How to Hire an SEO Agency: What to Run From!

When you’re vetting SEO companies, the first thing to look out for is to NEVER go with the company that promises you that they’ll get you to the top of page 1 on Google.

When you set out to market your business online, you’ll find that SEO is an important piece of that process. SEO (search engine optimization) uses a variety of techniques to increase your website’s visibility online and improves the quality and quantity of its traffic.

There’s good reason to invest time and money into SEO as a small to medium-sized business.

Your potential customers are already using search engines like Google to decide where they want to put their dollars. Every month, there are 40 - 60 million search queries happening on Google alone.

Roughly 79% of consumers complete a relevant search on their phones before making a purchase. You want to put yourself in the ring to attract these potential customers while they’re completing their search.

With roughly 53.3% of all website traffic streaming in from organic search, it’s vital to optimize your website to be more user and search-engine-friendly. 

Many companies will opt to hire an SEO company or consultant since it takes so much time and effort to rank a website. If you’re currently on the hunt for a partner in conquering the SERP, be sure to have a discerning eye!

Not all SEO practitioners are created equally! Or care about your business equally.

How Do I Choose an SEO Company?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of SEO companies out there that will gladly take your money only to leave you with little to no results to show for it. This is why it’s vital to weed out the not-so-reliable contenders early on.

We’ve had many horror stories come through our doors. Some clients of ours talk about how they paid someone thousands of dollars to “optimize” their website for search engine performance, but they never saw anything come from it.

Many other clients talk about how they were doing really well for a moment and then plummeted in the rankings.

We’ve heard it all, seen it all, and have cleaned up more messes than we’d prefer. It’s very clear to us that SEO is just one of those strategies that have left many business owners with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s truly tragic that trust is put out to these SEO agencies that only care to make a profit. They don’t put in the time, effort, and energy it takes to make a successful SEO campaign, which is heartbreaking since SEO is such a valuable online marketing strategy.

For this reason, we thought it would be best to create a guide for you in order to find the right SEO agency. Follow these guidelines to put your best foot forward on your hunt for the perfect SEO partner.

Read Up on SEO 

Before you even start to look at options for SEO companies or consultants do a little research on what SEO is all about. So many business owners hear about SEO, think they know what it is, and then get upset when results aren’t instantaneous. In case you were wondering, this isn’t how SEO works nor will it ever be.

Arming yourself with foundational knowledge around the subject will give you more insight into whether a company is worth your time or not. You don’t have to get too in the weeds here. Simply do some research on the basics so you will be familiar with common terms used when discussing SEO.

There are tons of resources out there for business owners to learn more about SEO. We recommend starting with Moz’s SEO Learning Center. Here you’ll learn important basics so you can better understand a company’s methods and set realistic expectations.

You can also review our resources on our blog to get started:

What is Local SEO?

What is Google Business Profile?

Black Hat SEO Tactics to be Aware of

Google Search vs Google Maps

The Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Link Building

Should My Small Business Focus on Ads or SEO?

How to Appear on Google Maps

What Are Google Business Profile Posts?

How to Manage Negative Reviews on GBP

Nail Down Your Goals

Now that you have a base of knowledge to jump from, start to flesh out your SEO goals. Do you want to get into the Map Pack? Or maybe you want to work on link building?

Get a basic idea of what you want out of your SEO experience so you can sift through company options with a more refined filter. Try to get specific. Yes, you want more traffic, but why? Are you looking to drive sales or are you more interested in building greater brand recognition? These are the things you should be thinking about before you start looking for an SEO company to work with. 

Know What to Look for in an SEO Company 

With a list of goals in order, you’re almost ready to hunt for an SEO company. But before you start digging through the stacks to find the best options, you’ll need to know what you should be looking for. As you sort through possibilities, keep these markers of a quality SEO operation in mind. 

Trust. As you talk with different SEO teams, get a sense of how trustworthy they seem. You can do this through conversations with the company and with people who have worked with the company. Online reviews are incredibly helpful so long as they are legitimate. Some companies pay to have reviews placed on their online profiles.

Quality referrals. A high-quality SEO company will be more than willing to connect you with former or current clients. If they don’t have any referrals to offer this could be a red flag. More on other potentially bad indicators later. 

Good leadership. Does the company have a competent CEO and supervisors? The leadership of a company will trickle down to the employees and color the quality of their work. Try to get a sense of how the leaders set the tone for their business so you can understand how well they will handle your SEO ambitions. If the CEO isn’t an SEO, this could be a problem. Lots of people will own a business without real knowledge of what they're truly selling, only because they think they can turn a profit.

