It's one of the puzzles that each and every company considering Search Engine Optimisation (from an extenal compnay) faces. Basically the question is:
How do I know which SEO to choose?
To be honest there is no set answer, each company needs to consider things from its own level... but one of the most important things and it covers many factors you will want to consider is... Trust.
Trust is a strange issue to consider, not least because its based on a persons emotional being. The fact that you are a company looking to hire means that you need to have a company trust ... or a sole person in charge of the decision. Trust is based on past experience in life, if you have had a "bad" childhood maybe you don't trust many people but sometimes things just click and you do, other people may have had a great childhood and trust every person until they break that trust... everyone is different. In SEO the issue of trust is much larger than in other parts of the internet sector... primarily because SEO is not a one-size fits all solution, each company requires something different, and each SEO will offer that something different from another.
So consider a scenario (and this is what most companies face when hiring an seo).
You are (or your company is) wanting to hire and SEO, so you approach 4 or 5 companies asking them to tender. Each one says they will tender and submits various documents you ahve asked for. But each is different in what it says. So you ask to meet them (as you always should before hiring), and you see each company says different things, approaches a solution in a seperate manner, and ultimately they come up with different solutions to the same problem.
So now which do you choose? Who do you trust and why? Which SEO is good for you and your company? and which is bad? and most of all who should your company run away from?
To help understand who you should choose, i've identified 5 factors you should be considering when hiring an SEO for your company.
An Open Book - will the SEO tell you what they are doing, tactics on how to approach your solution. Also do they tell you why they are doing itt, and if not do you blindly trust them? If they won't tell you what they intend to do this is a huge red flag you need to consider... ok SEO's will look to keep some things secret (myself included at times) but ultimately your are the client and if you want to know everything you are entitled to it! ... if an SEO says something you don't understand, and they wont explain... ask me.
Proven Record - check references from clients (remember not all SEOs will publish exacting details of results)... but talking to other clients is often much mroe reliable.
Site Improvement - sounds a bit mad but some SEOs will want to just focus on Search Engines and they shouldn't be... SEO isnt just about being found on a search engine. SEO is actually about imrpoving conversions from the point of access as well as encouraging people to visit your site through these points of access. SEO is not a hidden trade, any SEO who wants to "work behind the scenes" only isn't worth a penny as user experience is a key part of SEO.
Great Expectations - from your first meeting you should talk about "realistic" expectations, remember if an SEO says in the first month there will be a million hits extra from 1 hit a month ...they are lieing... SEO is a journet and results generally don't filter through during the first month or two... its sometimes even 4 or 5 months before results are seen... AK Designs has always lived by the mantra of Under-Promise and Over-Deliver.
Automation - if your SEO is automating processes generally you should be worried, unless they can prove a good reason behind it ... automating processes on a website is fine and helps user experience ... automating website submission to search engines can sometimes see your website being punished. Not all automation is bad but a lot is!
Search Engine Optimisation is very much a science and art. Science because if we aren't accurate with our numbers and coding then it will all fail and we are rubbish at SEO. Art because an SEO needs to be creative, search engines constantly move the goal posts as they strive to improve, so an SEO will have a whole bundle of ideas through which you should hopefully get to the top of the search rankings.
Trusting an SEO is like trust a friend, doctor, dentist or a member of your family. Determining whom to trust is a matter of gut instinct, recommendation and of course time. Get to know your SEO before you make any decision.
Getting to know an SEO is very important. You should ask lots of questions, both of the SEO and clients. Talk to them in an informal place (like a pub) get the SEO's defence down and find them as a person and not the tool of a company. From questioning and getting to know them over a pint your gut instinct will be pretty much there... but there is one other thing you should consider. Honesty! An SEO will never be afraid to share the truth with you, and if they aren't honest or trustworthy remember - theres always more SEO fish in the sea.
This article has been republished at boagworld.com