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Selecting a Search Engine Optimization Company (Part II)

By Scott Buresh
Posted Thursday, February 12, 2004


As previously mentioned, search engine optimization is an ongoing process, rather than a one time "quick fix". If you intend to use your search engine optimization company to help you improve and maintain your positions, you should ask to see a sample monthly report. As the quality of reporting can vary from firm to firm, consider the following three items in your evaluation:

1. Engines
Reports should always be based on the most popular engines, not the engines that the search engine optimization company has had success with. Be sure that the sample report includes only popular engines based upon current figures (once again, visit SearchEngineWatch for a current list).

2. Overviews
Your reports shouldn’t be solely comprised of raw data that details individual positions (although this should be included). It is impossible to tell how your site is performing on search engines over time by looking at a slew of individual positions on individual engines and comparing them to the previous month. The sample report should provide easy-to-understand overviews of ranking performance, such as an ongoing chart that covers a long period of time and shows trend data such as "top 40 positions by month" or "top three page appearances by month".

3. Recommendations
You don’t want to pay a search engine optimization company merely to report on positions - you want to be sure that they are looking over your ranking performance on a monthly basis and are actively making the recommendations necessary to maintain and improve your positions. Be sure that the sample report contains monthly observations and recommendations specific to the site. Otherwise, you may be paying somebody to simply compile reports, not to promote the ongoing success of the campaign.


Obviously, this is a large consideration for most companies, but focusing too much on cost and not enough on results can hinder your chances for success. Some things to remember:

1. Search Engine Optimization is NOT a Commodity Product.
Unlike selecting a gas or electric company (where the quality of the product is largely the same regardless of vendor), your choice of search engine optimization vendors will have a dramatic effect on the overall results. If price is your largest consideration and you are unable to find a vendor within your price range with whom you are confident, it may be advisable to wait until you can afford one that meets your criteria.

2. Prices Are All Over The Board.
As with most businesses, the vendors with the best reputations and the proven track records command the highest fees. However, it is possible to find a competent, lower-priced search engine optimization company without a proven track record that will do an excellent job (every optimization firm has to start somewhere). Just be aware that there may be risks associated with unproven vendors, and be sure that you are comfortable taking them.


If a search engine optimization company you are considering is unable to provide you with references, you may want to look elsewhere. In almost every business, excellent references are a necessity when considering expenditures over a certain dollar figure. Why should choosing a search engine optimization company be any different? Some optimization firms may cite "confidentiality" reasons, but search engine optimization is no longer considered the black art that it once was. Every legitimate firm should have at least two clients (past or present) that you can call upon. Here are some important questions to ask when you do:

1. Did You Enjoy Working With Them?
This doesn’t bear much explanation, but you should find out how available the vendor was for questions, whether they met their deadlines, and how the company would classify the overall experience.

2. How Reasonable Were Their Requests? Some companies will ask you to make changes that seriously compromise the visitor experience on your site. It is important to find a search engine optimization company that can find a balance between the needs of search engines and site visitors, not a company that goes for high positions at any cost.

3. What Overall Effect Has It Had On Your Business?
This is the most important question, and the most important overall factor to consider when selecting a search engine optimization company. While high search engine positions and more site traffic are an admirable goal, the true value of search engine optimization is found in positive effects on customer acquisition costs and bottom line revenues.


Search engine optimization can drive numerous, targeted prospects directly to your website, typically at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing. However, as with most things, your results will only be as good as the people you work with. By taking the time to carefully evaluate search engine optimization vendors before signing a check, you will take much of the guesswork and uncertainty out of the process - and greatly increase your long-term chances for success.

About The Author
Scott Buresh is Co-founder and Principal of Medium Blue Internet Marketing ( For monthly tips on how to get the most out of your internet presence, sign up for our Internet Marketing Newsletter.


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