10 tips for hiring an SEO company
Ian Lurie Dec 8 2011
Every day, I talk to potential clients. Smart people. Most of them, though, have no idea how to hire an SEO agency.
So they ask standard questions, like:
- Have you ever worked in the guppy sales industry before?
- How big is your company?
- How much will you charge me?
A nice start. But it’s not going to help you make a good decision. If I’m honest, I’ll tell you no, I’ve never sold rubber grommets online before. So you’ll hire the guy who lies.
Instead, print these 10 tips and put ‘em next to the phone throughout your search process:
- Ask: “Tell me your SEO process in less than 60 seconds.” If they can do it, and it makes sense to you, they get a prize. If they talk until your ear goes flat, forget it. If they make no sense, ask for an explanation.
- Ask: How long have you been doing SEO? If they answer anything more than 16 years, they’re lying. If they answer less than 2 years, ask them how they learned.
- Ask: “How do you acquire links?” If they answer, “It’s a secret” then you answer “Good luck with that” and move on.
- Ask: “How do you measure success?” If they answer, “Rankings” and nothing else, run. If they include stuff like “Traffic” or “Sales”, that’s better.
- Read their blog. If you come away feeling like you just spent three hours trying to learn Klingon, think carefully about your choice of firm. SEO is 75% communications skills. If they can’t write on their own blog…
- Look at the title tag on their home page. That’s the text in the top bar in your browser. If they don’t rank in the top 10 for that phrase, zowie. Ask them what’s up. If I run an SEO company, I’d at least have the brains to change my title tag to a phrase for which I rank.
- Ask them to set goals. It’s a great first test. Ask the agencies you talk to to give you, in their proposal, 2-3 goals by which they want to be judged. Make it clear that, if they set unreasonable goals, they’ll be held to them. See what comes back. Set your BS detector on high.
- Ask each firm to describe, step-by-step, how they’ll do SEO for you. Have ‘em write it down, with pricing. That’s their proposal.
- When you get the proposal, read it. You’re going to pay these guys thousands, tens of thousands, or who-know-how-many-thousands of dollars. I sometimes get the feeling that I could send 95 pages of cat pictures, and no one would know. You can learn a lot from a well-written proposal. And from a lousy one.
- Throw out the low bidder if their scope of work matches the others, but they’re >20% cheaper than the next-highest bid.
And yes, there’s a lot more. But the main thing is: Go with your gut. SEO’s are not supposed to be smarmy. We’re not supposed to be incomprehensible. The SEO you hire should be trustworthy, a good teacher, and someone you can work with.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More