April 21, 2016

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Choosing The Right SEO Firm

(this article was originally posted August 21, 2015)

In my last post I talked about the new strategy for SEO… ok well maybe it wasn’t “new” so much as it is the right way of doing things that's the only option for getting results these days.

In this post I wanted to go into a little more detail about how to pick the right SEO firm.

There are countless companies out there that offer SEO services, and they all offer vastly different packages and pricing which can make it hard to know who’s ripping you off and who’s doing a good job.

The main things you want to look for are:

  • Detailed Information About What They Will Do
  • Realistic Pricing To Render Those Services
  • A History Of Previous Results

I know that may seem a little vague so let’s break down each one a little bit…

1. Detailed Information About What They Will Do

The term SEO can mean a lot of different things…

To some, it means only optimizing your on-page content by adjusting META tags, headings and image ALT tags.

To others, it can mean a full suite of services including backlink building, social media & local listing management, blog posting, video creation and more.

If you’re going to be paying monthly for the service, you need to make sure you’re getting value for that cash every month.

I usually warn people to avoid paying monthly for SEO that only includes on-page optimizations as generally this is a one-off set and forget it task and doesn’t require on-going work unless you’re adding new pages to the site every few days (such as if you have a regularly updated blog).

Try to go with a company that offers a wide range of services so you can scale your marketing/SEO efforts as your budget changes.

It’s far better to have one company handling all your SEO than breaking it up into piecemeal work for 3 or 4 different companies for the following reasons:

  • You’ll miss out on quantity discounts in buying more services with the same company.
  • Efficiency will go down because each company will have their own way of doing things and will always have to waste time coming to an agreement with the other company about how to handle things.
  • There will often be miscommunications regarding how something should be done.


2. Realistic Pricing To Render The Services

While you want to hire a company that offers a wide range of services and get the most bang for your buck, going with the cheapest all-in-one service provider can lead to trouble...

Remember, the amount of money you’re paying for these services directly relates to the amount of hours that are going to be put in on the work.

There's no magic "SEO button" or automated tool that boosts your rankings. It requires real hours of labor to produce results.

And no one works for free... especially SEO professionals that actually have some talent.

When you're quoted a price for services it should make sense for how many hours of work the job should take.

Here’s a few examples of how long it can take to produce some mid-quality content:

  • 1.25 – 3 Hours for a blog post that’s about 500 words long
  • 5.25 – 8 Hours for an informative 2d-slide style youtube video about 2-3 minutes long
  • 1.5 – 3.5 Hours for a promotional graphic to be used on social media
  • 1.25 – 3.75 Hours to do basic on-page optimization of about 5 pages
  • 0.25 – 1.50 Hours to check in on social media profiles and make a simple post
  • 2.50 – 5 Hours to arrange for and write a guest blog post on 1 authority site

In order to find a quality SEO professional you’re looking at paying anywhere from $25 - $125+/hour. (Mid-level SEO firms usually bill $75 - $125+ per hour) Anyone who’s willing to accept less than that obviously doesn’t think very much of their services and are probably not the kind of people you want to hire to represent your business.

So knowing these values, you can guesstimate just how much you’re actually going to get done for the pricing you’re paying each month.

Assuming 20 working days per month here’s what you can get:

  • $250/mo
    • At $25/hour = 30 minutes per day
    • At $50/hour = 15 minutes per day
    • At $75/hour = 10 minutes per day
    • At $100/hour = 7.5 minutes per day
  • $500/mo
    • At $25/hour = 60 minutes per day
    • At $50/hour = 30 minutes per day
    • At $75/hour = 20 minutes per day
    • At $100/hour = 15 minutes per day
  • $1.000/mo
    • At $25/hour = 2 hours per day
    • At $50/hour = 1 hour per day
    • At $75/hour = 40 minutes per day
    • At $100/hour = 30 minutes per day
  • $2.000/mo
    • At $25/hour = 4 hours per day
    • At $50/hour = 2 hour per day
    • At $75/hour = 80 minutes per day
    • At $100/hour = 60 minutes per day

Now you know what you’re getting. So if someone offers to do your SEO and promises to get you #1 rankings for any keywords and to do all sorts of stuff for only $250 - $500 a month – run away. You’re not going to get any kind of good long-term results for that.

Chances are for that price they are only going to do blasts on automated black-hat tools that are going to get you removed from Google.

So what’s an ideal budget?

In general, I recommend clients to have a budget of at least $1,600 - $3,500/mo.

The lower amount is for basically maintaining rankings in a competitive industry with some small gains over a 12 month period.

The higher amount is for companies in a competitive industry that are looking to make fairly substantial gains over a 12 month period. Obviously the higher your budget the more time that can go into growing your online presence and authority and the better & faster you get results.

3. A History Of Results

Be sure to ask to see some examples of sites that they have done SEO work for. While many companies won’t give out information about all the clients they’ve done work for they should be able to provide at least a couple examples such as:

  • Google Analytic Screenshots
  • A List Of Keywords That Their Client Ranks For
  • Documents Showing Some Of The Optimizations That Have Been Done

Don't expect to see results for your competitors in the same city as you since this would be a conflict of interest - I'm sure you wouldn't want the company sharing your results with your competitor across town. So take the results you see with a grain of salt.

And finally...

If you are on the fence about a company ask about their guarantee or refund policy. While it’s not possible to “guarantee” results, a good company will stand by their work and give you some sort of recourse should you not be happy with the results.