Small Business Tips For Buying SEO Services
Not all small businesses can afford the time and resources to spend on the optimization of their website, especially once the business starts to expand. SEO is not easy and it is time consuming. Perhaps you are considering hiring someone to do the job: This post will guide you and help you to take the right decision when buying SEO services.
What is SEO? Why You Need It?
Just so that we are clear, there are two types of search engine marketing (SEM) techniques, SEO and PPC (paid ads).
What you see on top of a regular Google search result are PPC ads that are differentiated with a yellow icon that says 'Ad', as shown below:
Google Search Results Segmentation Into Ads And Regular Search Results
The regular search results (also known as organic listings) that you see below the ads are the ones that are obtained through SEO. Users of search engines generally believe that the organic search results are highly recommended by the search engine. So, they prefer them more than the ads. That's why SEO is considered an inversion that pays back in the long term.
Correct Reasons To Buy SEO Services
When you do plan to invest on SEO services, first you have to be sure whether you need it or not. The first question is, do you really need SEO services? Are they profitable for your business?
Start by listing out what you want to achieve out of your SEO services, so your SEO investment is driven in a certain direction.
Let me help you with some sample ideas below:
- Beat current search position of a potential competitor.
- Get more search traffic.
- Get more visibility for your brand.
- Get sales.
Once you have a target to achieve out of SEO you must choose what is the best option for you if you feel you cannot do it your self: You can hire a SEO for your time (in house or freelancer), an SEO agency or someone who can train your staff to handle it.
Getting your staff trained in-house can be a good option in the long run, as you do not have to depend on a third party all the time. However, you can hire an SEO provider, always after a thorough background check. We will talk about this more below.
Busting Fake SEO Claims
There is all kind of SEO companies out there – the good, the bad and the ugly. Some shady digital marketing companies may urge you to buy SEO services from them based on fake claims. Lets bust some such claims that small business owners usually are unaware of when they buy SEO services.
Oh no you don't. Organic listings are free. The regular search results you saw up there do not cost you money. An SEO company can only charge you for their consultancy and services that will help you to get in the organic listings for the searches that are optimal for your business. They can offer you services such as technical audits, link building, visibility actions or social media promotion.
Although it is true that you can benefit a whole lot from being on #1 on Google search results, it is not exactly mandatory. Serious buyers would not hesitate to browse further down search pages to find what they are looking for. Also, search results are customized based on the searcher's preferences and some are arranged based on the geographic location. So for instance, if your website ranks in the 10th position on "general search" it might rank in the first position on local/customized search.
Of course, you can expect to rank at least in the first pages of search. You could set a benchmark by asking them to rank you higher than your close competitors, but don't get obsessed with rankings. Other KPI such as traffic or conversion are better signals of success.
If your SEO service provider says that ranking #1 on Google search or any other search engine is guaranteed, just rule them out of your list of SEO companies to buy SEO services from.
SEO cannot be guaranteed simply because search engines, especially Google, has extremely complex algorithms that not even Google employees would have figured out, not to mention your SEO service provider. Also, don't forget about your competitors: They will probably be working on getting to the same results pages.
It is so not a one-time job. Even SEO audits are not a one-time thing (like most business owners think). SEO is a recurring process as there are many competitors in line to take away your number one position on search (if you happen to get one) and as the "rules" of Google change almost in a daily basis. Also, Google loves fresh content, so you cannot really think that you are going to stick around in the same Google search position forever.
If your SEO provider says that you must try their services for a certain period of time and it will take care of your site's SEO forever, they are lying.
Questions You Must Ask Your SEO Service Provider
I mentioned above that you should do a background check before hiring an SEO provider. You can first check online reviews of the company or social media mentions with a simple Google search of the brand name. Check their experience and number of staff by doing a search on LinkedIn for their brand. If it is just a freelancer SEO provider, check his/her LinkedIn profile for recommendations or previous experiences. Also, the website is a reflection of services to a certain extent. Check their website to see if they have been transparent about their services.
