A few weeks ago we were asked to consult to a public funded organisation that specialise in providing impartial business advice to Small to Medium Enterprises across the UK. The National B2B Centre are based in the Midlands and generally focus on advice within the IT and Ecommerce sector.

We were asked to give our take on how SME’s can identify a suitable Search Marketing Agency to award their business to. The article provided to B2B provides information on how to understand the processes a Search Marketing Agency works through to deliver results for a client, ensuring a transparent and ethical SEO approach.
Research, preparation and asking the right questions are pretty effective in our experience. Here’s our top 10 tips.
Search Marketing Agency buttons

1. Ask them what guarantees they provide on indexes and rankings over time.
If they give any guarantees to do with Google (or other search engines), bin them.

2. Ask them how long it will take to get your website on the first page of Google
All SEO campaigns take time, and a real SEO company will say that a minimum of 3 months work is needed to make progress (unless you already rank for the keywords). Any mention of anything less, walk away.

3. Do a Google search for their company name, paying particular attention at forum posts
Any negative experiences will come up, as will positive experiences.

4. Ask them what their rates are and how they price up campaigns
If they price per keyword that’s fine, but if they offer packages for £100 or £250 per month without first finding out what your needs are be cautious; the campaigns may not be tailored to what you need.

5. Ask them what reporting they provide for clients
A genuine SEO company will provide monthly reports on what is being done each month for your money.

6. Ask them what keywords their company website ranks for in Google.
Check their rankings. If they don’t come up, be sceptical. If they are a new company it’s acceptable to ask how they intend on ranking and how long it will take them (they should be at least trying to rank and have an understanding of timeframes) and only move forward on client testimonials directly from the clients (as well as doing point 2).

7. Ask them what they think about your website
Most SEO companies will highlight how well optimised your website is for the search engines to read. Page titles internal linking, and keyword optimised copy are some points they should mention. The emphasis shouldn’t all be on Meta Tags and if anybody tells you to focus on the “keyword meta tag” in particular, then beat a hasty retreat.

8. Ask them how campaigns are planned to get you a return on Investment as soon as possible.
A good company will have a plan that will target low hanging fruit keywords to get an additional amount of traffic through to your website in the initial 1-3 months. Alongside this, they will have a long term strategy (3-12 months) to target the competitive keywords for your business. If they don’t provide a reasonable plan, question their approach and how long it will take you to see some form of ROI.

9. Ask them what policies they have to protect your campaign and service from competitors.
An ethical SEO company will only service 1 client per sector or niche. By doing so, you will be sure that they will only optimise your campaign and not your competitors after you. If they do not commit to working exclusively for you within your sector / niche, be skeptical about their approach and ethics.

10. Ask them for case studies of their clients and contact details.

A genuine SEO agency will be happy to provide case studies and contact details for client references. These references will provide you with an unbiased, real life experience of the services being provided.

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