So it's the end of the year and you are looking for a new SEO company to either make a push before the holiday season or for Q1 next year.

Bad news...

Picking an SEO firm is not always easy.

It is a competitive space full of good companies and down right spammy ones.

Trust me I know, I (and other talented folks) run one of the top search marketing firms.

This has given me some really unique insight into what it takes to select the right partner in this field.

Here are 12 ways to accurately review SEO firms for 2017.

1. Talk to the Right People

You might be tempted to let some chatty sales rep soft-close you into a multi-thousand dollar SEO effort. Resist that temptation.

The reality is that you won't know what an SEO company has to offer by just talking to people in the sales department. You'll need to speak with a few other folks as well.

For starters, talk to an executive. Get some perspective from upper management so that you'll have a little more peace of mind knowing that your company is in good hands.

Next, talk to existing clients of the company. Ask them how long they've been with the company, why they chose the company, and what kind of results they've seen.

Finally, visit the office in person. Not much will tell you more about the overall success of a business than its office environment. If you don't have time for an in-person visit, make sure to at least get on a call with your proposed team before signing.

2. Focus on Quality over Quantity

Some SEO companies offer every kind of service you can imagine. They also offer really large quantities of each service.

This is not always a good thing.

Instead, judge the company by the quality of the services it provides and make sure to ask for and review examples of each service.

For example, say you are looking at Company A verse Company B.

Company A offers you 25 infographics a year and Company B only gives you 4.

You think, wow Company B is a rip-off!

But take a closer look. Company B might do more research, have a better designer, offer a massive promotional strategy and get you 10x bang for your buck, while Company A offers infographics that look like someone opened Paint for the first time and drew a few lines.

3. That Said, Look for Comprehensive Coverage

Even though quality trumps quantity, you still want a company that provides more than just simple SEO.

The fact is you'll probably pay a lot more if you contract different companies for different types of digital marketing services. That's just one reason why you should look for an SEO firm that covers a whole range of strategies.

Most quality search engine marketing companies provide services such as:

SEO

But they also offer complimentary services such as conversion rate optimization, public relations and social media.

The key: Find a company who is really good at all of them. It can reduce your expenses significantly and create a more streamline process.

4. Be the Squeaky Wheel

You know what they say about the squeaky wheel, right? That's the one that gets all the oil.

Don't be satisfied with mediocrity when it comes to getting SEO services. Let the company know up-front that you expect an identifiable boost in your ranking and that you expect a positive return on investment.

Inform your contacts at the company that you'll be questioning their reports, double-checking their math, and carefully reviewing the results.

The reaction you get to that will tell you a lot about that business and the kind of customer service it will provide.

5. Ask About Communication Level

Along these lines, ask about the level of communication you can expect to receive as a client.

The last thing you want in your campaigns is to just turn the whole thing over to a company and let it go on autopilot. Your SEO firm should be contacting you regularly for approval about specific campaign initiatives and to let you know what you can do to improve your rank.

Incidentally, this is something you should ask about when talking to the company's clients. If you hear a lot of grumbling from clients that the company doesn't communicate very well, you should look elsewhere.

6. Ask What Tools They Use

Any SEO effort is a project. It should be managed like a project.

Ask the company what kinds of project management tools they use. Please note that if the company isn't using any kind of project management tools, then it probably isn't very organized.

While you're on the subject, ask about what other software the company uses to handle SEO. In response, you should hear well-known names like Majestic, Moz, BuzzSumo, SEMRush, Ahrefs, etc.

7. Ask to See a Report

The proof is in the pudding. Ask the company to show you some pudding.

Any good agency should be able to provide you with a real report that was provided to a client within the last 90 days. Don't worry if the client's name, URL, and keywords are redacted. That's pretty normal...

What the report should show is a number of positive movement in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain keywords related to a particular URL.

8. Get Some Case Studies

Even though much of what goes on in SEO campaigns is hush-hush to keep curious competitors from duplicating successful strategies, reputable companies still offer case studies that show how they helped their clients succeed.

Make sure to review them and ask what they did to achieve these results. Will those same strategies work for your site? What would be different?

9. Ask How Long the Company Has Been in Business

Although age doesn't necessary equate to wisdom, it's usually a safe bet that if a company has been around for a while (or at least the owners have), it's because the company knows what it's doing and has a demonstrated track record of success.

10. Ask About the Length of Their Contracts

As with many other types of service-oriented businesses, you'll enter into a contract. Ask that company about the length of its contract.

As a rule of thumb, a month-to-month contract is the best option and pretty standard in the industry right now.

That being said, if you do sign with a firm make sure to give them enough time to be successful. Search engine optimization takes months or longer, in most cases.

11. Ask About the Company's Internal Structure

How does the company split up its digital marketing work? How many account managers are there to one client? Is all the work performed by specialists or handled by people who wear many hats?

12. Is The Company Run by Thought-Leaders?

Have you heard about the company's founders? How about any of the executives?

If not, Google their names. Find out if any of them are thought-leaders in the industry or if they are simply business owners.

This can make a pretty big difference.

if you don't see any evidence that people in upper management know their stuff, that could be an issue.

Finding the Perfect SEO Firm is Possible and Necessary

Google gets over 100 billion searches a month wordwide and over 73% of marketers say it is an excellent source of ROI.

I have seen hundreds of websites benefit from SEO. I have personally invested in SEO for my own site and now get hundreds of leads a month.

I recommend all online businesses have this as part of their marketing mix. But really do your due diligence when you hire. If you pick the wrong company it can set you back financially, hurt your business growth and timeline or even result in a website penalty.

Published on: Oct 4, 2016