So far in this series of questions we've discussed in-sourcing your search marketing efforts, answering questions related to doing SEO yourself, Subbing out SEO, hiring an in-house SEO with and without SEO experience. In Part V we started moving into the realm of outsourcing your SEO campaign completely, asking questions regarding of hiring an SEO consultant and what that may mean to your marketing campaign efforts.

Today we'll look at the questions pertaining to hiring a multi-person SEO/M firm to manage your campaign. By asking and answering these questions you'll better understand the differences between a consultant and a firm and give you the ammunition you need to decide which, if any, is the better route for you to take.

Question 41: Do I Hire an SEM Firm? The primary difference between hiring an SEO firm vs. hiring a consultant is the number of people that are available and working on your campaign. Consultants are generally one-person operations while an SEO firm may have anywhere from two to twenty to two-hundred people working for them, with anywhere from one to a dozen people working on your account. What that means to you can be assessed by answering the questions below.

Question 42: Will a firm have qualified people working on my account? The hiring process of each SEO firm can differ radically. Some firms will only hire "names" who they can verify know their stuff. Other firms prefer to hire people they have to train because they come with a significantly reduced paycheck. Others may hire someone with some experience but neither has the price tag of having an industry recognized name, nor do they have to train them to do the job. Yet still, any firm may have a combination of all of the above. While there is nothing wrong to having newbies working on your account, it is important that you know that there will be ongoing oversight by someone who knows what they are doing.

Question 43: Will a firm have too many clients to give me quality time? Regardless of the size of the firm or the number of people on the team, there is problem issue that can prevent any firm from being effective: Taking on too much work. Any firm you considering hiring needs to know where their boundaries are in terms of how many clients they can take on at a time. If they know their limits then they must be willing to turn work away if they think it will interfere with their current accounts. If they want to continue to take on more work they they should also have a pool of new talent readily available as needed.

Question 44: Does the size of the firm matter to me? The size of the firm shouldn't matter so much as the ability of the firm to do it's job and to do it well. But there is an issue of how personalized the service will be and how well you will be able to interact with the "machinery" that often clogs the wheels of communication. The larger the business the more difficult it often becomes to reach your project manager. On the other hand, smaller firms can have similar problems simply because of the lack of resources and time for the fewer people in charge.

Question 45: Is the firm a "ranking factory" or will they be sure to pay attention to my needs? Very large firms tend to hire a lot of lower skilled individuals and give them largely repetitive tasks. Because the skill and experience level of these employees is so low its often the case that your account doesn't get much personalized attention. While it's easy to automate the basics with low-level employees, someone needs to be able to analyze your account to assess problem areas and then to assign them to someone who is knowledgeable enough in how to fix them.

Question 46: How responsive will my search marketing firm be with my concerns? When you have concerns regarding your account you need to know who you can address them with. Larger firms often provide you with an account manager that is it be available to help with any concerns and to answer all your questions. However if too many people are in your account working on auto-pilot the project manager's knowledge of your account may be limited. This isn't always the case, but definitely can be a concern. Smaller firms, however can often lack the resources as mentioned above, to be able to address the very same concerns.

Question 47: Will my calls and emails get answered? While any firm can hire a receptionist to take calls, the level of service you get can be a primary concern. Call and emails both can often go unreturned for days. Any SEO firm you hire should have a policy of getting back to you within 24 hours or less. You have to be confident that your needs will be addressed in a timely manner.

The primary concern you must have when hiring either a firm or a consultant is that they'll spend adequate time on your account to ensure your success. SEO is not good if the people you hire are too busy working on more important clients! In the next installment we'll look at questions related to costs involved and ensuring you're getting what you're paying for.

See Questions 1-11
See Questions 12-17
See Questions 18-24
See Questions 25-32
See Questions 33-40
See Questions 48-54
See Questions 55-61

March 19, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Very good questions and will be helpful for a firm at the time of decision making for their SEO project.

I'm enjoying this series of articles and even though this is targeted towards the clients its quite a good read for developers too.

I look forward to your next installment.

A little simplistic and introverted, but interesting nether-the-less.

I look forward to the next installment on costs, as this often is the biggest stilling point for clients... real or perceived value.

I like the questions.

They are a good resource for designers as well, as we all know that part of the sales process is overcoming the clients objections prior to them being raised.

Thanks for sharing.

Very good article this should clear things up for many people and help explain the advantaged/disadvantages of hiring a firm.

As an employee of a marketing company myself I can fully agree that different approaches will suit different people/project/budgets and of course if you are really tight on cash there are loads of free ways to market you sites.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge on. That is true, SEO consist of some major components, and it will really be good if you are learning and applying it on your own. Internet marketing is a learning process, so you really must cope with the changes in the market every day. One secret to it is also good content. Search engine always love fresh content and there's a huge chance that you can have the edge in the competition if you always have some fresh ideas to share. This is also a good way to boost your SERPS ranking.

This is an interesting list, and this is worth sharing with others who may want to get the best out of their relationship with the firms.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > The Big, Bad List of Pre-SEO Questions You Need to Answer, Part VI