I need to outsouce my SEO marketing but I am nervous to hire a firm that may not peform. How do I pick a firm? What should I look for?
Obviously what you DO NOT do is what you are advised to do in an article on an SEO providers website!
Not so much because of what they say but more because of what they leave out.
Here's some unbiased advice….
Start by looking here http://www.seoconsultants.com/ and here http://www.sempo.org/directories/
Draw up a list of (say 10 – 15) companies whose web presence and spectrum of services meet with your approval.
Then make a simple initial approach to these companies and reduce to a short list (3-5) based on the quality of their response and their understanding of your requirements.
Interview the companies on your shortlist and include the following questions in your interrogation:
1. Ask for 5+ references and current clients and make sure you follow them all up. When speaking with the referees if you are not entirely happy ask for another 5+ references.
2. What type of reporting will they provide?
3. Do they offer Return On Investment (ROI) analysis? (You want a YES here!)
4. Can they assure you that the optimization strategies and methods used will be ethical and hence guarantee no penalties for your website?
5. Do they place a link on their clients sites to their site? (You want a NO here!)
6. Ask to see a sample contract. Check that it says 'what is' and 'what isn't' required on the clients part and details what they say they will do.
7. How many hours will they put into working on your site?
8. Make sure you will not be 'ransomed' if you decide not to use them any more at some stage.
9. Do they outsource any of the work?
10. What results can you expect and over what time scales?
That's it! You will not go wrong if you adhere rigidly to this approach.