Top 4 Ways to Choose an SEO Company

Search Engine Optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is still a largely unfamiliar term among business owners and executives. Internet marketing is still a mystery many companies fear to approach. It seems so different and unpredictable until you’ve spent a little time adjusting to the space. But once you’re drenched in Internet lingo and applications, you find yourself willing to step into the world of search marketing. And just as you decide to make the plunge, you find yourself immediately facing another dilemma: How do you choose an SEO company? Here are the 4 most common ways people select an SEO firm.

  • word of mouth
  • advertisement
  • searching Google or Yahoo
  • attending an SEM conference

Let’s take a quick look at each one:

1. Word of Mouth – If you’re a small to medium sized business and you’ve never heard anyone else talk about SEO, chances are that word of mouth won’t apply to you. You could, of course, call up your top ten favorite executives or decision makers in other businesses and ask them if they’ve used an SEO they’d recommend. Depending on your vertical, you might not find anyone with a recommendation. If your business thrives on internet sales or lead generation, you’re much more likely to know someone who has used an search marketing professional.

2. Advertisement – You aren’t as likely to find SEO ads during your normal Web activities (unless you visit sites related to web marketing, development, copywriting, or design).

3. Search Google or Yahoo – Here’s where the majority of execs begin if they aren’t approached by an SEO first. Keep in mind, ranking well in Google and Yahoo is the profession of all SEO firms, so the search results for SEO-related terms are extremely competitive. Since you have no word of mouth to base your decisions on, you need to be most careful when selecting a company based on search results. The responsibility rests upon your shoulders to ask the right questions and compare apples to apples. We’ll cover this more in detail in another post, but just make sure that you aren’t comparing prices for a 5 page campaign to 100 page campaign. Some companies are not the best communicators (or they intentionally withhold some details about their services until later), so you need to keep score on your own.

4. Attend a Search Marketing Conference – This option is one of the least common, due simply to the problem of finding a conference in a nearby city. PubCon and SES (Search Engine Strategies) are the two most popular conferences covering search engine optimization. These conferences tend to only hit the larger metropolitan areas: New York, Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, London, etc. There are some mini conferences held occasionally in Dallas, Boston, and other areas, but it’s not practical to wait up to a year for the next local conference to find someone to help you with search marketing. If you luck out and have a local event happening soon, these conferences are an excellent way to get introductory information on search marketing. Listening to different speakers may help you choose a company to work with. If not, you can still develop some relationships with SEO professionals whom you can contact in the future.

Regardless of the method you use, ask plenty of questions once you initiate contact. Make it clear that you are seeking information first, and that you will be selecting the company with the best overall outlook. If a company isn’t forthcoming with information, cross them off the list. Mystery is for the unskilled and ethically challenged. Look for a company that is willing to spell it all out for you so that you can understand what is or isn’t an option.

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