How do you gauge a successful SEO company?

49 Replies

Has anyone hired an SEO company to help with their site?  What KPIs did you use to evaluate them?  

We hired one in January and I'm just not seeing any results or any real activity on my site. Wondering if it is all a scam or I'm just impatient.

Thoughts?

@Elizabeth Wilson It takes a LONG time to see the results of SEO (especially if it is a brand new site). I would look at how well your key words are ranking and look into your google analytics to see website traffic patterns. It is really hard to quantify how well your SEO is doing because there is so much complexity in google algorithms but hopefully looking into key word rankings and traffic will help you gauge a bit. 

Thanks, @McKinley Carbone .  That all makes sense.

Maybe it is short-sighted of me, but if we aren't getting any leads or direct results from the SEO work, I really don't care if we rank #1 for every search.   

I do not have a background in marketing but I'd think that there should be something more than just page or key word rankings to judge their work.  Wouldn't page views or forms completed or something related to website engagement be better than just a word ranking?

Yeah you are completely right @Elizabeth Wilson direct leads are hard to come by when it comes to SEO which is why not a lot of REI's focus on it that much. I would say if you are doing SEO by yourself and slowly but surely improving your ranking then it is worth it but I wouldn't shovel too much into it if you are looking for immediate results. As I mentioned it is about the long term results.

The key words are important for people who type into google "selling my house in Memphis". If you are ranked for selling houses and Memphis home buyers and other similar words you are going to be the first thing they see and therefore the first people they call. If you are filtering people to a contact page then yeah that would certainly be a decent KPI to look into!

Another think you can look into if you want the benefits of web traffic and instant results is IP Marketing. 

Like @McKinley Carbone said SEO results usually take awhile to really see from a company or from yourself alone. when judging a company i would ask them about their conversion rates of past customers over a perios of a years or two. that will let you know how much in sales generation thier other customers had. That should give insight but they might push abck due to those would be your expectations and the truth may be off. But i would say conversion sales rates from  the cost of 1,000 keyword alerts(for example), how many acutaly calls do u get from that? or how many people view the website from the alrets and then how many of those people acutally purchase something.

hope that helps i dont know much but i know what I would like from a SEO company as well lol.

@McKinley Carbone - Great thoughts.  I guess I was just hoping for something more quantifiable that just rankings on keywords. 

I've never heard of IP marketing!  I'll definitely research that!  Thanks so much for the suggestion!

Thanks, @Eugene Beard - Those are interesting questions to consider and probably something I should have researched more before hiring them

Will do some more searching around and see if I can find more questions/results like that!

Thanks for your time!

Oh man this is tough. I think its wise to be a little educated on the process otherwise its so easy to be taken. Especially with the "you need three months of this to see if it works" line. Best bet is to use a company that has gotten results for someone else. Beyond that... I don't know. I do my own SEO (5 deals in San Diego last year, all organic SEO leads) and I can't say I've spoken to one company about SEO that I thought knew what they were doing. 

Investor carrot for example just uses Yoast premium SEO. Its a service you can add to your wordpress site for under $100 they won't tell you that though. 

I think of that quote about the ones who got rich in the goldrush were the guys selling shovels and spades. 

My background is in SEO. Specifically, legally marketing. It takes at least a year of SEO commitment to start ranking a new site.

If someone came to you to sell their services, you’ll have a challenge to figure out if they’re any good. It will cost you a lot to learn that lesson.

SEO is very expensive because it’s hard to compete. Unless you have a large budget, or are targeting a small town, Its probably more sensible to focus on social media / Advertising on Facebook and google.

I can review your firm for any red flags if you want to PM me.

@Tim Gordon - Absolutely how I feel right now and I don't like it.  I don't mind paying money for leads - we do it all the time in other areas, but in this case it feels snake oily.  Maybe because I can't put a quantitative KPI like I can for marketing we do.  And honestly I don't care if we rank #1 on google for a key word - I can about the lead generated and the deal closed.  Those are numbers I can deposit at the bank.

I actually have a Carrot site but the SEO company told me that they don't use the Yoast SEO part of the site because it doesn't matter any more so it is worthless to me right now.

