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The evolution of the digital sphere has made it increasingly important for businesses to be found online. New websites being added online each day adds to the overwhelming population of possible competitors. Hiring a search engine optimization provider can be a challenging process, but we’ll walk you through what you should be considering before you begin working with an SEO marketing firm.

Your website, social media channels, and other online accounts should all be owned by you, the business owner. Never put yourself in a position where a web designer or marketer has ownership over these digital assets. You could potentially lose money if your website accepts different forms of payment for either digital or physical products sold or have your domain and online business identity sold to someone else. These are your digital properties, so you need to have ownership, or risk losing your online presence you’ve worked so hard for.

Understanding the Basics of SEO

The basics of search engine optimization involves keyword research and competitor research. Keyword searches are performed in every SEO marketing campaign so that a goal can be set as to what relevant keywords need to rank and what keywords do not need to rank. It is also important that your SEO provider searches for competitors on your topic. By doing this, they will know what keywords are working for your topic and what keywords your business might be able to use in order to stand out from the competition.

Understanding how SEO helps your business

Local SEO Campaigns

When running a local SEO campaign, a site audit and comparison of your top competitors are performed. After reviewing the current state of your site, a custom SEO plan will be created. This will include optimizing your website for Google using Google My Business, therefore ranking in the map portion of local searches. Adding content to your site that is intended to be informational and local will communicate to Google what your business is about and where it is located.

Setting up meta data for your website is essential for acquiring new website traffic. When potential customers find your business, the meta data tells them what your website is about. It entices them to click on your website link and turns them into a potential lead, therefore, making more money for your business. 

In addition to setting up your website on Google My Business, building citations will gain you more recognition online. Citations are local directories that help you get found by potential customers. Some directories include Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Angie’s List, and Foursquare. These sites help you gain more online presence and reinforce local intent.

An important part of search engine optimization locally is using local keywords. These keywords will help you identify as a business that is available to serve customers in your ideal city, state, or zipcode. Focusing local keywords, in addition to keywords relevant to your business and services, will give you more attention online as customers search for their needs.

National SEO Campaigns

In order for your business to rank nationally, formulation is needed to reach your ideal customer base. National SEO campaigns help your business gain customers from a variety of different demographics. Similar to a local campaign, keyword and competitor research will be executed as well as a site audit and comparison of top competitors who rank on specific keywords that your website wants to rank on. These steps are essential to identifying what your business needs are and how your unique campaign should be constructed.

Once your national SEO campaign is formed, the main focus will be to reinforce your credibility as a business and service provider. Creating optimized content will enable you to rank on your ideal keywords as well as inform your site visitors about what services you offer. Content creation for your website is also impactful because it can address any frequent questions and concerns your customers may have. Providing content lets your customers know that you are an expert in your industry and shows them why they should be choosing you over another competitor.

When you establish yourself as a relevant resource online, you begin to earn links from other sites. Links from websites within your specific topic are more useful than links from sites that have nothing to do with your industry. If you are receiving links from irrelevant sources, search engines get confused and are unable to identify what your website page is about. The goal to link building is to show that your website provides authority and expertise in your topic and that you are a trustworthy resource.

Businesses who use their website as a platform to sell products, both physical and digital, will need e-commerce optimization. This means that the keywords on your site will be used to direct customers to your product pages, which turns your site visitors into new leads. It’s extremely important to track the keywords your site ranks on so that you know what your customers are most interested in and also so you know what kind of content you should be producing for your website to rank even higher. 

When sourcing a reliable SEO provider, you should receive a monthly report of your site rankings as well as the work that has been completed. These reports ensure that you and your SEO provider stay on the same page. You’ll know whether your SEO campaign needs to be adjusted and your provider will know if your business has any changes in products listed or business direction.

How Do I Know When a Deal is Too Good to Be True?

It can be irritating to receive constant spam to your inboxes. No matter how hard you run from it, it is inevitable that a spammer will make their way to you. It’s no different in the SEO marketing industry. A lot of the time, spammers don’t even vet their contacts before sending an email or even a spam text message. Nevertheless, there are ways to spot a spammer before the conversation goes too far.

Dead giveaways that you're dealing with a spammer

Spammers will tell you that your site doesn’t rank on keywords, but won’t disclose what those keywords are. When dealing with a reliable SEO provider, you will be given an analysis of what keywords your site ranks on and what keywords you should be ranking on in comparison to your competitors. Also, beware if your email sender promises you a number one ranking on Google. It is an impossible promise to make as Google changes their ranking algorithms often.

The major sign that you are dealing with a spammer is that the email or text message will be written in terrible English grammar. The message will start with an endearing phrase like “Hello Dear,” which is a dead giveaway since there are probably a handful of people who you allow to call you pet names, and none of those people are whom you have a professional working relationship with.

