You have a website and you need it to be seen. You want to drive quality traffic to your site and ensure it gets visibility across the major search engines. You know you need SEO (search engine optimisation), but you don’t have the time and resources to do it yourself – and wouldn’t know where to start if you did. You need an SEO provider, but how do you go about choosing the right one? In a sea of SEO providers, some screaming “Page One Google Guaranteed!” and some insisting that there are no guarantees, how do you pick an SEO firm that is best for your company? Keep some of these factors in mind:

Cost – The cost of the service will be central to your decision; it goes without saying that you should always look for the best value. However, this doesn’t always mean the cheapest. If someone promises the world for a surprisingly small monthly fee then ask yourself if it’s too good to be true. Better to pay a little more for a service that will actually give you what you are paying for, rather than simply throwing away the smaller amount on a scam company.

Beware – Which brings us to the depressing reality that in a relatively new and suddenly ubiquitous industry there is, unavoidably, a rogue element. As the SEO industry ages and the public have greater understanding of the product, thankfully the less than scrupulous companies will largely die out. But only when the public demands more from their SEO providers. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you feel completely comfortable and all your questions have been answered to your satisfaction. And if the deal seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is!

Transparency – If an SEO provider has nothing to hide then why won’t they be entirely transparent about the way they work? SEO is just like any other industry: it takes know-how and hard work but it’s not rocket science. Ask your SEO company exactly how it is going to be getting you results and be suspicious of any vague or unexplained areas.

Contract length – It’s true that natural search engine optimisation takes longer than pay per click advertising (PPC) but that doesn’t mean you have to be tied to unnecessarily long contract lengths. You may be willing to commit to SEO for the long haul, understanding that SEO activity must be kept up to continue to see results, but that doesn’t mean you have to commit to an underachieving SEO provider for a 12 month contract. If the SEO firm is confident that you’ll be happy with their services, why should they need to tie you in for a year?

Guarantees – Any SEO provider that claims to be able to guarantee first page natural listings at best clearly does not understand how the search engines work, and at worst is simply lying to you. The search engines are companies with products to protect themselves. They rely on quality search results that give searchers what they want to ensure their market share of their own industry. And an SEO company that thinks it can trick the behemoth that is Google is a little naïve.

Contact – Most SEO providers charge a monthly fee given the amount of ongoing work that is involved in a successful SEO campaign. Make sure you get the most for your money. If you’re paying a fee every month then it stands to reason that there is a weekly value. If you don’t hear from your SEO firm for weeks at a time, or receive proof of work being carried out in that time, then you can’t be sure of value for money. It is only reasonable to expect regular contact of some sort on a weekly basis to ensure that consistent and quality work is being carried out on your campaign each week of your monthly fee.

Understanding your business – Ask whether you will be given an account manager or have one or two primary points of contact throughout your campaign. Not only will that ensure accountability on the SEO provider’s part but it will also ensure a depth of understanding of your business. Each business is different to the next. Your campaign should be tailor-made to your business, depending on your goals. For a monthly fee, your SEO firm should be taking an active role in your company’s marketing. Good SEO is more than just getting your website on page one of Google; it’s about broadcasting a positive and consistent digital message about your brand. This is only possible when your SEO firm understands your brand, products, services and company goals.

Flexibility – All businesses need to be nimble: to adapt quickly to circumstances, to grow and change with the times and the shifting demands of the market place. It’s no different for your business, so why should it be different for your SEO provider? You may need to suddenly change the focus or aim of your digital marketing campaign or you may have second thoughts about the keywords you’ve chosen; whatever happens make sure that you are given flexibility within your SEO campaign – that it works for you.

Results! – Finally, and all-importantly, get the results you need! There may be no page one guarantees, and some industries and keywords are inherently more competitive than others, but SEO is a highly competitive business itself. If your SEO provider isn’t getting you the results you need within a reasonable timeframe then demand more! There are plenty of companies willing to work hard to get you the SEO results that your company needs.