If there are metrics I can use to judge the worth, I'm happy to buy lots of shovels, but otherwise it seems like I'm panning for gold in the wrong spot.

@Lauren B.   - Thanks for your advise.   Is there a metric that I can use besides keyword rankings? Is there a way to connect organic leads that come in because of improved SEO?

As soon as our contract is up with our current company, I'll definitely take advantage of your generous offer to review.

I’ll PM you. 

@Grant Rothenburger - Yes and not really.  So far the monthly reports just show things like key word rankings and how the website ranks against competition and other similar metrics.  (I don't have one in front of me right now).

The problem is those metrics don't show me if anything that they did could be connected to a lead/deal?  Not even sure if you could do that or if there is some type of A/B testing that can be done to compare what they did (or didn't do) to what those rankings would be like without those changes.

Not saying that they aren't doing something behind the scenes but not sure how I can justify the expense without an ROI.

I may be asking for something that simply doesn't exist.  

Originally posted by @Elizabeth Wilson :

@Grant Rothenburger - Yes and not really.  So far the monthly reports just show things like key word rankings and how the website ranks against competition and other similar metrics.  (I don't have one in front of me right now).

The problem is those metrics don't show me if anything that they did could be connected to a lead/deal?  Not even sure if you could do that or if there is some type of A/B testing that can be done to compare what they did (or didn't do) to what those rankings would be like without those changes.

Not saying that they aren't doing something behind the scenes but not sure how I can justify the expense without an ROI.

I may be asking for something that simply doesn't exist.  

I'm not 100% sure what they can do. I know we recently had a call with our SEO people and my boss asked for comparisons of what our stuff would do on its own with us continuing what we do vs. how much better it will be with them helping. They said they can provide that. But we have a long established website(s) with years to look back on and build an idea of what it would do under the same conditions in the next year or so. Maybe they can do the same for you?

@Grant Rothenburger - That is a grand idea.  I'll ask them.  We've haven't had a site as long as ya'll have but it is worth asking for sure.

Thanks!

Originally posted by @Elizabeth Wilson :

Has anyone hired an SEO company to help with their site?  What KPIs did you use to evaluate them?  

We hired one in January and I'm just not seeing any results or any real activity on my site. Wondering if it is all a scam or I'm just impatient.

Thoughts?

Everyone thinks they are SEO experts. You see self proclaimed SEO mastars starting SEO consulting companies.

If a company charges you 1500 or less a month don't bother. Does that mean any company under 1000 is bad? No, but very likely they are.

SEO is A 

LOT

OF

WORK.

And everyone seems to be doing it wrong.

Yes SEO takes time, but honestly.. not THAT much time. When ever I make a drastic change to my SEO I see results within weeks... but my site is already top on google so maybe that makes a difference.

No company will do as much as I did for my own site. NO COMPANY! I am on top of google and I beat the big dogs. Money means NOTHING in the world of SEO. It's knowledge, understanding of SEO and TIME! Most companies don't have the time nor the knowledge.

I will again share my SEO secret.

Everyone tries to please google. Google says, "Yo, create backlinks yo". Google says "PBN is not bad", so everyone avoids them (while PBN's are RENOWNED for pushing your site up).

All of that is BS.

PBN's ARE good. yeah.. despite what "google" says. (Google actually says pbn's are fine... AS LONG AS.....

What is ACTUALLY meant with a PBN being bad is this: Buying up old domain names that have ranking still, putting on it thin content just for backlinks to your money site. THAT is bad!

My point.. everyone follows rules blindly that google puts out, completely forgetting WHY these rules have been put into place, in the first place.

But what is Google's job exactly? ALL google is , is a code that tries to pretend it' is human. Their job is to catch sites that manipulate their algorithms to rank. Google wants backlinks to come naturally i.e. you write such amazing content, and your site is so great to users that they NATURALLY backlink to you. So what do people do? "Ohh ok, I need backlinks.. lets. exchange backlinks, lets pay for them, lets manipulate the system by creating 29 blogs about random things so I can create backlinks and connect all my sites together.

PBN's for example, then get's a bad rep, and again, people just blindly like morons follow the hype and tell me "ohh no PBN's ar wrong".

