Reviewing Service Offerings and Prices

If you haven’t already read the part one of this series on hiring a professional search engine marketer, you may want to take a moment to check it out: Farming Out Your Search Marketing

It's important to take a look at exactly what services are being offered to you by a professional SEO before you give serious consideration to hiring them. Make sure that any proposals that you review carefully spell out what services are included. Take the time to learn what services are offered that go beyond standard optimization, like PPC campaign management, link building, and traffic analysis. The more services that are offered, the more difficult it can be to make a valid price comparison and to fully understand the impact that the services will have on your web site.

Price points can vary dramatically for the same services and depending on your location and the experience of the vendor, you may find yourself with prices that range for $25/hr up to $300/hr. Securing quotes from multiple firms that you feel confident in and considering everything that each firm brings to the table in terms of experience and compatibility are essential to feeling that you have gotten your money's worth. It’s important to remember that the “best” firm in the industry may not be the best firm for your needs.

As with any service firm that you might hire, you need to think about things like size of company, geographical location, experience, etc… It’s also important to remember that in the search marketing industry in particular, you are just as likely to get excellent service from a single person working out of their living room as you are from a mega-firm with 100 employees.

You'll also want to find out who owns the work that is created once you hire an individual or firm. While most SEOs will work with you to make changes to your web site that will result in long term traffic production, some will wish to retain the writes to any copy they have written, or will create brand new pages housed on their own servers to serve as gateway pages that will deliver traffic to your web site. Apart from the problems that most search engines have with doorway/gateway pages, web site owners that invest in this type of optimization often find themselves left with nothing when they choose to sever ties with an optimization company. Always get a guarantee, in writing, that any work done to optimize your web site will become the property of your company upon payment for services.

As the industry becomes more defined, and the search engines create more guidelines on what is an is not acceptable forms of optimization, you will still find SEO vendors that disagree on what types of optimization services are ethical and what types are not. Some firms will offer cloaking services while others will caution you against it. The competitiveness of your industry and your own willingness to take chances may play an impact on what you consider to be acceptable risk. Web site owners in the adult, gambling and travel industries are especially likely to consider extreme optimization tactics.

The trick is to make sure that you’ve educated yourself enough about common search marketing techniques to be able to understand what a business is proposing. It’s one thing to have a search marketing firm use grey or even black-hat optimization techniques with your approval; it’s an entirely different situation for them to use them without your knowledge, since the wrong type of optimization could cause your site to be removed from the engines.

Don't miss part three in this series: Finding a Reputable Company or Consultant .

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 26, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > How to Hire a Professional SEM - Part 2