Those who have even the most basic knowledge of SEO will be able to identify if the information spammers are giving you is true about your site. They will try to reel you in by stating false information and by mentioning that an audit of your site has proved that your site “needs some work”. Another red flag is when the price they are presenting you is too good to be true. SEO is crucial to the success of your business, so hiring someone for about $100 per month won’t cut it. Most providers start their SEO services around $300 per month.

Questions to ask an SEO marketing firm

Questions You Should Ask before Hiring an SEO Firm

Hiring an SEO marketing firm to manage your website’s SEO is a two-way partnership. Just as you interview candidates to work for your business, you need to make sure the partnership is an equally beneficial match. You will need to ask your potential SEO firm several questions to ensure that they are a credible company and so that you feel secure in your hiring decision.

1. How many years of experience do they have in the field of search engine optimization?

If you are investing your time and money into hiring an SEO marketing firm, you want to hire a firm who knows what they are doing. Someone with several years of experience will essentially give you more bang for your buck versus someone who is new to the field and still learning the ropes.

2. How long have they been in business?

The quickest way to learn about an SEO marketing firm is by visiting their website. Their website will display the services they offer as well as content they have personally created for their site. If they have years worth of content, it’s safe to assume that they have been in the SEO game for a while.

3. What do others say about them?

Online reviews can be helpful when making your hiring decision. They serve as first-hand testimonials and give you an inside scoop as to how the firm operates when working with others.

4. Have they worked in your topic before and if so, can they provide references?

Some industries are extremely specific, so you want to be able to trust your SEO marketer with your optimization campaigns. If the firm has worked in your vertical before, ask them for references. If your potential SEO marketing firm has not worked in your field before, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. One sign that the firm could be a good fit, is if they have worked across a variety of industries. Even if they haven’t worked in your industry before, you will know that they are used to researching topics that are new to them.

5. What standard of communication and reporting can you expect from them?

A reliable SEO provider will have consistent communication with you on a weekly, or at minimum, a monthly basis. This reassures you that the goals for your marketing campaign are being managed. So, don’t be afraid to ask what their typical forms of reporting and communication are. It’s good to know this at the onset of your partnership.

6. Do they follow Google’s Webmasters guidelines and use white hat techniques in their optimization?

Using white hat SEO techniques is the recommended method for marketing online. This involves working to improve a user’s experience while searching for a topic. Black hat SEO techniques should be avoided because it requires hacking Google’s algorithm in order to improve rankings. Make sure the company you hire keeps their hands clean and opts for the white hat SEO technique.

7. Do they specialize in local SEO, national SEO, or both?

As a business, it is important to know what your marketing needs are. If you are needing more local clientele, you’ll want to find a marketer who is able to create local campaigns using keywords related to your topic. If your business needs to reach a national audience, make sure your SEO marketing firm has experience and can deliver.

8. What do they consider a successful campaign?

It is important to lay out your goals and expectations before starting an SEO marketing campaign. You and the SEO marketing provider will need to know whether your end goal is ranking highly on certain keywords, increasing organic site traffic, or increasing conversions. Agreeing to certain expectations in the beginning of your partnership will ensure that everyone involved in the project has a precise understanding of the scope of work that is needed.

Hire a firm for SEO Marketing

How long will it take for SEO to work?

Timelines can vary during an SEO marketing campaign. Depending on the strength of your current site and where you rank in comparison to your competitors, your campaign can be as little as 8 weeks, to as long as 1 year. Sites that have been around longer tend to have more traffic than newer sites, so they may require less time in order for an SEO strategy to begin showing results. 

The biggest factor in creating an SEO marketing campaign is budget. The larger the budget, the faster the results. In contrast, the smaller the budget, the longer the results. Budget calculations consider the amount of available resources that can be used during an SEO marketing campaign. A larger budget is often recommended if your competition is strong. However, you can take baby steps starting locally, then, eventually, nationally in order to gradually reach your expected audiences. 

Some Issues That Can Slow Down Progress

Sometimes unexpected situations can intercept the results you are hoping for during an SEO campaign. If your website gets hacked, it can halt progress until the issue is resolved. In that case, an analysis of work to be done, or re-done, should be completed before proceeding with the current SEO marketing campaign. 

If your site gets flagged with a Google penalty, SEO marketing campaigns will be ineffective until the penalty is lifted. It is best to start finding a solution as to why the site was flagged as soon as possible. The sooner you can recover your site’s Google search ability, the sooner you can regain your search rankings.

Lastly, if someone has executed a bad SEO marketing campaign on your site, Google may lose trust and you will no longer be deemed an authoritative and trustworthy resource. Bad SEO can make your website tank and is even worse than having no SEO at all. So make sure the SEO marketing provider you hire is well-adept to correcting bad SEO if you are in this situation.