How to choose a good SEO company (and what to avoid)

Marketing / 22.12.14
Mark Vaesen

We talk to a lot of new clients about their online marketing requirements. It’s one of the things we do, after all. Unfortunately, we often hear about bad experiences with other online marketing and SEO companies that puts people off the whole thing. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

So, in this post we’re going to tell you about some of the most common warning signs to look out for that indicate you should steer clear, and show you how to choose a GOOD SEO company.

1. Guaranteed results

If someone is guaranteeing a position on Google for you, there’s a very good chance they’re at best being disingenuous and at worst, downright lying to you.

Google (and other search engines) ranks its results according to relevance. If your page is deemed by its algorithm to be the most relevant page IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD to the search that’s just been carried out, you get top spot. If someone else makes a page that’s even more relevant to that search, they get position number 1.

No-one can guarantee search results on Google

Because your search position’s governed as much by what everyone else is doing, how can anyone 100% GUARANTEE results?

Now, we recognise that this guarantee might be offered as a way of a supplier backing their confidence in their own abilities, perhaps as some sort of money-back-if-you’re-not-satisfied deal, and that’s fine – but…

Just be careful of what search terms they’re guaranteeing. We’ve seen several cases where a supplier insists they’ve achieved a guaranteed position, but the search terms are what could be best described as “rare”. These are searches so specific that it’s easy to get a number one spot, but in reality, so few people are searching for that term that it’s essentially useless.

2. An off-the-shelf package

SEO – as with every part of your online marketing strategy – is done best when it’s at least partly tailored to your needs.

Most online marketing companies will “unitise” their services in some way, even the good ones. This is usually because a) it’s easier for the client to relate to and b) the value of a “per hour” fee system can often be questioned. It’s also true that if online marketing companies can find more efficient ways of achieving the same results, it gives them the opportunity to run on a more profitable basis.

The best results come when an SEO campaign is tailored to your business

So there’s nothing wrong with packages. But if a company only offers one package (and if it’s ridiculously cheap, like £50 a month or something) just be careful to find out exactly what you get for your money.

And don’t forget – the best results will come when an SEO campaign is tailored to your business.

3. Talking jargon

Unfortunately we hear a lot about clients that have been left totally confused by what they’ve been told by their SEO company. They’ve had so much jargon chucked at them that they don’t know their SERPs from their Site Maps.

The end result? When they don’t understand what’s going on, clients are left with an impression of online marketing being “a dark art” and so they can’t put a value on it.

Choose a company that can explain what they’ll do clearly and in a way you can relate to. Good SEO companies will work with you to really understand what your business is about.

That way they can deliver the best results.

One last thing – a company that constantly uses jargon might be thought to be covering something up. Which rather neatly brings us to our next point…

4. Lack of transparency

Probably common complaint No.1, a lack of transparency can make you feel completely insecure about how your money’s being spent. Recently we were approached by a client that had a very healthy marketing budget being spent each month, but he didn’t really have any information from the company he was using as to what they were doing for him.

“I have no idea what they do month to month”

You should expect your supplier to tell you from the outset what they’re going to be doing, and for them to provide you with updates from time to time (we would suggest at least bi-monthly) as to how things are going. At the very least, you want to be sure that the work’s being done, and with regular and useful updates, you’ll also start to be able to measure the success of the campaign, and the return on your investment.

5. No feedback

This point ties in very closely with the previous one. A good SEO company will provide you with regular, useful reports and updates that enhance the effectiveness of the campaign.

Useful updates should include regular, easy-to-follow reports that show as a minimum:

  • How your site is ranking on the agreed search terms
  • What traffic those rankings are generating – how many people are coming to the site as a result?
  • Which pages on your site are being visited the most

In addition, you should expect an update that confirms:

  • What work’s been completed since the last update
  • How that work ties in with the results seen in the reports
  • What work’s lined up to be done next

Ideally, look for a company that offers a regular meeting, either face-to-face or by phone. This gives you the opportunity to talk through any changes to your business that they should know about and means everyone’s on the same page/rowing in the same direction/singing from the same hymn sheet or whatever management-speak cliche you wish to use.

6. Having to wait to see results

Although we haven’t seen so much of this lately, one of the old chestnuts that used to be trotted out was “You need to allow 6 months to start seeing the results”

If anyone tells you this, avoid them at all costs.

In the olden days, Google used to re-index pages (the process where they go through their database of pages to note any changes) less frequently, so any changes that were made might not be picked up for a couple of months or so. Some less scrupulous establishments used this as a convenient way of buying themselves some time as they continued to take their client’s money, knowing that there wouldn’t be any questions asked for at least six months.

You should start seeing results after the first month

The exact time it takes Google to reindex new content can vary depending on a number of factors, but even in the worse case scenario, you should expect to see positive effects after the first month.

7. They’ve contacted you

This is something that should cause some alarm bells to start ringing straight away.

You know they say “if you want something done, ask a busy person”? Well it certainly applies here, because SEO companies that are good at what they do are going to be busy. When you provide a service that makes a business successful, they tend to want you to do more of it. And they also tell their friends…

If you receive a cold call or an email promising the earth at fantastic prices, ask yourself why they’re needing to contact people in the first place.

8. No measuring of success

You know what, if anything this should be first on the list, because without it, nothing else matters.

Our final point relates to the bigger picture. Your ultimate goals. Your reasons for doing SEO in the first place.

After all, what good is it having great search results on Google if there’s no benefit to your business? After that, it just becomes a willy-waving exercise or a bragging point when you’re on the next corporate golf day.

A successful SEO campaign is one that helps you achieve your business goals

So, make sure your supplier understands what you want to achieve as a business right at the start, because the search terms you’re going to target, the content you’re going to show your visitor when they arrive, the user journey you’re going to take them on through the site before converting them to a sale – all this needs to relate to what your goals are.

And then, when you have your regular update meetings, you can also refer back to the original business targets to see whether they’re being achieved.

How to choose a good SEO company

So we’ve given you a list of things to watch out for, but where do you go to find a good SEO company?

As with a lot of business services, you could do a lot worse than getting in touch with a business you know and asking them. Failing that, look for a SEO company that you like the look of and ask questions – lots of questions if necessary – to address some of the points we’ve highlighted here. Ask for references or case studies and ask to speak to the client.

Ask for references or case studies and ask to speak to the client

Make sure you ask them:

  • What were these guys like to work with?
  • Were you happy with what was proposed?
  • Was the work carried out as described?
  • Did they keep you updated and provide reports?
  • What were the results? Not just the search rankings, but the actual-bottom-line impact on the business?

How we can help

The Tomango team’s been developing and delivering online marketing strategies for businesses and organisations for the last 15 years. If you’d like to have a chat with us about what we can do for you, or what to look out for when talking to other suppliers, feel free to call us on 01273 814019 or email