Real SEO Specialists: Finding the Needle in the Hay Stack

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Posted by: Level343 Team

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.

Comments (12)

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    Mike escott Reply

    I agree, many of my clients have had a poor experience with previous seo companies who just failed to deliver. Most of it seemed to be backlinking and a little content creation but they failed to notice the 2000+ pages with duplicate content issues on his directory! It’ s hard to build that trust when they’ve been stung badly before, still the pay off is that they’ll stick with you once they see it works.

    April 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm
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    jack Reply

    What a great blog on finding real SEO Specialists, the advice you have given is perfect for anyone who is looking for a seo company. SEO is never guaranteed you need to ensure you write about real things , get backlinks and thats all you can hope for, you normally should begin ranking after 3 months

    May 19, 2012 at 10:10 am
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    Kelly Jones Reply

    I agree with Matt and Jack. These are great tips when searching for SEO consultants, specialists, and companies. I have been searching for a specialist and never realized how many scams there were. I never considered how wrong it would be to get an offer before someone has even taken a look at my website. These are great tips I will pass along to a friend I know who is searching for SEO help.

    July 17, 2012 at 7:49 am
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      Gabriella Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Kelly. My favorite request is “I need to SEO my site and a quote” if you dare call them, or engage them into answering a few questions then all hell breaks loose. They either think you are scamming them, or you don’t know what you’re doing. The clients that have worked with us over the years will tell you, regardless of their new projects we insist on treating it like a brand new project. From filling out a discovery form to answering questions, and of course giving us access to their Google Analytics.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:53 am
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    Gary Tyrrell Reply

    Finding reputed SEO services online is a very difficult thing to do because of several scams happening online. You need to carefully research for the one you choose so that your time, effort and money will not be put into waste.

    August 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm
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    Heather Reply

    There are SEO specialist who offer free website evaluation. Grab them and try their services. Discuss what are their plans for your site and how will that be done and on what direction are they taking you.

    September 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm
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    KeithRobinson Reply

    In all branches and directions that SEO might take you, there are always risks to take. Doing SEO for a certain business is not a magic that can be taken by a snap. It allows you to think more deeply, see through, and take advantage of even a very small piece of resource.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:42 am
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    Michael Reply

    I really having a hard time getting rank on the Search Engines. Example, for Google i stuck only at PR1 rank.

    May 25, 2013 at 3:49 am
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      Gabriella Sannino Reply

      Michael, PR1 shouldn’t be your focus. Focus on your relevance, great content, and start looking at a creative link building campaign.

      May 25, 2013 at 8:33 am
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    Adam Reply

    Hi this is an interesting post that I enjoyed reading. I agree with all of the point that you raises, the truth is SEO is a competitive market and to actually win clients its common for an seo company to offer pay on results campaigns to initially prove to the client that they can get results, the problem is many clients expect this to be done on their main terms and unprofessional seo company’s will agree to the clients demands just to win the business. Any good SEO company should know that it takes time to get results for the main terms but to offer pay on results on a long-tail variation or variations to prove to the client that you can get results then build a relationship from there seems to be an effective way to use a type of results driven campaign. A professional seo company should be clear and upfront with the client and let them know that they can not guarantee and results, and also that to get good ranking it does take time and patience, thanks.

    July 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm
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    John Geldard Reply

    What pisses me off about seo’s is that when they phone you up to try and get your business, the person on the other end of the phone is a sales person with minimal seo experience, and as soon as I start asking complicated questions they start stuttering or have to go get the answers from someone else.

    September 25, 2014 at 6:07 am
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      Gabriella Sannino Reply

      John, I agree. I insist on having one of our SEO consultants get on the phone when returning calls. Whether it’s Gina, John, or Mary answering our incoming calls, they know to take a message then hand the call off to one of our guys!

      September 25, 2014 at 6:56 am

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Real SEO Specialists: Finding the Needle in the Hay Stack