How to Choose the Best SEO Services Company
Learn how to choose the best SEO services company in 12 hassle-free steps, below. Or, start building a results-driven SEO strategy for your business by contacting our award-winning strategists about our organic SEO services today at 888-601-5359!
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1. Create a game plan
If you want to partner with a trusted and respected SEO company, it’s critical that your business develops a game plan. That’s why — before contacting any SEO agency — you need to meet with your marketing team and company decision makers to create a marketing agenda.
A few points your agenda should cover include:
- Goals: The most crucial feature of your game plan, your goals help you decide what you want to accomplish with SEO — whether it’s increasing sign-ups for a free service trial or boosting sales of a new product. Make sure you’re creating S.M.A.R.T. goals too, or specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based goals.
- Budget: Another influential factor when choosing an SEO company is your budget. Before your team agrees on a specific number, research the average cost of SEO services. Keep in mind that with SEO, you often get what you pay for — don’t settle for agencies with so-called, “cheap,” services. They’ll cost your company more in the long-term.
- Service: The kind of SEO services your business wants will also influence your budget and overall game plan. If you’re a business that operates locally and nationally, for example, you may choose to invest in a standard and local SEO plan. You may also want a plan that’s more aggressive, which will come with a higher cost.
- Duration: Your budget, as well as service requirements, will impact the duration of your SEO services. That’s why you need to consider how long your budget would last — keep in mind, SEO is an ongoing strategy, and takes a few months to deliver results. That’s why, if you want to maximize your results, plan to partner with an SEO agency for more than 12 months.
- Agency: One factor that many businesses overlook when choosing an SEO company is the types of agencies available. While some offer basic SEO services, others provide a suite of integrated services — these are full-service SEO companies, like WebFX. Partner with a full-service agency and you can outsource all your SEO services, such as SEO copywriting, and avoid the time-sink of managing these services in-house.
In most cases, your game plan will undergo several changes. As you learn more about SEO, from its prices to its services, you will build a better digital marketing plan. It’s essential, however, that you make this your first step when searching for an SEO company.
2. Research SEO services
Once you have an initial draft of your company’s game plan, move onto some in-depth research into the services your business would want or need. This step is important, as not all agencies offer the same SEO services.
The four primary services you’ll find for SEO include:
- Standard SEO: For most businesses, a standard SEO service is enough. Like the following SEO services, it focuses on increasing your online visibility to members of your target audience. That improved online visibility can result in more leads and transactions, which helps your company grow.
- Local SEO: With local SEO, you’re focusing on improving your online visibility to consumers in your area. If you’re a restaurant, retail store, or any other business that does in-store transactions, you want to look at local SEO. It can lead to massive increases in revenue, as 80 percent of local searches
- Enterprise SEO: For established businesses with an SEO strategy in-place, choose enterprise SEO. It focuses on increasing your online visibility for tougher, more competitive keywords. That helps your company stand out in a saturated market, which can give your business the push it needs to increase its market share.
- Ecommerce SEO: The rise of online retail created ecommerce SEO, which focuses on optimizing your online visibility to consumers that are ready to buy a product. This approach creates big wins for your business, resulting in more purchases and more revenue for your ecommerce store.
If you’re unsure about which SEO service is the best fit for your business, that’s understandable. What matters is that you’re aware of these different services and what they entail — that will provide you with some background knowledge when you consult with agencies later.
3. Investigate SEO prices
Now that you have a general idea of the SEO services that could benefit your business, look at the average prices for these optimization services. In most cases, agencies offer different packages for SEO services, which will influence the price.
For example, WebFX offers three tiers or packages for its SEO services.
When researching the average cost of SEO services, you’ll find that most companies don’t publish their prices. This move causes more work for your team, as you’ll have to contact the agency to request a quote, as well as provide a fair amount of information about your business.
That’s why, when choosing an SEO company, you should focus your research efforts on companies that publish their prices online. This will save your team time and ensure that your shortlist of SEO companies offers services that fit your budget.