I always roll my eyes and think.. here we go.. an other sheep thinking they know SEO.

Anyways, I don't want to publically share too much of my godly SEO powers, so do what you want. 
However, back to the point, Do SEO yourself. Learn it, breathe it eat it love it.

So back to the Google thing. I keep telling all this. Do not write SEO to please google. Write SEO to please your users. FORGET google. All google is doing is picking out the manipulators and rewarding the non-manipulators with good content.

Write for your users, and never worry about google updates (google updates are just an other word for "Google figured out to be more human-like, i.e. they updated and improved their manipulation catching algorithms".

Your users will bookmark your page, stay on your site longer, click buttons, scroll through pages, and most importantly... filling the form. All this means to google "Oh dang, this site must be amazing for the keywords they typed in, I will rank them higher for said keywords".

I am not showing this to show off. I am just showing what I am saying works!

If you look at the total right hand side. I didnt even address these leads in 3 days. Which is BAD. I am getting WAAAAAY too many leads .. more than I can handle. We just signed an other house yesterday and thus we are going to flip 3 houses at the same time. This deal was just amazing. Simply amazing deal. They just had to sell right now. Homerun deal, and this SIMPLY because we are on top of google i.e., because I do my own SEO.

@Jerryll Noorden - Thanks for taking the time to share your insight and experience.  That resonates with exactly how I feel and how I suspected SEO to work.

At the end of the day I want to provide users with the information that they are searching for.  

What analytic tool do you use to track your site?

What way have you found to correlate your SEO work to successful deals?

Thanks again.

It's a chicken and egg thing.

You need traffic, calls , interaction with leads to find out what they want, why they clicked your ite and why they  chose me. but in order to get this, you need to be making deals, but you need deals to get this data.

I then use an open loop feedback system and let my users design my site. And yes I am a bit cryptic here...

As time passes by my site automatically gets more tuned towards conversion. Then it is my job to make sure SEO is still valid. This is hard.

SEO changes I made 7 months ago, often get forgotten and undo these important changes to account for conversion. Conversion and SEO often do not work well together. You sacrifice one for the other, unless you are called Jerryll, and have godly fantastic brain powers  that manages to do both awesomely.

I use Crazy egg, to monitor my site like so:

This is what my 2 day traffic looked like a year ago. Notice I get a TON of clicks and interaction but not many conversions. This means my SEO is SOLID, but my conversion sucked. Changing it would likely cause  a drop in interaction but more conversion.

Then I changed a few things, and lookie here... look how many opt-ins I suddenly got changing a single sentence. Dudes If any of you copy my site I will take over your market and give the leads away for free to your competitor!

To answer your correlation between SEO and success...

SEO has nothing to do with my success. OK maybe not nothing... but it is just a side thing that makes it easier.

You need credibility and traffic to your site (the RIGHT traffic).

SEO takes care of the RIGHT traffic part,

Credibility takes care of the opt-in's on my site.

Traffic you can get many ways. SEO is not absolutely necessary. SEO simply makes getting traffic effortless, on automatic and automatically filters to only pass the RIGHT traffic. Wrong traffic damages your rankings significantly hence I stress on RIGHT trafic!

Together you have a super thing going on. Have you noticed that ZEEEROOOOO NONE ZIP of the SEO guru's EVER mentioned anything remotely to what I have explained in this post? Everyone regurgitates recycled crap Google spits out. This here, son, is what SEO is about and how it ACTUALLY works in real life!



You ABSOLUTELY should be table to track KPIs for your SEO and see the results of the work.

Rank, as you've kind of guessed, is a vanity metric. It makes no difference whether you rank for keywords that get no traffic or generate unfocused, unmotivated leads.

All that matters is TRAFFIC and LEADS. Period.

The KPI I will typically measure for SEO are:

1. Total unique visitors (basically, who's hitting my website?)

2. Time on site (highly predictive of SEO success long term, in our experience)
3. Conversions (how many leads?)

4. Conversion rate (what percentage of people converted?)

^^ That's a bare minimum. If those numbers aren't improving, nothing's improving.

All of these KPI are trackable for free within google analytics. You can also track your own rankings for free with google search console (previously called webmaster tools).

