Are you looking to hire an SEO agency to optimize your site for search engines? You’re facing a challenging task. Choosing a reputable company to manage your SEO isn’t easy, and there are plenty of pitfalls you need to avoid to make sure that you pick one that offers the exact skills and expertise you’re looking for.

It’s important to understand some internal mechanics behind SEO consulting work before making that decision. If SEO is critical to your business, your choice will have a massive impact on your operations and bottom line.

Here are three mistakes you should avoid when choosing the SEO agency or consultants to boost your online presence.

Using Google

It might come as a surprise but Googling an SEO company won’t do the job. If you consider SEO simplistically, the following reasoning might make sense: if a company does a great job, they will also be able to rank themselves for key phrases like “SEO company” or “SEO consultant + city name.” So if you’re looking for the best SEO company in London, all it takes is typing “best SEO London,” and Google will surely deliver the best agencies in their top 10 result list.

Unfortunately, that’s not the right way to go. Most of the time, companies that are in high demand, deliver great work and get amazing referrals don’t actually need to rank on Google.

They simply have so many clients because they get referrals all the time and plenty of people come in from their network. They also have high retention among their clients, so they don’t need to work hard to attract new ones. They’re incredibly busy and turn a high profit, so they actually don’t spend so much time optimizing their own websites to get new clients.

As a result, the top results on Google are often companies that are simply not the best. They might have no clients, so they focus all their energy on trying to get new clients and they do that by investing in their own SEO.

That’s not to say that Google results are completely useless. In fact, you might be able to find some reliable companies there as well. This is but treating Google as your first and most important filter is a mistake.

Don’t trust “best SEO” lists blindly

If you search for phrases like “best SEO consultants” or “best SEO companies”, you’re bound to get websites like bestSEO.com. There are some websites like that on the web, and they work as aggregators. They basically try to sell listings to SEO firms and companies that want to rank high on their list.

That type of scheme isn’t really trustworthy for those seeking SEO services. It’s pointless to look for the best restaurant on a list restaurants pay to get into.

You’ll only get to our companies that can afford these type of advertisements. That’s why these lists shouldn’t be trusted. The if you’re a fan of lists, check out Moz’s Recommended SEO list which is good because you actually can’t pay to be on that list. That’s what makes it a trustworthy list.

Take a closer look at the sales pitches

Many low-quality SEO agencies will be trying to convince you that what they offer is standard SEO services plus a specific secret sauce. There exists no secret sauce in SEO. Period. Any company that offers secret optimization techniques, special deals, or any other type of proprietary methodology is simply using it as a sales pitch. And a poor one too.

If the company is unable to explain to you how they do something or claim that it’s their secret, consider that as a red flag. No reputable SEO agency will hide their techniques as a proprietary process. That’s because SEO is an open field – and while secrecy may have worked some time ago, it’s no longer the case.

Now that you know which mistakes to avoid, here are a few tips to help you choose the right SEO agency for your needs.

Define your SEO goals

Before reaching out to potential SEO consultants and agencies, it’s a good idea to sit down with your team to define the goals of your SEO strategy.

Why do you want to invest in SEO? Why do you think ranking organically for particular keywords is so important? You need to define your goal to be able to judge the success of your SEO strategy. When choosing goals, you can focus on getting traffic from specific target segments, boosting revenue through new sales since SEO is a self-driving channel, or encouraging downloads for free sign-ups or trials. Finally, you can use SEO to boost the sentiment for your brand. By pushing the good reviews up, you’ll change the way in which your target audience views your brand.

It’s pointless to invest in SEO if you want traffic for the sake of having more traffic. Traffic can’t be a goal in itself. You should also avoid investing in SEO if all you care about is rankings. Some businesses get in touch with SEO experts just because they want to rank for a given keyword as they believe it will be beneficial for their business. But the truth is that without carrying out a detailed keyword analysis first, there’s no way one can know which keywords are really worth investing in.

