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October 20, 2011

How to Choose a Reputable SEO Company

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The two most important elements that qualify companies to promote themselves as SEO experts are competence and professionalism. And the way you find out if a company is competent and professional, as well as legitimate, is to do your due diligence and check their credentials thoroughly, by exercising good old common sense and following these steps:


1. Verify Their Contact Information

If the company provides a street address, Google it to see if it’s a real address. If they provide a telephone number, call the number to see if it’s answered by the company or an answering service. If they don’t provide a telephone number, walk away. SEO is serious business. You need to have the ability to talk to whomever is going to be handling your account. You need to be able to ask questions, and you have a right to expect your questions to be answered in a professional manner.

2. Talk to Previous Customers

If the SEO company publishes testimonials on their website, contact a few of their customers and get their feedback. If the company can’t provide testimonials, walk away, or if the testimonials don’t have contact information, they’re probably bogus. Walk away.


3. Visit Reputable SEO Forums

Visit reputable SEO forums like Jill Whalen’s High Rankings Forum to find out what forum members have to say about the company. If an SEO company has a bad reputation, it will race across the Internet at warp speed. Conversely, if a company has a good reputation, you will find that out also.

4. Check Their Better Business Bureau Record

Most companies who are members of the BBB post it on their website with a link to their record. Check their record to see if they have any complaints, but don’t panic if the company has complaints. All companies receive complaints from time to time. What you want to find out is whether or not the company has an inordinate amount of complaints, and how those complaints have been handled.

5. Check Them Out with Their State’s Attorney General’s Office

If the company is located in the United States, check them out with their state’s Attorney General’s Office, Division of Consumer Affairs. All companies aren’t members of the BBB so often unhappy or dissatisfied customers will file a report with the AG’s office to get satisfaction.

6. Check Them Out with Local Police Agencies

Before you give a company your hard-earned money, do your due diligence. In addition to checking them out with the BBB and AG, put a call into the police department in their city to see if they’re involved in fraudulent activities. You’d be surprised how cooperative many police agencies are when it comes to fighting fraud in their city.

7. Check Them Out with Online Scam Watch Sites

Like I mentioned a moment ago, if an SEO company has a bad reputation, it will race across the Internet at warp speed. If a company is ripping people off, someone will know about it. Before parting with your hard-earned money, always check companies out with various online scam watch sites like Scam.com.

8. Avoid Companies That Send You Unsolicited E-Mail (spam)

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, legitimate companies don’t send unsolicited e-mail. They don’t send sp@m. Do you know what kind of companies send sp@m? Scam artists intent on ripping you off, that’s who. The best thing to do when you receive sp@m is delete it. Don’t open it, don’t read it, don’t consider it…delete it!

9. Avoid Companies That Aren’t Ranked Competitively

If an SEO company doesn’t have the ability to secure a competitive ranking for their own site, then how on earth can they secure a competitive ranking for yours? Answer: They can’t. While far from perfect, sites like Alexa can give you a fair idea about a site’s ranking.

10. Don’t Make a Hasty Decision

Choosing the right SEO company is critical to the success of your company, so you want to make sure you get it right. Take your time and leave no stone unturned as you do your due diligence. Don’t rush the process, and walk away from companies that try to pressure you into making a quick decision.

11. How Long Has the Company Been Around?

When choosing an SEO company, the length of time they’ve been in business matters. A company’s longevity is a good indication of stability and how good they are at what they do. When it comes to SEO companies, the longer they’ve been in business the better.

12. Have They Written Articles About SEO?

Ask if anyone from their staff have written any articles that have been published on reputable websites. Has anyone on their staff written any books? Do they speak at major SEO conferences? Are they moderators at SEO/SEM forums? All of these things are indicators of professionalism, reputation and expertise.

13. Read the Contract

Don’t sign any contract until you’ve read and completely understood its terms. Better yet, let your attorney look over the contract. Contracts can be tricky, so it’s best to let a professional check things out. It’s too late to read the contract after the fact.

14. Money-Back Guarantee

I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t satisfied with the results, or if the company hasn’t delivered on their promises, you are entitled to either a full or partial refund, depending on the terms of the contract. Avoid companies that aren’t willing to stand behind their work.

15. Avoid Companies That Guarantee First Page or Top 10 Rankings

No company can guarantee you a first page or top 10 ranking. I repeat: No Company Can Guarantee You A First Page Or Top 10 Ranking. Here’s why: There are far too many variables involved in the ranking of a website – not the least of which are the age of the domain, relevancy and quantity of content, number and quality of inbound links, competition, and of course Google’s ever-changing algorithms. That’s why legitimate SEO companies don’t make those kinds of outlandish promises.

16. Make Sure They Answer Your Questions

Ask plenty of questions and monitor the companies willingness to answer your questions. If they seem argumentative, evasive or unsure, walk away.

17. Pay Attention to Response Times

Whether you call or e-mail a company, monitor how quickly they respond to your communications, or if they respond at all. Slow communication is a huge red flag. Walk away.

18. Do They Engage in Black Hat Practices?

In case you don’t know, black hat SEO practices consist of unethical methods like cloaking, hidden text, doorway pages, link farms, mirror sites, duplicate content, etc. Ask questions to see how the company feels about these types of practices. If they don’t strongly denounce these types of unethical practices, walk away.

