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"Should I do SEO myself or hire a firm to do it? My answer is: if you can afford it, hire the right firm to do it. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is too complex and technical to accomplish more than the basics by yourself. But how do you choose an SEO provider?

There a many companies selling these services, and it's important to know what you are buying. SEO can involve:

  • Keyword research
  • Optimization of existing web pages
  • Creation of new web pages
  • Submission to major search engines
  • Submission to major directories
  • Link building
  • Web page revisions
  • Tracking of website traffic
  • Monthly reports

Selection Criteria

Mark Jackson of SearchEngineWatch, in his post How to Select a Search Engine Optimization Firm, says you need to consider four factors:

  1. Your goals, like brand building or measurable revenue growth from the process over time
  2. Special challenges with your firm, like you or your staff's ability to write copy, spend time building links or implement technical changes to website copy
  3. Experience of the SEO provider, including years doing SEO and examples of satisfied clients
  4. Transparency about their services, so you understand what they will do and how to help and evaluate them. Selecting a Reputable SEO Provider (ClickZ) provides an excellent outline if you are trying to nail down the scope of SEO services. Or see Ten Tips for Choosing the Right SEO Partner.

SEO expert Jonathan Ashton advises:

Treat this like any other service and ask for recommendations from your network. Contact your connections at LinkedIn. Check the Chamber of Commerce for a local professional. Ask friends or colleagues for positive experiences. You will quickly find worthy recipients of your RFP and likely will learn of others to avoid.

There are good firms other than those listed in the two directories above, but you need to talk to principals, examine contracts and check reputations to know what you are buying. Read on.

Buyer Beware

Beware of SEO services from companies that promise you will be "on page one of Google," or will "rank in the top ten on search engines." These promises come with many caveats in the fine print. And watch for SEO scams . Check these links to learn how to avoid them.

In soliciting comments on this post, I find that SEO consultants differ widely on what they think works and what they term hogwash. I'm providing a variety of links so you can make up your own mind.


It takes time to see the results of SEO-type changes. Pros say that at minimum, you should wait two or three months to evaluate results. But year-over-year evaluation is more meaningful. What does it take to succeed? Here's the opinion of Mat McGee (Small Business Search Marketing): SEO Success Pyramid.

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