There’s no doubt Australia has its share of strong SEO providers.  If you’re on the hunt for a quality agency then you’ll quickly notice the choices are endless. With so many differences in price, quality and structure, deciding on the best provider for you can quickly become overwhelming.

There are no hard and fast rules but checking the elements below will at least help filter out the majority of weak providers, leaving you with a shortlist of promising firms.  From here it becomes a question of budget, performance and personal preference.

  • Assess their sales process
  • What can you expect in the first 3 months?
  • What reporting do they offer?
  • Will they provide you with content?
  • Ask for recent examples of their results
  • Backlink expectations
  • Backlink process
  • Prepare some detailed questions

These elements should be used collectively to form an image of the firm as a whole. Some strong firms may fall short in one of two of these areas and that alone shouldn’t see them excluded. If they miss the mark in several areas though, they may not be the best choice. Naturally, the higher the cost, the more you should expect from their services too!

Quality SEO costs money

Before we jump into analysing their ability it’s important to remember that what you’re really looking for is a marketing team for your business, not just an outsourced task.

Rather than thinking about it like a retail product where the lowest price is often the best deal, consider them to be more like hiring an individual sales person for your business. You wouldn’t go searching for the most under-skilled sales person around to save money because you know the results they could produce would be dismal and hiring an SEO provider is exactly the same!

You can expect to pay more for a quality service but as long as they really do offer a better service, this is definitely a worthwhile investment.

Assess their sales process

The sales process of a marketing agency is often a great indication of what to expect from them long term as well. They’ll be working the hardest at this stage to get you on board so if you’re finding that communication is already poor or they seem generally disorganised now, chances are its only going to get worse in the coming months.

Similarly, how good is their knowledge of the SEO industry in general? Do they seem focussed and know what they’re talking about or are they simply presenting you with some generic information and a price?

While you can’t expect a complete technical run-through of everything about SEO, they should be able to give you some concise information about the current state of your site and at least be able to answer basic questions on the spot.

What can you expect in the first 3 months?

It’s absolutely true that every website has different SEO requirements but a well organised firm should have a standardised outline for at least the first month that they adapt to your project.

They may not be able to give you specific details right there on the spot but they should be able to offer a basic outline based on their usual structure. As a bare minimum, their reporting structure and communication should be a standardised process they can discuss. With poor communication being one of the most common complaints in the industry, this is an important factor!

What reporting do they offer?

You’re about to invest a portion of your marketing budget into this campaign so you want to know exactly what you’re getting, right?

Positive results are a great indicator that you’re getting value for money but SEO doesn’t happen overnight and it might take months before you start to see a return. The best way to see what you’re paying for is in the form of regular communication and reporting. At the very least you should expect a monthly report offering some information about what they’ve done and how your rankings have changed over that time.

Will they be providing you with content?

Quality content forms a large part of modern SEO. This is one of the few absolute facts of the industry and it’s backed by countless studies and anecdotes. If you come across a provider who suggests that content isn’t important to your campaign, it’s time to move on; plain and simple!

From our experience, 1500 words of quality content for each landing page is a reliable minimum to get you results (not applicable for ecommerce product pages). While the exact number will vary from company to company, it gives you at least a rough ballpark of what to consider a “correct answer” when you do query their content writing. If they suggest that 200 words is sufficient, their knowledge of modern SEO may be lacking.

Ask for recent examples of their results

The world of SEO is incredibly competitive so it’s no surprise that the strong firms are proud of their results and love to share what they’ve achieved. Asking for some examples of results they’ve produced for their clients is perfectly acceptable, just be aware that they may not be allowed or willing to share specific data for privacy reasons.

Backlink expectations

Just like content, backlinks are still a very important SEO factor and form a part of every campaign no matter what industry you’re in.

That said, the way these links should be built has changed significantly over the past couple of years. Links should come from strong, relevant websites and this makes them much harder to earn. There is no magic number you should expect from each month but at the same time, it simply isn’t possible to produce hundreds or thousands of good links without a successful viral campaign.

If you are being offered large volumes of links every month then their campaign is more likely to land you in a penalty than anything else since the only way to achieve this consistently is through black-hat methods like mass directory links and Private Blog Networks (PBNs).

Backlink process

As mentioned above, quality backlinks are vital to a successful campaign and how they go about building them is often a strong indicator of the results you can expect.

Opinions do vary about which tactics offer the best links and ranking results but if they’re offering to build you large volumes of forum backlinks (forum spam) and directory listings then it’s time to look elsewhere!

Local directories like YellowPages, Yelp and TrueLocal are perfectly fine but adding links to your site from 1000’s of low quality directories is never going to end well long term!

Prepare some detailed questions

Finally, do some research on the basic elements of SEO and prepare some simple questions to ask. The aim isn’t to interrogate them on the intricacies of the campaign but to get a better idea of what to expect in the coming months and see if it works with your current marketing goals.

Again, unless you’re getting particularly technical with your questions they should be able to answer them for you on the spot with minimal hesitation.

Finding the right provider can be a daunting task in such a crucial and complex industry. With all of the above elements covered you should at least be pointed in the right direction. What other factors do you consider important when choosing an SEO company to work with you? We’d love to add some additional points to the list!