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The San Francisco SEO Company Hiring Checklist (In Cartoon Form)

SEO Basics

If you’re a Bay Area company looking at hiring an SEO company in San Francisco, there are a few things you should consider before signing that contract. SF operates differently from other parts of the country in its culture, pricing, and even its areas of emphasis for SEO services. Here are the major issues to bring up with the company you’re speaking to.

Is the SEO company’s approach technology-focused or content-focused? Something I’ve noticed about many San Francisco SEO Companies is that they serve such high-tech clients that they often feel the need to wade heavily into technical SEO rather than simply focus on producing excellent content.In reality, there are a few technical things that need to be present on your site, but they’re all things that a basic WordPress or even Squarespace installation already covers. Essentially, your site needs to be neatly-coded and fast, and it can’t try to trick search engines in any way. Most websites that were redesigned after 2008 or so already have that situation. In reality, for a site to outrank its competitors, what it truly needs is thought leadership content. The more time people spend reading the articles and resources on your site, and the more they link to and share that content, the higher your website’s Trust Score will be, which is what determines its rankings.

Does the SEO company’s culture fit with yours? One of the things that makes me proudest to live in the Bay Area – as opposed to my homeland of New York City – is that the companies here tend to have more people-centric cultures. Credit Google itself with advancing the mindset that when people love where they work, be it because of a positive environment, an opportunity to grow, intellectual challenge, or even just free food, they’ll want to work harder for their company. I’ve noticed that many SEO companies outside the Bay Area, especially on the East Coast, have a culture that relies more on negative reinforcement, where you’re expected to do your job so you don’t get fired, and that’s basically what keeps you motivated. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions and shades of grey. But the culture of the SEO company you engage makes a big difference in the ultimate outcome of the campaign, as it reflects your companies’ likelihood of working together well as a unified team.

NewYorkerEvan_02Does the SEO company’s location within San Francisco reflect unflatteringly on their spending habits? It may not be the first thing you think about when hiring an SEO company, but there is a pretty big difference between an agency with a high-floor office space in SOMA and an SEO company with a humbler space in South San Francisco. It’s up to you how you interpret the meaning of the higher rent that the former company pays. Does it mean that they’re more successful? Or does it mean that they need to charge more to pay that pricy rent? As the owner of an SEO company that maintains a virtual presence, I can speak to our attitude, which is that we want to be able to charge our clients the least we can while delivering the type of work they’d get for twice the price with an agency. We aren’t always parsimonious – for instance, if we need to hire a phenomenal consultant to aid in a special content project, we’ll spend what we need to get that person – but generally speaking, we believe our attitude towards money benefits our clients.

NewYorkerEvan_03 Despite the company being located in San Francisco, are you really getting a local, face-to-face experience? While it is not imperative in an age of telecommunication to constantly meet in person about your SEO campaign, it’s nice to know that you can get together with someone when the situation requires it. Some companies are nominally located in San Francisco but most of their team members are in India. It’s probably a good idea to ask your salesperson at the SEO company where their main point of contact will be located. Are you OK with an Account Executive who is located in LA? Probably, especially if they come up to SF from time to time. How about someone in Bangladesh who will need to schedule really early calls? Potentially not. It’s all personal, but the tenability of local meetings is definitely something to consider before bringing on an SEO partner.

NewYorkerEvan_04 Does the company have experience within your industry that will allow for a truly effective SEO campaign? Because creating thought leadership content is vital to good SEO, it is important for your SEO partner to have a content creator on their team who can produce work that will be able to relate well enough to your customers to educate and impress them. This content creator need not be a permanent member of your team. My company, for instance, recruits a different writer for every campaign – a person who has current, active experience within the client’s field. It is unfortunately fairly common among SEO companies to employ generalist writers who have no primary understanding of what their clients do, which can lead to uninspired blog articles. I know several companies in the SF Bay Area whose entire model is exactly that. Likely they’ve built a stable of in-house writers who can knock out articles on common Silicon Valley subjects like social media and IoT, but most companies here don’t fit one of their ready-made molds, and even those that do probably prefer a fresher take from someone who is actively working in the industry. You should ask your potential SEO partner how they will gain enough knowledge to create content on your behalf. It is certainly possible for a third party firm to write on behalf of your company, but it requires quite a bit of dedication and a person who is already familiar with your industry.


I hope this checklist helps you to select the right SEO company here in the Bay Area. If you have any questions as you ponder your investment in SEO, feel free to contact us.

Evan Bailyn

Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.