19. Does the Company Have a Portfolio?

Before making your decision, carefully look over the companies portfolio, the projects that they have worked on in the past, as well as current projects. Does the portfolio accurately reflect the information you’ve been given, or does something seem not quite right? If you don’t like what you see, walk away.

20. Listen to Your Gut

Over the years, listening to that little internal voice has served me well. The times I ignored that little voice is when I’ve gotten into trouble. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.

In closing, in a perfect world, we would be able take SEO companies at face value without being suspicious. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, so be suspicious. Be very suspicious…the money and aggravation you save may be your own!


David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

19 Responses to “How to Choose a Reputable SEO Company

    “Google it”?! Oh, for pity’s sake. I was interested in reading this article up until this abomination. Google is a proper noun and not a verb.

    Other search engines are available.

    Anyone could appreciate the fact that this article may serve as a community service to prevent people from being scammed. However, in my opinion it is missing the most crucial element!
    Choose A “Local” SEO Company.

    It’s amazing how often I get spam comments on my blogs where the backlink trail leads back to a legitimate offline business. I am sure in most cases (actually, I have contacted them on occasion) they have no idea what these SEO clowns are doing in order to try to rank their sites – it’s shocking. Really some of these SEO cowboys are little more than just some guy who bought a copy of Scrapebox, yet legitimate companies are getting taken in by their cheesy sales patter with possibly catastrophic consequences for their online reputations.

    avatar Former Marine says:

    David; I’ve been having withdrawals all week waiting for another of your excellent articles and everything you’ve said is once again true and on-point. I’ve been sitting still a few hours to see what comments would show up, so I have a few things to say:

    @ yourmealticket – I saw your comments as being rude and obnoxious since David is very well-known and judging from your website, no one has heard of you until now … as an accomplished Webmaster, I have to ask, who really cares whether Google is a noun or proverb?

    If you don’t like Google, which is the world’s top-most SE, then don’t go there … perhaps the UK has a better one to suit you … see how simple that is?

    @ SEOinWaukesha – I too agree with you 100% about choosing a local SEO company, especially if you can call and speak with a live person.

    @ Mark – Have you thought about closing your comment section on your blogs to prevent spam? I agree with you and David about these “alleged” SEO Cowboy jerks who promise you the moon; rip you off and laugh because they sucked you into their web of deceit and lies … those are the ones who eventually have to close their doors when people make it well-known they’re rip-off artists.

    Last, but not least David – as always I’ll publish your article on the Webmaster Forum so others can learn from your experience and knowledge.

    Yourmealticket, before criticizing, you should check your facts. Google has officially been a verb since 2006, added to both the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

    SEOinWaukesha, while I agree 100%, people should support local businesses whenever possible, just because a company is local doesn’t necessarily make them legitimate. People still need to do their due diligence, local business or otherwise.

    @David Jackson: Yes, of course you are right from a technical point of view. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t criticize the use of the term “Google it”.

    I re-iterate, other search engines are available, just like there are other vacuum cleaners than those manufactured by Hoover.

    Would you, in all honesty, and without feeling a bit silly, suggest to someone that they “Google it” when their default search engine is Bing, Ask or Yahoo?

    Did I mention that there are other search engines…? :)

    As an addendum, I don’t suppose Google is particularly keen at folk using its Trademark as a verb. Let’s all just use the word “search”, eh? I mean, it’s been useful for describing the act of looking for something for years, and will probably continue to do so years after Google has gone.

    Yourmealticket, since every one of us is afforded the First Amendment right of Freedom of speech, feel free to say “search”,I’ll continue to say “Google it”.

    avatar Roy says:

    very helpful article for beginers who is looking for SEO companies

    @I don’t agree with you, but I will defend your right to say it, David :) Thank you very much for an intruiging afternoon’s banter, and an interesting article (yes, I did read it eventually)!

    Yourmealticket, thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate that. :)

    avatar Former Marine says:

    Amen David and I agree, but I had to state my position about the rude comments as you’re a highly respected Author and Gentleman … but you know what the old saying is about opinions, don’t you?

    Former Marine, again, thank you for your support. It’s always appreciated and never taken for granted. I try to handle criticism with intelligence, dignity and respect, realizing whether I agree with the criticism or not, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    Just because someone is unnecessarily rude to me doesn’t mean I have to respond in kind. That’s a sign of immaturity. I prefer to comport myself with dignity and class and rise above the fray.

    Hi,

    It is very useful to make the betterment in SEO. Thanks for this great effort. keep sharing.

    Thank you for your feedback everyone. :)

    avatar Link Building says:

    These are some great tips! It’s always important to make sure you’re working with a reputable company that has your best interests in mind.

    avatar Mustang girl says:

    Thanks I just hired a person to build my website who has done SEO work for 12 years the sites he has built check out high in their chosen word fields. I never thought to check out his. It didn’t rank really at all… hum He has been great at communication and teaching I have learned a lot about websites carts ad SEO But he is just one person doing his own business now for 5 years. Since it is a small company can that be why he ranked at overall 7% And thanks we read the contract every word.

    that’s useful tips for choosing a seo company.the best method to choose a seo company is they can provide the marketing plan instead of the backlinks.

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