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SEO Search engine optimization concept

Finding a reliable search engine optimization company isn’t easy. How much experience do they have? What about references? Are they affordable? What’s the return on investment?

It’s enough to make your head spin. Find the right company, and you’ll stand out in an ever-growing internet crowd. Hire the wrong service, and you might as well burn your cash. Here are five considerations when seeking out a legitimate SEO service.

  1. Bigger isn’t necessarily better: Large, established SEO companies didn’t climb to the top of their industry by accident. They have the talent and experience you’re looking for. But, often times, larger companies are more expensive. Instead, Josh Steimle, Forbes contributor and owner of online marketing firm MWI, says bigger isn’t necessarily better. “The right SEO firm for you might have one or two employees working from a basement. Or it might be the SEO firm with 500 employees. Don’t write either one off automatically,” he says.
  2. How affordable are they? SEO services vary wildly, depending on the type of work you need and the scope of the projects you’re working on.  Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of Seattle-based AudienceBloom, tells Search Engine Watch that costs typically range between $100 for hourly consulting on up to $30,000 for big projects with all the bells and whistles. If, for example, you’re looking for affordable SEO services in Toronto, ask if they offer monthly retainers (costs typically range from $750 to $5,000 per month), contract services at fixed prices (variable prices), project-based pricing (variable prices) or hourly consulting ($100 to $300 per hour). However, be wary of SEO agencies whose prices are considerably lower than others. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. Be wary of who shows up in your search results: As Steimle writes, just because a local company shows up first in your search results doesn’t mean it’s the right company for your particular needs. Steimle’s SEO firm, for example, is based out of Utah. One of the reasons his company always shows up when you look for “Utah SEO” is because they’ve been around for a while and it’s an old domain, two things Google puts a lot of weight into, Steimle writes. Broaden your search so that it includes national companies.
  4. No such thing as a guarantee: Say you’re looking for affordable SEO services in Toronto, and you come across an agency that guarantees you a No. 1 Google ranking. This is a big red flag, DeMers tells Search Engine Watch. Search engine optimization is fickle – no one, including large, established firms – can guarantee you success. The same goes for an agency that claims you’ll get instant results; those companies often use black-hat practices that’ll get you penalized by Google.
  5. White-hat practices?: When it comes to links, consider what Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, says: “… The objective is not to make your links appear natural; the objective is that your links are natural.” Ask each company about their link-building services and practices. Inbound links are crucial to your website’s ranking and success. But companies take shortcuts, and in an era in which Google consistently tweaks its algorithms, these types of black-hat practices can lead to a zero ranking. The Wild Blogger identifies 12 black hat tactics to avoid, including keyword stuffing and participating in link schemes.


meniceJake Rigdon is the executive editor at Nimble Media, a content marketing firm based out of Toronto. You can reach him on FacebookLinkedInGoogle+Twitter or by email at