Yes. There are such things as real (i.e. legitimate) SEO specialists, practitioners, and companies, believe it or not. Lately, however, we’ve met many potential clients who are starting to wonder. This turns into a heavy amount of disbelief and mistrust when they come to us; providing a potential client with a service quote is much like climbing Mount Everest. It’s so fraught with pitfalls, there’s no telling whether you’ll get to the top.

Legitimacy is not easy

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a lot of sites that further fuel this distaste for our industry. The fact is, there are plenty of fraudsters out there, claiming to be SEO specialists when they aren’t. They promise the moon and deliver air.

Eliminating the SEO Scams

The only way to combat this type of thing is information and transparency. You, the person looking for an SEO specialist or firm, have to know the warning signs of snake oil optimization. Here are just a few of the questions we’ve been asked, and the answers a legitimate optimizer should offer:

Can you guarantee ranking?

No. Quite simply, there is no way to guarantee top ranking and deliver, especially on legitimate, valuable key terms. An SEO company spouting guarantees isn’t worth your time. Having said that, there are companies that offer “paid upon placement” business models. You pay a base amount for the services and then additional amounts for higher rankings.

What steps are you going to take to optimize my site?

No One Should Do This.

We get this question a lot. However, any optimizer worth hiring will not give you a definitive answer. If they do, walk away. Optimization is something that should be carefully planned based on the needs of the company, site and target market.

For example, the only steps we “cookie cutter” are clearly posted on our SEO services page:

  1. Talk with you to learn about your business, needs, goals and how you see your web presence.
  2. Perform an in depth audit to verify your needs and current online standings.
  3. Create a well-rounded organic search campaign, with an emphasis on content strategies for the best results.

To tell you the truth, even this isn’t set in stone. For example, an audit may be minimal, based on the fact that a site only has three pages.

How much is this going to cost?

If any SEO specialist gives you a quote without first looking at your site, run far, far away. You may get an estimate, along with a disclaimer that the price is subject to change once research has been performed, but that should be it. No optimizer should give a definitive price straight from the gate.

Why? Sites come in all shapes, sizes and points of focus. If you’re targeting high competition key terms, for example, it can take a lot longer to rank. If a site only has 20 pages, conversion optimization won’t take as long as a site with 2,000 pages. If your brand is well known, developing conversation and social engagement may not take as long as if you’re currently a “non-entity”.

The cost of optimization services should always be flexible, depending entirely on your site – not the average site on the Web.

How long will it take before I see results?

Answer: it depends. This is the only acceptable answer before you hire an SEO company. It depends on how many (and which) competitors you have, what your niche is, what key terms you’re targeting, how well structured your website is and many other factors. Before a specialist starts digging into your site, they aren’t going to know the answers to all that. In other words, they’ll be guessing, and guessing poorly.

The Truth

Always be honest

With the answers you’ll get from real specialists, you might think, “Well, if there are no guarantees, why bother?”

The truth is that optimization isn’t precision science; it’s a process. In fact, it’s the process of making your website as perfect, as effective and as useful as possible to your visitors. It helps streamline your site – taking into account your industry niche and target market – to make it as topical as possible.

By the time your hired SEO specialist or firm is finished, there should be no inconsistencies, no dots left unconnected, no pages lacking call to actions, and no meta description that isn’t marketable.

In short, when you hire an optimizer, you’re hiring someone to turn your site into a well-oiled machine, interesting to both search engines and visitors. The real guarantee is this: we’ll do the best we can, based on the extensive experience we have, to provide you with a business website that does its job.