Finally, when you shortlist a few companies or freelancers, ask them the following questions:
It is usually a good practice to hire an SEO company that is a one-stop-shop for on page SEO (SEO on your website coding), off page SEO (building links to your site) and social media marketing. If you are a small or medium business, it is easier and cheaper to get things done with the same SEO provider.
If you are a startup who does not have a website yet, hire an SEO company that offers web design and development with SEO. This will also reduce costs and save your time by not having to switch between companies. But, just be aware that there are some web design and development companies that say they will provide SEO, but usually they mean only on page SEO and not link building and social media.
Building links is not a piece of cake. We are talking about genuine, relevant and high quality links that really matter.
If your SEO provider says that they will build 100 links in a month, tell them you don't want to startle Google with mass link building. Google has been sending unnatural link warnings to webmasters lately and if your SEO Company is a good one, they probably know better.
There is no ideal number of links to be built to a site within a certain period of time. Even if they give you a number like 50 or 100, ask them the list of source domains of the links and check if these are genuinely good pages (hint – check their PageRank and traffic estimates).
And remember, "the objective is not to make your links appear natural, the objectives is that your links are natural" (Matt Cutts, former head of the webspam team at Google):
There are some SEO service providers who build links automatically with the help of link building software. Be aware of this practice as it has the tendency of raising a red flag with Google. Although it is a good signal that they now the different software in the market, make sure they do key things manually: building links, creating content or publishing in your social media networks, among others, are task that should be performed manually.
Keywords are important when it comes to SEO. It is easy for your SEO service provider to take a list of keywords that have the least competition and rank your website number one position in search. Make sure you take a look at the keywords and see whether they are relevant to your niche audience.
Remember that you want to find people (traffic) that is genuinely interested in your company and your products or services. What kind of search are these people using? If you get traffic without conversions, it will only be a cost for you.
A good SEO provider must have real examples of search optimized websites from past clients. If not, they must provide you contacts of those who have hired their services before. If not, how are you going to believe what they are telling you?
Don't be afraid to ask, a good background check before you hire the service provider is better than regretting after hiring them.
Who will be working on my site?
A lot of SEO companies only offer consultancy. Who is going to do the work on the site? If you don't have the time or human resources to do all the changes, ask them if they can offer the service or recommend someone that can do it. Get to know the staff that will be working on various areas of your site.
You must be assigned a project manager to whom you can ask questions and who reports to you from start to the end of your site's SEO project. Some SEO companies might belong to a local area, but they might outsource some jobs from another places and the communication channel must never be broken.
It is logical for you to ask access to all the sites where they create a profile for your website, for link building and promotions. This is also useful in cases where you switch to another SEO provider in future or decide to hire in-house SEO.
These may include, social media accounts, business listing site accounts, online review website accounts or even a Google Webmaster Tools account if you did not already have one.
This is the most important question but it features last since you need to clarify the above questions before this one.
Get a complete breakdown of the estimated SEO costs on your website when you buy SEO services from an agency or freelancer. They must be transparent about every process that is to happen on your site.
Some providers charge hourly, monthly, quarterly or annually. Some others charge based on the number of links created or the number of webpages optimized. Some companies have a monthly fee, but they compromise and have a part "variable" depending on the results. Look for the structure that suits your own needs.
If you need SEO services for your site, you can do it yourself or hire someone to do it, but you have to remember that it is a hard process and time consuming. In this digital age where tutorials are freely available on SEO and digital marketing, anyone with a computer can call themselves an SEO. So if you are going to buy SEO services, you have to be able to differentiate between a professional and an amateur.
Set your goals, ask the right questions and then do your numbers: It has to be profitable for you, but remember that SEO in the post penguin age is not cheap. Some providers will over-promise but always ask them to probe their expertise.
At WooRank, we make constant effort to help small business owners and marketers essentials of SEO, usability and conversion techniques Check our website analysis tool that offers digital marketing tips, the digital marketing blog and the free online marketing training.
What is your experience of buying SEO services? Do you have any tips that you can share with us?