How to choose an SEO company or SEO consultant. (Read this before parting with a penny.)

Let me come right out and say it: there are a lot of SEO companies out there that are full of bull.

I had such a company email me out of the blue last week. They advised me that they had studied my website (yeah, right) and were concerned that I was not ‘appearing on the major search engines’. Not only that, but apparently, I had ‘very few inbound links’. Utter baloney.

A different company contacted a client of mine to tell him that Google had only cached 9 pages of his website which would adversely affect his search engine position. His website only has 9 pages! And he’s on page 1 of Google for every keyphrase we optimised his web pages for!

It seems that even Google can’t avoid these scammers.

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”


So if you get approached by an SEO company, or you’re in the process of interviewing an SEO company or consultant, this is what you need to know.

1. What other companies have they worked with? How are those websites performing? What keywords are they getting found for? What position do those sites achieve on Google? Ask for a contact at the company they’ve worked for and call them for a testimonial.

2. What search engines are their clients’ sites getting found on? Sure, Bing (formerly MSN) has recently purchased Yahoo Search in a bid to increase its market share. But let’s be honest, Google is the one you want to get found on. Being top of AltaVista, Excite or Lycos is all very well but collectively they have about 0.1% of the global market. Probably not enough to influence your bottom line much.

3. Ask to see a copy of the keyword research they’ve done for you and ask them why they’ve recommended the keywords they have. Remember, you want keywords or keyphrases which are searched for but are not so competitive that there are 1.5 million other sites with that phrase in their page title. Nor do you want to be found at the top of Google for a really offbeat phrase that absolutely no-one is searching for. It’s somewhere in the middle.

4. How are they going to include the keywords or phrases in your copy? Are they going to employ a copywriter to weave the keywords magically into the copy? Or is someone in the office just going to plonk the keywords any old how into the text? (Tip: you want the first one.)

5. Insist your SEO company sign an agreement not to do any work for your competitors. Why should you pay for keyword research and have your competitors benefit?

6. Make sure they give detailed monthly reports and stats. And ones that are easy to understand. You want to see a steady month on month improvement in your search engine rankings. And you want to know what keywords or keyphrases people are using to find your site.

7. Ask them if they actually monitor and analyse your stats? What are they going to do if the site isn’t performing well for the chosen keywords? What’s plan B?

8. Are they going to run a link campaign? Inbound links (links coming into your site) are as equally important for SEO as content. Google assesses a site by the content of the site and the number of quality inbound links there are. And if they are going to run a link campaign, what type of links do they hope to obtain?


SEO is not smoke and mirrors. Any SEO bods worth their salt are going to tell you exactly what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve. Remember, no-one can guarantee you top of page 1 of Google.  

A client told me last week that they’re paying £300 a month to an SEO company but they’re not sure what they’re getting for that. That’s £3600 a year and they’re not sure what they’re paying for? Before handing over a penny ask the questions above. If the SEO company or consultant starts muttering and getting all weird, run for the hills. Your money is better spent elsewhere.

Shameless plug: For keyword research, PPC, competitor analysis, link building campaigns and a bunch of other cool stuff, I can highly recommend Rob Dobson at SEM London. (Please note: he’s really good which means he’s always stupidly busy. I have to book him in two months in advance to work with my clients!)


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