You can also find additional information on SEO prices through respected industry websites, like Search Engine Land or Ahrefs. These websites will research the average cost of SEO each year and then share their findings with readers.
It’s worth visiting these websites while developing your initial marketing budget for SEO as well. They can provide you with concrete data to present to your company’s decision makers, plus help your team establish a smart budget for SEO.
4. Ask for recommendations
While you can discover a variety of SEO agencies through search, one of the best ways to find a trusted one is by chatting with the people in your professional network. Whether it’s the business owner next door or the business that handles your company’s lawn care.
A few examples of people you can ask for SEO agency recommendations include:
- Friends in your personal and professional network
- Non-competitive companies in your industry
- Service providers in your professional network
The value of word-of-mouth is immense when it comes to finding and choosing an SEO company. It’s a direct confirmation that this agency not only knows SEO but also knows how to provide its clients with a positive experience — and with results.
Recommendations from friends, colleagues, and partners can also guide your business away from less-than-stellar SEO agencies. These can include agencies that utilize black-hat SEO practices, but more often include companies that focus more on signing new clients, rather than retaining existing ones.
In most cases, these types of SEO agencies have a massive sales team and a tiny marketing team.
The result? Cookie-cutter strategies for SEO and low-quality results for your company. It also minimizes or erases your potential return on investment (ROI). Even worse, it leaves your business with a negative impression of SEO, as well as SEO agencies.
That’s why it’s critical that you and your team reaches out and asks for recommendations.
5. Build a list of SEO companies
Once you’ve compiled a list of recommendations from your personal and professional network, you and your team can start researching additional options. You can use search engines, such as Google, as well as browse the recommendations of industry experts
To streamline your list of SEO companies, as well as prepare for the upcoming steps in choosing the best SEO services company, create a Google Sheet or Excel document. Here, you can list the names of agencies you’re considering, plus the following information:
- Average review rating
- Contract duration
As you search for SEO agencies online, keep in mind that the top-ranking agencies for search results are not always the best. While they can earn a number one ranking for a search result, it can also indicate that they’re low on clients.
Due to the industry, keywords related to SEO companies or services often have a high level of competition. That means it requires more time and effort to create content that appears on the first page of search results for that keyword.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that this isn’t always the case. Many successful SEO agencies can rank for competitive keywords. That’s why you need to look for evidence, like testimonials and case studies, to confirm that they provide their clients with results.
In the next step, you can start this research.
6. Read reviews and client testimonials
With reviews, as well as client testimonials, you receive immediate insight into an agency’s weaknesses and strengths. This honest feedback from past and current clients can also alert your business to agency habits that wouldn’t make them the best choice for your company.
For example, if you’re a manufacturer that’s launching a new product in the next several months, you want an SEO agency that can deliver on that deadline. If they’re prone to delays and missed due dates, it’s unlikely you could trust them with this product launch.
When browsing reviews and client testimonials, it’s essential that you go beyond the agency’s website. You also want to see what past and current clients are saying on social media, as well as other sites. That way, you get some unbiased perspective on these companies.
One website that’s helpful when choosing an SEO company is Clutch, which offers the following data:
- Project: This is a summary of the project. It specifies the duration and type of project, such as ecommerce SEO, and how the agency delivered that project. As an example, the agency may have optimized product pages to increase their ranking in search results.
- Budget: This is a field that businesses can mark as confidential, but in most instances, companies will share their project budget. This is a useful reference, as it can provide perspective on your marketing budget, as well as that agency’s rates.
- Quality: This is the overall quality of the project, as well as customer experience. Users can rate an agency’s quality from one to five, with five being the best possible score. Clients will often expand on their quality score in their feedback summary.
- Schedule: This is the ability of the agency to meet client deadlines. Like the quality rating, schedule scores can range from one to five. Again, reviewers will often note in their reviews the degree to which the agency needed an extension.
