In the deep, dark world of Search Engine Optimisation there are many companies who are willing to promise you the earth with guaranteed positions and quick results. Firstly, how do you know they can deliver the results you are promised, secondly, how can you be sure they are employing ethical SEO practices and thirdly, how can you trust a company who guarantees results in the first place?!

With this in mind we have put together this short guide to give you something to consider when employing your Search Engine Optimiser and with a little research and consideration you can be confident in your choice.

1.Can you guarantee me top position in Google? Any SEO company who promises you top position in any search engine is essentially guaranteeing you something that a third party (Google) has control over. Google indexes the site and only Google (or any other search engine) is responsible for ranking the site in top position. Your SEO companyshould be able to give you a ‘best estimate’ as to where they can get you, but guarantees are essentially a misnomer.

2. Can you show me proven results from one of your other clients? This question should be asked for almost any service that you are considering investing in. An SEO company who is worth their salt should have a proven track record of clients that they have achieved results for. Ask to see which search terms they have seen successes for.

3. Are any (or all) of these ‘proven’ results for ‘Easy Keywords’? You will come across companies seeming to have shown results for clients that, on the face of it, look to quite good. In this scenario, use your common sense. If these ‘good’ results are for a keyword like ‘Estate Agents’ then you are dealing with a company who know their stuff. If they are mainly or only for keywords like ‘Estate Agency in Cumbria who also sell dog chews’, then you can see that not many people will be typing this search term into a search engine, hence there is a hell-of-a-lot less competition to be at the top of this search and is pretty useless to you as the client to be found in position 1 for.

4. Does this company have an office? Look out for an office address; you may end up dealing with a one-man-band who won’t be able to dedicate his time to more than a few clients. An office address may indicate you are more likely to have an SEO team working to increase your rankings and can allocate more time to your company.

5. Do they run any ‘Black-Hat’ techniques? Always ask your SEO for a rough guide to how they will go about increasing the ranking of your site. Some companies will use ‘Black-Hat’ techniques to cut corners. This is frowned upon by Google and can result in you being essentially ‘thrown off’ the list altogether! An example of this is BMW. A good SEO team should always follow ‘best practise’ in order to increase your profile, this is known as ‘White-Hat’ techniques.

6. Where does this company rank for their own keywords? A clever-clogs approach to finding out if you are making a shrewd investment would be to find out if your SEO ranks highly for their own search terms. Try ‘Googling ‘ some of their keywords (click ‘View’ on your menu {next to File and Edit} and then ‘View Source’) and find out where they come up. If they are a new company it may take some time for Google to decide to index them, so keep this in mind. If they are ranked high in their own industry then it’s a good bet they’re not charlatans!

7. Does this company have a murky past? Check any company you are considering investing with for a financial check (Do they have any litigation coming up against them? Bad credit?). If they are trading under many names or have had to close down and start up again in the past, then you should probably run-like-the-wind, they could just be after your money without having customer service as a priority.

8. Do they have testimonials or a good reputation? A referral is probably the best way to know that you will get a good service with a certain company. Failing this, check to see if they have testimonials from other clients and possibly even contact them to find out how they found the service. A client who has seen a good Return On Investment (ROI) will usually jump at the chance to sing the SEO’s praises.