1. Good SEO companies answer questions
Ask plenty of questions of a prospective SEO marketing agency – any reputable company will be happy to answer them. If you're unsure about how they intend to change your website, ask. It's a bad idea to allow anyone FTP access unless they can explain what they're doing. Similarly, ask if you're uncomfortable with any of their business practices. If the answers don't reassure you, move on.
2. Quality is what matters
Some companies will try to win business by making impressive-sounding claims about the amount of traffic or links they can attract to your site. If they're not high-quality visitors or links, though, they'll probably do you more harm than good. It's easy to get drawn into the trap of believing that numbers are everything. That's a long way from being true. High quality links are very much based on well-written and audience-relevant content published on the right platforms, blogs or websites.
3. Google is independent
An SEO company that claims to "guarantee" that they'll get you to the top of Google's search rankings is not one to do business with. As Google itself points out, there's no such thing as a sponsored or priority submission process for the search engine giant's organic results.
4. An SEO firm's history matters
Without hard evidence, what search consultants say is of little value. A good business will be happy to provide you with that evidence, in the shape of SEO work or case studies they've carried out for other clients. Read those carefully and ask yourself whether they demonstrate a clear, focused approach to the task and whether that fits your own company's needs.
5. Sometimes, you need to say no
Trust your instincts: if you feel uncomfortable with what you learn while researching an SEO company's background, walk away. For example, if the company's domain doesn't feature in Google's index, that's a red flag; so is WHOIS data that doesn't add up.
Professional SEO companies will adhere to Google's Webmaster Guidelines and should not be secretive about what they intend to do as part of your proposed strategy. It needs to be clearly outlined with a solid content schedule and approval process to ensure that communication is optimimum and results meet expectations.
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