Are you considering an SEO agency or consultant to help with your company's search engine marketing strategy? If so, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of options to choose from. In this post, we're going to discuss the many ways your choice can impact your company, how to decide between a consultant or an SEO agency, what to look for in either, and why you must stay vigilant no matter who you choose.
How the Choice Impacts Your Company
First off, you need to consider the impact your choice of SEO will have on your company.
There are certain areas of marketing where, if you pick the wrong person or the wrong agency, you just lose your initial investment in the service itself. For example, let's say that you hired a bad designer, and you hate the website they designed for you. Worst case scenario, you are out a couple of thousand dollars, you hire someone else, and you now have a website you love. End of story.
When it comes to a consultant or SEO agency that handles your search engine optimization, it is another story. If you pick the wrong person or agency, you don't just lose the initial investment in the service. You also risk the following.
- If you choose a consultant or agency that doesn't get to know your company well enough, they could end up doing things that embarrass you in front of customers, partners, and vendors. This could harm your business relationships.
- If you previously ranked well for a keyword phrase that led to leads or sales for your business, you could lose your rankings for that keyword. This could negatively impact your business revenue.
- If you get penalized by Google for implementation of bad search engine practices, you would have to invest in yet another consultant or agency to clean up the mess. This could cost even more than you invested in the initial SEO service itself.
It's not all doom and gloom, and we're not trying to make you terrified of choosing an SEO consultant or SEO agency. But we are trying to point out the importance of doing your due diligence and research in choosing the right SEO consultant or agency.
SEO Consultant Or SEO Agency?
When it comes to the world of SEO, there are consultants and there are agencies that come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you choose a consultant or an agency will depend on several factors, the largest of which will likely be price and trust.
Other factors might include the number of people you want to work with, and how much of a personal relationship you want to develop with the person you work with. For example, if you choose an individual SEO consultant, you will likely communicate with the person who is doing the actual SEO work for your company.
Of course, just because you choose an SEO consultant doesn't mean the consultant is always doing the actual SEO work for your company. They could be outsourcing some of the work too and overseeing it themselves.
If you choose an SEO agency, on the other hand, you will likely communicate with a sales person at first, and then be handed over to a project manager who oversees the people who are doing the actual SEO work for your company. In this case, those people could include a combination of professional SEOs with years of experience, outsourced labor, or seasonal interns.
What To Look For
Whether you choose to work with an SEO consultant or SEO agency, here are several ways to research them to learn as much about them as possible and find out if they are the right person for the job.
For examples in this post, we're going to use the winner's from the 2015 US Search Awards for best consultant, small agency, and large agency as well as other random consultants and agencies that had good examples of what we suggest you look for in your research. No one paid to be included in this post.
- Google them.
This should be standard research tip 101 for just about any kind of research you do, but most especially for SEO consultants and agencies. Do a Google search for them and dig into the results, three to five pages deep. This will typically reveal any problems right off the bat, especially if you have accidentally landed upon a scammer individual or company that has a complaint out on them.
For the legit consultants and agencies, this will lead you to their main website, social media profiles, top publications, guest posts, AMAs (ask me anythings), interviews, podcasts, and other content that you can use to get to know more about them.
- Do an SEO checkup on their business website.
Where does your SEO consultant or SEO agency get the majority of their traffic from? Find out for free using SimilarWeb.
Is their organic search performance getting better or worse? Do they rank for good keywords? Do they use paid ads? Do they build links for their own website? Find out for free using SEMrush.
Have they been hit by a Google penalty? Find out using this free Google penalty checker.
These quick and free little checks can save you from working with someone who can't even do SEO for themselves, let alone your company.
- Review specific listings and pages for agencies.
This applies more to agencies than consultants, but look for Better Business Bureau listings, Facebook pages, LinkedIn company pages, Glassdoor listings, and Yelp listings. These listings and pages can help you further determine whether an agency is going to be a good fit for your company in the following ways
With the Better Business Bureau (for US based agencies), you get to learn about the history of a business through one of the most respected non-profit business accreditation organizations.
With Facebook pages, you may be able to find reviews from customers and employees for the agency. You may also find that you have friends on Facebook that are either customers, employees, or fans of the agency that you could talk to for further information.
