Clutch interviewed Trevin Shirey, senior business development manager at WebpageFX, as part of a series of interviews on how to hire an SEO company.
Learn more about WebpageFX at www.webpagefx.com.
Please begin by introducing WebpageFX and your role there.
I am Trevin Shirey, the senior business development manager at WebpageFX. We're a full service Internet marketing company. We do everything ranging from web development to social media, website design, SEO, and PPC management. We've been around since 1997, and we're headquartered in Harrisburg, PA. My day-to-day role consists of managing all of our internal marketing efforts, so marketing us as an agency, and I also help out with SEO strategy for our client base.
What goals should a business define before looking to hire an SEO partner?
I think that the first goal that a business should set before looking to hire a partner is finding somebody that is going to be a long-term partner with them, an agency that they can work with for years to come on their SEO.
People often have this misperception that SEO is a quick fix or a one-time thing, where once your site is optimized or you implement some SEO changes, you're done and you can cross that off your list. The reality is that it's a long-term, ongoing process. I think the top goal should be finding an agency that is willing to really get to know your business, and willing to become your true partner where you're working together towards common goals.
It is helpful when people contact us and they have some sort of predefined revenue or sales goals with their website that they're looking to hit. Some agencies will offer a guarantee to hit that mark within a couple of months, or something really ludicrous like that, but knowing where a potential client of ours wants to go revenue and sales-wise is really important as we start a conversation with them.
I think the role of an SEO partner at that point is to let the client know if their goals are realistic, and if they are, what they need to do to get to that step. Having a revenue or sales goal can help provide a framework for allowing an SEO partner to point you in the right direction, in terms of budget, services, and strategy.
In your opinion, which factors are most important when hiring an SEO company?
Past and proven performance is the most important factor, in my mind, when somebody is looking to find an SEO partner. Especially with the Internet nowadays, it's easy to say a lot of nice things about yourself or to look like a really reputable agency that knows what they're doing at a surface level, but SEO agencies that are truly successful are going to have a lot of specific, proven, and verifiable results available for potential clients. I always recommend that people ask for specific examples of past work, such as a website or a campaign.
Contact information for current clients is really big. Make sure that you call maybe three to five current clients of a particular SEO vendor to vet them. Ask them how they like working with that particular company. Learn as much as you can about their SEO process, how the company is run, and their reporting. That way, you're getting a third-party view of your SEO vendor before you're jumping into a financial partnership with them.
People sometimes apologize for asking us questions in the sales process, but I think that the more questions that you can ask about past performance, the clearer picture you’re going to get about how skilled an SEO agency is and how well they're able to perform. A company that's well-rounded isn't going to have anything to hide, and they'll have a whole bunch of clients that are eager and willing to share their experience working with them.
So, proven performance is number one on my list. Make sure that you have verifiable proof that the company knows what they're doing, and that they're able to drive meaningful results for their clients.
What are some red flags to watch out for when evaluating an SEO company?
The first one is prices that are astronomically low. Let's say you have an ecommerce store online that sells 100,000 products. People will get into these weird deals with agencies, where the agency says that they will audit and manage the SEO of their site for something super, super low for a website that big. They'll say, “We'll do it for 400 or 500 bucks a month.” That's a really big red flag, given the amount of time it takes to properly audit and manage a larger website like that. Especially if you're a more established business online, make sure that you're not just looking for bottom of the barrel pricing, because that budget that you have with the SEO agency is reflective of how much time they're able to invest in your site.
Second, a lot of times, your point of contact in an SEO company may be a salesperson or some sort of sales rep. Make sure that the person who will be on your account going forward is knowledgeable. Ask to speak with them before you sign a contract. Be sure to grill them, ask them a lot of questions, ask about their certifications and some of their past work that they've done.
Also, make sure that any campaign that's being proposed has very specific deliverables, especially when it comes to link building, maybe the hours or type of work that's going on each month. Make sure that all of that is outlined in advance, so that you're not a few months into a campaign, locked into a contract, and you have no clue what is actually going on day-to-day.
The last thing that comes to mind that’s a huge red flag is if somebody starts trying to sell you on SEO as soon as you contact them, without taking time to get to know your business a little bit. SEO is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Anybody who is coming out of the gate trying to get you to buy some sort of predefined package or plan isn't doing their due diligence, as far as looking into your site, your industry, and some of your overall business goals.
Does WebpageFX have any specific requirements for a potential client, such as a minimum budget or project length?
We don't have any super specific requirements for clients. The reason for that is, every campaign is totally unique and different. Our clients range from small, local businesses to publicly traded companies in the Fortune 100. Our goal is to come up with the best custom strategy that will help the client reach their goals. So, we try not to put caps or limits on anything when it comes to budget or project length. We may make recommendations to people, such as, “This campaign needs to run for ‘x’ amount of months to be most effective,” but we don't have any out-of-the-gate restrictions on any of those things.
I would say our typical clients are mid-sized businesses, which is a wide group, anywhere from 15 to 200 employees. We certainly run a lot of campaigns for companies that are both smaller and larger than that, but that's our middle range where most of our clients tend to fall.
What unique value does WebpageFX provide compared to others?
I think our biggest thing is our focus on creating mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships with clients. One thing that I'm really proud of is that our client retention rate after the first year of working with us is 90%. We find that once people have the experience of working with us, they tend to stick around for a really long time, and that's something that we really pride ourselves on. We're working to grow client's businesses through Internet marketing over the long-term. With that retention rate, we now have over 600 active projects, and that gives us a whole lot of experience within a very wide range of businesses and industries.
Another cool thing about us is, we have in-house teams that are devoted to design, development, social media, and earned media. That’s a lot of knowledge that's all under one roof, and we're able to pass all that on to our client base.
Our team is really addicted to learning. We have a book-reading competition and we're always trying to one-up each other as far as how much we're learning. Our team has actually read over 2,200 books in the past year, which is something that I’m also really proud of.
We're very much focused on clear results. We’re able to tell our clients precisely how much they’ll be getting back if they put a certain amount of money into marketing. We believe that marketing should be accountable, measureable, and show a strong ROI.
The last thing that I always love to mention and one of the things I’m most proud of is, we really believe in giving back to the greater community in the world around us. It's a core value of our company. We recently donated $25,000 to fund the building and operation of a school in Guatemala, and that $25,000 will cover the building cost of the school, plus operations costs and all supplies for the next 20 years.
Being able to do good work and use that to make the world a better place is one of the big reasons why we all enjoy coming in to work so much every day. We're getting to work with awesome clients, and know that all our efforts are helping leave the world a better place, too.
It sounds like you guys are up to a lot of great things over there.
Yeah, we try to. We're super busy. We're always trying new things, trying to make marketing better for everybody, and growing our clients' businesses as much as possible. We have a lot of fun.