Choosing the SEO partnership that is right for your business.

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AT The Search Equation we understand the value of a brand and a strong client relationship. It’s important that both have the same aims to reach the targets they set one another. Make no mistake, working with a good SEO company is a partnership. The success of your business venture or site is made immeasurably more likely with skilled SEO professionals but it is a partnership. The right one will be a solid, stable presence with you all the way of your journey at any and every stage from fledgling to significant online player.

The difficulty is that this need is so widely recognised that there are a vast number of players in the SEO/SEM space looking to capitalise on this and not all will be right for you. They vary in size from large corporate structures to single individuals. However, the size of the organisation is rarely going to be the defining factor in whether you receive the right service and the right level of attention to your specific needs in whatever niche you are looking carve a presence out in. With this article we will try to chart some of the common challenges and pitfalls along the way to selecting that lasting partnership.

Establish your goals – Radio WII-FM

One of the first key things to identify is just what you are looking for out of your SEO provider. The “What’s In It For Me” question. Sometimes this is not quite as straight forward as it seems. In the bad old days of the internet many jumped on the bandwagon of just increasing traffic, with complete disregard for the quality of that traffic. An impression that the more visits a site received the better it would be viewed by Search Engines and therefore the better it would be for your business. This is no longer true, if indeed it ever was quite that simplistic. So pure traffic alone is not a goal that is going to be aligned with your business aims.

Many SEO providers will trumpet their ability to get you to the top of the pile in specific metrics. It might be Domain Authority, or even worse some deprecated measure such as Google’s Page Rank. They may claim to get you to the number one spot on Google, it is hard to see how this could be a guaranteed achievement for every single client especially in similar niches. Once again this is not great for your financial objectives. The measure should not become the goal. Achieving dominance in a particular search term or phrase again is not necessarily the be all and end all. While these things may well form a part of the package that a well-rounded SEO operation will offer to you simply focusing on being the ‘winner’ for one particular long tail keyword phrase may stroke your ego but will not necessarily boost your bank account or achieve your ultimate desired result of, for example, greater interaction with a charity website.

You need clarity on just what it is you are looking to achieve from your SEO exercise. This should align with your business goals. Some things you should consider for your goals to discuss with the SEO provider include:

  • Who are your customers/target audience and what are they looking for? This will help steer the conversation towards how to optimise your site both on page and inbound.
  • What are your desired outcomes? These may be purely financial in terms of visits from the audience identified above or it may be more around engagement or brand awareness.
  • Related to brand awareness your goal may be to increase visibility of the positive reviews for your brand as opposed to some, possibly more recent, negative reviews.
  • Another potential and valuable goal is encouraging downloads of a particular offering whether free or paid, this links in with the engagement but can also help with sentiment and depending on the offering viral spread as well.

Filter the SEO candidate companies.

Once you have a clear idea of just what you want out of the campaign to start with it is a good idea to reduce this to a smaller, prioritised list of the 2 to 4 objectives that mean the most to you. This will not be set in stone as over time the competitive landscape, your business and clientele will all evolve and change but a solid understanding of initial direction gives you a much greater chance of landing where you want to be.

Now you need to look for companies that you feel comfortable with providing these targeted aims you have come up with. There are many ways to find appropriate organisations, some better than others. Word of mouth is a particularly useful way. Should you know any businesspeople who have had good experiences with SEO companies reach out to them, it would probably be best to avoid any business that is in direct competition with yourself. Chambers of Commerce or Networking and Meet Up groups online are some places you could also look to solicit views on the effectiveness of various service providers. If word of mouth is not an option do they have any of the well known social proof organisation ratings or is there a review section you can go through?

One common mistake is to assume that the best SEO companies will always be the ones ranking at the top in a Google search. When performing a search, you would have to differentiate between the paid positions and natural search results. Even with the natural results the companies that come up at the top may be the ones that have so few clients they have the time to hyper optimise for whatever search algorithm Google has just rolled out. That is not to say that the top results will always be sub optimal, but it is important to be aware that simply appearing at the top of the page does not guarantee either the level of performance you are looking for or fit for your business.

They should be open to questions. How will they get you where you want to be? Why will they take that approach? What has worked and what has been shown not to work? Are they willing to share this and other strategic considerations with you?

Make your choice.

Finally, having performed your due diligence you will need to decide on a company to put your trust in. Some of the factors you should consider may sound like they are intangible, but they are oh so important for a happy and prosperous partnership.

It will be your decision, but you may choose to select a company local to yourself geographically. Not necessarily because you plan to physically visit but the time zone being the same will help fast and responsive communication. Also, it may be easier to deal with similar cultural values and understandings.

Additionally, you want to feel comfortable with them so it should be an organisation where the communications have felt easy, your questions around how they plan to get you to your goals and what methods they will use or not use and why have been answered to your satisfaction with no friction. There must be a level of trust that you feel in them.

Finally, you will want to be comfortable with the cost and pricing structure. Be aware that it is common practice in the industry to work on initial up-front fees followed by a periodic subscription service that allows regular tweaking of your site.


  • Mac McCarthy

    Mac McCarthy has been involved in the digital marketing field for over 20 years, having worked with the Jeeves, Alta Vista and Yahoo search engines in the early 90s through to the modern current day Google and Bing platforms.

    A keen follower of search engine algorithm updates and trends, he works and advises on digital strategies for a variety on SME’s and more recently the World Wildlife Fund, the single largest animal welfare charity in the world.

    Qualifications include Google Advanced Analytics, Google Ads, Google Search and the Google Partnership Program.

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