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6 Tips for Choosing an SEO Company

January 2004

Signs of Scams

First we will start off with the low hanging fruit. I do not recommend anything in the Black Hat SEO directory...its bad stuff!

Anyone who guarantees a ranking prior to seeing your site is probably either overcharging or selling something not worth owning.

Anyone who is only changing meta tags is scamming you.

Anyone who is creating doorway pages which are held on another server may later leverage this traffic to obtain more money from you, you should usually want the SEO changes that you are paying for to occur on your site..

Signs of Quality

Good SEOs should have some defining characteristic that catches your eyes. In some way you should see that the person is legitimate not only from their site, but from the sites of others.

Certainly some of the largest SEO experts have reputations that do not require them to do much self promotion, but their names should still come up every once in a while.

Good spots to find possible SEOs would be

  • in SEO forums
  • in articles on sites such as Clikz, ISEDB, SearchGuild, SearchDay
  • ones recommended by friends
  • ones recommended by other websites which appear to be honest links

I feel that anyone I was about to work with should be willing to teach me something free. If you find no useful information on their website and they do not actively participate in SEO forums you should ask yourself "Why should I choose this person over someone who overtly displays knowledge?"

The Value of an SEO

Different people have different goals and different values. Thinking from a logical perspective you must realize the lowest price SEO is not the cheapest.

The best SEOs probably do much more than SEO. Either through personal knowledge or social networking an SEO worth their price should be able to advise you on other aspects of your site.

An SEO who only knows SEO and has no social network built up is probably not a very good SEO.

Signing an SEO contract

The reputation of an SEO is just about all they have. A good SEO will most likely have at least a few great testimonials and sound like they know what they are talking about.

Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms. Many top SEO professionals will not sign contracts. When you are buying an SEO you are paying for their knowledge, effort, and guidance. Generally speaking, if you hire a good one then you should see great results.

Some companies who would not even give me access to their servers wanted me to sign a contract for a $300 agreement. I am enjoying decent rankings today, and I probably do not need to tell you that I never worked for them. If you find yourself trying to do something similar you will eventually find a bad SEO, but it's rather uncommon for a good SEO to sign a contract for a one time $300 fee.

A Good Price to Pay for an SEO

The single most important determining element in the price for SEO is the marketplace in which you compete. I could work on a Prozac website, but it is extremely competitive. I could work on a diamond website, but it is extremely competitive. I could work on a casino site, but it is extremely competitive. These categories should cost you thousands and thousands of dollars and a regular upkeep fee.

Most websites do not compete in such a competitive environment as the above listed sites. For a simple local sandwich shop a price starting around $1000 could sound reasonable. If you are in a high margin or competitive arena then you can expect to pay more. Extremely competitive markets will most likely require an ongoing fee.

There is a broad spectrum of opportunities on the web, and a good SEO gets to see many of them. Most SEO's worth hiring will typically want to see your site before they quote you a price.

While price is not a function of quality, being exceptionally cheap when buying an SEO is bad for a couple reasons.

  • If you are spending way less than a thousand dollars you are limiting the SEO in how much they can do. If you pay me more then I am not worried about how I am going to eat...I can focus on your site.
  • If you are spending way less than a thousand dollars you greatly increase your chances of finding a person who is willing to take your money for doing nothing.
  • A good SEO can build websites around his hobbies which have ads such as Google AdWords on them. He also can promote lead generation and the sales of any product or services under the sun. If you are not willing to pay much, most likely the best SEO's would be better off building their own sites. I read about a half dozen books a month, and am teaching myself about many of my various hobbies.
  • If you know you want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on SEO then you may want to consult MarketingSherpa's Buyers Guide to SEO.

The Self Serve SEO Option

I tried to put a decent amount of information in my "Self Serve SEO" section of this website to help people learn. In addition SEO forums are an excellent spot to find free help.

As search engine algorithms advance it will be harder to succeed with SEO alone. Whether you call it branding, usability, or a unique value proposition, you should look for ways beyond SEO which add value to your site.

I also offer phone consultation for anyone who wants to perform their own SEO, but just needs a few tips to help send them in the right direction. Frequently I am rather busy, but I can also help point you in the right direction if you can't find an SEO.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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