Hiring an independent expert or a specialized agency to assign to them to cover your SEO needs as an entrepreneur is a very important, in fact a very critical decision which is bound to have a massive impact on whether or not you will be able to attain good results. To be able to choose effectively and wisely, it is imperative that you understand the basic mechanics behind SEO consulting work. Prior to representing below a few clever tips on how your SEO partner selection should be approached, let us first have a look at some mistakes to be avoided when trying to select an SEO company, in order to maximize the chances for success:
Many people looking for a SEO company to hire fall into the trap of believing that SEO companies ranking how on a relevant Google search, i.e. if you search for SEO company or SEO consultant plus the name of your town, are automatically the best SEO companies around. This simplistic logic however leads you make assumptions that are not valid. What happens in reality and you should beat it in mind is that most really good companies already have a lot of clients, and because they do a great job they get more clients through the referrals of their existing clientele, thus they do not need to spend their time and effort trying to optimize their own online presence in order to rank high on search engines. Having said this, we don’t mean that all SEO companies ranking high on Google are crap, but that a high ranking may simply indicate a consultancy who due to the lack of actual clients, concentrates its efforts on its own rankings. Just remember that a top position on Google is not the Holy Grail and you should not jump to hire the company that ranks first based on this fact alone.
It is very likely that when you perform a search on terms like "best SEOs" or "best SEO consultants" or "best SEO companies," you will get many results referring to various websites and directories that contain lists featuring the “Top SEO” companies. Rather than being authoritative and independent sources of information, ranking the agencies they feature based on solid criteria and upon their true competences and merit, such sites and lists are usually mere aggregators that sell the high positions on these lists to any interested company for a fee, charging more for the top spots. This is the main reason why you should not trust this type of lists and not assume that if an SEO company appears on top it automatically means that it would be an ideal hire to make. More often it simply means that it has paid the highest fee to secure the number one position on the said list.
It is not impossible to find lists that are compiled not on the basis of a fee, but on actual impartial criteria, but for smaller markets, such as Cyprus, these are rare and even if you do come across them, they should not be your sole source of information or the determining factor in deciding which SEO consultant to hire.
.Admittedly at the time of its origins SEO was an art and a science surrounded by a lot of mysticism as the search engine ranking algorithms where indeed a true riddle. However, nowadays SEO is an open field that is well understood, especially by those who are true professional experts in the field. Therefore, you should avoid any SEO company which claims to have secret recipes, or proprietary magic solutions and wands it can shake during your SEO process. Any SEO consultancy that is not completely transparent and instead of clearly telling you how it is going to work and what SEO methods it is going to employ to help your company, but instead tells you it will all happen in a well-kept in-house magical manner that they are not willing to disclose, should be avoided like the plague.
Having pointed out the most common mistakes to avoid during the selection process for hiring an SEO company, let us now discuss how you should ideally go about making the right choice.
The first step is setting out, together with your in-house team, exactly what goals it is that you are trying to achieve through SEO. This is a very crucial process and you absolutely need to engage in this exercise before contacting any SEO consultant. You need to have a clear answer to the question why you seek high organic rankings for keywords and you also need to determine how you are to judge success over failure. During this goal setting process, there are good and plausible goals that you should be after and bad goals that you should avoid. Let us see some examples:
A good goal would be wanting to increase your visibility before the eyes of people performing searches for a specific keyword, i.e. knowing that you need traffic from a specific group or specific groups who are actually searching for the keyword you are targeting.
Another great goal would be your desire to boost revenue through new sales and wanting to utilize the potential of SEO as a sales driver. Similarly, if this is applicable in your case, another good goal would be wanting to increase downloads from or free sign-ups to your website through SEO.
Finally, wanting to boost the sentiment around your brand or particular offering through SEO is also a very legitimate goal, especially if you know for a fact that many people are indeed searching for your branded keywords, so wanting to push bad reviews down and the good reviews up sounds like a good plan.
So what about the bad goals? Top of the list of absolutely terrible goals for doing SEO is wanting more traffic with no reason. If you are certain traffic then converts and you have the data to prove it, this means your goal is revenue, but mere traffic alone is not good enough as a goal. Similarly, rankings alone suck as a goal as well and wanting to rank high simply to be able to brag about it is a negative goal. In general, wanting to use SEO simply to score high on various vanity metrics is a terrible idea all together and so is wanting to use SEO to beat a particular competitor on specific keywords. In short, your SEO related goals need to be positive and clear and somehow either lead directly to income generation or be tied to the overall organizational goals of your venture.
Once you have your list of good goals prepared, you are then ready to proceed to the next of the process of finding a good SEO consultant to hire, which is to also prepare a short list of three to five consultants and/or agencies that you will evaluate in depth. The criteria you will use to decide on these few contestants are up to you and depend on your specific needs, for example you might want to limit it to local agencies that will give you the chance for more regular in person meetings more easily, or you might set your available budget and choose the firms according to their price ranges.
Include the consultants or agencies that meet and fulfill your criteria on your shortlist and then proceed to compare and contrast between them. During this process you will need to talk with all the contestants and also do some good research in terms of obtaining references.
Obviously a good place to try and get references would be your friends and people from your close personal and/or professional networks. Moreover, a good idea would be to approach for recommendations any companies similar to yours that you may have access to or relations with, provided of course that they are not your direct competitors. Talk to such companies and find out who they are using for SEO and whether they are satisfied and had successful results. Another good source of information and feedback on available SEO agencies could be industry insiders that you could reach out to and ask for their recommendations.
However, it is also of great importance to shape your opinion of each consultant or agency your considering based on their actual answers to the questions you will pose during your own conversations with them. Again here there are some good questions you should ask to help you reach valid conclusions about their work and whether they are the right choice to make for your needs.
A good starting point would be to ask them to explain to use the process they intend to follow in order to help you accomplish your own specific SEO related goals and tell you why they prefer the particular process over others. Another topic to inquire on pertains to their communication and reporting processes. You need to find out how often this happens and in what way, including which metrics they report on, how this data is collected and whether you need to collecting anything yourself. Also ask them to explain exactly how these metrics match the goals you have specified.
A very important factor to clarify is exactly what you need to commit internally in terms of extra workload and resources for the SEO consultant’s recommendations to be applied. This will help you plan your available resources in advance and avoid any misunderstandings before you actually commit with a SEO agency. If the recommendations involve things you simply cannot provide for, e.g. extra development or content creation bandwidth, the SEO experts should be prepared to accommodate that and come up with viable alternatives. Related to this, is to also ask to be informed what the company does when things turn out not to be working and how they have rectified such instances in the past with other clients.
In general, don’t be afraid to ask open ended questions and give the SEO agents time and space to explain to you their own understanding of how Google and other search engines work and how it is that they go about influencing search engine results and ranking. If they are comfortable to explain and give solid answers with comfort and confidence, then this is surely a good sign.
After discussing in depth with all the people on your shortlist you are ready to take the final step and actually choose the best between them. Your choice should be based on a combination of factors, but the following four are of critical importance:
Having gone through the process to be followed when seeking to hire an SEO provider for your SEO related needs as a Cyprus-based business owner, here’s also a few parting tips as food for thought before you make your actual hiring: