A Simple Strategy for Finding a White Hat SEO Partner
While things have certainly normalized a lot since the early 2000s, it’s safe to say that the SEO industry still has a bit of a Wild Wild West reputation. There are good companies and then there are “outlaws” who don’t play by the rules. And if you aren’t careful, you can find yourself mixed up with one of the latter companies.
If you want to generate positive results for your business and website, you must align with a white hat SEO company that sets you up for success. The question is, how do you find one?
While there are a few different approaches you can take, the following three-step plan will get you moving in a positive direction:
Step 1: Know the Difference Between White Hat and Black Hat SEO
The first key is to clarify what sets white hat SEO companies apart from the black hat SEO companies (a.k.a “the outlaws”). Let’s start with the basic definitions:
- White Hat SEO: Tactics that observe the rules and best practices as outlined by Google and other major search engines.
- Black Hat SEO: Spammy SEO tactics that focus on improving search rankings at all costs, even if it means implementing spammy and/or unethical methods.
Sometimes black hat SEO companies can masquerade as white hat companies, but if you know what to look for, you won’t have any trouble seeing through their disguises. Whereas black hat SEOs make bold claims and promises, white hat companies play by the rules. They’re focused on elements like:
- High-quality content
- Relevant, long-tail keywords
- Authoritative and relevant inbound links
- Properly optimized pages with well-structured markup language
- Simple and intuitive website navigation
- Fast page loading speeds
You’ll know an SEO company by where they focus the bulk of their attention. And if their attention centers around quality content and authoritative links, you can rest easy knowing you’ve zeroed in on a good option.
Step 2: Do Your Research
It’s always smart to do some research and verify that a prospective SEO partner is who they say they are. One way to do this is by asking for SEO client case studies.
While most SEO companies work under confidentiality agreements that don’t permit them to share many specifics of the companies they’re working with, you’ll often find one or two case studies with real data and results. Use these to study things like backlinks added, website traffic, and lead generation. (A sample size of at least six months is recommended.)
You can also conduct due diligence via Google, social media, and various review websites. What opinions and reviews do past clients give? Are there any red flags that indicate the company might not be who they say they are?
Step 3: Ask the Right Questions
You can learn a lot about an SEO company by asking them specific questions and listening to how they respond. Consider adding the following to your “interview” list:
- What methods do you use to generate backlinks?
- How important is technical website optimization?
- Have any of your current or past clients been penalized by Google?
- How soon can I expect to see results?
- What sort of results do you promise?
- Which metrics and data sources will we use to judge success of the campaign?
- Who is responsible for writing the content?
- How much control do I have in the direction of the strategy?
The key is to zip your lips and listen. Let them talk and observe what they focus on. Are they emphasizing unrealistic results? Or do they focus on a specific process that relies on proven white hat principles (such as content and links)?
A white hat SEO company will never make outlandish promises of helping you rank on the first page of Google. They may, however, offer satisfaction and money-back guarantees if you’re dissatisfied with the work. This should give you some confidence that you’re working with a trustworthy company.
Measure, Analyze, and Adapt
You can’t let off the proverbial gas pedal after hiring an SEO company. While you’ll trust them to execute the right strategy, you should make it your job to begin measuring and tracking results. This will give you an independent analysis of how the campaign is going. Then you can adapt as needed to maximize success.