Episode 77: Looking for an SEO Company? Here is What you Need to Know

You probably know that you need SEO. But with so many companies offering you the moon, how do you choose the right one? We break down what to look for in a good SEO company and some red flags that you should avoid. SEO is critical for any marketing strategy in 2019. But it won’t help you if you go with a company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Roger: Welcome to Local SEO Today. I’m Roger Murphy.

John: And I’m John Vuong.

Roger: We want to thank Kayla who’s on our camera today. She’s doing post-production so thank you, Kayla.

John: Thank you, Kayla.

Roger: For all the entrepreneurs and business owners that are looking at this video today, John, we want to talk about the journey to find a partner when it comes to SEO. SEO is so important today in terms of it’s where people search for goods and services which is the Google, Bing, Yahoo search engine optimization can get you there but now you’ve got to find a company you can partner with. So things to consider when you’re shopping or searching for this type of company.

John: So hopefully by this time you’re probably ready to decide as to leading SEO as a service, right? You’ve already tried different avenues, you’ve probably tried print, radio, magazines, trade shows…

Roger: Radio, flyers…

John: There’s so many different…

Roger: Bulletins everything.

John: You push a lot of ads at people and finally you’re ready to give SEO a shot where you’ve been reading on it being the best return on your investment. Well now, what do you look for in a SEO agency or company or consultant or expert to guide you and really help you get you the good results that they promised.

Roger: Exactly and what you need.

John: Exactly, so the first thing that you have to look at when looking for an agency is their reputation so what does that really mean, Roger?

Roger: Because there’s so many promises out there. People make promises they…And if they offer guarantees trust me run the other way. There are no guarantees because we live in this world of Google and Google, John, they change their algorithms everyday. They change, they’re always adjusting. What you want is this…A company, an SEO company that has a reputation that you’re going to investigate to see, do they have a track record? You know, in terms of show me case studies, give me references, right?

John: And do they have third-party reviews that are not just on their website because anyone could put on you know, some testimonials, upload it onto their own personal website or is it on a Google review site or an industry directory? Find out who is a good representation for what you’re looking for, right?

Roger: Sometimes people ask us, do you have case studies? So that’s something that I know is important. Find those case studies, find them for your specific industry with this agency, the company that you’re investigating or you’re checking out so that’s a really big one too .

John: Yeah, so what you can always do is search locally or naturally for SEO agencies online and where do they rank, are there directories out there that actually give reviews and case studies and you can actually look you into as well. Do they have white papers or you know, just more information about what kind of experience other businesses in your situation or your niche industry has gone through, right? It’s very important. Another thing to really consider when you’re doing this reputation research is what is the reputation like about that company, right? So what is their About Us all about. How long have they been in business and whatnot ?

Roger: Yeah and there are many young companies out there and they’ll say, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Give me a chance.” And I know you want to do that. But if you are…If you’re on this journey looking for an SEO company frankly time is money and do you really want to give someone a year of your business’s you know, potential growth to…Well they said…They said, “I know I can do it.” I thought I’d give them a shot. The reality is you gotta with case studies, you gotta go with solid evidence of do they have experience in the industry and experiencing my specific industry and have they done successful things for other businesses.” So, reputation that’s huge.

John: So that’s the first thing, second thing that I would really consider when looking for an agency is their responsiveness so how do they get back to you regarding any questions? Do you have an account Manager, Account Rep managing your account like who is your main focal touch point, right? How available are they? Is it overseas or someone local like what is their mode of communication? Is it by email, is it a phone call like how do you communicate and troubleshoot with any situations that may occur?

Roger: Here’s a it’s not a tip or trick but the truth is when you’re doing this research of course you’re gonna be checking their reputation. When you ask you know, these other businesses that are working with this particular company and get a referral or a you know, give me a testimonial or what you think of them. You wanna ask them, how are they with responsiveness so you actually, I guess really you’re interviewing these other businesses to see, is this SEO company doing the job for you? And I can say, John, the point I wanted to make was smaller agencies, smaller businesses tend to be able to be more responsive. The larger the corporation, generally speaking, you cannot talk to someone directly, you must send emails and you have to open a ticket that takes days to turn around, etc. So there are positives with a larger corporation but the negatives sometimes at least for me I’ve seen too many times where it’s so frustrating because things are not…You’re not being attended to quickly.

John: Yeah, so that’s great so I think the third thing that’s very critical is the depth and knowledge and service offerings of that SEO agency or that company that you’re looking at hiring, right? So when they say they are experts in SEO, what kind of facets of SEO are they really doing for your campaign, right? And who is actually doing it? Do they have consultants doing it or are they doing in-house? So there’s a lot of variables within SEO that you need to really consider, right? So just to give you a couple of them. I mean do they have developers actually doing the fixes for you, right? Do they have an SEO team to, you know, check all the different backlinks or on-page errors or technical recommendations that are slowing down your site so maybe things that may be wrong, right? They need to clean that up. Do they have a content team? What’s the strategy behind that? Where do they need to fix your service pages, how are your meta title tags and description or do they write blogs for you on a regular basis, right?

