On the Web, technology is developing so fast that even the majority of the self-proclaimed specialists know less than 70% of the stuff (how's that for just coined statistics) and have little practice and confidence with the latest developments of the industry.
Given that potential search marketing clients know even less, than the professionals (or just enough to be dangerous), it is pretty hard not only to find a good SEO, but also to get one for a good price.
Rand Fishkin Speaks Out
Rand recently posted about why it is hard to pin a price on search marketing services.
In the post, he says:
- It's nearly impossible to compare vendors side by side
- Sourcing multiple vendors is incredibly challenging
- Press mentions and fame don't neccessarily equate to quality
- Knowledge of how the industry operates and how to judge vendors is knowledge that's nearly as hard to come by as the search marketing techniques themselves
- Incorrect assumptions about the practice abound
- The engines themselves provide little to no guidance on the issue
- A neophyte has almost no chance of separating fact from fiction in claims of services, value, ROI, effectiveness, etc.
- Information about effective techniques (and even techniques that are accepted vs. frowned upon) take months or years to permeate through the consulting industry
- Reliance on references often leads to overpricing
- it is possible to compare the experts side by side, if you are an expert (or get a good consultant)
- having multiple SEO vendors at the same time is a problem, but you can either have them do different things and measure them or hire them one after another
- though press mentions isn't equal to quality (but why were you featured in Newsweek, Rand?), good references from other experts in blog posts should be good enough
- it is not the references that drive prices, but availability and practice through work, which is sometimes determined by references
I'd also add:
- each SEO has different background/experience and is different from the others
- price often depends on many factors (experience, availability, project likability, site competitiveness, etc)
- there's very little information to compare the experts' results, unless you are way deep in the industry (your own, SEO or both)
What can I say. The above is true for a SEO client, but it doesn't mean that it can't be done. Obviously, by partnering with a knowledgeable SEO professional, you can not only find a good SEO expert/agency, but also get the price right.
Hire a consultant to learn more about SEO
And that's the first thing to do before hiring a SEO agency/company: hire a SEO consultant. Not a SEO firm, but a consultant.
The consultant would:
- find the most suitable SEO company for the client (depending on what needs to be done, the budget, the industry, etc)
- oversee the work, if there's doubt
- help the company with more ideas (when it comes to link bait, nothing beats good brainstorming)
Most importantly, the consultant would save plenty of time, hassle, worries and increase chances to get substantial results.
Of course, the client could do some training/advising himself, but that's left entirely to the potential SEO client.
What can SEOs do to make the industry more transparent?
As Rand says, the core of the problem is lack of transparency. We, as SEOs, could provide the following information:
- more case studies of our projects (if clients don't want to be named, without names, just tactics/results, site type, etc)
- detailed outlines how projects are priced and confirmed by other parties
- a clear list of services included in the package that the SEO company/expert does, not what he thinks can do
- provide lists for clients to approach SEOs better
- be generous on mentioning good experts
- don't mention or recommend experts we are not sure in
- be conscious about the overall image of the SEO industry and try to improve it
Technically, just spreading the word how efficient SEO is will not only make it easy to choose the right expert, but will also improve the image of the search industry, because it'll make it more evident that SEOs are reliable and result in more profit.
Also, I have previously written about when and how to find a good SEO. In short, it goes around:
- doing everything to get a referral
- looking for reviews, opinions and such about the expert/company
- reading the company's blog and feeling if you can trust the company
Of course, it takes time to learn about a company, but it is worth it. You'd rather spend a couple of hours reading SEO companies' blogs, than wasting money and time on one that doesn't have one or because you wanted to act now
Though it may be very hard to distinguish a good SEO company from a so so company that gets you to pay through the nose yourself, you can simply hire a consultant or contact a SEO blogger to help you find the company/expert just for your site/budget.
As an alternative, you can learn SEO yourself, but it'll take months at least.