Educate Yourself Before Choosing an SEO Company

By October 8, 2013 October 9th, 2013 26 Comments

chalkboard-eraser-educationA big part of what we try to do at LocalU is to educate small business owners about Search Engine Optimization and internet marketing. Part of our motivation is to give those with more time than money the information and tools that they can use to help them promote their own company on the web. Another important mission is to educate them as to what really works in SEO and online marketing and how to choose reputable vendors when they are ready to turn the reins over to professionals.

As we all know, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there — people who are outstanding at making sales even when they don’t really understand what they are selling. Unfortunately, some of them don’t even care if what they’re selling is actually good for the customer or not. They pride themselves on being able to sell ice to Eskimos, as the saying goes. Dealing with them isn’t very satisfying when you’re the Eskimo.

These folks typically cold call — sometimes using recordings — or send unsolicited emails to businesses. They often employ high pressure sales tactics, aren’t totally forthcoming about who they represent, and try to scare entrepreneurs into buying their services via misleading sales scripts.

If you haven’t experienced this, consider yourself extremely lucky.

I’m contacted several times a day by people who want me to hire them to do SEO and Local SEO for my websites. They obviously aren’t even looking at them, first. If you doubt that this is a common problem, here are links to some representative threads (there are more) in the Google Help Forum that clearly demonstrate how some of these outfits operate:

You also need to be careful with companies who only want to sell you a single online marketing service and claim it will rocket you to the top of the rankings. There are hundreds of factors in the search algorithms and magic bullets do not exist. Anyone who claims to have one is lying and anyone hopeful enough to believe otherwise is going to be disappointed.

Before you engage anyone to provide Search Engine Optimization for your business, you need to educate yourself or you are highly vulnerable to buying things you don’t need — things that won’t help you to gain any additional business from the internet. You don’t need to understand it all, but you should be aware of what to look for in an SEO company, the questions you should ask before hiring one and some of the characteristics commonly exhibited by less-than-great internet marketing companies. That knowledge will put you on the right path towards hiring a company that will help you to succeed online.

Google provides excellent advice and guidelines on how to choose an SEO company here. If you’d like to delve deeper, Google also published a 32 page Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that you’ll find useful.

(Photo by alkruse24 and used via Creative Commons licensing.)


  • Marcus says:

    Hey Mary

    I work in what is known as the creative cluster in Birmingham UK. This is basically 500 or so creative businesses all in one location known as the Custard Factory (cool place, used to be the original Byrds Custard Factory).

    Now, out of those 500 companies there must be 100 or so that do website design, marketing and the like. Now if you visit their websites it would seem they all sell and are experts at SEO. There is little in the way of facts regarding which aspects of SEO they are in fact experts at but they all sell it and all seemingly have clients.

    One of the biggest problems we see is lots of companies that have been sold something they never needed. Tiny, local customers sold link building packages is the best example here. Products that are more likely to hurt than help and are certainly not sold with their best interests at heart.

    I think there is always room for experts as long as they are in fact good at what they do. Local SEO can be super easy for some businesses but there are a million times when everything does not go to plan and that’s when the pro’s can step in. But, for tiny local businesses there is just no need for expensive monthly packages. We actually got a friend of ours generating enough business for her piano teaching lessons just by helping her set up a Google+ Local page and a few very basic citations – simple, effective and anyone can do it!

    I think LocalU is a great concept and one that I wish had a UK arm. Do you think you guys will ever do any kind of webinar or Google hangout for your advanced classes?


  • Mary Bowling says:

    Hi Marcus,
    Unfortunately, what you say about small businesses being sold things they don’t need is so true.
    If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll be one of the first to know about any online educational opportunities we may offer in the future.

  • Geoff Hoesch says:

    Hi Mary,

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there. We’ve had a lot of new clients come to us recently and ask if we can clean up second-rate SEO done by shady companies who will do anything to get rankings, completely disregarding the long-term success of their clients’ sites.

    Although it is somewhat self-serving, I recently wrote an article about how to identify a shady SEO company, which should be helpful to business owners who want SEO but down know which companies to trust:

  • oliver says:

    Companies making fake promises of skyrocketing your rankings in 2-3 days and increasing your traffic are the one that follow black hat techniques.
    As a client its important to check the website of the company first see their work and hire them. Research then hire.

