Are you ready to take the next step? We’re not talking about marriage, just Search Engine Optimization. Chances are you’ve put off this proposal for far too long in fear of making the wrong choice. And, yes, selecting the right Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) for your company’s Web site should be a careful process. But, there are ways to prevent your cold feet. In fact, there are plenty of trustworthy, valuable SEO’s willing to help your Web site achieve the most effective results. Similar to choosing a spouse, the first trick is to really get to know your partner.

What does an SEO do exactly?

Simply put, an SEO modifies clients’ Web sites in order to improve their search engine results. This may involve different techniques like restructuring your Web site’s content or code to gain more effective search results, or even optimizing content on other Web sites relevant to your own.

Who can I trust?

Sad, but true, there are scammers out there.  According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, here are some questions you may want to ask your potential SEO to sift the good guys:

  • May I review samples of your previous work?
  • What are some past success stories?
  • How do you measure your success?
  • Do you offer any online marketing services?
  • What kind of results do you expect and in what timeframe?
  • What type of experience do you have within my industry?
  • Are you experienced in my location (city/country)?
  • Do you have experience developing international sites?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How do you typically communicate with your client?
  • Will you freely share with me all the changes you make to my site?
  • Will you provide detailed information about your recommendations and the explanations of each?

What do the experts say?

In a recent article, Karl Ribas, Project manager at All Web Promotion, also offered direction in the search for the right SEO:

Request References: Sift through the top listings, focusing more on those that appear on the bottom half of the first page.  According to Ribas, this is where the more resourceful information – comments, reviews, articles – will be located.  This way, you can gather an overall vibe based on how others feel about your SEO.

Search their keywords: Seeing how well your potential SEO ranks will reveal how your company may also be ranked.  Remember that not all good SEO’s will rank high for “SEO Consultant,” or other obvious keywords; there are simply too many SEO’s out there.  “Focus on how well the SEO ranks for the keywords they were brave enough to provide and see first hand just how good the SEO is at SEO,” Ribas said.

Talk it out: It is important to speak with more than one representative if you are dealing with an SEO company.  To avoid a maze of phone conversations with a sales team, simply request to speak with members of the “SEO team,” who will more likely be able to answer your questions.

Now, to weed out the bad guys, here are some red flags to look out for:

Surprise emails: Be suspicious if an SEO randomly sends you email notifications and invitations.  These shady messages may even be personalized and addressed directly to you.

Tooting their own horn: Don’t fall for the SEO that claims to have the #1 Google ranking or “priority submit.”  According to Google, there is no such thing!

Not telling the whole truth: Be skeptical if the SEO is not entirely clear in its explanations for doing certain things on your behalf.  If an SEO says anything about “doorway” pages or “throwaway” domains, your site may be removed entirely from Google’s index, according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Link sharing: Do not fall for the optimizer who encourages you to have a link to the SEO, or talks about “free-for-all” links, or advises you share your link to hundreds of other SEO’s.  According to Google, “These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.”