Every week I speak with dozens of small business owners who are either looking to start their very first SEO campaign or who are already doing an SEO campaign with another company but considering switching because they are unhappy for one reason or another. As an SEO service provider, it may be hard to see this post as an unbiased post about how any company should quote you and get you started with a new campaign, but in this article we’re going to try and outlined with as little bias as possible the right way to start an SEO campaign and what you as a business owner should expect to happen with any reputable SEO company.
Step 1: Initial Consultation:
Some extremely high end SEO companies don’t offer this, but the majority of SEO companies will offer a free initial consultation. This is a time for the SEO company to get to know more about your business, your target market, your budget, expectations, and other important information about the campaign. This is also a fantastic time for you to ask some serious questions to the SEO firm (we wrote an article a while back about 3 core questions to always ask an SEO company).
During this time, you want to see how good of a fit the company is for you, both through their concrete services as well as trusting your gut feeling about the company. After this point, most SEO companies will then get back to you with a more firm price quote.
Step 2: Initial Research:
In speaking with other SEO companies over the years, I would say about 50% offer some form of free initial research before offering a proposal. The reason behind this is two fold: first off the SEO company wants to quote you accurately based on the number of keywords and competitiveness of the keywords you are looking to target (or target market if you’re taking a more “long tail” approach) and secondly the SEO company wants to offer you some idea of the number of people searching for various terms in your industry. This initial research is often critical for the SEO company to judge how aggressive you should be with your SEO campaign and offer their insights into this.
Step 3: The Proposal:
Most SEO companies actually offer cookie cutter plans (Silver plan for $500 a month, platinum plan for $1,500 a month, etc) however many higher end SEO companies will quote based on the actual job. That’s not to say there’s a problem with having cookie cutter packages, however in my opinion each and every website and market is unique so a custom proposal is a much better way to formulate an initial plan for our clients and give them an idea of what they would be getting at what price point.
Proposals can range from 2 pages for a small campaign to 15+ pages for a larger campaign depending on the amount of time the SEO company put into the initial research, how many different price options they are offering the client, and how many different types of SEO they are going to engage in.
Step 4: In-Depth Research:
Assuming you accept the proposal, the SEO company should then get started with more in-depth research. This research should identify an exhaustive list of competitive and long tail keywords they will be targeting during the campaign as well as general research on understanding who the biggest players are in your niche and strategizing on how to pass them up in search results.
In addition to this, the SEO company should also set you up on their reporting platform. Most SEO companies offer some form of reporting platform, whether basic or advanced. We set all our new clients up on our platform which allows them to login at any point in time to view their keyword rankings, historical rankings, website traffic, social statistics, link profile, and paid campaigns if we manage those as well.
Step 5: The Actual SEO Campaign:
Depending on the exact strategy being used, the number of keywords, the budget, and the market, the actual SEO campaign will last a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of as long as the business exists. The vast, vast majority of our clients find a good ROI from SEO, so we continue going after more and more keywords and thus end up working with them for an extremely long term, which is common in SEO.
The actual campaign, depending on whether it is targeted at competitive keywords, long tail keywords, or local keywords, will consist of various different SEO activities such as on-site optimization work, link building/link bait development, content development, and other SEO tactics to improve search rankings. The important thing we always tell our clients is to remember that SEO will take time — no matter what the SEO company you shouldn’t judge their actual results until you reach the time table they quoted you in the proposal to see if they’re worth their weight. Most SEO companies will offer some form of time table in the proposal, and once that time table is reached they will generally offer some form of audit with you to review all the metrics and information about the campaign.
Step 6: Constant Adjustments & Analysis:
Surprisingly I think this is where most SEO companies fall short. Google rolls out 500+ updates a year to their search algorithms. Markets constantly are changing. Companies add and remove products/services left and right. It’s important to have a constantly changing SEO campaign with in-depth analysis in order to stay ahead of your competitors.
No only does the SEO company need to stay on top of search engine changes, but they also need to stay on top of critical changes to your business or industry. Typically this means they should be speaking with you at least once per month (once per quarter for smaller campaigns) and keeping you well updated on the actual campaign. Likewise as the business owner your job is to keep the SEO company updated as well. If you notice an influx of traffic from a certain keyword, make sure you mention it. If you are launching a new product/service line, make sure you tell them. Communication between business owners and SEO companies is critical to have a successful, long lasting campaign.
In a nutshell, that’s what you should expect from the initial consultation all the way into the campaign with a good SEO company. Yes, some companies may do more or less than what is mentioned above, however in my experience and in speaking with dozens of other SEO company owners I think this is the standard that you should compare different SEO companies to.