We all know that a solid SEO strategy is a terrific way to drive organic traffic to your online store. It’s no secret that your competitors are utilizing all the skills and resources they have at their disposal to out-rank you for key search terms. And it should be no surprise that there are dozens and dozens of Internet Marketing firms that want to win your business as SEO Services Providers. But how should a busy store owner, or director of marketing, seeking to increase their SEO efforts evaluate this field of potential partners and avoid precarious pitfalls?
As a Services Consultant on the Exclusive Concept team, I speak with a lot of online merchants who have decided that the most effective way for them to improve their organic traffic is to reach out to an expert, and here are 5 questions that the smartest people in the market always ask me:
- How long have you been in business?
The goal of this question is to determine the overall experience of the service provider. There are plenty of store owners out there who have felt burned after engaging a SEO Consultant. Fortunately, online store owners tend to be vocal, and the overall community is fairly small. As such, the “bad vendors” don’t last long. Conversely, SEO done right is extremely profitable, and the “good vendors” often have a strong book of customers and a long track record.
- How long will it take before I rank well for my key search terms?
This is a bit of a curveball as there is no correct answer. What you want to evaluate is the depth of the vendor’s response to ensure they are going to invest the appropriate time, and employ an effective strategy, to profitably increase your rankings and traffic. The SEO firm should show an understanding of the level of competition surrounding key words and discuss the desire to structure a long term plan to target highly competitive words alongside less competitive terms in order to have a well rounded strategy. Avoid answers that sound like: “Right Away and it’ll be real easy”, that may have been the case 5 or 10 years ago, but not in today’s competitive SEO environment.
- Who will manage my account?
The purpose of this question is to determine the level of personal care you will receive as a client. It should never be hard to speak with your SEO Specialist, including during the selection process. Additionally, it is important to select an SEO firm that wants to partner up with the store owner. SEO Specialists are great at getting you organic traffic through search engines, but you are great at running your store. No SEO firm can be an expert in each sub-category of online retail, so if they aren’t operating as an extension of your team, it will be impossible to achieve the best results over time.
- How will you report on progress?
Again, this question is designed to get a glimpse of the processes the SEO firm has in place to assure the success of the project. They should have a regular reporting process in place that they can speak towards. Additionally, since you run a retail website, the vendor should use the words “profitable” and “revenue” at least once when discussing how they track your progress as a client. This is an often overlooked detail, well hidden by the hordes of both buyers and sellers of generic, lead based and focused, search engine optimization. Remember, your primary objective isn’t to capture prospective client information, it’s to secure sales!
- How much of my time will you need?
At the end of the day, a good SEO firm is an extension of your team and should help you learn at least the concepts behind their strategy. This is going to take some of your time: to review key word selections, learn about changes in the industry from your account executive, and discuss potential strategies and tactics. Most SEO firms will tell you that it won’t take much time, but the fact is, they need your expertise just the same as you need theirs. A good SEO firm will include consulting time in their packages, and you should expect them to be proactive. Just be prepared to be responsive to their questions and comments, that’s how good teams operate.
Hopefully these questions, and the important facets of partnering with a SEO company that they seek to expose, will help your selection process. Uncovering any potential red flags in preliminary calls will get you well on your way to developing a short list of firms, and ultimately ensure that you partner with the right company to help grow your business.