Choosing vendors for your in-house SEO program is trickier than just doing a Google search and selecting the first vendor that ranks for “link building” or “SEO copywriting” in Google. Before you go blindly searching on the Internet for a few good vendors, take the time to understand what kind of SEO agency it is that you need.
Then, narrow your selections based on:
How much does SEO cost? It can vary based on the SEO services needed and the quality of the agency that you’re considering. Here’s an easy way to figure out what type of vendor to approach based on what you’re willing to spend:
Cheap and Fast – Every boss wants it cheap and fast, but keep in mind that if it’s cheap and fast, then you’re probably not getting quality. Some folks might recommend trying to outsource overseas, paying someone pennies on the dollar to optimize your site; however, these scenarios can be a gamble. Do you really want to put your SEO campaigns at risk?
Cheap and Quality – It’s difficult to get something for almost nothing. However, if your business offers services that the SEO could use, then you might want to propose a barter arrangement. However, keep in mind that because you’re not paying premium rates, there may be times that your project is sitting on the backburner. As long as you’re patient, this vendor relationship might work for you.
Quality and Fast – If you’re in a hurry but don’t want to lose quality, then you will be paying “emergency” rates. This isn’t going to be cheap. Before you jump down this road, make sure that you really have an emergency. Sometimes, you just need to do more to manage your company’s expectations when communicating your SEO agenda.
Be realistic about your budget. If you want premium service then you will be paying premium rates. Like any industry, it’s almost impossible to get something for nothing.
Reputation can be a funny thing. A high profile company that speaks at SEO events, publishes articles on notable SEO news sources, or carries “trust” logos might on the surface seem like a good idea. A recommendation from a trusted friend can even earn more notice. However, there are a couple of ideas to keep in mind, when you’re basing your decisions on reputation:
Who’s recommending the company? – A recommendation from an educated source is better than a happy business owner who knows nothing about SEO. Take into context who’s offering the recommendation.
Are you hiring the consultant or his company? – The consultant that speaks at the conferences may not be the person touching your account day to day. Know who’s going to be working on the account. Judge your decision to use that company based on the quality of the team that’s on your account.
Has the company worked on high-profile company sites? – A client list with Fortune 500 companies may indicate that they’re established, but doesn’t guarantee the quality of their work. Your team may not be the same team that worked on those sites. The challenges that your site faces may not be the same as these clients listed.
How reliable are the trust indicators? – Because there is no “official” set of guidelines to doing SEO, you can’t trust any badge or code of ethics seal that appears on a company website. Look beyond the promises and see if there are any complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Search for lawsuits against the company or its principals. Make sure that the 3rd party site that’s reviewing the SEO agency wasn’t paid for their review.
At the end of the day, your company isn’t going to care how popular your SEO agency is with the SEO community. They’re going to want to see results. On the first pass of reviewing SEO agencies, make sure that they fit within your budget and have a solid reputation.
Are we done yet? Not by a long shot, but rather than try to stuff this topic all into one article, I’m going to break it down into a vendor management series. If you have any value-add ideas on budget or reputation, please add them to the comments.