When a small business is ready to start growing, marketing is a primary way of increasing leads and customers. In today’s market, online marketing in particular is the main way to start getting ahead and exploding your business to the next level.
But online marketing is far from simple. Drawing traffic to your website and improving your rank on search engines through SEO (search engine optimization) is a complex, multifaceted process that is a mystery to most. It is much more than key-word stuffing or creating a prettier website.
As such, it is important for small businesses to be willing to at least consider outsourcing their SEO needs. Most small businesses do not have a marketing department with the expertise to manage the complexities of internet advertising, and most cannot afford to bring it in house – not yet, anyway.
However, finding reliable search engine optimization companies that will produce real results can be incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, there are scammers as well as many novices out there who, while making tempting claims, can offer little proof of their efficacy.
So, how do you – a small business owner in the Phoenix area – find an SEO company that you can feel good about? Allow us to share with you some do’s, don’ts, and steps to get you on your way.
As we hinted at above, finding a reliable SEO company can be somewhat perilous. If you simply search for “SEO companies Phoenix,” or some variation thereof, you will likely get an unmanageable list of hundreds of options.
Many make a lot of mistakes that stem from relying too heavily on these searches. So, before we start it talking about what you should look for in a reliable SEO service, and how you should look for it, here are some things to NOT do and things to avoid:
1. Don’t rely on Google rankings when searching for a good SEO company
This probably seems counterintuitive, right? If a company is good at SEO, then surely their own website will appear high in the rankings.
But, truth be told, many of the best SEO companies are too busy with clients and get too many referrals to really even care about their Google ranking. It could simply mean that the SEO co. you are seeing has too much time on their hands and knows how to work the system to try to pull more customers.
2. Don’t put weight in the “Top SEO” lists that you find
When you do a search, you will probably find companies that offer “The top x-number of SEO companies out there.” However, many of these lists are false advertising.
The organizations that assemble these lists often offer higher rankings on their lists to companies for a price. In other words, SEO companies can pay to appear higher up on the list, instead of genuinely earning their place on the list.
This is not universally true, necessarily, but such lists are suspect. There are plenty of other ways to find good SEO service, so why rely on something that you can’t be sure you can trust?
3. Don’t choose purely based on their website
A snazzy website doesn’t mean they are good at what they do. The old adage “Looks can be deceiving” is just as relevant here as anywhere else.
4. Don’t assume a big SEO firm = a good SEO firm
Just because they have a lot of employees and service international clientele neither automatically means they are the best, nor that they will be right for your small business. An individual working out of his home office may be much more effective at SEO for your business than a large firm.
5. Avoid SEO companies that make extravagant promises
If they promise you out of the gate that they can make your website be number 1 on Google, walk away. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no way that they can legitimately make such promises.
You want a firm/consultant who will be transparent and honest with you, not one who is trying to hook your (and your money) through unreasonable promises.
6. Avoid SEO companies that don’t communicate, act secretive
If the SEO company you are checking out
a. Claims they can’t be open with their process because they have some equivalent of a proprietary “secret weapon”
b. Doesn’t want to agree to regular communication and updates
c. Can’t be clear about their metrics and how they will measure the efficacy of their tactics
then walk away. While confusing to those who haven’t heard of or worked with it before, SEO tactics ultimately are pretty open and easy enough to understand once you’ve done a bit of research. There is no reason for a company to be secretive or resistant about sharing the process and metrics other than their lack of skill or ability to provide evidence of their efficacy.
So, now you know some things not to do and some warning flags to keep an eye out for. But what should you expect from a legitimate, quality SEO consultant or company?
Converse to the last point made above, you should look for a company that is willing to be very open about their process and why it works.
2. Good, regular communication
Again, converse to one of the points above, a good SEO consultant/company will have no problem establishing good and regular points of communication to keep you in the loop. They should have no hesitation and letting you know how things are going and providing feedback.
A part of good communication is listening as well. They should, especially up front, be good and willing to listen to you as you explain your business’ unique qualities and needs. Though they have been doing this for a while and work with other businesses like yours, it shouldn’t mean they write off what you have to say.
If you find yourself having a hard time getting them to communicate, or always end up frustrated (or confused) when you communicate, that’s a sign they may not be a good fit for you.
3. Good metrics
You will want an SEO service who shares with you what their metrics look like. How will they measure the results and how frequently will they share/review them with you? Are they relevant to the goals you have? You will want to know how results will be measures so you can accurately gauge the return on investment for the service.
