By Ella Sutton

For any small business that wants to grow and remain relevant, the ongoing marketing of their brand effectively via the organic search results is essential. The majority of people are not experts in search engine optimization (SEO) – that is, increasing the visibility of your brand’s key search terms within the major search engines.

It might sound simple, but in fact, SEO is a multi-faceted and long-winded process which is constantly evolving, meaning you have to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and SEO best practices. As such, many businesses choose to hire an SEO expert or digital agency to carry out their SEO services, making life a little easier so that business owners can instead focus their efforts on expanding their business.

Read below to understand the importance of hiring a reputable company, including the key points to look out for when making a decision.

When choosing your SEO service provider, it is essential that they are able to achieve results and meet your goals and expectations. You can determine whether they are a suitable candidate by carrying out some research and asking the right questions. Any good SEO expert will be able to demonstrate real, measurable results from current or previous campaigns, so be sure to look out for the following things in order to gauge whether you are about to hire the right SEO company.

1. Experience

Always try to find out how many years the agency or SEO expert has been operating their business because this is normally a strong indicator of their experience. Of course, we are not disputing that there are various great newer agencies out there, but finding a provider which has been in the business for ten or so years and has serviced hundreds of clients across numerous sectors, could be key to your success.

2. Loyal Clientele

One way to determine whether the SEO company you are thinking of hiring is a quality provider is to ask to see examples of several clients they have worked with for over a year. Fantastic SEO companies will have built up a number of loyal clients that have stayed with them for quite some time, demonstrating that they have managed to achieve significant results.

Many companies will be happy to provide case studies which highlight their excellent work and give solid examples of performance and their appropriate expertise.

3. Competitive Keywords that are Ranking Well

Being able to rank as highly as possible in search engines is normally the goal many businesses have when they approach an SEO company. As such, being able to demonstrate that they have managed to achieve great rankings for many high volume or high competition keywords across several business sectors, is essential when choosing a provider.

4. High-Quality Links for Clients

One of the most important aspects of SEO is link building, which is gaining a number of high-quality, natural links to your businesses’ website from other, relevant websites. Each SEO company will have different methods for gaining links — many will use guest posting and PR, others will simply stick your website on lots of local directories, while some will do no link building at all.

Ask the SEO provider in question to show you a few good examples of quality links they have managed to gain. If all you see is free directory listings, steer clear. Moreover, if excuses are made to avoid talking about this aspect altogether, also avoid. Any reputable SEO expert will be proud to show off some of the amazing links they have managed to build over time.

5. Realistic Propositions

Always avoid SEO experts who promise you the world and entice you in by guaranteeing number one rankings in a very short space of time. In reality, no SEO or digital agency has the power to absolutely guarantee top search rankings, since Google’s algorithms are simply beyond our control and are always subject to change. Instead, look for SEO providers who are able to offer tailor-made, realistic expectations based on your individual business challenges.

6. White-Hat Tactics

Always be sure to ask your SEO company what types of strategies they are using to achieve results for clients. Any they describe which jump out to you because they seem somewhat ‘shady’ or unethical, should straightaway raise concerns.

Google no longer accepts certain black hat SEO tactics which were widely used in the past, such as the buying of links, participating in link schemes or stuffing your website with keywords in order to rank. If they do catch wind of such tactics, your website could swiftly be issued a penalty and knocked off the search rankings completely. Consequently, always question what white hat SEO methods are being deployed — any honest SEO expert will be happy to talk you through their normal strategy from the outset.

With a wide array of companies and individual SEO experts available, choosing the right one can be a minefield. Remember, though, that if you enter a meeting with a potential SEO provider armed with the correct knowledge and your key expectations, you are far less likely to be taken for a ride.