How To Hire an SEO Company the Right Way

Business professionals shaking hands during a meeting.

Are you considering investing in an SEO service? Do you know what you’re buying?

The vetting process can be a challenge – it’s almost as if you need to know SEO to buy SEO.

In this article, I’ll outline steps you can take to make sure you’re hiring the right people and what to consider before you sign.

Do a Reality Check on Your Expectations

Well-meaning companies that are vetting SEOs but do not understand SEO itself will sometimes have unrealistic expectations.

For example, you might believe that an SEO company should whip up an SEO plan, including what they will do, when they will do it and the expected results – all without an analysis of your website’s faults and no knowledge of your competition.

That is an unrealistic expectation in SEO. (To better understand why, I recommend reading: SEO Should Beat the Competition, Not the Algorithm.)

Many companies falsely believe that it is easy to get a handle on SEO quickly versus the reality that SEO is like wrestling with a greased monkey.

They think that when an SEO company fixes their site, it will rank. That is false. A fixed website means you are in the game. Then you need to fight to be the survivor.

The website is the weapon we use in the SEO battle and we want it to be the best it can be. But the battle is in the search engines against an ever-evolving landscape of Google changes and desperate competitors. After we sharpen the weapon, the work is far from done.

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Ask the Right Questions

There are all types of SEO companies out there. Many deem themselves “SEO experts” or sell SEO services without having the proper background or experience.

Consider the content creator or virtual assistant who says they can also “do SEO” as an added service. Or, what about the well-known agency that hires junior staff with little to no experience but gives them big titles like “Lead SEO” so clients trust them (yes, this happens).

It is hard to know who you are hiring before you hire them. But there is due diligence. I believe one of the most important things an SEO company should have is expertise. To me, that means at least 10 years of experience in their field.

But that is not all. Here are some questions you can ask as you are vetting an SEO company:

  • How long has the SEO vendor been in business?
  • Does the internal team have sufficient skills and experience?
  • Does the company demonstrate thought leadership through speaking engagements, expert content or training?
  • Does the company have a good reputation among its peers in the industry?
  • Has the company received any awards or accolades?
  • How involved is the company in the industry’s professional organizations and/or professional community?
  • Does the company have SEO methods that are keeping within Google’s quality guidelines (aka “white hat” practices)?
  • What sort of clientele does the SEO company serve?
  • What sort of results has the SEO vendor achieved for its clients through its methodology?
  • How do they relate to their prospects? Do you feel like you’re getting good guidance or being “sold?”
  • How do they work with new clients? Do they have formal onboarding processes to ensure everything goes smoothly? Do they have dedicated account managers so communication stays open?

In addition, there are technical questions that you should ask about SEO so you can better understand their approach.

These questions may require that you understand the basics of SEO. (You can brush up on SEO fundamentals by reading our SEO Guide.) At the very least, ask the same questions of all your prospects, compare answers and go with your gut feeling.

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Buy Services That Will Actually Get You Somewhere

There are plenty of “cheap” SEO services that will tick off boxes on an SEO checklist and call that an SEO strategy. Some SEO companies might offer packages with little to no customization. They may even promise specific rankings as a result.

No two websites are alike, and no two search engine queries are alike. These generic packages won’t get you very far in a world where Google changes 20% of the industry each month. What we did last year does not mean we can do it again with success, and each industry is different.

The very first and most important step in engaging with an SEO company is purchasing a service called the SEO audit. The SEO audit is a deep analysis of your website’s needs to compete in the search results.

In fact, this is Google’s recommendation, too:

Ask for a technical and search audit for your site to learn what they think needs to be done, why, and what the expected outcome should be. You’ll probably have to pay for this. You will probably have to give them read-only access to your site on Search Console. (At this stage, don’t grant them write access.) Your prospective SEO should be able to give you realistic estimates of improvement, and an estimate of the work involved. If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.

Even here, the type of information you will get varies greatly from one company to another. Some may run a few analysis tools and give a high-level printout of what needs to be fixed (meta tags, speed issues, etc.).

These reports tend to be superficial and set up the SEO company for delivering on those checklists and packages I talked about.

Other companies instead do a deep dive into the website. They will use analytics plus their years of experience and knowledge to figure out what will actually move the needle when it comes to competing in the search results.

In a nutshell: If the SEO company is not customizing their strategy to your specific situation, and if they make SEO seem easy, then you are probably buying the wrong service.

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Final Thoughts

When you are looking to hire an SEO company, ensure you are investing in expertise, not a package, and not false promises.