Roger: But in truth Google is looking at over 200 signals of what’s going on with any web site and those signals Google will decide and it’s all automated. Will we serve this website up on the search engine results page based on these factors, does it have the proper meta tags as your saying, John. Does it have the content? So what you want to do is when you’re talking to this SEO company you want to know number one, what are the range of services you provide and more importantly is it done in-house or is it subcontracted out? You do not really…I mean it’s your choice but you really would prefer to have a team that’s all internal that no one is passing the buck and handing off responsibilities to someone else. Everyone is working inside an ecosystem of graphics, developers, citation builders, people doing your backlink content. And no one is outside this you know, this ecosystem and you’re waiting to hear back from someone it’s all done in-house. That’s a huge issue so it’s your choice but we know it’s better to have…Make sure all the services are being offered and are they being done in-house.

John: Yeah, I think the big thing about having an in-house team of SEO experts is communication is streamlined. They get to understand you as a client easier as opposed to explaining it every single time, right? So I think onboarding is a lot easier and it allows you to get the best return on your investment once the team or the agency is actually working on your campaign fully, right?

Roger: And what you want to ask…What you’re doing…You’re on this journey. Ask this company, show me or give me a breakdown of what services you are offering for me and I will say, John, and I’ve seen this in our industry and I’ve seen some other SEO companies don’t provide all the services. They just don’t think it’s that important or they just go, “Maybe it’s too expensive to provide,” So they don’t do it.

John: So really compare apples to apples as opposed to apples to oranges because someone that’s not writing you a monthly blog which takes four to six hours to write a comprehensive blog on your behalf versus someone that says they you know, are like you know, that’s a huge thing to really consider, right? Or how is their backlink strategy, how is their social engagement? There’s a lot of factors…

Roger: To detect for toxic links there’s so many things so the reason you’re looking for an SEO company today is it can’t be done by yourself that’s why we’re going down this road, this journey. How do you find a good company?

John: Exactly, so the fourth thing to really consider is the price and value of what you’re getting because ultimately what you’re trying to do is partner with an SEO agency that will get you to where you want to be. You’re probably not getting the amount of leads you are getting currently, you’re not ranked properly on certain keywords on your in Google and what you want to do is get more visibility, more organic traffic and in essence generate more ready to buy customers.

Roger: Exactly, and it does, it ties in with our previous one but the number of services that are going to be offered and at what price so you want to know and something too it should be mentioned. You want to be careful in this journey when you’re asking about price find out, are they all in package price or do they, “Oh, yeah we’re X number of dollars but if for every time we touch your website or we do this it’s an extra fee and extra fee and extra fee.” So you’ll decide whether that’s a comfort level that’s fair enough. But the reality is how much am I paying for what am I getting and do I have a known amount that I can budget for every month. If you don’t have a known amount and some months its way up and some months it’s way down that becomes problematic.

John: Yeah, it’s projections and there’s a lot of agencies out there that do a one-time setup fee or a monthly retainer or it’s a pay per hour and every time there’s a recommendation or a page that needs to be fixed you might have to consult with your developers in-house or outsource to make that implementation happen but all they do is the work and recommend it for you to do it, right? So just find out what your comfort level is and figure out what’s good for…Best suited for your business.

Roger: And the next one for them on the journey, there’s a number of them but one I like to talk about is experience in your vertical. Vertical meaning if you’re a dental office, if you’re a physiotherapist, if you’re a lawyer those are all considered verticals so the agency that you’re interviewing, what experience, do they have any experience in your particular industry. That’s gonna be huge.

John: And that’s pro and con I believe because you know, if someone is in your local area and they’re a dentist and they’re also using that agency, how many other dentists are using them in that local area, right? However, I mean experience wise you want someone that actually knows your language, knows the services that you as a you know, dental practitioner for example is going after, right? And what kind of results do you believe and anticipate to get your return, right? But again this is all done in the research phase and you know, just feel comfortable, right? Like the big thing is, know what this company has done for your niche.

Roger: That’s it and I would offer and recommend, I wouldn’t go with an SEO…I would think twice of an SEO company that just strictly does your industry because all of the sudden things start to look very similar and cookie cutter with other ones. I would like the…for me I would recommend to you as a business owner find a company that has experience in your industry but does other ones also so they have pros, they have tips and tricks and strategies they’ve done for all different industries and again anyway this is something you’ll uncover when you’re doing your interviews.

John: Yeah, and again make sure they have references, case studies for these specific industries similar to yours so that you can actually call them and check how they’ve done. Make sure they’re competing directly with you.

Roger: Yeah, the next one which I like, John, too is ask and when you’re in this journey asking and interviewing SEO companies, do they understand your geographic market, do they understand your city because you’re not just a city but there are other neighborhoods and there’s regions and there’s different search patterns that go on if you’re dealing with someone outside the country and they have not really included what your city is all about and how far one city is it to the next one that wouldn’t serve you very well so make sure…There are SEO companies, John…

John: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of situations where a lot of clients have used overseas SEO agencies and they go after supposedly the city Ontario. Thinking it’s a city and if you actually live here in Canada, Ontario is a province and it’s a very large province with hundreds of cities within it so make sure you go with an agency that actually knows your city, your postcode, your region, your communities within the city, the neighborhoods so that you can actually get the best relevancy and the best return based on the content they’ve provide. The website, geo targeted citations any links that you go after. It’s something that’s very important because all these are signals that Google is looking for and if you’re able to match what the user’s intent is then you can actually get the better rankings.