    • Jenny Colvin says:

      Absolutely spot on. The significant sign of a bad SEO company is that they are going to promise everything altogether. You must remember one thing before hiring a SEO company, nobody owns Google . So, nobody can guarantee #1 ranking at Google. Exceptions can take place in some keywords which have got really low competition.

  • Richard Eastes says:

    I have 2 additional tips:
    1. Speak with their existing and past clients.
    2. Ask to see an example monthly report that they send to their clients. Pay special attention to the links that they earned for them. Check if the links are high quality or not. I hope this helps!

  • oliver says:

    Yeah 2 really important tips to remember guys. Thanks Richard šŸ™‚

  • Any SEO company that is genuine and honest will be more than happy to show you a log of the links they’ve built on your behalf. If they hesitate to show you anything like this then it could be an indication of a black hat company who outsources their link building to foreign companies who will build links that will severely damage you in the long run.
    Testimonials can also be a valuable source of information.

  • Phill Jason says:

    Really important points about choosing SEO services to do seo of your website ,as we should always check all the links which they build and always ask them to improve your ranking.

  • Erick Stevi says:

    awesome… all people are need basic seo educate in order to hiring seo company. as we know (sorry), some of seo provider doesn’t make the right way in seo campaign. this causes seo service users do not get a corresponding conversion they expected

  • Ronnie says:

    Great article Mary. Here’s a great resource your readers might like: Google Rankings Factors ( This way if they ever question what the company they’re working with is doing, they can refer to this handy cheat sheet to double check.

  • Vince says:

    Great read! If companies really want to rank their brand online, they have to invest money. There are a lot of SEO strategy but that depends on your budget,but there are also tactics which do not require high budget but it doesn’t guarantee a faster results. Companies should be careful in choosing and investing because they might realize that they are just wasting money in the long run.

  • Coel says:

    Many people hire a quick fix handyman to do their SEO work since they are much cheaper than a professional SEO service in the area. But this is not the best option if you plan to attract highly targeted traffic and improve the ROI of your business in the long run. Great Post Mary! Thank You.

  • Jonathan Strong says:

    I’ve heard so many stories from small businesses on who they already have for their “SEO consultant”. Usually they’re web designers who do nothing but update content and alt tags. The main problem in these scenarios is that all these business owners do not know and fully understand what proper seo can do for their business.

    Every single day they aren’t on page one for their own lucrative terms and their competitors are, they’re losing money…period. Also, true seo is more than just changing alt tags, it’s understanding Google algorithms and using that knowledge to their advantage to move up websites in the rankings.

  • Todd Templeton says:

    Great information. I need to use this advice to improve my site. If I were to start over, I would begin with this in mind.

  • Jane James says:

    I completely agree that educating ourselves is the most important thing before choosing a right seo company

  • Great information and very interesting to read. Also, I completely agree that educating ourselves is the most important thing before choosing a right seo company.

  • JB says:

    Hey, nice article. I agree with you the bussiness have to know what they are buying. And They have to know that 100 backlinks for 10 dollar is not good for them.

  • chad says:

    very good post helped me a lot to understand the search engine optimization practice.

  • Media Trovert says:

    Great Article..

  • Ananthi Mathur says:

    Great post. Personally, Iā€™d look at the following qualities when it comes to choosing a company to optimize my site ā€“
    1. How well they understand my business
    2. Their track record
    3. How transparent they are with me regarding their progress with my project.
    4. Should be confident about their time frames of delivering results

    Keep posting and cheers!

  • Jhon Hukes says:

    Amazing!! Your blog is very important. This is helpful for everyone who want to know that how to choose the best SEO company. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • your blog has nice information about SEO, it’s very important information because of some companies not doing proper work.

  • Rafi Uddin says:

    Dear Mary Bowling, Daily I have been asked that “How can I find the best SEO company for my business”.
    After reading your post they have been really educated about choosing the right SEO company for them. I think the credit goes to you.

    Keep writing this kind of helpful post.

  • it is a learn able article. i like the article very much.

  • Nazmul says:

    Thank you for sharing this information

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