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What to Look for in an SEO Company

Posted on May 7, 2014

Search engine optimization isn’t the most important link in your marketing chain, but it’s a crucial step to plan into your efforts towards a more productive web presence. The best time to research for and hire an SEO company is when you’re contemplating an entire redo on your site or creating a brand new one. This way the SEO folks can be in on your marketing strategies from the onset and tailor their plan to your specific needs since many SEO considerations transcend the tasks a business owner or key decision maker may consider when they think of “SEO.”

A good SEO company needs to have many talents on tap to be capable of doing a complete job in a timely manner.  You will quickly find that some of the best candidates jockeying for your business have people on staff or under contract to do much more than provide advice and services pertaining to “Google rankings.” SEO in my mind is a combination of science and art. Creativity, meet checklist. Checklist, meet creativity.

Realizing I’m at risk of sounding a lot like a lawyer right now I have to challenge you to ask yourself an important question when seeking SEO services: What’s your definition of “SEO?” A better question may be “What are the goals for your company’s website or overall web presence?”
If your goals are to “rank” or “be number one” I think you’ll automatically gravitate towards some of the more unscrupulous outfits claiming SEO expertise, so here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the items I think of when considering the offerings of a person or company offering search engine optimization as a service.

Site Analysis

An SEO company needs to know what’s going on inside your site to figure out how to deal with it. They’ll need to check on the site’s design, incoming links, the navigation and coding, as well as the content itself. The company will also need to make a thorough study of your competition, to find out what’s currently working in your industry and make recommendations to improve your site’s traffic. Some of the more experienced SEO companies will tell you “ranking” for certain keywords should never be your primary goal since no one can control that except Google and the other big engines like Yahoo & Bing. A good SEO company will help you reset your expectations and goals with a consultative process that keeps your business interests at heart.

Keyword Research

Does the company have a set plan for how they conduct keyword research? Researching keywords and keyword phrases is a process, and your SEO company needs to have someone on hand who’s proficient & experienced at uncovering keywords that can attract search volume yet are within reach. They also need to have detailed knowledge of the relative importance between keywords and your site’s written content, and details about the most current information on the accepted best practices. Ask your potential bidders what their keyword research process includes, what type of training or certifications they have and which tools they utilize to compile & uncover this information. I’d even encourage a business owner to do some additional diligence and ask about which (if any) industry seminars, workshops, or conferences they may have attended or participated in. A major part of keyword research is consulting with the client and helping to shape their expectations and work together to set goals to target keyword targets that are attainable and likely to produce results.

Link Strategy

What is the SEO company’s link strategy? Do they even have one? What recommendations are they providing for ongoing efforts to keep fresh relevant content and gain publicity online? Some companies optimize a site and hope for the best, with no concept of how best to get incoming relevant links to promote your site. Your rank will rise on Google according to many factors, but one of the more important ones is how many legitimate incoming and relevant links you have. Be wary of companies who’s link strategy consists of article marketing, guest posting strategies, blog commenting strategies, or social bookmarking. A good link strategy revolves around high production value content relevant to your audience and useful to your customer’s persona. The best links come as a result of authority content that is so darn good it’s easier to just link to it instead of re-creating it.


Apply all the SEO strategy you want, but if your site doesn’t have stellar content you won’t even get it off the ground. The old saying about content being king is truer than ever, because of the new ways that Google crawls through sites and judges them. Articles and blog posts have to be logical and include keywords only in a certain percentage of the paragraphs. The primary goal of content should be to provide value to your audience and position your company or organization as an authoritative expert on the subject matter. The words must fit in naturally with the content, not just stuffed in as an afterthought to reach “keyword goals.”

A proper SEO content writer will write link-baiting titles to catch potential readers’ eyes, include articles broken into bite-sized chunks that are set off with headlines, and include keywords without readers even noticing they’re there. They’ll know how to write meta tags, solid and enticing post excerpts for use in meta-descriptions and your blogroll, and how to include them in the site page. The SEO company’s ability to learn to speak your industry’s language is important and they’ll need a good working knowledge of your subject matter so they can write about it intelligently and not rely solely on research to get the job done.


The technical considerations and expertise a good SEO company should be able to deliver are an important part of the selection process. However, there a few more basic items that are a good thing to include in any business decision and you may want to explore with your candidates such as: types of training and certifications, participation in industry seminars/conferences/workshops, references, client testimonials, company history, and most importantly case studies. When selecting an SEO company don’t stop at hearing the silver-tongued salesman’s pitch. Diligently consider your options. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and the hucksters and snake oil salesmen will likely self-identify saving you the trouble of making a regrettable decision. The damage that bad or inexperienced SEO companies can cause might be irreversible so choose your SEO company as if you are choosing a business partner: carefully and with diligence.

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