Roger: I was gonna just touch on that, the reason you want something that knows your geographic market is because Google understood and came to realize just a few years ago how important local search is when it comes to buying goods and services. If you need a lawyer and you’re in New York City they’re not just gonna put in lawyer. You’re gonna put in Brooklyn lawyer or you’re gonna put in Toronto lawyer whatever it is. People tend to put a geographic target with it so it’s important that an SEO company that works for you knows your market.

John: That’s great and I think the next big point in topic is really the size and really when you’re looking for an agency, how big is that SEO agency currently, how much can they handle and or if they are a boutique size agency which has a limited amount of people that they want to take on so that they are not bombed with that endeavor, right? So capacity, this allows for better service I believe, as well.

Roger: There’s always pros and cons. The larger the company there’s comfort in it you know, they’re not going away you know, there’s customer service if you have a problem. There’s lots of good things come with a very large company but you also pay a price meaning you…We talked about it a few minutes ago. They’re not responsive. They cannot because there’s too many thousands of clients that they’re trying to look after. So that idea of when you’re investigating and searching out a company, find one that knows and can perform the service but also be responsive to you.

John: Yeah and once you get too big it’s a ticket system, the delays. You’re maybe just a number as opposed to everyone knowing you by first name. If you’re going with a boutique kind of agency they get to really know you. They sit down with you, they explain everything you get to really know them and like them and you build a stronger relationship, right?

Roger: And then they can respond very quickly. I see it certainly in our industry. What did we do? We can get things turn around sometimes in two hours but larger companies, they need 10 business days to do something, generally speaking.

John: Perfect. And I think the last thing that you really wanna consider when looking for an SEO agency is what exactly are they doing for you on a monthly, weekly basis or what kind of reporting are they doing, what is their kinda roadmap, what is their strategy, right? As long as people are kind of transparent in terms of, this is what we’re kind of doing for you. It gives you a sense of comfort, right?

Roger: Yes, right because people are always asking and you want to know too. What am I getting for my money? When you buy a vehicle you go, “Oh, this is nice you know, whatever brand of BMW or Toyota Lexus. This is what I get.” In SEO it’s difficult because there’s so many activities that are going on behind the scenes that you kind of go, “It’s just…It’s magic.” It hasn’t even come together so…

John: So there’s so many variables especially if you’re not in the industry and you’re a business owner. You probably get a lot of emails and calls, people promising you that they can rank you. All SEO companies are not created equally, what are they doing, how ethical are they? Are they doing things that can fast-track you or they doing things that will you know, that’s the proper way, right? Like…

Roger: Fast track is not particularly a good thing to do.

John: Yes, are they buying backlinks or is there ways that you should be earning things. It takes time to rank on Google and what Google knows is they have their AI, they have their rank brain sifting through millions of websites on a daily basis and they kind of know factors and singles that really move the deal so working with an ethical SEO agency that’s trustworthy that has a solid reputation that’s all the factors that we talked about. It’s very important.

Roger: John, it’s been very informative. There is one last thing I’ll just touch on. Maybe you could speak to it also but it’s about guarantees. When you’re doing your research if someone guarantees you something and this is in SEO. This is a search engine optimization where you are going to be naturally…The goal will be to have you naturally appear high-ranked for a number of keyword phrases for your industry if someone says, “I guarantee you.” My suggestion is walk away, go run the other way. There are no guarantees, John.

John: Yeah, I think ranking guarantees are probably the most common that you’d probably be here like I’ll get you to the number one placement on Google. Well, if someone guarantees you that and they’re an SEO agency I would turn around and walk away because even on Google’s website they tell you what to look for in an SEO agency. Guarantee is definitely not one of them. Another guarantee you get is maybe the number of backlinks and all that stuff you know, if you’re doing proper outreach and of a proper backlink campaign there’s no guarantees because it’s not your like…You have no control over what a site of backlink we’ve been doing for you, right?

Roger: So, in a nutshell, though. On your journey you’ll understand all this or get a much better sense of it when you ask for references and you learn about the reputation of this any particular company you’re interviewing so at the end of the day you’ll look for that. You’ll get a good comfort level. “I think these people will do a good job for me because they’ve done a good job for these other companies.”

John: Yeah and make sure they’re in alignment with your goals, your mission, your core values, the people that you’re working with, you build a strong relationship. There’s all these other variables and intangibles to look at.

Roger: Well, John, thank you for this podcast today. This talk was very…I think very informative. I think it’ll be very helpful for these businesses that are out there searching for SEO partners.

John: Well, thanks a lot Roger.

Roger: Thank you and good luck on your journey.

John: Thank you.

Roger: Have a good day.