Anyone buying SEO from an amateur will never be top three out of 10 million results unless it is by accident. SEO is a truly professional sport and the team you pick matters.

If you’re in need of an experienced SEO agency to provide customized SEO services that gets results, contact us to schedule a FREE 1:1 consultation.

FAQ: What questions should I ask while vetting an SEO company?

Selecting the right SEO company is vital for any business looking to enhance its online presence and drive organic traffic. While the process of vetting SEO service providers may seem overwhelming, asking the right questions can lead to a successful partnership. Here are the key questions you should ask while vetting an SEO company.

1. How long has the SEO vendor been in business?

A company with a proven track record of longevity is more likely to have the experience and stability necessary to provide reliable SEO services.

2. Does the internal team have sufficient skills and experience?

Inquire about the qualifications of the team members who will be handling your SEO campaign. Look for a company with a skilled, experienced workforce dedicated to achieving your goals.

3. Does the company demonstrate thought leadership through speaking engagements, expert content, or training?

Reputable SEO firms should establish an impressive online presence to demonstrate their dedication and knowledge of SEO services.

4. Does the company have a good reputation among its peers in the industry? 

Review testimonials and endorsements from professionals within the SEO industry. Positive responses can provide evidence of a company’s reliability.

5. Has the company received any awards or accolades?

SEO awards and recognition can indicate a company’s dedication and excellence in providing high-quality service.

6. How involved is the company in the industry’s professional organizations and/or professional community?

Active involvement in SEO-related organizations shows that the company is invested in staying connected with the industry and upholding best practices.

7. Does the company have SEO methods that follow Google’s quality guidelines (aka “white hat” practices)?

Ensure that the company adheres to ethical SEO practices approved by search engines, as using black-hat techniques can harm your website’s rankings in the long run.

8. What sort of clientele does the SEO company serve?

Evaluate whether the company has experience working with businesses in your industry or niche. Familiarity with your market can be advantageous.

9. What sort of results have the SEO vendor achieved for its clients through its methodology?

Request case studies or examples of successful SEO campaigns the company has executed. This information will give you insights into their effectiveness.

10. How do they relate to their prospects? Do you feel like you’re getting good guidance or being “sold?”

Pay attention to how the company communicates with you during the vetting process. A trustworthy SEO company will prioritize understanding your needs rather than pushing a sales pitch.

Transitioning smoothly between each question, keep these inquiries in mind while searching for the right SEO partner.

Procedure for Hiring an SEO Company

  1. Research and identify potential SEO companies that align with your industry and requirements.
  2. Check the duration of each company’s establishment to gauge their experience and reliability.
  3. Review the qualifications and expertise of their internal team to ensure they possess the necessary skills for successful SEO campaigns.
  4. Look for signs of thought leadership, such as participation in industry events and publishing expert content.
  5. Investigate the company’s reputation within the SEO community by seeking peer endorsements and testimonials.
  6. Evaluate if the company has received any awards or accolades, as it may indicate its excellence in SEO practices.
  7. Confirm their involvement in professional organizations to ensure they stay up-to-date with industry best practices.
  8. Inquire about their SEO methods to verify they adhere to ethical “white hat” practices approved by search engines.
  9. Consider their experience with clients in your industry, as familiarity can lead to more targeted and effective strategies.
  10. Request case studies or examples of successful campaigns to gauge their ability to deliver positive results.
  11. Pay attention to their communication approach during vetting, ensuring they prioritize understanding your needs.
  12. Seek personalized guidance and recommendations from the SEO companies rather than feeling overly “sold” to.
  13. Assess the level of transparency they provide regarding their strategies and methodologies.
  14. Inquire about their reporting and tracking practices to ensure you can measure the effectiveness of their efforts.
  15. Request a detailed proposal outlining the services they will provide and the expected outcomes.
  16. Obtain clear information about the expected timeline for achieving results.
  17. Inquire about their pricing structure and whether they offer any guarantees.
  18. Seek references from their past or current clients to gain insights into their working relationships and performance.
  19. Carefully compare and examine each company’s responses before making your final choice.
  20. When selecting an SEO firm, make sure they can meet your goals while giving you confidence they will deliver results.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “How To Hire an SEO Company the Right Way”

Not long ago, my aunt told us she tried to manage a website for her wooden furniture, but she doesn’t think it has landed her any new customers. I suspect she’d be into hiring an SEO team that delivers customized services after conducting an audit, so I’ll suggest it right away.

thanks for this Bruce Team. I have been looking at hiring a SEO company these tips are going to help so much. Appreciate the honest info.

This great opportunity but how can I get help from seo


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