A couple weeks back, a small business owner, that had found my information through my columns on Search Engine Land, emailed looking for guidance on how to make a decision on SEO services.
They were redesigning their website. Their web developer was offering them a monthly SEO package as a component of the entire sales process. Not having researched SEO in-depth, they were reluctant to make the investment (just under $600 / month) without more information.
“I am a small business in the mist of redesigning our website… I have not had time to research SEO to be at comfortable place. …can I wait to pull the SEO contract trigger till the site is done or do I need to rebuild the site with the SEO provider as a partner in the generation… could I hire an independent after the fact and have as good performance from someone or group who did not build the website?
You can replace “web developer” with “PR Firm”, “Branding Agency”, “marketing consultant”, etc. Even I receive emails on a weekly (if not daily) basis asking if we would resell some other SEO vendor’s packaged service offerings.
First: as a fellow business owner, I never like to be rushed into a significant business decision without a reasonable level of preparation.
But more importantly, this decision maker needs to understand what “$600 per month” gets the organization; in terms of production, deliverables, and potential impact.
Here is a paraphrased version of my reply:
- I agree that SEO best practices done in coordination with a site redesign are important.
- That said, I am inferring that this “package” is for ongoing work (IE, link building, content development, etc), and not onsite work specific to the redesign.
- Make sure to get a list of key responsibilities and actions the SEO package will address, to better evaluate value and impact.
- Consider obtaining competitive quotes based on this responsibility list or additional online marketing related needs.
How To Evaluate a Monthly SEO Package
I only had a brief window of opportunity to reply to this question in email as a result of my specific location and commitments. With more time and thought, here are some additional points to consider in the evaluation process, regardless of the vendor in question.
- Why do you need SEO in the first place?
Its obvious to me but as a managing partner of an online marketing agency, I certainly have bias 🙂 You want to make sure SEO will help your organization reach desired business goals and objectives. In other words, how does this investment compare to other marketing channels invested in? How effective are those channels at generating business for you? Ultimately, answers to these types of questions set a baseline for SEO program expectation.
- How does the SEO vendor explain their process?
While it might not be expected for an SEO vendor to reveal their entire list of tactics at the start, basic philosophies about SEO should be explained and related to how they relate to broader business goals. They should also be able to provide examples of tactics in action where possible.
- What benchmarks does the SEO vendor recommend for measuring performance?
Even though your organization will (should) have its own KPI’s in place already, its important to also turn to the SEO vendor for recommendations on performance measurement. In most circumstances, benchmarks should include a mix of business performance and production-specific SEO measurements.
- Does the SEO vendor have demonstrable, related client achievements?
Individual keyword performance is only a small part of the puzzle. The SEO vendor should come prepared with case studies (comparable ones if possible) illustrating background, challenges, and results – and be able to back this up with references you can reach out to direct. Do they understand your organization and its business model for success? Are they even asking? (Red alert if they are not of course)
- Finally, what are the actual contract terms being agreed upon?
Beyond SEO and purely business-based, how easy is it to get out of a signed contract? You want to know what your total financial commitment would be if performance fails to fit expectations and how proactive you need to be in addressing termination, renewal, and other time-related concerns.
In the example leading this post, it turned out that at least one component of the “SEO package” was to simply push various organizational web addresses through a range of social media sites, multiple times a month. Package pricing was influenced by the number of times this tactic was executed.
While social media marketing can be a powerful resource for link acquisition and broader brand development (even lead generation), simply pushing web addresses across social media sites as a tactic alone, seems questionable. After all, most social sites “nofollow” the links generated, which instructs search engines to ignore these links for ranking relevance.
Bottom-line, its important not to rush into a decision and to get all of the information possible to make an educated decision. Interview the vendor to better understand their philosophy, approach, and examples of how this tactic will be executed.
What other facets of an SEO program become important in your own evaluation process? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.
Conveyor system image courtesy of Cisco Eagle.