The best part is that Clutch verifies all their reviews, which prevents an agency from adding or creating fake reviews to boost their rating. The website also provides information on the reviewer, such as their industry, which can help your team gauge the agency’s expertise in specialized areas.
Via Clutch, you can also determine the client retention rate of an SEO agency — this is a critical factor when you want to choose the best SEO services company for your business. You want an agency that forms partnerships with its clients.
In some instances, companies will advertise their client retention rate. WebFX, for example, maintains a client retention rate of 91 percent, which is 488 percent higher than the industry average. That’s a massive difference, emphasizing that many agencies struggle to retain their clients.
Once you explore the reviews of the agencies on your list, you can think about removing some.
7. Explore portfolios and case studies
Narrow your list further by browsing the portfolios and case studies of SEO agencies you’re considering. In most cases, agencies will include examples of their past work on their website — if they don’t have anything to share, it’s often a sign that they’re a new or less-than-stellar company.
As you read through these case studies and portfolios, look for the following features:
- Industry: In most cases, you’ll want an agency’s portfolio to feature a diverse set of examples from several different industries — unless they’re a specialized SEO agency. With a variety of examples, it demonstrates the versatility and experience of the agency, as well as what they can bring to your company and sector.
- Approach: Reviews, as well as portfolios, can provide insight into how an SEO agency approaches their work. If you want to choose the best SEO services company for your business, you want to find the ones that focus on a collaborative approach, which their portfolio and case studies will often emphasize.
- Results: When you invest in SEO, you’re looking for results that’ll achieve your S.M.A.R.T. goal. That’s why you want to look at how SEO agencies measure their success. Choose an SEO company that focuses on the metrics that matter to your business, such as increasing downloads for a free trial, versus vanity metrics.
To demonstrate these portfolio features, look at WebFX.
If you look at their work for Cleveland Brothers, you can see that the company wanted to increase its number of conversions, as well as consolidate its websites. WebFX responded by creating a redesign that matched the brand of Cleveland Brothers, plus developing a smart SEO strategy.
The result? A 37 percent increase in conversions and a 65 percent increase in landing page conversions.
Once you’ve reviewed the portfolio of your potential SEO agencies, make notes in your Google Sheet or Excel document. If an agency seems to specialize in your industry, for example, include it in the document. Or, note if the company didn’t have any case studies or portfolio available.
8. Look for search engine certifications
Next, you want to look for search engine certifications. These are certifications issued by search engines, such as Google and Bing — both search engines have a partner program, called Google Partners and Bing Partners, respectively.
To qualify for these programs, agencies and their employees must pass exams issued by the search engine. Google, for example, has a product certification exam for Google Ads and Google Analytics. For businesses, these certifications are a quick way to assess an SEO agency’s expertise.
If you’re looking to choose the best SEO services company, you can trust they will possess these certifications. They’ll also advertise these certifications across their websites, as they’re a strong trust signal.
If you’re having trouble finding these badges, you can explore a partner directory. While Google doesn’t publish its complete list of partners, Bing does maintain a public partner directory that you can explore while looking for an SEO agency.
9. Find and list USPs
As you compile more information about your list of SEO agencies, it’s likely you’re discovering some unique selling points (USPs) of each agency. It’s essential that you update your Google Sheet or Excel document with these USPs, as they can help your team narrow your choices and make a decision.
A few examples of some USPs you’d want in an SEO agency include:
- They offer decades of experience: In the digital marketing agency, there are tons of young companies, but the best companies are the ones with decades of experience. Their experience demonstrates that they’ve adapted to search engine algorithm updates, as well as provided clients with a high level of service for years — otherwise, they wouldn’t have lasted.
- They provide personalized strategies: Many agencies focus on “one-size-fits-all” strategies for SEO. This kind of approach delivers lackluster results, diminishing your ROI. That’s why you need to partner with an SEO agency that creates personalized strategies to match your industry, business, and goals.
- They take a hands-on approach: Another USP is when an SEO company focuses on a hands-on approach to your business and SEO strategy. For example, they’ll provide you with a dedicated account manager, so you have a consistent point of contact. By adopting this approach, these companies can become an extension of your marketing team.
