Planning to retain an SEO vendor? Here's what to look for in a partner, plus some sample deliverables.
Have you ever undertaken a search for an SEO (define) vendor/partner? Are you thinking about starting to look for a new partner soon?
Because SEO is sometimes not fully understood by clients, they often struggle to know what to look for in a partner, and what types of activities and deliverables an SEO project should entail.
When you solicit proposals from vendors, it is important to have a frame of reference for what to expect in a proposal. What are elements that should be a part of a typical SEO project? What does a comprehensive, well-defined SEO program or project look like?
In my day I've seen many SEO proposals and executed countless SEO programs. These experiences have helped me learn what needs to be part of a successful SEO program. So my plan is to share these learnings with you in order to help you better evaluate potential SEO vendors.
Before You Start
Just to be clear, this column is not a magic bullet that will instantly make you an expert in evaluating and selecting an SEO vendor. It will give you a good idea of what to look for, but without a baseline understanding of SEO, likely won't be very helpful.
That's why it is important to do your research on SEO so that you are somewhat educated on how SEO works and what type of activities are typically involved in the process. This will give you some sense of a benchmark as to where you should be heading and enable you to better evaluate what is put in front of you from a given vendor. It will also help you compare across multiple vendor proposals to determine which one seems the most thorough or appropriate for your needs.
Once you feel sufficiently educated, you can begin your potential partner search. Depending on your procurement approach, you may request a proposal from one or several vendors. These proposals will vary in style and contents, and the next section will help you better navigate these in order to determine which proposal best meets your needs.
What You Should Be Looking For
Just like any proposal from a potential partner, you first need to ensure that they have understood and integrated your project objectives, as well as any relevant requirements or constraints within the proposal. At least a brief reiteration of your goals and how the SEO project will meet these should be included.
If the company has understood your goals and requirements, they should be able to articulate how the SEO program will aim to achieve those.
A solid SEO project proposal should ideally include consideration of the three main elements of SEO: Web site structure, content, and link building.
In addition to the actual SEO activities, the proposal should also review and include the analytics approach for the project, including pre- and post- benchmarking, definition of KPIs (define), and the reporting framework (frequency, depth, format).
Related to measurement and evaluation, at least some minimal discussion of ongoing SEO, maintenance, and optimization should also be present (i.e. whether it's included in the scope or not of the current project, and if included, what would it consist of).
A well-designed proposal should also include a detailed review of the key deliverables, which should elaborate on the areas above. "Deliverables" outline what is going to be delivered as part of the project. I've included some sample deliverables below. Depending on the style of the proposal, the presentation of these will vary. But these samples should give you an idea of the type of things you should be seeing.
The pricing for each deliverable should be clearly laid out in the proposal so that you can understand the cost of each activity and the time and resources involved. The overall project budget should also be disclosed, including a payment schedule, as well as any terms and conditions associated with the project.
Some "nice-to-haves" in a proposal would include items such as:
So if you're looking to find a potential SEO vendor worthy of your investment, hopefully these quick tips will aid in your decision-making process. Happy hunting!
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Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.
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