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Which SEO Firm Can You Trust?

Trust is always a tricky issue, and one that is emotionally charged based on

our individual experiences with others as we navigate through the maze we

call life.


In search marketing, trust issues are further magnified by the

fact that the industry is still in its infancy and there are no set rules or

regulations.  Let's face it, you'd be hard pressed to get a handful of SEO

consultants to agree on a definition of SEO.  Even amongst SEOs wearing the

same hat color, there is often a giant chasm that divides us.


Where does this leave the person or company who wants to hire an SEO firm,

but doesn't know whom to trust?  SEO A tells them one thing, SEO B another,

and SEO C, D, E, and F completely different things altogether!  Who is

right? Who is wrong? Whom should they hire? Whom should they beware of?


Interestingly enough, according to an article I recently read in the Sept.

2006 Harvard Business Review ("To Trust or Not to Trust"), people weigh 10

different basic factors when deciding whether to trust someone. 


I found that many of them are those someone might go through before deciding to

trust an SEO company with their business.  For instance, one of the factors

was how risk-tolerant the truster is.  This one is important when it comes

to SEO because there are certain risks involved with some SEO practices,

i.e., those that are an attempt to purposely trick the search engines in

some way. 


If those hiring the SEO firm are risk takers themselves, chances

are they won't mind an SEO firm who might want to push the envelope a bit.

They may even welcome it, and not want to hire an SEO who plays it very

straight.  And of course, the opposite is true. 


Another factor in the decision to trust was, "Does the trustee show

benevolent concern?"  Which simply means that they demonstrate that they

care about the potential client and are concerned with helping them and

their business, not only about making money for themselves. 


There's of course nothing wrong with making money, but it's definitely easier to trust

those that show a genuine interest in the bottom line of their clients'

companies as well. 


From a strictly SEO-company perspective, here are 5 additional factors that

I believe businesses should weigh when choosing their SEO firm:


* Does the SEO firm set realistic expectations about what they can and can't

do, or do they simply promise the moon?  Smart SEOs under-promise and

over-deliver, so watch out for those that do the opposite (and there are



* Does the SEO firm have a proven record of success and not just for

"long-tail" keywords? Be sure to check references in order to learn whether

the SEO firm actually improved their clients' bottom lines in some way.


* Does the SEO firm provide recommendations for making your site better than

it currently is, or are they attempting to do things to it that will

actually make it worse for your users?   This one sounds crazy, I know, but a

good portion of SEOs think that it's all about the search engines and not

the users, and make bad decisions accordingly. Never, ever, ever let an SEO

company do something you feel worsens your site's overall usability or



* Does the SEO firm tell you what they're doing and why they're doing it, or

do they just want you to blindly trust them?  This one should set off a

major red flag to you if you ever encounter it.  Sure, you don't need to

know every last detail or to micromanage your SEO campaign, but your SEO

should be able to explain their reasoning for why they want to do the things

they recommend.  If they can't, or if their answers don't make sense, then

run (don't walk) to the nearest door!


* Does the SEO firm use *only* automated methods to achieve their goals?

This isn't necessarily bad; however, you need to be aware if this is what

they're doing.    SEO is very much an art as well as a science, and because of

this, creativity should always play a big part.  It's very difficult to be

creative when everything you do is based on a numbers game.  Just keep that

in mind!


Like trusting a friend, a dentist, or anyone else, determining whom to trust

as your SEO partner should not be taken lightly nor rushed into.  Get to

know the SEO vendors you're thinking of hiring, ask them lots and lots of

questions, and most of all use your gut and your own common sense to

determine if you'll be a good fit. 


If you are unsure, then keep on looking. There are plenty of SEO fish in the sea,

and there should be a few who use the methods you believe in, who are within

your budget, and who will work hard to help you accomplish your website goals!


Jill Whalen is the owner of High Rankings and moderator of the free weekly email newsletter, the High Rankings Advisor. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, directory submissions, SEO consultations and seminars. She has obtained hundreds of number 1 and 2 spots for her vast array of clients throughout the years. Clients include multi-million dollar companies, major universities, real estate agencies, attorneys, surgeons, dentists, and small-medium sized businesses.

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