Finding the right Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialist in the dark can be a minefield. Which company do you go for? What are the main factors to consider when looking for an excellent SEO specialist? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff in the SEO world?

We’ve put together some pointers to help you, a check-list to help you select an excellent SEO specialist who will do a great job, have your interests at heart and not their profits, and who don’t promise results to get your money and then not deliver.

1.         Beware cold callers

Some SEO and PPC companies are cold-calling and hard-selling their services to customers over the phone.  Typically these companies that call companies use a string of unfamiliar SEO-PPC jargon deliberately to confuse and scare customers. These unethical companies then go on to pressure customers to set up a direct debit over the phone there and then, saying that their business will suffer if they don’t. We don’t regard this practice as particularly ethical, helpful or customer-friendly.

These type of SEO companies literally obtain numbers out of a telephone directory and ring lists of business owners to take advantage of people with little or no knowledge of Search Engine Optimisation and to hard-sell their services.  Because they cold-call, they are also sales and profit-led and target-driven which means that they will only be interested in the profit margins and length of contract they can get from you.

The people doing the calling are reading from a script in a call centre so they are call centre agents rather than SEO specialists. They therefore know nothing about the complexities and techniques of SEO as their job is simply to sell and get profits.

These companies will also do the bare minimum work to get you listed and starting to rank. Their work won’t be bespoke to your business and market and they will use a cookie-cutter system that they use for all of their clients, as it’s a fast way to earn a buck for them, but not necessarily good for your business.

So we would advise, never be pressured into signing up into a contract or giving away your credit card details over the phone.  A reputable SEO company will not have to pressure their clients into working with them, and they will also give you an honest response about whether they can get great results for you based on your type of business, sector and market. In order to advise you honestly, they will first need to do some research and look into your business and market, not get your credit card details over the phone.  Reputable SEO companies will not take your money without giving you information on what they can do first and how they are going to do it in a detailed proposal.

2.         SEO is not a standardised service

Some larger SEO organisations have commoditised and standardised SEO so it is not specific to your business, as they work as big SEO operations in a mass-market.  They’ll often use standardised practices for SEO for all of their clients which mean the SEO isn’t bespoke to your business’ website, sector, competitors and market.

We believe that SEO cannot be a standard process, easy tricks or ticking boxes, it involves making your company visible to the widest possible audience in the most bespoke and relevant way, otherwise you just won’t get the traffic to, nor conversions from your website. Therefore your website will actually perform less well rather than maximising relevant traffic and volume of conversions to leads and sales.

3.         How high are their rankings?

The best advertisement for an SEO specialist is their own website rankings. If they have high rankings in Google and the other engines, then they are more likely to be credible and have SEO ability that is likely to be applied to your website. If their site is nowhere to be seen on Google, then they are best avoided.

4.         No false promises

Excellent SEO specialists will talk to you in-depth about your business, conduct initial SEO analysis and then come back to you with a bespoke proposal for your business requirements to achieve the very best results for you.  Excellent SEO specialists don’t promise the earth just to get your business; they will be realistic about timescales and what they can do.

An excellent SEO specialist will also be honest and open with you. If they can’t get the rankings for you because it’s too competitive, then they will advise you honestly and openly about what is achievable and what isn’t, because it will vary widely for every business.

Some business websites will never achieve high rankings because factors including their available budget, website, market, competition or profit margins won’t achieve successful SEO results.  A good SEO specialist will tell you if this is the case rather than promising something they can never achieve, and they will suggest alternative online marketing methods to drive traffic to your site.

5.        No-one can give guarantees

Another thing often included with false promises is guarantees. Well, NO SEO specialist nor SEO company can give a guarantee of rankings to customers. This is because Google changes their algorithms constantly and uses different approaches, so no company can guarantee anything. Google and the other search engines are firmly in the driving seat. An excellent SEO specialist will use long-term, high quality SEO techniques to ensure that Google’s algorithm changes don’t affect your website rankings. What can be guaranteed is that every effort will be made to improve rankings, but this won’t necessarily put your site in top position for your main keywords because no SEO specialist is in control of Google and the search engines.

6.         Ethical results last a lifetime

The most important factor to getting great results is to implement SEO strategy ethically. Being ethical or `White Hat’ as it’s known in the trade, means that your rankings are never, ever compromised. We have seen business sites’ rankings drop back to Pages 2, 3 and 4 in Google because their SEO suppliers have used spammy and unethical or `Black Hat’ techniques, which are only quick fixes with no substance, and this means they are risking  their clients’ website’s rankings. Google and other search engines will possibly penalise or ban your website if SEO practices aren’t within their strict policy guidelines, so it’s a high risk to go with someone who uses unethical practices, and you could lose the money you have invested in SEO.

7.          No long term contracts – get out when you want to

SEO factory companies also lock their customers into 12 month contracts. This is a long time in the SEO world and is not realistic nor good for your business, because what if they’re not giving you what you need? Your business will be evolving, but the service they give you won’t be. A good SEO specialist will allow you to drop out of the arrangement when it suits you, not them.

8.          Conflicts of interest

Another thing to find out is do they have clients that are in the same business and market as you and are likely to be your competitors? If so, this presents a conflict of interest as they are likely to use the same keywords to the same audience as yours and may be applying the same techniques. Not only is this money for old rope, as they’re potentially not doing anything new for your business, you’ll be directly competing with a rival company using the same supplier and possibly the same campaigns.

9.         Bad link building for SEO

Another key factor for excellent SEO is high quality link building. An excellent SEO specialist will take the time to build high value links to your site from high quality sites that are long-term and have higher authority with Google.  Some companies may use `link farms’ which are low quality sites, together with other low quality, spammy techniques.

SEO companies who promise thousands of links to your site, such as 10,000 directory submissions may be associating your site with the wrong type of links. They may also buy links on your behalf, and when your contract ends, all of your links disappear because you aren’t paying them anymore. These type of links will also be used for other companies and are not bespoke to you, your business or the industry that you are in.

So, all-round, low quality links are a very bad idea.

10.       Overseas outsourcing

Another way to get great rankings is to use good quality, useful content in a variety of channels and a variety of ways. Some SEO companies and specialists will outsource their content work to companies in other countries, for instance India.

We absolutely know that some of these overseas companies produce sub-standard work with poor language, structure, wording and grammar, which means that your company brand is associated with poor quality content that doesn’t make sense, has no relevance and is being distributed and seen globally.  So an excellent SEO specialist will ensure that the content produced for your SEO strategy will be of the highest quality at all times, and won’t compromise your brand or reputation.

If you are looking for an SEO specialist in Surrey or London, please call on 0208 914 8998.