- They deliver measurable results: You looked for how an agency measured their results when browsing their portfolio, but it’s also a unique selling point — and a sign of an agency that values their clients and their goals. It’s also critical to look at how an agency delivers these results to clients. For example, do they provide you complete access to your campaign’s data 24/7?
- They use innovative marketing tech: In digital marketing, data is invaluable. That’s why it’s worth investigating the type of technology that an SEO agency uses. In some cases, companies will develop tech in-house — MarketingCloudFX is an example of this — to improve the experience of clients, as well as the performance of marketing campaigns.
To provide some perspective on these USPs, here are a few real-life examples from WebFX:
- Offers more than 25 years of experience in digital marketing
- Creates “one-of-a-kind” digital marketing strategies for clients
- Provides every client with a dedicated account manager
- Delivers measurable results to clients via MarketingCloudFX
- Uses a proprietary and industry-leading software for ROI tracking, MarketingCloudFX
In most cases, companies will publish their biggest accomplishments on their homepage.
10. Schedule a consultation
At this point, you should have a shortlist of potential SEO agencies for your business. Review your potential candidates with your team and then proceed with contacting these agencies for a custom SEO quote.
In most cases, you’ll arrange a time to meet with one of the company’s representatives.
Look at this meeting as a two-way interview. You want to assess whether this agency is a good fit for your business, as well as if they’re an agency you can trust.
A few examples of questions to ask, include:
- How many clients in our industry do you work with?
- How do you respond when an SEO strategy isn’t working?
- How large is your Internet marketing team compared to your sales team?
- How much of our in-house team’s time will you need?
- How long do clients stay with you?
- Do you have references we can speak with?
You should also expect the agency to ask your company some questions, including:
- What are your goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- What marketing channels do you use?
- What is your USP?
- How does your target audience find you?
During your meeting, you should feel that the agency’s passionate about your business. They should have an active interest in your business, products, and goals — indicating that they focus on a personalized, rather than a cookie-cutter, approach.
11. Get an SEO audit
When it comes to how to choose the best SEO services company, Google recommends requesting a search audit. While you can receive a free one through a variety of SEO checker tools, a comprehensive audit by a team can provide you with insight into what the agency can do for you.
For example, the SEO agency can use their audit to highlight some of the recommendations they’d make as your SEO provider. A technical and search audit can also demonstrate the agency’s knowledge of SEO best practices.
It’s essential to note that most agencies will not provide a technical and search audit for free — though they’ll often audit some of your webpages when compiling a custom quote for your business. As a result, you need to narrow your list of candidates to a select few.
Following your consultation, you should have a general idea of the agencies that you like best. Contact them to discuss conducting a technical and search audit, as well as the expected turnaround time for the audit.
When you receive your technical and search audit, you should notice a few things:
- A documented list of issues
- A prioritized list of recommendations
- An implementation plan for recommendations
It’s essential that the SEO agency supports their recommendations with evidence from Google, as well as other search engines. These pieces of evidence should come from Google’s website to support that these are best practice recommendations.
12. Make a decision
Now, after researching and examining numerous SEO companies, it’s time to make your pick. Set aside time to meet with your team and review all the information you’ve gathered over the past few months, such as prices, reviews, and audit reports.
If you’re struggling to pick an agency, consider the following questions:
- Did they seem passionate about your business?
- Did they answer your questions with interest and enthusiasm?
- Did their reviews correlate with your experience when meeting them?
- Did their recommended plan give your team confidence?
By answering these questions, as well as reviewing all your documentation on these agencies, you should have enough information to make an educated and informed decision that partners you with one of the best SEO agencies in the industry.
Choose the best SEO services company for your business
With more than 25 years of experience and more than $3 billion generated for clients, WebFX is one of the best SEO services companies. In fact, we’re a leading performance-driven digital marketing agency for mid-sized businesses.