Clutch spoke with Kelly Shelton, vice president of marketing and channel partners at Boostability, as part of a series of interviews on how to hire an SEO company.
Please begin by introducing your company and your role there.
Boostability is an online marketing company. We’ve been around since 2009. We offer SEO, social media, and website builds. Our business is integrating with partners that service small and local businesses and who want to offer digital marketing services to their clients. A partner will want to offer online marketing services such as SEO, so they’ll come to us, and we’ll white label it for them, provide them all the training and support and help them get started. We’ll do all of the back-end service for them as well. I am the vice president of marketing with Boostability.
What goals should a business define before looking to hire a SEO partner?
More and more, all things are leading to the Internet, so it’s critical to have an online presence and to understand that a lot of the marketing you do is going to drive people to the Internet to search.
Lead generation, branding, and reputation management are all things that companies should look at when they’re considering SEO. SEO can be the glue that can hold all of your other marketing campaigns together and support them and make them more effective. I think most budgets need some kind of SEO as part of their marketing strategy.
What are some of the more important factors to consider when selecting a SEO company?
Going into SEO, it’s really important to have the proper expectations. SEO is different than your traditional marketing or direct response marketing. It’s not something where you put out an ad and all of a sudden you get results and leads. It’s something that is a process that takes time, and you don’t want to cut corners. You don’t want to try to speed things up by doing things that aren’t appropriate. SEO is usually a six- to nine-month process. I think these expectations are important for any customer to understand.
When looking at different companies, there are some that specialize in certain areas, like dental or law, which can be helpful because they understand the landscape. They may be able to produce better content for you because they understand your industry better. However, a good SEO company will be able to produce and generate great content and do good work for you without specializing in your industry.
The number one factor is proven performance. Results are what all companies are looking for. You want to find a company that can perform and that can get you results. Looking at reviews and case studies is helpful. You want to see that customers have been successful, and most good, reputable companies are going to have a decent online presence with positive reviews. Focus on the companies that you believe will get you results.
Quality of reporting
I also think reporting is really important. Are they transparent? Are they showing you the work that they’re doing? Are they showing you the results and progress that you’re making? Can you see the traffic that you’re getting and that you’re actually improving in rankings? A lot of customers want to know, “Is this investment working? I’m not seeing results yet; I know it takes time, but how do I know I’m on the right path?” A good SEO company will give you key benchmarks or checkpoints so that you can see that the work is leading you to the result that you’re looking for.
Price is also important. We see oftentimes that businesses will overfund or underfund a campaign, so it’s really important that you look at an SEO company that’s going to do an audit and understand your market, your market size, the competition within the industry and market. Also, when you’re looking at keywords, how competitive are those keywords that you think consumers use to find you? Those are some key things that an SEO company will evaluate to determine what budget is ideal to get you results.
I have to say, SEO can be affordable. Companies that take the time to analyze your industry and what you do and your competition, I think can give you a better quote as to what it will take to get you to rank for certain keywords. If you don’t look at your competition, if you don’t look at the marketplace and understand that, then your whole campaign will fail.
We spend a lot of time looking at the keyword phrases and determining how to select them, so you might have a little bit longer-tail keyword phrase, but there’s traffic there. We know people are searching for it, and we know that it’s attainable within your budget. That’s something to really, really look at.
Outsourcing vs. In-house
Another thing to consider is, do they do the work outside of the US? I would ask them, ‘Where does the writing take place?’ How much of this are they outsourcing versus doing in-house?
If it’s being outsourced, they need to know. If their blog is being written by somebody whose second language is English, that’s something they should at least be aware of, although are companies that I’m sure can do that well. We found that we’ve got to have good writers, we’ve got to have people that create good content and that understand the market. We don’t outsource to other countries.
Another aspect is customer service. When you call, will somebody answer the phone? Are they available? Are they responsive? Do you have an account manager or somebody that’s responsible for your campaign that you can talk to? Is there a team of people? What kind of level of service are you going to get? A lot of times we find customers coming from other companies that have been very disappointed in the responsiveness and in the explanation or support that they get from their SEO company. Making sure that they are going to have access to someone that will help them is very, very important.
Company's own ranking
One other final thought is, how does the SEO company rank? Do they perform for themselves? Can you find them when you search for ‘SEO’ or ‘best SEO services’? Are they actually able to achieve results for themselves? That’s something to consider.
What factors determine the price quote for a SEO project?
