Search Engine Optimization is an important part of any Managed Service Providers online strategy. According to a Google 2012 Tech B2B Study, 93% of tech B2B customers research products on the internet, predominantly via search engines.
On top of that, a recent study by BIA/Kelsey and Constat found consumers are using 7.9 different media sources when shopping for services in their local area.
These are some big numbers. I believe if you’re currently not taking your MSP SEO seriously, you are missing out on new leads and sales.
The problem a lot of MSPs face is either they don’t understand SEO or simply don’t have the time to implement a successful strategy. Furthermore, I’ve found a lot of MSPs have been ‘duped’ by MSP SEO firms in the past and as a result – have lost faith in the strategy.
Well I’m here to tell you that there is hope! My background includes experience working with SMBs on SEO strategies for over three years.
SEO works, but I stress… you need to take your due diligence and follow my six rules when hiring a SEO company for your MSP.
Before getting into the six rules I swear by, here are three benefits you get from implementing a solid SEO strategy:
- The first benefit is you increase your reach and access to a whole new bunch of leads and prospects. This is a form of inbound marketing and can result to some great inquiries.
- The second benefit is that to get results, you don’t have to spend too much. Compared to Pay per click (PPC) advertising, SEO can save you a bucket.
- The third benefit is better brand credibility. People trust Google to provide them with the best results. By ranking higher, you automatically gain a level of trust from your prospect.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of why businesses spend money on SEO and why you should consider it in your marketing strategy. Now let’s get into the rules.
Rule #1: Do some research on the company
First piece of advice – there are a lot of SEO imposters. Lots of companies are trying to capitalize on the SEO trend but lack the expertise to bring you good results. What I recommend is asking to take a look at their previous clients. Look for good results yourself by doing a couple of keyword searches on Google. Make sure their companies are ranking well for the keywords they were targeting.
You also want to be checking if they are up to date with the latest industry trends. SEO changes every six or so months, so you want a company that can stay with the times and keep you ahead of the competition.
Here are few factors to consider while vetting a SEO company:
- Don’t trust any company promising the #1 ranking
- Find a company that has been recommended from friends
- Search the company on Google, check for reviews and scam warnings
- Make sure the company has a strong social media presence
- Check to see if the company has a regularly updated blog
By doing a little bit of background research on the company, you can save yourself a lot of headaches in the future. For some further reading on researching a SEO company, read this article.
Rule #2: Make sure there’s a strategy
Sounds silly right – who would pay for something with no strategy? Well, you’d be surprised. Most the MSPs I’ve talked to that have had bad experiences with SEO firms, all had one thing in common – the firms promised keyword rankings and not results.
Ensure the company you go with has a broader picture and strategy for your MSP SEO. It can’t be as simple as ranking in the top page for XYZ keywords. SEO in 2013 needs to return a ROI and you need to work with the firm to identify the most profitable keywords to target.
Even if a keyword has more number of searches, it is important to select terms that can offer you better ROI. These keywords tend to be more relevant to your target market.
Let’s take an example for a MSP. Instead of ranking for keyword, ‘local computer service’ … try ranking for ‘local IT service’. It’s more relevant to your market because you target businesses as opposed to regular individual consumers.
The ideal MSP SEO Company should be aiming to produce you monthly reports based on revenue generated per keyword. If they can’t do that, I’d recommend you keep looking.
Search Engine Watch wrote an article on Keyword ROI which highlights the money you’re able to make from top search engine rankings often is a result of how much you we’re willing to spend.
Based on keyword ROI, if you aren’t relevant for 100 percent of all searches for that keyword, you might want to partner with services that enable you to be.
The key here is to target relevant keywords that bring in the best ROI. I recommend finding a company that understands SEO keyword ROI and can work with you to achieve your marketing goals.
Rule #3: Check for a content marketing component
SEO in 2013 has changed from what it was considered standard in 2009. Nowadays, to implement a successful MSP SEO strategy, you need to produce good, quality content.
I am an avid reader of Neil Patel’s blog and he outlines why content marketing is the new SEO really well.
SEO isn’t the same as what it used to be. You can’t just popup an ugly website, throw up mediocre content, and build a few links and expect to rank well. These days you actually have to build a good website, write high quality content that solves peoples’ problems, build thousands of links, and get thousands of social shares.
He goes onto highlight that content marketing is the cheapest and most effective way to do SEO in 2013. When Neil starts recommending content marketing, you know it’s good advice. He was responsible for driving a 30% increase in TechCrunch’s visitors over just a 2 month period through using SEO and content marketing.
I hope I’m being clear here, make sure your company has a content strategy in place for you in the proposal. Ask them what content they have planned, what you’ll need to produce and how they plan to market the content.