Narrow down your goals

By discussing your goals with teams, supervisors, or partners, you will come up with a list of goals for which you’re trying to optimize. To give your SEO strategy a focus, come up with a list of 3 to 5 criteria that you will use when choosing the SEO agency. For example, if you need to meet these SEO experts in person, you’ll need to hire someone in your region or in a well-connected city.

Now that you’ve got a list of criteria come up with a list SEO agencies or consultants that you will be comparing against one another. Start with getting references from your friends, as well as personal and professional networks. You can also get in touch with similar noncompetitive companies – for example, if you’re friendly with a non-competitive company that works in your sector, you can ask them for advice about choosing an SEO agency. Finally, have a look at what industry insiders are saying. If you have a relationship with one of such insiders and you really care about their opinion, ask them for recommendations.

Here’s what you should be asking SEO companies before teaming up with them

Partnering with an SEO agency is a serious decision, and before you do that, there are a couple of questions you should ask in your screening interviews to narrow down your list further and make sure that you pick the best experts who match your criteria.

Here are some questions you should be asking them:

Communication and reporting – how often will they communicate with you? What kind of metrics will they report on? What type of information do they need you to collect? Why they choose these metrics against others? How do these metrics match your goals?

What kind of process is the SEO company going to use to accomplish your goals? Why did they choose these particular processes?

How much work and resources will you need to commit internally? Don’t forget that SEO usually requires substantial resource allotments and plan for that type of investment ahead of time. You don’t want to enter into a situation where an SEO company gives you a list of recommendations where it turns out that you need content creation, development, or UX design expertise on board.

Finally, it’s a good idea to ask some broad questions to open a conversation and get to know the company’s approach to SEO. You can check their understanding of Google by asking them about how Google ranks results and how they as a company influence these results. If you hear right answers, it means that the company knows what they’re doing and has the required expertise to help you out.

Now you’re ready to make your final decision!

Making a final decision – the essential factors

You’re standing in front of a couple of exciting SEO companies that could assist you with their expertise, so it’s time to make your final decision. What should you take into account? First, ask yourself whether you’ve established a trusting relationship with the company so far. It can be through references, the conversation you had with them or the people you talked to in your network.

Pay attention to referrals as well because if you hear some great ones from trustworthy sources, it’s a sign that the company you’re talking to is a reliable one.

It’s a good idea to consider your communication style and whether it matches the kind of communication that you had with the company. If you walk away from each conversation satisfied and optimistic, it’s a sign that the company is a great match. However, if your meetings leave you little frustrated because they didn’t flow smoothly or you didn’t get the information you were looking for, you should look for another provider because that one might be a cultural mismatch.

Finally, consider the pricing and contract structure. Many SEO companies have a month-to-month contract for a certain length of time. Expect to pay an upfront payment and then some ongoing monthly fee. At some point, that payment will recur as the contract will renew. That is all normal, and all types of similar consulting services have that. If you see some non-standard things that don’t seem advantageous to you, take a closer look or simply choose another provider.

Final tips

Don’t forget that sometimes hiring an SEO agency or consultant might be a waste of your efforts if you need SEO as a core competency in your business. In that case, it a much better idea to bring it in-house. Sometimes it’s a good idea to start with a concert consultant externally and if the collaboration is running smoothly, bring them in-house. It’s simple: someone in-house can do much more with your internal resources than an external agency or consultant.

If you’re considering an SEO company that is simply too pricey, you can always hire them to advise you on the work and train an in-house person that you plan to hire later on. Don’t forget that SEO is extremely competitive. A lot of time, if you can’t afford to engage in SEO seriously, it might not be such a great idea to get into the topic. If you don’t have the energy and budgets to commit your business to SEO right now, consider that as a channel that you might be investing in later on.

We hope these tips help you in picking the right SEO agency that provides you with excellent service. If you have any a questions about choosing the SEO agency services, reach out to us in comments – we’re always happy to help organizations pick the best services that match their needs.