I often get questions about selecting search engine optimization (SEO) providers. Since I'm speaking on "Selecting an SEO Provider" next week at Search Engine Strategies 2001 in Dallas, I thought I'd cover this topic and invite readers to pose questions or comments for the panel.
There are many issues to consider -- more than I can cover in this space: definition of services; pricing; vendor experience and proficiency; customer service; and contracts and reporting. MarketingSherpa's "Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms" covers this in detail and reviews reputable SEO providers. ClickZ's sister site Search Engine Watch also contains a lot of valuable information. Below are my own suggestions for gathering information on potential providers.
Definition of SEO Services
Business sites considering professional SEO, positioning, and manual submissions can choose from services in four categories: site analysis and optimization, manual submissions, offsite development, and monthly reporting.
1. Site Analysis and Optimization
2. Manual Submissions
LookSmart Express Submit. A LookSmart listing is important because of daily high-volume searches (60 million per day through 5 of the top 10 portals, 5 of the top 10 Internet service providers, and hundreds of media partner sites worldwide). It requires working with LookSmart editors to acquire your best category and precise submission.
3. Offsite Development
4. Monthly Reporting
All the above services can be considered when pricing an SEO campaign, but remember: One size does not fit all. Some industries require more SEO resources than others. Ask specific questions about pricing of the above services. You should get an itemized proposal specifying one-time versus monthly costs. Each recommended service should be clearly described in a technical support document explaining the need for every item in your campaign.
SEO and positioning require a long-term commitment and realistic understanding of the technical and human resources required. Technicians do not work for minimum wage, and SEO systems require significant investment and maintenance. Most campaigns average $12,000 to $60,000 a year, whether in-house or outsourced.
Core competency is important when selecting an SEO provider. Ask the following questions to determine the experience and proficiency of the vendors you are considering:
This is an important but often overlooked issue. You should be able to discuss your SEO plan directly with a qualified search engine technician or an account manager who understands every aspect of your campaign. You need to know what support services are provided and what will cost extra. Consider asking these questions:
Contracts and Reporting
Find out what the minimum contract includes, the cost of consulting, whether any guarantees are offered, and the hosting of domains used. SEO results are not usually guaranteed because they change continuously. That's why it's important to find out if maintenance and reporting are provided. Ask the following questions:
Making the Right Decision
Gathering the information above and comparing vendors should help you make the right decision. So would attending Search Engine Strategies 2001 next week in Dallas, if you're able. I hope to meet many of you there!
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Paul J. Bruemmer is CEO of Web-Ignite Corporation, a search engine optimization (SEO) and positioning provider. Founded in 1995, Web-Ignite has helped promote over 15,000 Web sites and was recognized by ICONOCAST as one of the top 10 most reputable SEO firms. Services include optimization, submission, registration, positioning, monitoring, maintenance, paid-inclusion, and paid-placement management for fixed monthly fees. Recent client testimonials report search engine traffic increased from 150 to 500 percent.