4. Good track record and reputation
Have you heard others in your network talking about the excellent job this SEO company did for them? Can you find companies they have helped and see evidence of success? These are things you will want to see.
4 Steps to Finding Good Search Engine Optimization Companies
So, now you know some basic dos, don’ts and things to keep an eye out for (both good and bad). But what does the process of looking for and finding the right SEO company actually look like?
Admittedly, there are probably many search engine optimization companies that meet the above good qualifications. So how do you put these things to practice and make a choice?
Here are 4 steps to take on your hunt for the right SEO consultation service for your Phoenix based small business:
1. Know your goals first
When looking for the right SEO service for your small business, you need to first make sure you understand what specific goals you are hoping to accomplish through it. You can’t properly measure the results if you don’t have clear goals in mind.
Furthermore, SEO services offer a variety of related services. Some of them may not be relevant to where your business is at. Know what type of SEO services you need and want so you can better assess whether a company is right for your particular needs.
Finally, also know what your goals are for your relationship with the SEO service/consultant. Is it important for you to be able to meet with them in person? If so, choose someone local. Are you fine with them being remote? Great. Do you just need a consultant who can provide you with directives and feedback, and your people can implement them? Or do you need a full service SEO service who will then work with your website directly to make their suggestions happen? You need to ask yourself these questions so you know what you really are looking for.
2. Rely on good referrals
As we discussed above in the “Don’t” section, you know by now that relying on an internet search is not a good idea. So, instead, look for direct referrals.
You probably have a network of friends and like small businesses who are using or have used SEO services. Ask them who they used and how they liked the experience. Find like, but non-competitive businesses whose sites seem to be working well and ask them who they have used.
Direct referrals of positive experiences will be a much more reliable way to find an SEO company that will be a good fit for your small business. Be sure to ask them some specific questions about what their goals were and their specific experiences were with the company. This way, you can better see that not only did they work with a good (or bad) company, but whether their goals and experience are similar to your own.
You don’t just want a “good” company – there are plenty of those. You want one who will be a good match for yours. An SEO company who did great things for a larger business in a completely different industry than yours may not be able to do a great job for your smaller, unrelated business.
3. Investigate their track record
Once you have a few search engine optimization companies in mind, do some digging into their track record. Either ask them if they have case studies or portfolios that you can look into, or see if you can find previous/current clients. If you can, even talk to their clients to see what kind of results they have gotten.
You basically want to try to ensure that you will have a good return on investment. SEO services are not cheap, but they should absolutely be more than worth it. The proof is in the pudding – go find some “pudding” to test. If the company is unwilling or unable to provide any kind of previous examples or evidence, and you can’t seem to find any evidence of effective work, than that may be a sign to look elsewhere.
4. Choose 3-5 to “interview”
Once you have done the above, get a list of 3 to 5 that you are really interested in, assuming you have the time and luxury to do some deeper investigation. Once you have your list together, “interview” them, but don’t necessarily know that is what you’re doing, and don’t let them know you are checking out multiple companies. This could discourage them from trying harder for your business.
What should the “interview” process look like?
- Most SEO companies offer a free consultation and proposal. This process can take a few days as they research your business and the relevant market. Use this as an opportunity to get a feel for them, for their style of communication, and their process. It’s like a trial run.
Go through this process with a couple of them so that you have a good material and experiences for comparison and developing a baseline.
- Ask good questions. Make them talk to you and tell you stories.
Ask them broad questions, like what their process is, how they navigate the competitiveness of Google, etc. This provides opportunity for them to both demonstrate that they actually are experts who know what they are doing and their communication skills.
Ask them to tell you about previous experiences – their most difficult case, their favorite case, etc. Again, this will give you a chance to feel out their personality and communication style, as well as give you hints at how they work, their approach, and how they treat their clients.
Even if everything up to this point seemed great, the way they answer your questions can be extremely telling and could reveal that they aren’t so great a match, or that they are absolutely perfect for what you need.
So, finding a good search engine optimization company for your small business is not going to be easy, and the process can be very complex. Relying on an internet search would be like playing Russian roulette.
BUT, what we hope you see from the above is that it IS possible to find yourself a great match in an SEO company. It will take a bit of work and time, but most of it, really, is common sense once you know some basics to look for and clear steps to help you on your way.
Still feeling uncertain about the whole process? Feel free to reach out to us here at the Worktop with all your queries and concerns!