(Disclaimer: This is a post written by family-run SEO company Design Your Way)

First thing’s first, do you actually need to hire an SEO company? Whether you’re just starting a new business or moving your brand/activities online, then it’s important to think about which resource you have in shorter supply; time or money?

If money is scarcer:

Then most likely the best thing for you to do at the moment is focus on using a website builder tool such as Wix, Weebly, WordPress or any other tool to just get an internet presence first and foremost. This gives you an opportunity to sit down and create an experience for potential customers. You can choose whether the first thing they see is reviews from other customers, a call to action to get in touch, photographs of your work, or anything else you feel important.

When it comes to the SEO side of things, Google has changed the online world to one where marketing matters much more than technical tools and coding. Google is much more likely to put human-written, great-sounding copy in a higher position than copy that is made to “game” the tools. It’s also more likely to put websites where people spend a few minutes browsing it above websites where people stay on it for 30 seconds then leave.

If you can create an experience that gets people enjoying your site, spending time on it and sharing it out to their friends on social media, along with following the more technical steps laid out previously in this blog, then you’re well on your way to having a website that reaches the top of Google within a few months to a year, depending on the niche!

The downside to this approach? Unless you have lots of time to spare updating the website constantly with content, being good at writing engaging sales copy and making it shareable, or time to spare learning these skills, then you’ll just end up with a vanity site that no-one is seeing!

If time is scarcer:

Then hiring an SEO company to build you a website, or take care of yours and push it in front of more potential leads is the smartest investment you can make in the current era. The internet and search engines – particularly Google is only becoming more prolific in our lives and reaching its tendrils everywhere. If you are at the top of Google then you are dominating your competition by orders of magnitude.

How to choose an SEO company?

There are many, many, SEO companies out there, so how do you choose the right one?

Relationship with the SEO company

The most important thing is to make sure you choose a company that you get on well with and feel you can have a good relationship with; same as any other company you would partner with.

An important thing to note there is the use of the word partner, the best relationship with an SEO company is more like a partnership, they should want to help your business grow and enable themselves to grow with you. As your company can handle more of a workload and expand, they should be ready to expand with you, and in kind you should reciprocate.

SEO can take a long time to work, normally from 2-3 months to over a year depending on the strength of your competition, so you are building a long-term relationship with a company that will be doing work you may feel looks like magic, or completely opaque, or at times even like they aren’t doing anything! While in this time, they’ll be busy reaching out to influencers, blogs & website, changing code to keep up with Google’s updates, placing your business into directories for citations and any other number of things that aren’t updating your website or social media!

Expectation setting

Another way to separate the wheat from the chaff is whether the company sets expectations for you upfront or not. Before meeting with you/talking with you, they should have done their research on your niche (and if they haven’t, then don’t even think about using them!) and they can tell you how long they think it’ll take for your website to start ranking. This will really depend on your competition, but at least 3 months is normally a good amount.

i.e., if you’re a new plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, things will take an extremely long time (up to two years) to work, but if you are a tree surgeon in a local area where none of the other companies have got online yet, then you can be at the top of Google within a few weeks!

Reviews from previous clients

A very important thing in the industry – and for you! – is whether a company can get results or not. The prospective company should be able to provide you with references from previous happy clients and if they can’t, then it’s probably a sign that either they don’t have the experience required to do a great job, or have left previous clients with a bad taste in their mouth.

Always ask for references, and if you like the sound of what you hear, then go ahead!

Contracts and package deals

Another tell that a company does a poor job is if they want to lock you into a long-term contract of 6-12 months with no break clause. This is normally emblematic of a company that knows they can’t retain clients for whatever reason – whether it’s because they do a bad job of SEO, communication, reputation or anything else. It means they aren’t confident they can keep you as a client more than a few months, so this should be a great red flag!

We’ve found the best happy medium is a rolling contract every 3 months; this gives SEO enough time to start working to a real degree, while also not being long enough that it will break the bank for the company. The price of this normally ends up being the same price they would have paid for a newspaper/magazine advert for the area size of their niche – local, national or international. They can choose whether to continue and we go from there!

The last red flag is one-size-fits-all package deals. If a company offers these, it means they don’t offer a tailored experience to your niche and this is a real problem. Real SEO work requires researching your niche, your competition, your customer base and potential customer base and plenty more besides. Before meeting with you they should know just what and how long it will take to help you out and price accordingly. If they don’t, it’s normally a good sign that they aren’t detailed and are most likely an agency that does cheap, useless work!

We hope this guide has been a great help, and if you’re thinking of hiring an SEO company, then we’d really appreciate it if you checked us out: http://www.designyourway.co.uk/

Thanks for reading!