With every new client and prospect we speak with, we hear more and more SEO company horror stories. We actually have one client that almost lost his job because of a poor choice in the last SEO company he hired. Below is a list of tips we’ve compiled from our experiences with our clients, to not only help you keep your job, but to look like a marketing hero in the eyes of your superiors. Don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong Internet marketing agency!

Match Styles – First and foremost, it’s important to find an agency that shares a similar style and approach to business and marketing as you and your company. If your organization tends to be more formal and professional it may be a good idea to stay away from the firms that are more creative, informal and “wonky.” The overly creative hipster firm might not mesh well with your personality, expectations and overall objectives. Similarly, an agency that is too stuffy and formal might not be the best fit for your hipster yoga studio.

Find an SEO partner that coincides with the culture of your organization and you’ll both work wonders together. With any good SEO campaign there is a lot of collaboration and back and forth between the agency and client. A strong partnership is just as important as the SEO skills.

Expected Results – Does the SEO company agree with, and support, your goals / expected results for the campaign? If the internet marketing company you select doesn’t believe in the mission that you’ve set out on they can’t possibly walk by your side to help you accomplish your collective goals. Keeping an open mind during the goal setting process is essential. Attaining a #1 position for ‘dogs’ in Google might not be feasible with a small retainer. Our job, as the expert, is to help establish reasonable and actionable goals for your campaign. This also includes helping you make your goals achievable.

You might interview firms that impress you with their SEO knowledge, tactics, clients and even humor, but perhaps they miss the mark when you’re discussing actual goals and objectives for the campaign. Think long and hard about the partner you choose because they should be with you through many years of successful web marketing campaigns.

Past Experience – While this does not always hold true, it’s important to review the industries and/or verticals where the SEO vendor has had successes and even failures. Some industries (financial, medical, real estate, hospitality, etc.) are very specific in how, and why, they deploy marketing campaigns; regulatory or cost model guidelines can play a large role in attaining campaign success. Limit your organization’s risk by hiring an SEO company that understands the type of industry and can smoothly lead you to the finish line. Something we’ve seen quite a bit of lately is Google algorithm hiccups. If you’ve been “hit, dinged, penalized, suppressed, slapped, yelled at, etc…” by Google you’ll need a partner that has experience, and success, helping other clients recover.

Yin & Yang – Every organization has strengths and weaknesses, whether we like it or not. When Web Talent meets with new clients we try very hard to identify both. It is crucial to the success of an SEO campaign to develop a properly thought out strategy that accounts for the clients’ strengths and weaknesses. If you have limited copywriting, programming or design resources it wouldn’t be fair to you, or the campaign, for us to propose a strategy that requires heavy use of those resources. Knowing the client’s limitations help us craft a custom SEO strategy that actually fits the budget, goals and resources of our client.

Pricing Models – Companies like ours come in all shapes, sizes and colors. From flat-rate packages starting at $299/mo., to custom-tailored packages based on time and materials, and even results-based pricing are all possible pricing methods. I won’t go into my own opinions. I will, however, use the old adage you get what you pay for. If you pay $299/mo for SEO you’re not going to get much. We don’t believe in packages simply because not all businesses or clients fit into packages – it’s that simple. Nor do the contents of a package apply to all businesses. A $2,000/mo package that touts 1,000 directory links, 5 infographics and a billion press releases might not be the solution for your situation. After, and only after, we look at your site, campaign goals and, most importantly, your online competition, can we provide a proposal of hours, cost, deliverables and expected results. It really comes down to what you hope to achieve. All of the pricing models listed above have a place in the industry. It’s up to you to choose the best fit for your company and goals.

Choosing the wrong SEO partner can cost you tens of thousands in fees and time, not to mention the opportunity cost of if the company does more ‘harm’ than good. Please be sure to consider all the criteria above and select the SEO company that suits you and your companies style, pricing expectations, intended goals and suite of services compared to your available resources.