Pricing and contract structure. It’s important to know the ins and outs of how you will pay an SEO company and what your contract with them will look like. Are they paid by the hour? How thorough is their work compared to the pricing rate? Are they paid monthly? Are you paying for a set number of keywords to rank? (Don’t pay directly for the number of keywords ranking, this won’t prove fruitful.)

Communication compatibility. Having an open line of communication is everything when you team up with an SEO company. If you can’t seem to get your vision through to them and they can’t explain their processes well to you, there might be an issue with communication compatibility that you will want to keep in mind when making your final decision.

What type of SEO do they specialize in? Lots of SEO companies say that they can do it all, but what do they specialize in? For instance, Beyond Blue Media does SEO for e-Commerce clients as well as local businesses, but we specialize in Local SEO campaigns. The SEO company you choose will do its best work in its specialty.

Pick Companies to Vet 

When you’re ready to start looking for an SEO, you’ll need to use a fine-tooth comb to weed out low-quality or incompatible companies. One way you can start to narrow down your options is to look at reviews. Look for positive reviews from trustworthy, reputable businesses and individuals. You can often find client testimonials on a digital marketing company’s website. Google reviews are also a good place to gauge public perception of a given company. 

Once you identify a handful of companies that seem to have a good reputation, you can start to narrow down your options even further. Try to whittle down your options to about 3 - 5 companies. At this point, reach out to these companies for an initial conversation on how they do business. And never be afraid to ask for a small audit on your website. Some companies request a fee, but others won’t.

Questions to Ask 

Not sure what to ask during these initial conversations? We’ve got you covered! Here are some need-to-know questions you should bring up when vetting SEO companies: 

  • These are my goals. Can your company help me achieve this?
  • What is your process and why do you use these processes? 
  • Do you work with businesses at various stages in their growth? 
  • What work will you need to do on my site?
  • Will you need to create new pages on my website?
  • Will you need to update my website on a new platform for better performance?
  • How will you report my SEO progress to me?
  • What is the procedure when goals aren’t met?
  • Are you keeping up with new SEO updates?
  • Are you part of any SEO forums and in communication with other SEO professionals in the industry?
  • Are you currently serving a competitor of mine in my area?
  • Are you familiar with my industry? If so, how much knowledge do you have and what will you need from me?

Red Flags to Run From

There are just as many negative qualities to look for while sifting through SEO companies as there are positive ones. As we said earlier, not all SEO “experts” are equal. The quality of their work will be the defining factor of whether your campaign will be successful or not. Be aware of these red flags you should sprint away from while vetting SEO companies. 

Bad SEO practices. Be sure to read up on black hat SEO tactics before you start talking with SEO companies. If you notice that they mention any of these practices or they start to venture into gray hat territory, you should take your search elsewhere.    

Over-embellished results. Be wary of companies that overstate their results or celebrate “vanity metrics'' from previous work. If they point to meaningless keywords they ranked for or page views with no evidence of conversions, this might mean there’s a disconnect between their base of knowledge and what it takes to pull off a truly successful SEO campaign. 

Only shows you improved branded traffic. Ranking for a business name is not a sign of a successful SEO campaign. If this is an example they show you, they might not have actual experience with improving SEO in a meaningful way. You want to see keywords ranking that real people are actually using. Nothing that includes the business name should be presented to you unless there is heavy competition trying to rank for the business name.

Directory backlinks. There’s nothing wrong with listing your site on reputable online directories. But if a company points to these “backlinks” as evidence of their work, you might want to opt not to work with them. Link building is a tactic that requires a lot of networking. A link-building campaign isn’t built on Yelp.

Cookie-cutter approach. If a company offers you an undifferentiated, basic SEO plan, they’re not worth your time. You should approach your SEO through the lens of your industry and services. Companies that slap on a one-size-fits-all “package” won’t do you much good. 

“Secret” process. A company should always be transparent about its SEO processes with its clients. If the individuals you’re vetting claim that they can’t disclose their “proprietary methods” this is a massive red flag. 

They offer a guaranteed result. There are no promises in SEO. Reaching goals can often be a moving target and it can be difficult to say with 100% certainty what your SEO campaign will result in. If a company guarantees you a given result, it might not be the SEO practitioner you want in your corner.

Consider Working With BBM  

SEO is a long, hard march toward your online marketing goals, but it’s much harder doing it on your own. Choose a company that will be a trustworthy ally through that journey. Beyond Blue Media is ready to be your steadfast partner in all things SEO. Our team is dedicated to crafting a customized plan of action to get that ball moving toward your SEO aspirations.

We would be honored to get to work with you and your unique business. Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help launch you to new heights!


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