The SEO industry is full of inexperienced and unscrupulous consultants who can cause serious damage to your online presence and reputation. This article will help you establish a list of questions to determine whether or not an SEO company is legitimate.

There are two types of SEO companies you should be wary of:

– The first are companies who may not have malicious intentions, but lack the experience to help your business. They may implement outdated tactics that Google now frowns upon, or unknowingly damage your reputation.

– The second type are scammers, who lead you astray with sales pitches reminiscent of a snake oil salesman and shockingly low prices. Search Engine Optimization is not easy and it’s not cheap, so those “Page 1 rankings for $99” emails you’ve been getting from India should raise red flags.

Before you hire an SEO company, ask yourself the following questions:

Do They Guarantee Results?
Any company that promises page one, first result rankings for any keyword(s) is not to be trusted. There are hundreds of factors that influence search rankings, making it impossible to predict exact placement and long-term results. Also, Google algorithm updates almost always result in fluctuations in SERP placements, adding another layer of unpredictability to the equation.

If it were that easy to get the job done you could probably do it yourself, right?

Is The Price Too Good To Be True?
Effective SEO takes a considerable amount of effort and expertise. The days of automated techniques are over and there is no turn key solution to ranking well for competitive keywords. The days of gaming the system are also over. Google has put measures in place to punish sites that implement “black hat” tactics such as paid links, link farms, directory submissions, cloaking, duplicate content, suspicious backlink profiles, etc. Long story short, there are no shortcuts and the playing field has been significantly leveled.

Do They Practice Strategic & Integrated Marketing
Google has changed considerably in the past several years, and is getting increasingly more selective with which sites it deems trustworthy enough to garner high SERP placement. Google’s algorithm includes hundreds of criteria for ranking web pages. Among these criteria are website architecture and SEO friendliness, off-site trust factors such as inbound links and branded citations, and social sharing influence.

An SEO company with good intentions will not begin a campaign until a clear strategy with established benchmarks and tangible goals has been put in place. Shooting in the dark will waste time and money and lead to a negative ROI.

Did They Ask To Audit Your Website?
The foundation of a strong SEO campaign is an optimized website that contains all of the essential factors outlined by Google Webmaster Tools Guidelines. Elements like navigational structure, page hierarchy, title tags, meta descriptions and page-level HTML must be executed according to Google’s specifications, otherwise a website’s chances of ranking well organically are greatly hindered.

A respectable consultant will refuse to embark on an SEO campaign without first ensuring your website is fully optimized and ready to receive traffic.

Do They Have Case Studies?
A true expert will be able to present past projects that serve as indicators of what you can expect from working with them. Ask for case studies and data to back up their proclaimed expertise. If you still aren’t convinced, request references from a few former or current clients. This is always a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff.


by Fuze January 22, 2014