Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, can be controversial depending on who you talk to. I’ve heard people refer to it as “snake oil” being sold to unsuspecting business owners. I’m sure there are a few shady folks out there that have no business taking money for their advice and guidance. I’m also sure that as long as we have search engines like Google, companies will need a way to be competitive within that space.
In other words, if you search for “Boise Residential Window Replacement” you’ll likely find more than two dozen companies ranked on the first few pages, each of whom would LOVE to be ranked #1-3. Well, not everybody can be ranked #1-3. That takes deliberate action on your part, the business owner, to make sure this is not being left to chance.
So, ask yourself “who handles your SEO?” Is it someone with experience moving similar sized companies up the rankings or is it someone that knows how to make changes to your website? You wouldn’t ask the company that built the Boise Towne Square how to market the shops within the mall. You would hire a company that’s focused solely on that aspect of business. SEO is nothing more than a marketing tool to help you achieve your business goals. Your strategy should be one that aligns with your overall growth goals.
This leads to another question, why is SEO important as a marketing tool? According to a 2014 article on Adweek.com, about 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. If 8 out of 10 people are looking for your product or service and it’s nowhere to be found, then you’re likely losing out on quite a bit of business. Can your business be successful without internet marketing? Of course it can. It will just be exponentially more difficult, especially in the days of smart phones and online reviews. One of our previous articles Take Advantage of Your Competition’s Weakness deals directly with the issue of not having a serious SEO or Internet marketing plan. Read through this article for additional reasons why you really must have an experienced professional handling your SEO.
When hiring an SEO firm, there are several questions you should ask before signing any agreements. First and foremost concerns their past clients. Ask to see a list of companies they’ve worked with in the past. While it helps to have some experience in your industry, we don’t necessarily believe it’s a must. Having a fresh perspective will often give you an advantage over the competition. Another question you should ask involves their strategy. Any company should be reluctant to tell you EXACTLY what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. Having said that, any company should be able to walk you through their process and explain what they’re going to do and why they’re going to do it.
Be wary of anyone that offers a placement guarantee. Reputable SEO firms understand that there are many variables at play and that the search engines themselves determine placement. We can guarantee activity, but it’s nearly impossible to guarantee results. Another reason to fear the guarantee? We can’t control the competition. You may shoot up the rankings and bring attention to yourself from the competition. Once they see there’s a new player in town, they will likely get serious once again about their rankings. If they were ahead of you before, it will be even more challenging to get ahead of them now!
Another question we recommend asking involves local versus national search focus. Some firms are better at local searches and some are better at larger, national search results. Everyone has their niche. If you need help locally, but your agency doesn’t know how to get you into the Google local map, then you’ve hired the wrong company! A honest company will realize where their strengths lie and be open and transparent with their prospective clients. You must be honest with yourself as an SEO company and take on the clients that you can truly help!
The all-important money question should never be overlooked. How does the SEO agency or firm charge for their services? Some SEO companies will charge by the hour, while others charge by the project. Either way works as long as you, as the consumer, knows what you’re getting for your investment. Ask the question! We recently had a client that didn’t realize what we were actually paid to do. It was inconvenient for both of us. We were doing really good work for him, but it wasn’t the work he wanted done. It was a lose-lose situation for both companies.
At some point in the future, whether it’s three months, three years, or three decades, your relationship will terminate. It will be good to answer the question now…how will that happen? What happens when we are no longer working together? You will need to be clear on what happens to any optimized content that was added by your SEO provider. In nearly every case, you should be able to keep that content and those changes in-place. You paid for a service that was rendered. If you didn’t pay for it, then it’s a different story. Either way, just be sure it’s crystal clear. Same goes for account access to Google Analytics and such. That data belongs to your website. Be sure you gain access to it before you go your separate ways. It’s important information over time that you won’t be able to duplicate otherwise.