As others have pointed out, the timeline on SEO is significantly longer than other types of REI marketing, like direct mail or ppc. Someone mentioned a year-long time frame, and while that's conservative, I tell everyone I talk to to think of SEO in those terms - a long-term investment.

The reason you want to make that investment - as @Jerryll Noorden pointed out - is that the potential volume of leads is MASSIVE. There are thousands of potential searches each month to grab, which gives SEO - though long to pay off - the highest ROI of any marketing you can do.

P.S. As someone who's done paid SEO for over a decade now, I'm going to completely disagree with @Jerryll Noorden on PBNs, however. I don't deny that they often work, and that many big investors use them - They are technically allowed for the moment. The reason to avoid them is that there is, in my opinion, a 0% chance that this tactic is not heavily penalized by Google in the next 2-3 years. Several recent algorithm changes have already attacked PBN link structures, and while PBNs certainly vary in terms of quality, the risk is extremely high. It takes a great deal of time and energy to rank a site; doing so in a way that could get that site disappeared is simply too great a risk for most investors. 

That said, short term gain is great as long as you don't lie to yourself about the risk. Never rely entirely on one marketing channel, especially if you take on significant risk in that channel.



P.S. As someone who's done paid SEO for over a decade now, I'm going to completely disagree with @Jerryll Noorden on PBNs, however. I don't deny that they often work, and that many big investors use them - They are technically allowed for the moment. The reason to avoid them is that there is, in my opinion, a 0% chance that this tactic is not heavily penalized by Google in the next 2-3 years. Several recent algorithm changes have already attacked PBN link structures, and while PBNs certainly vary in terms of quality, the risk is extremely high. It takes a great deal of time and energy to rank a site; doing so in a way that could get that site disappeared is simply too great a risk for most investors. 

That said, short term gain is great as long as you don't lie to yourself about the risk. Never rely entirely on one marketing channel, especially if you take on significant risk in that channel.

 Sigh...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-jw_PfwtY

Here is GOOGLE HIMSELF saying it is OK!

But  sure, don't do it... I will take the ranks.

Again, no actual research is done here about the assumptions/conclusions you make. PBN simply means Private Blog Network. If you own let's say 2 blogs (like me) and it is hosted on a private domain, and you link  the sites it IS a PBN.

Is it wrong to have 2 blogs? Of course not! Can you link them together? OF COURSE!! Then why do you think PBN automatically is wrong?

You are saying the same as,  paying for backlinks is bad, so doing backlinks to your site is bad. Everything is bad if it is used badly.

AGAIN, do not please google, please your users. If I have a blog about flipping houses, and I have a blog on how to get leads to buy houses to flip, it provides VALUE to the USER to provide a backlink from one blog to another. This is not only accepted it is REWARDED by google.

This is the classic example of following rules blindly without thinking about why these rules are put in place in the first time.

This is not a matter of opinion or debate. Do it, don't do it, up to you. This is why I am successful in SEO and most others are not (or at least they could be more)

P.S. Having done SEO for a decade means NOTHING!!!!!! 

in fact it is better to have done SEO recently as 80's SEO means stuffing keywords randomly, and 2018 SEO means provide good natural content.

Man you have an SEO based business.. you really shouldn't openly be saying these things... you are damaging your credibility in being an authority in SEO...

My advice is... think! don't just follow.

Originally posted by @Jerryll Noorden :



P.S. As someone who's done paid SEO for over a decade now, I'm going to completely disagree with @Jerryll Noorden on PBNs, however. I don't deny that they often work, and that many big investors use them - They are technically allowed for the moment. The reason to avoid them is that there is, in my opinion, a 0% chance that this tactic is not heavily penalized by Google in the next 2-3 years. Several recent algorithm changes have already attacked PBN link structures, and while PBNs certainly vary in terms of quality, the risk is extremely high. It takes a great deal of time and energy to rank a site; doing so in a way that could get that site disappeared is simply too great a risk for most investors. 

That said, short term gain is great as long as you don't lie to yourself about the risk. Never rely entirely on one marketing channel, especially if you take on significant risk in that channel.

