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How to tell if a SEO agency knows what they’re doing

Published Oct 27, 2009

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies seem to be falling out of the woodwork. It almost seems that everywhere you go, you will find someone who claims a specialty in SEO, and they want your business.

The premise behind SEO is that the company will help you “optimize” your website, so that it can get good placement in the search engines. Most SEO companies promise specifically that they can get you good rankings in Google, because Google drives 80% of all search traffic.

A lot of business owners are really at a loss to determine if the company being considered is actually capable of doing what they promise to do.

As such, we thought it might be useful to share some tips with you about how to tell if a SEO agency actually knows what they are doing:

1. Ask for examples. If they tell you that they ranked someone for the name of the company, keep looking. Getting a company ranked for their own domain name is like the Special Olympics of the SEO industry. You only need to try, in order to win.

2. Do they provide examples on their website? This should not be taken as the Holy Grail, because it is not uncommon for an SEO agency to have “non-disclosure agreements” with their customers. Even though they may be unwilling or unable to share with you “case studies” from their client lists, they should be able to give you a few examples for their own website.

3. Are they willing to share with you the names of any of thier clients? If a company is able to at least share a company logo of their customers, this can add some depth to an understanding of the SEO agency‘s capabilities.

4. How many clients have you worked with? This is an easy answer that can be answered by anyone in the business. If the company is a one-man show, don’t be surprised if that number is under one dozen. I know one fellow who does good work and has been providing SEO services for years. His answer is 6 – even after eight years in operation. Why? He still has the same 6 clients he started with eight years ago.

5. What techniques do you utilize to build a client’s search rankings? This question should not seek any specific answers, but rather it should seek a broader understanding of the strategies used. The strategies that an SEO agency can use vary widely, and there is not any one right answer. But silence from the provider should tell more than a lengthy answer.

As the questions are being answered, keep in mind that there are actually two sides to SEO:

1. On-site optimization is the process of making edits to one’s website to improve the ability of the search engines to see what they need to see.

2. Off-site optimization is better defined as Search Engine Marketing (SEM), as it utilizes links from third-party websites to enhance the rankings of a company.

It is important for you to know what you are getting yourself into, before you get into it.

In most cases, you want to hire an SEO agency that brings a wide assortment of strategies to the process. There are no SEO techniques that can stand alone as “the only methodology necessary” to improve the rankings of a website in the search engines.

There are a lot of SEO agencies online, and many SEO specialists who have the ability to help a lot of people. Many of the SEO specialists operate as a one-man show. While that is fine, it is not always the best solution for every company online.

More than any other factor that we have been able to show you in this article, there are two types of SEO companies that you should strive to avoid:

1. The mass marketing company that calls you on the phone or sends you an email promising you the world, and sometimes promising you nothing at all. The best SEO companies may advertise, but they rarely need to “cold call” you to sell you their services.

2. The “lone gunman” who thought that SEO would be easy money, so he or she started advertising as a SEO provider. The “lone gunman” who actually knows what he is doing will be able to at least show you some evidence of his own online marketing successes.

When searching for a SEO agency to provide SEO services to you, the main thing you need to look for is competance and confidence. If either is lacking, you should keep searching.

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