.
It is only when your visitors become your customers you can generate more revenue and that’s the main goal of any business. In short, business is money. So, at the end of the day, it is the increase in ROI that really matters.
SEO agencies that measure success in ways other than this one are not worth your time and money. Take them off your list with no second thought.
10. Do you use black hat SEO techniques?
You want to get a big NO for that question.
Black hat techniques refer to practices that go against Google Webmaster Guidelines. These techniques may boost your website’s ranking temporarily by tricking search engine algorithms.
Google hates being tricked for increased web traffic or higher rankings. So, once the search engine giant finds out that you have leveraged unfair practices for SEO benefits, it will penalize your site and bury it deep down in search engine results pages.
In the worst-case scenario, it may even shut out your site from its search results so your potential customers won’t find you online.
That’s a nightmare, right?
Never encourage black hat SEO practices on your site.
11. Have you fixed penalized sites?
It isn’t uncommon for websites to face a search engine penalty. While it may be intentional or unintentional, the reason behind the hype is that it is tough (but not impossible) to recover from a penalty.
Search engine penalties are a result of Google’s webmaster guidelines violation. It is of two types; algorithmic penalty and manual action.
Algorithmic penalties often happen when there is a new algorithm update. Sites that don’t meet the parameters of the new algorithm changes succumb to this type of penalty.
Manual actions happen when the Google webspam team manually detects that a site is violating Google’s webmaster guidelines and signals it to be delisted.
So, what if a penalty dawns upon your website?
That’s why you need to check if your SEO partner has significant experience in fixing penalized sites. They should be capable enough to get your site out of a penalty if the situation demands.
12. Do you outsource SEO projects?
Some SEO agencies take up more projects than they can actually handle. When they cannot get things done with their in-house teams, they simply outsource projects to freelancers and other third parties.
That’s a huge compromise, especially in terms of quality.
And the outcome?
The end result will be affected.
So, don’t rely on agencies that outsource projects. Instead, opt for a company that is equipped with resources to handle your SEO project on its own.
13. What is your pricing structure?
Different SEO agencies offer different pricing models. Besides, the pricing also depends on the SEO services you require.
For example, if person A wants only link building services while person B needs content writing and blogger outreach services, the pricing will differ from one person to the other.
Differences apart, most SEO agencies charge project-based payments. Some companies offer hourly pricing models as well.
Whatever pricing model you prefer, make sure you don’t bear hidden charges and that the pricing falls within your SEO budget. Choose an agency that offers 100% transparency when it comes to pricing.
14. How do I contact you?
Given the nature of SEO, it will not be necessary for you and the team to get in touch with each other more than a few times every month. Ensure they are available on multiple channels, including email, live chat, voice call, and more.
However, in case of an unforeseen emergency like a sudden drop in your website’s search traffic or ranking, your SEO partner should be available to troubleshoot and fix things for you at the earliest.
That said, it is an extra perk if you could hire an SEO agency that has teams working in multiple time zones. This way, you can get technical assistance as and when needed.
15. What if I am unsatisfied?
For every SEO agency, there comes a time when one of the clients goes unsatisfied with their work. This isn’t something uncommon.
However, what if you are one of them?
Get to know what your SEO partner does for their unsatisfied clients.
Good SEO companies look into their client’s concerns to figure out which part of their service failed to satisfy them. Once they understand what’s gone wrong, they put in sincere efforts to bring back the smile on their client’s face.
Some agencies go a step ahead by drafting dedicated policies, including a money-back guarantee for unsatisfied clients. Such companies consider client satisfaction second to nothing. If you find such an SEO company, that’s your go-to place.
Hiring an SEO company is a significant investment that you need to be very careful about. As a business owner, you need to be wary of the risks that are associated by not choosing the right service for your SEO needs.
So, abide by the checklist mentioned above and check if your prospective SEO service provider, or expert, can provide you with the necessary points that you will specifically need.