Finding a Reputable Company or Consultant

If you havenít already read the first two parts 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 and Reviewing Service Offerings and Prices.

Proper search engine optimization requires a professional to become fairly intimate with the content of your web site, the demographics of your target audience and to work closely with your marketing and IT departments. They'll need access to your log files, your copywriter, your webmaster and any other individual that works on your web site. SEO is an ongoing process and the ability to work well with other members of your development team is essential.

Most web sites will need to have copy edited, coding changes made, and may even require changes to the visual look of the web site. You'll need to find a professional that not only knows how to properly optimize your site, but knows how to work with other members of your web team to explain what changes need to be made to your web site and why. It's also important to stress to your internal team the importance of listening to the SEO and working with them to make the necessary changes to your web site.

The easiest way to find someone that knows what they are doing and how to work well with others to accomplish those tasks is to ask around. If you are considering hiring a professional, ask for multiple references and call them! Ask about the results they have experienced and how easy the individual or company was to work with. Find out if they've run into any problems dealing with the individual or company and ask for specific examples. Keep in mind that SEO can involve stepping on toes...copywriters don't like to have their copy changed, web designers don't like to have images converted to text and Flash programmers don't like to drop their creations. If you hear about a negative experience someone had with an SEO, it's important to find out why there were problems and if they were honestly the SEO's fault.

The SEO community is a small one, and it's an open one. It's not unusual to find some of the brightest minds in the business sharing everything they know with anyone who wants to listen. They publish articles, send free newsletters, and participate in industry forums. By spending some time in these environments, or by visiting the web site of a firm you are considering, you're bound to get an idea of what their knowledge base is, what their personality style is like, and what the rest of the SEO community thinks about them. Many a webmaster has found exceptional help by hiring someone they've met in a forum, or through a newsletter subscription.

As a general rule of thumb, itís often much safer to consider working with someone that youíve found as opposed to someone that cold calls you. While there are several large reputable SEM firms that do marketing and cold calling, most good search marketing firms are so busy with referral business that they donít have time to do cold calling. There have also been several major stories in the last year or two about massive cold-calling SEM firms that use hard-selling tactics and provide less than ethical service.

Buyer beware is generally a good rule of thumb and in a still emerging industry like search marketing, it pays to do your research before you start shelling out your money.

In the next installment of this series, I'll explore the idea of whether or not you might want to work with a search marketing firm, or an individual consultant.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 29, 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 3