If you get any weird answers or no’s from that, I’d stay clear and look for another provider.
Rule #4: Ask what they do for link building
As Neil mentioned above, link building is now an important part of your MSP SEO strategy. Ask your SEO company what they plan to do to drive links. The key here is to ensure all the links you receive to your website are relevant and high quality. You can’t be having any weird spammy links coming to your site because Google will penalize you.
Here are some key things to make sure your SEO company does:
- Focus on quality links not quantity.
- Diversity your anchor text (the text directly in the link)
- Have multiple locations from which they get you links
- Get in-content links rather than just author bios links
- Leverage social media to share links
- Use PR – links from articles naturally turns into strong inbound links.
Reading back on that list, it does sound like a lot… but honestly, you get what you pay for. A good SEO company in 2013 isn’t cheap – I consider them more or less an extension of your marketing department.
WARNING: if you run into any providers promising thousands of links, that’s an instant warning – stay well clear of them and look for someone who can guarantee 5-10 quality links per month.
Rule #5: Do some independent learning
I understand you’re probably already very busy as is, but one rule I have is make sure you have the fundamentals of SEO under wraps.
Think of it like this, when you hire a lawn service to cut your grass, you know what the desired outcome will be and you know they will need to use a lawn mower.
Same for SEO, if you can understand the core fundamentals, you can ensure your SEO company stays in line and doesn’t take you for a joy ride.
By understanding the basics, you can make certain that the job is being done correctly and you are getting what you paid for.
A lot of MSPs that have been unhappy with SEO firms in the past, have just given them free wind and didn’t play an active role in the strategy.
So my advice to you is read up on the basics of SEO. If you don’t have the time, get your PA or marketing manager to read up on the topic.
Here are my favorite resources that I recommend to beginners:
Rule #6: Compare SEO providers
Just like when you’re looking to hire any outside help, make sure you shop the market. I think it’s even more relevant when shopping for a SEO company because you want to get a perspective of what they all do. SEO companies don’t offer a standardized service like gutting cleaning. They differ quite a bit in what they can offer you. Personally, if you have the time, I recommend getting five different companies to pitch you their services. Ask them all the questions I have outlined for you today, find a provider that really cares about your needs and make sure they can back up their talk with some proven results.
Throughout the process of the pitches you’ll get a better understanding of what is involved and what they will be doing for you. Everything comes down to the ROI, so make sure they can give you some good bang for your buck.
If you can get a good SEO company on board, you will be able to see some seriously good results. By leveraging organic traffic from search engines you can help propel your businesses into new markets.
Bonus Rule #7: Know what you need to pay
As I mentioned earlier, ROI from SEO really depends on what you are prepared to pay. SEOmoz ran a survey in December 2011 which asked over 600 SEO agencies what pricing models and cost structures they used.
I’m pleased to share the results of that survey in the hopes that it will give everyone in the search industry a better idea of the range of fees and the services provided.
From the results, there were three key takeaways which are useful to know before hiring a SEO Company.
SEO costs vary from $76-$200/hour. So if you think you can get results from a company charging under $500/month – I’d say you’re dreaming. As discussed in the previous points – SEO is a lengthy process and I would estimate a budget of upward $1500/month if you want to hire a good SEO firm that will deliver results.
Project pricing accounts for 43% of all SEO contracts. Prices range from $1,000-$7,500. I quite like this pricing option as you can agree to a term and have set deliverables that will be completed.
Ongoing monthly retainer pricing is the most popular with pricing model with costs ranging from $500/month to $7,500/month. Again, you get what you pay for. If you break things down on an hourly rate, by spending $1,500/month you can get around 15 hours of solid work. Anything under that will not be enough to get the results you want.
By following my six rules to finding a SEO company you can avoid ending up being another SEO nightmare. The world of SEO is complicated as is, but by taking a little more time to find a provider, understanding the basics and being smarter about your money – you can find a decent SEO firm that will deliver you some outstanding results.
What rules do you stick by when hiring a SEO company? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
More SEO related articles:
- Why Content Marketing is the New SEO
- Advanced SEO Guide by Neil Patel
- SEO Pricing Survey
- 10 Benefits of SEO
Other recommended posts:
- 9 Customer Retention Strategies for MSPs
- MSP Marketing: 3 interesting articles you should have read yesterday
- Rule #1: Do some research on the company – Tweet This
- Rule #2: Make sure there’s a strategy – Tweet This
- Rule #3: Check for a content marketing component – Tweet This
- Rule #4: Ask what they do for link building – Tweet This
- Rule #5: Do some independent learning – Tweet This
- Rule #6: Compare SEO providers – Tweet This
- Bonus Rule #7: Know what you need to pay – Tweet This
Photo credit: oskay