Companies who are in the market for search engine optimization (SEO) are faced with tough decisions about how to get the most out of their investment. All too often, optimizing a website can get overlooked because of the large amount of money that has already been allocated on the design of the website itself. Web developers will offer ongoing SEO support, however, their clients may only have a vague understanding about what this investment truly entails. Furthermore, companies that are intent on utilizing SEO services are faced with many website companies wrongfully making promises such as guaranteeing a 1st page rank. soseopath

It’s important to understand that the definition of SEO has evolved, and will continue to do so. Not long ago, SEO has been seen as a way to manipulate the Google search engine to place sites at the top of organic (unpaid) search results. The days of gaming the system are done because the Google algorithms are advanced to a point where they can penalize websites that are breaking the rules. SEO is not about being manipulative anymore. Rather, it is about making websites easier to see and be understood by search engines.

As we proceed into 2014, the state of the industry now demands advanced website layouts, aesthetically pleasing graphic designs, and enriching content to allow for an excellent ranking in search engines.  Gone are the days of low quality, spamming websites getting an undeserved search engine ranking.

With all of this being said, here is a 7 Point Checklist to ensure that you are choosing the right company for optimizing your website.

1)  Is the company making promises to give you a first page ranking?

If they are, then this should be treated as a strong red flag. The reality is that no company can make this guarantee and be truthful about it. Google (who owns the lion’s share of web-searches) makes strict rules and expects them to be followed.

2) Does the SEO company have legitimate certifications?

Google has the most complex algorithms and is the beacon to follow. Having a website that is optimized for Google, will mean that it is also optimized for other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.

3) Does the SEO sales consultant want to understand your business?

If this person is not asking you detailed questions about your business, then how could they possibly understand how to effectively optimize your website to be seen by your target market?

4) Is the company transparent about their action plan for your website?

All too often SEO companies will try to proclaim that they have secret, proprietary knowledge to beat Google. Since Google has made these rules clear, it is up to a legitimate SEO company to follow them. A few years ago, keyword stacking would have actually produced great organic search results, however, Google caught on to this and now is set up to punish websites for this tactic. The best-suited company will be transparent with their game plan, and stay on top of the constant changes to the rulebook of proper SEO. The action plan should also be aligned to the goals of your company.

5) Who will actually be working on your website?

This is a fundamental question to ask your sales consultant because this person will ultimately be who is responsible for working with you over a long stretch of time. Furthermore, you should be asking if this person has the credentials to help your website succeed? If they do, then they should be producing meaningful results for their other clients as well.

6) What about performance reports?

Are they willing to provide you with easy to follow performance reports so that you can see and understand the results of your investment?

7) Does your SEO consultant have a marketing background understand how it fits into the overall online marketing mix?

An effective SEO consultant will understand that the goal of an effective webpage is more than just making it more visible to search engines. It is also about increasing the percentage of visitors to convert into customers. This is known as conversion rate optimization (CRO)

 Remember, search engine optimization is a long-term strategy. You ultimately want to work with a company that is committed to forming a strong business relationship with you. If you feel as though they are not, then don’t sign the contract and move on.