The key factors we look at are market size, keyword competitiveness, and competition within the industry. It’s a lot easier to rank for a plumber in Provo than it is to rank for a plumber in Los Angeles, just because there are a lot more plumbers. Then, the number of companies that are already ranking for those terms is a big factor. We actually have a pricing tool that goes out and finds all the companies that have those keyword phrases on their website and what they’re ranking for. That gives us a good idea of the ideal budget that will help them achieve results for that goal.
A lot of companies will promise, “You’re going to rank for 100 different keywords.” That’s a red flag in my opinion, because realistically, you dilute your online marketing budget by targeting too many keywords. You want to make sure that you’re targeting the appropriate amount of keywords that your budget can support and fund properly so that you can get results. The goal is page one rankings; anything short of that is fairly meaningless in the world of SEO.
The other thing is, how are you billed? Do they charge per hour? Do they charge per project? The more upfront the SEO company is about that, the better. We bill hourly, so all of our packages are around the number of hours that we believe we have to do on a monthly basis to achieve page-one results within six to nine months. We show them the work that we do on an hourly basis and how many tasks go into each hour.
What are some common red flags that people should look out for when evaluating SEO companies?
With SEO, there really are no guarantees. Everybody likes to hear the word guarantee, but in SEO, I would run from anybody that says, “We can guarantee that we’ll get you on the first page.” That’s just something that they can’t promise or know.
If they can’t demonstrate a track record of success for their clients, then that’s another red flag. If they can’t tell you what work they’re going to do for you and how they’re going to do it, that’s also a red flag. A lot of times companies depict SEO with a mystique or mysteriousness or make SEO seem like rocket science, and you wouldn’t understand if we tried to explain it. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. SEO companies can be transparent; they can show you exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Most businesses don’t have time to do SEO themselves or they don’t have the expertise, but they should be aware of what they’re paying for.
Most companies are going to have positive and negative reviews, and you want to read what customers say – the good and the bad. How does the company respond to the bad? Do they take care of the customers? I don’t think it’s fair to assume that every SEO company is going to have five star reviews everywhere. I don’t think it’s realistic for any company. But, you can learn a lot about a company by reading those reviews.
Does Boostability have any specific requirements for a potential client, such as a minimum budget or project length?
One of the advantages that we have in the marketplace is, we have a phenomenal technology, and we’ve put together a process that allows us to do high-quality work very affordably. We take a factory line approach to SEO, where we have specialists that do certain tasks, and then we have account managers that divvy those tasks out among these specialists to make sure that they’re done. Our reporting is phenomenal, so we can quickly track and see what’s working and what’s not. We have over 17,000 active clients, so when Google hiccups, we know about it, and we can see the effect of all the different strategies that we’re implementing.
With that being said, from a budget standpoint, we’re pretty affordable. We’re probably one of the most affordable in the industry when it comes to cost, because we can do a lot for a little. There are minimums, but we always evaluate the competitiveness of the market, the industry, and the keywords. That helps us understand what budget they need to have to achieve optimal results.
As far as minimum project length, we don’t specifically ask for a contract. Many companies do, and I understand why they do. But, we believe that we should earn the customer’s business every month. With that being said, we do our best to help the customers understand that if you’re only going to invest in this for a month, don’t do it, save your money. If you’re not prepared to give it six to nine months, then you’re just throwing money away because it does take time. We don’t ask for a contract, but we do ask for a commitment.
What unique value does Boostability provide compared to others?
We have a proven track record of getting companies ranked on the first page. Over 70 percent of the keywords that we are working on are on the first page after six months. We have a proven history, and we’ve helped thousands of thousands of clients. We also do a really good job of identifying an optimal investment. We’re very affordable, but we’re also effective.
We have transparent, real-time reporting. You can login and see the work that we’ve done and all of the articles that we’ve published. We do a great job with both the onsite and the offsite. We also have great customer service. If you call in, you’ll talk to somebody. You’ll have a team of people that are interested in your campaign. We know that a customer’s success is our success, and we really focus everything we do around helping them achieve success.
We also do a lot of educating. On our blog, we provide a lot of information on how to help businesses be successful, not only online but offline in sales and marketing in general. We really try to provide a lot of information to the clients to help them succeed.
We also offer some social as part of what we do as well in our SEO. We understand that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, those are all things that help promote content and help get content in front of consumers that will then share it and hopefully earn some links for them.
Finally, our niche is small business and local business. We help the little guys succeed online. Most SEO companies turn away smaller budget clients because they can’t effectively and affordably do the work for them, and that’s where we’ve really carved out our niche and where we’ve been very successful.