May 13 2013
Vetting SEO providers is a real challenge today for numerous reasons. Let’s look at just a few of them just from the discussion forums:
”A few free memberships and my e-mail being associated with the site is all I needed to be overwhelmed by the ‘SEOs’. They come in fast and they are almost always in two catagories: One is a flood of Indian men named John or Keith telling me that he can submit the site to search engines and directories for me and will even throw in some free ‘advanced penquin-proof link building’ if I pick up their premium package. The other is the SEO services and programs…they are worse than Keith and John. Keith and John are easily ignored and tend to leave my boss alone…the ‘professional’ or ‘enterprise’ or any other bull___ service tends to get their e-mails read by my boss…and then I have to spend time explaining to him why these are b.s. and should be shunned -they will waste money at the least and hurt the company at the worst!”
“There’s no such thing as ‘white hat’, or ‘black hat’ SEO, because if your SEO isn’t focused on optimizing a website’s technical attributes, and functionality first then you are not optimizing for search engine spiders, you are gaming the search engine results. There are literally millions of so called ‘SEO blogs’ out there all rehashing the same garble like sheep. Not because they care about SEO and the state of their own websites, but because they’re trying to game the search engines for traffic and money.”
From SEO is a Cancer discussion on Google Product Forums
“The problem with working in an industry with a low entry barrier is that every hack who can buy adwords, update a wordpress site and use google analytics calls themselves an SEO specialist.”
From I’m quitting the SEO industry on reddit
“How can I tell if a SEO company is seriously as good as they say they are? As a small business owner, I have lost track of the number of calls I received from SEO companies promising to put me on the first page of Google searches… Shouldn’t I be able to ask a company to prove they can do what they say they can?”
This question asked by a small business owner on LinkedIn, generated lots of feedback.
Just go to your favorite discussion board and you’ll likely find a similar rant about how to find a good honest SEO professional, here’s another one just for fun:
“I could use some tips of how to identify someone who is trustworthy (cuz they’ll be writing .htaccess rewrite code) knowledgeable on the defensive side of SEO, and savvy on the technical side of SEO.”
Another good discussion from a LinkedIn Group
I went to some of my trusted contacts and asked them:
What is the top question you ask when evaluating SEO consultants or providers?
“Hi Tom, I’d ask for references of perhaps three companies in the same sector and of about the same size company as mine who have been with the SEO firm for at least two years. This way you can ask the reference many types of questions that could include the relationship, ramp up time, and results, for example, qualified traffic, rankings, and ROI realized.” – Mary Orr
“How long will it take to get my site properly listed (top 5) on first page on Google’s natural listings or organic listings?” – Lori Manns
“I’d ask to see results from other clients” – Anonymous
“Show me results from other clients.” – Kris Casariego
“The first question (definitely not the only question but the first) is can a prospective service provider show live examples of what they have done for clients that are “similar” to my business (not competitors, necessarily). These examples should be explained relative to an overall strategy (“…we identified X number of really important keywords and moved from an average of Y per keyword to Z per keyword).”
“I ask the traffic forecast for the money I plan to spend, which methods they will used (white hat is a must) and how a reporting will be done.” – Michael Gunin
“ACTUALLY, I’m just finished vetting some SEO services. My first question was based on our situation and asking, can it be done and who have you done it for previously. We’re migrating a well-established site with great organic SEO, and moving it to WordPress. Obviously there’s issues to be dealt with to hold our ranking.”
“What type of results have you received for existing clients?” – Sara Kogon
“What do you charge?” – Waitsel Smith
“What outcomes can you GUARANTEE me?
(I know they can’t guarantee me sales… Some will actually promise this, which is a mistake and lets me know they’re full of it). I’m looking for the person to have a plan that helps me learn as I’m investing.” – Wade Galt
“i want to be sure there will be a principal focus on creating content…” – Todd Schnick
“Do you look at the whole conversion process or just getting traffic to the site?” – Rick Meekins
Now that you’re ready to vet SEO providers, let’s take this discussion up a level – its been hinted at throughout this post and for a few years now on this blog and thanks to Rand Fishkin for bringing more clarity to it… hold on to your hat:
I truly hope you watched the video and are better informed. Yes, we who have been in the SEO industry for years want to change the definition of SEO… but what we really want is a seat at the table where all marketing and technology decisions are made for our clients. Then, we can bring up the pros and cons of each proposed solution, especially as it relates to search traffic. And only then can we truly be held accountable.
I’d love to get your feedback…