On an SEO agency's LinkedIn company page, you could find you have more connections that are current or former employees of the agency that you could tap into for more information.
Glassdoor reviews can be very insightful as they come just from current and former employees of an agency. These can reveal issues in areas such as lack of training, lack of communication, and general employee unhappiness that could translate into sloppy work for your company. An agency with happy employees, on the other hand, could lead to great work for your company.
And, of course, there are Yelp reviews for local agencies. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the recommended reviews so you don't miss the ones Yelp tries to hide from you. While some should be hidden, some shouldn't be.
Between these sources, you should be able to do a substantial amount of research on an SEO agency. These sources are typically better than a testimonials page on a website as you can confirm the sources of the reviews, get in touch with some of them if necessary, and see the good with the bad.
And if you can't find an SEO agency on any of these sites, chances are you shouldn't be working with them.
- Review LinkedIn profiles for consultants.
For individual SEO consultants, try LinkedIn. Ideally, their profile will include recommendations from their customers and colleagues about their SEO expertise.
These are typically better than a testimonials page on a website as you can confirm the recommendation is legit.
- Don't trust every credit.
It seems counter to the last two points, but you can't trust all credits that you find out there for SEO consultants and agencies. Not to say that any of the included SEO consultants or agencies in this post use these tactics, but I have found that some SEO consultants and agencies do things such as…
- Placed logos of "clients" they have worked with on their website when, in fact, they have not worked with those clients.
- Placed testimonials of "clients" they have worked with on their website that are not from real people (hence why you should check third party sources).
- Paid people to write testimonials, reviews, or recommendations of their consultancy service or agency.
- Paid people to be a partner in their agency for commission or referral fees.
- Check for industry-specific certifications.
There are lots of great certifications out there that SEO consultants and agency employees can ascertain that will provide them with the knowledge they need to do a great job for your company's SEO. More so than outdated college degrees.
This is when it pays to look at SEO consultant's LinkedIn profiles and the LinkedIn profiles of as many agency employees as possible. Most people will list their certifications there. For example, if you are particularly interested in paid search through Google AdWords, you will want to find an SEO consultant or agency that has Google AdWords certification under their belt.
Why You Must Stay Vigilant
Let's say that, at this point, you've done your research, and you've chosen an SEO consultant or agency to help your company improve its search engine optimization and keyword rankings. Congratulations!
But you're not done. You shouldn't just sit back and relax.
Always, always, always stay vigilant. Sure, your SEO consultant or agency may deliver you reports on a regular basis. But that shouldn't be enough for you. You wouldn't just hand over your finances to an accountant and never check your bank balance ever again, so why would you hand over your SEO to a consultant or agency and never check your SEO again?
Google Analytics is a free website analytics tool that you can use to monitor your website's traffic. In terms of your website's health in search engines, you will want to monitor that your organic search traffic is always improving or, at the very least, not decreasing.
Even if you are not actively working on search engine optimization or search engine marketing, it's important to set up your website on Google Analytics so you can be aware of your website traffic changes, which can alert you to issues with your website or your top traffic sources.
Google Search Console is a free tool that will provide you with your latest backlinks, keywords that drive impressions for your websites, website errors, and other details about your website in Google search.
In addition, this will be the place where you will receive notifications if your website has been affected by hackers, malware, or Google penalties. So even if you are not actively working on search engine optimization or search engine marketing, it's crucial to set up your website on Google Search Console so that you know your website is always safe.
In addition, this tool will let you download the latest backlinks to your website. If your SEO consultant or agency is building links for your company, you will want to be sure that you are checking those links to ensure their quality. Not by metrics, but by whether they are relevant to your company and placed on quality websites, on quality pages, and within quality content.
These two free tools, in conjunction with quality reporting from your SEO consultant or agency, should help you determine whether you are getting results from your investment.
As you can see, choosing an SEO consultant or agency for your company is a major decision that can have a major impact. Be sure to do thorough research on whomever you consider going with, and once you've made your decision, be sure to stay on top of the situation to ensure that you are making the best investment possible for your website and for your company.