 Sigh...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-jw_PfwtY

Here is GOOGLE HIMSELF saying it is OK!

But  sure, don't do it... I will take the ranks.

Again, no actual research is done here. PBN simply means Private Blog Network. If you own let's say 2 blogs (like me) and it is hosted on a private domain, and you link  the sites it IS a PBN.

Is it wrong to have 2 blogs? Of course not! Can you link them together? OF COURSE!! Then why do you think PBN automatically is wrong?

If you are using the term "PBN" to refer to two blogs you own linking to each other, that is *not* how PBN is used in the industry.

"PBNs" - as marketed to investors - are multi-site networks of low quality, low content sites that provide no value to anyone (as you specifically say, the key here being to provide value to searchers).

Your idea is great! Hosting a blog you put time into, and linking to your investing site, is a fantastic strategy.

But that is NOT what most investors are doing, nor is it what anyone is talking about when they debate what "PBN" means, or whether or not PBNs are like to be penalized by Google.

Also - things change. You linked me a video from 2013 - here's an article from 2014:

https://searchengineland.com/google-targets-sites-...

And from 2017:
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-algorithm-upda...

Again - is YOUR strategy, as detailed in your last post, going to be affected? No!

But please do understand that when you tell other, less savvy investors, that "PBNs are awesome, don't listen to the warnings against them," everyone is thinking something VERY different.

P.S. Your site is great! The detailed about us page in particular is fantastic.

Originally posted by @Dan Barrett :
Originally posted by @Jerryll Noorden:



P.S. As someone who's done paid SEO for over a decade now, I'm going to completely disagree with @Jerryll Noorden on PBNs, however. I don't deny that they often work, and that many big investors use them - They are technically allowed for the moment. The reason to avoid them is that there is, in my opinion, a 0% chance that this tactic is not heavily penalized by Google in the next 2-3 years. Several recent algorithm changes have already attacked PBN link structures, and while PBNs certainly vary in terms of quality, the risk is extremely high. It takes a great deal of time and energy to rank a site; doing so in a way that could get that site disappeared is simply too great a risk for most investors. 

That said, short term gain is great as long as you don't lie to yourself about the risk. Never rely entirely on one marketing channel, especially if you take on significant risk in that channel.

 Sigh...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-jw_PfwtY

Here is GOOGLE HIMSELF saying it is OK!

But  sure, don't do it... I will take the ranks.

Again, no actual research is done here. PBN simply means Private Blog Network. If you own let's say 2 blogs (like me) and it is hosted on a private domain, and you link  the sites it IS a PBN.

Is it wrong to have 2 blogs? Of course not! Can you link them together? OF COURSE!! Then why do you think PBN automatically is wrong?

If you are using the term "PBN" to refer to two blogs you own linking to each other, that is *not* how PBN is used in the industry.

"PBNs" - as marketed to investors - are multi-site networks of low quality, low content sites that provide no value to anyone (as you specifically say, the key here being to provide value to searchers).

Your idea is great! Hosting a blog you put time into, and linking to your investing site, is a fantastic strategy.

But that is NOT what most investors are doing, nor is it what anyone is talking about when they debate what "PBN" means, or whether or not PBNs are like to be penalized by Google.

Also - things change. You linked me a video from 2013 - here's an article from 2014:

https://searchengineland.com/google-targets-sites-...

And from 2017:
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-algorithm-upda...

Again - is YOUR strategy, as detailed in your last post, going to be affected? No!

But please do understand that when you tell other, less savvy investors, that "PBNs are awesome, don't listen to the warnings against them," everyone is thinking something VERY different.

P.S. Your site is great! The detailed about us page in particular is fantastic.

 Yes  you are right, and that is why I said " As long as...."

That is the point I was actually trying to make. PBN is simply a definition  of something. It is NOT a method or strategy. It means Private Network Blogs.

It is like saying guns are bad or good.

Gun is a metal object, it is who uses it and how what matters.

That is why I said what people actually MEAN with PBN, is they buy up old domains with residual ranking and put thin content on them, and use that to link to other sites either for money or whatever to manipulate ranks.

That is not what PBN literally means. It is just how people USE it.

Thanks for the compliments.

I worked hard on the site!

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here