What To Look For In A San Francisco SEO Company

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SEO is like eating healthy. Many people claim to do it, but few are doing it the right way.

Pretty much every marketing agency professes to be adept at SEO when all they’re doing is adding keywords to your pages. Even pure SEO firms often cut corners because they don’t understand the consequences of “grey hat” SEO in 2015.

The fact is, SEO done correctly is a huge amount of work and many people that choose to go into SEO — a field for which there is no degree or commonly-accepted standards — are not motivated enough to take on the challenges involved.

I’m writing about San Francisco SEO firms in particular here because that is a category I know very well, having run one for six years and counting. While the quality of SEO firms in the Bay Area is slightly higher than average owing to the tech-centric environment we’re in, the reputation of Silicon Valley often creates its own problems; that is, SEO companies in this area tend to focus on highly technical details that don’t move the needle. For example, an agency that one of our clients used spent 2 months planting keywords “naturally” throughout their website’s content, an old trick that is at best ineffective.

SEO is not rocket science – it’s creativity and hard work put into the structure of a few best practices that all have to do with improving people’s search experience on Google. Basically, Google wants people to find something genuinely useful when they click on a search result – not something generally useful, but rather, exactly what they’re looking for.

In order to make sure any SEO company you’re considering in the Bay Area is actually doing that, here are a few questions to ask, along with the right answers:

• Do you produce any content for us as part of the campaign? The right answer is “Yes, we produce original content each week written by passionate subject matter experts” (as opposed to uninspired, on-staff SEO copywriters who pump out content for any client they’re assigned).

• How will you build inbound links to my website? The correct answer: “By creating content that is truly excellent and thought-leading, then sharing that content with relevant websites and blogs in an organic, human-friendly way, similar to what a PR firm does.” You should not be hearing that they bulk submit press releases, write guest posts to publish on other sites, submit your site to directories (unless it’s local SEO), buy links, or create websites for the sole purpose of sewing links into them.

• Do you do any conversion work to complement the SEO campaign? You want to hear: “Absolutely. We understand that getting your site traffic is useless unless it converts. So we focus specifically on how we can get more of the people who land on your pages from organic search to convert to customers.” You don’t want to hear “No, we consider that to be your job. We get you the traffic, and you take it from there.” That’s lazy. If you’re going to attract traffic to a website, it has to be the right traffic, and you should make substantial efforts to ensure it’s converting – after all, that’s the reason most clients are hiring an SEO firm in the first place!

• How do you measure results? The right thing to say here is “By whatever your goal for the campaign is – likely, by new leads, traffic, and links.” It is not correct for a firm to measure success by rankings alone, as rankings are just a means to an end. An SEO company should be measuring the campaign by the end goal, and you as the client should be stating what that goal is from the start.

If you get the right answers to those four questions, you’re on the right track. From there, you should become familiar with their track record, their firm’s values, and who the CEO is. You want to know that, from the top down, you are dealing with an ethical, thoughtful firm that actually understands SEO in 2015.

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  • maria
    Reply

    Interesting post Evan- You mention “no commonly accepted standards” but I am sure and I speak for myself here too that without a few years worth of solid experience there is no way a respectable SEO agency would employ you right?

  • Evan Bailyn
    Reply

    Hi Maria, thanks for your question. Sure, experience is something people always value. I just mean that there is not a Bachelors in SEO right now, or a set of rules that governs what makes someone “good” at SEO apart from reputation.

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