Editor’s Note: Greg Laptevsky is a longtime Practical eCommerce contributor and a professional search-engine-marketing consultant. We asked him for tips to help ecommerce companies hire SEO firms. What follows, below, is his response.
The checklist below will help you choose the right specialist for your search engine marketing campaigns.
1. Stay away from agencies/companies that guarantee top rankings.
- If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know that there are few guarantees with search engine marketing. No company can guarantee top natural rankings on Google, Yahoo!, MSN or any other search engine.
- Agencies/consultants can, in fact, guarantee that you’ll be able to generate traffic via paid alternatives such as pay-per-click or paid inclusion but never via search engine optimization.
2. Inquire about realistic expectations on performance.
- Don’t expect to hear specific performance by a certain date, but inquire about results with previous accounts in a similar vertical and/or sites with similar competition levels.
3. Ask the consultant how it plans to execute your SEO campaigns.
- If you’re not getting a reasonably comprehensive response and/or hearing statements such as “we know SEO secrets,” choose another firm.
- An SEO firm could have a slightly different methodology for getting you best results. However, if the company is unable to explain the method to the madness, then it doesn’t know what it is doing or it will likely do something “unconventional” (which you might get penalized for later on).
4. Look around for company reviews and ask permission to contact their existing clients.
- It’s likely that you’ll get referred to a success story; nevertheless, you will probably learn a lot about day-to-day interaction going on behind the scenes.
5. Check SEMCompare.com to see what other people are saying about the firm.
6. Make sure you will own all accounts, domains, content, graphics and/or any other media used to promote your site.
- If your search-marketing guru builds out micro-sites and blogs, distributes video clips, or creates content, you’ll want to ensure all of this content is legally owned by you. It might get really messy, for example, if you realize that you don’t own half of the domains utilized in your SEO strategy. Spell this out in the contract.
7. Ask to see sample reports.
- Determine the minimum level of reporting to be delivered by your future SEO provider and the frequency of the report delivery. A one-page report every six months is not acceptable, in my view.
- You need to know how much you’re spending, your profitability levels, traffic patterns, and in depth custom analysis (put together by a human being) of your SEO (and paid search) campaigns.
8. You get what you pay for.
- Both SEO and search engine marketing are very time-consuming tasks. Your consultant will need to spend time and resources to monitor new developments, industry news, industry research and the like. If you’re negotiating a contract, it’s a good idea to inquire about company-wide hourly rates to understand how much time will be spent on your account. If a firm does not use hourly rate calculation, then determine how much your SEO/SEM campaigns will cost each month. Don’t expect great service for $100 per month.