How to evaluate the level of SEO company without concluding an agreement with it

    In the comments to my previous publication, the question arose: “On what grounds can you evaluate a company that offers SEO services?” The

    question is relevant and interesting, so I decided to devote a separate post to this topic.



    If you are offered to work without a formal agreement, then immediately “no.” Surprisingly, such offers do not get smaller over the years.

    There is a contract - there is a full-fledged company that is responsible and registered with state bodies. But the form of ownership is not so fundamental (unless, of course, you have internal restrictions on working with IP).



    We need not just examples, but examples that meet the following requirements:

    • Relevance. If you have a large online store, then the cases of online stores or sites that are similar to them in the main parameters are relevant: the size of the semantic core, types of queries, structure, etc. Other projects can illustrate the diversity of experience.
    • Number. It’s normal if they show you 2-3 cases, and they are very convincing. But if not, then remember: they show you the best. So either the others are ashamed to show, or simply they are not there. To ask for more examples is fine. Failure looks suspicious.
    • Complexity. You see, the cases are very simple. We return to the previous point: either on more complex cases, poor results, or they did not work with more complex cases. It all depends on your own project: sites focused on a limited regional market can be trusted and start-up companies, save a lot on promotion. With the exception of the region "Moscow and the region."
    • Goals. The case begins with the goals that every customer pursues. And this is almost never a position. Therefore, when you are shown the position, it should always be in relation to what they were reached for. At least “positions -> thematic traffic”. If the question “What gave you the achievement of positions?” Cannot be intelligently answered, then the case has no value.
    • The specifics. There is a very unpleasant abbreviation NDA, it is also the “Non-disclosure agreement”. It is because of this agreement that it can be difficult to make a visual case: there is simply not enough convincing data that can be shown. BUT! This does not mean that you cannot talk about your future project in numbers. Feel free to ask how much traffic the promotion will bring based on the company's experience in voiced cases. Find out the timing for reaching positions. Clarify the front of the work done on cases, which are given as an example. And watch, watch the reaction to specific questions.



    The hardest part about SEO contracts is guarantees. They are all different and do not directly correlate with the quality of work and the level of the company. This is especially evident in small agencies that have to fiercely fight for customers: this is where the most daring promises are made.

    The rule is simple: guarantees, especially financial ones, are always good, but their implementation is much more important.

    • If guarantees are given in a categorical form, for example: “After X months, all requests are in the Top10, or you may not pay” , then this is not a good sign, because such conditions for the contractor are an unjustified risk. Look for a catch, first of all, in semantics. Especially beware of guarantees based only on traffic, this indicator can be cheated.
    • If the guarantees are complex, for example, “After X months, XX% of requests are in Top30, and XX% is in top 10, payment for each keyword separately and only if all conditions are met” , then this looks more like mutually beneficial conditions. Approximately such formulas come all the companies that have long been promoting sites and know the real conditions in which you have to work.
    • Do not forget that guarantees are always bilateral. If under the contract you simply pay and wait, then this is suspicious. At a minimum, the conditions should indicate restrictions on inconsistent work on the site on your part. In general, the contractor should clearly indicate your area of ​​responsibility: coordination and provision of materials, participation in the discussion of amendments and changes - all this should be spelled out in a form that excludes any interpretation. If not - another “bell” that the contractor for some reason is little interested in the formal details on which his bonus depends.

    Fixed payment


    As for the fixed payment, this is a completely natural and normal practice in the initial stages. The explanation is simple: during this period, the volume of work is very large, but there are no results yet. You pay for the working hours of specialists.

    BUT! This period should be limited to several months. After the set time has passed, the site should reach the declared positions and begin to pay back the investments in SEO.

    A fixed payment may be kept at some minimum amount, but it should be much less than at the start. And it is imperative to settle in the contract: what work is carried out on a regular basis, how many hours it takes, what is the cost of an hour - full costing.

    If you are offered to work on a perpetual salary, then it is easier to hire a freelancer or SEO specialist in the state. By the way, nothing prevents us from connecting our own specialist to work with the SEO company, who will be trained during the promotion.



    Pay for what? One of the main issues. There is no single answer, we can only say that payment must necessarily be tied to a specific result. Even if these are positions, then you need to pay for each word, and even better - for every day of its presence in the Top10.

    The logic is simple: if the site on the penultimate day of the reporting period went to the top for a specific keyword, then it will be right to pay for two days, not a month. And if the next day he disappears again, and then again at the end of the period he rises above the lower bar, then in fact he has been out of the top for a month.

    • If you are offered to pay for the entire reporting period, or in general according to the scheme “more than half in the top - we pay for everything” , then it is better to refuse.
    • If the goal is traffic, then you need to pay only for the search and only for the semantics that you approved. The increase in overall site traffic as the main KPI can not act.
    • Is it possible to work for orders / applications / action? Yes, it is quite. Just keep in mind that the scheme will be complex and you will have to understand through analytics. Otherwise, natural doubling of leads may occur.

    Please note: one of the forms of work under the CPA scheme is tied to new applications. If your contract says that you pay only for customers attracted in excess of an active customer base, then you need to update this database and synchronize it with the analytics system. Otherwise, in the first month you will receive a report with a huge number of real leads, which are actually your regular customers.

    In general, SEO under the CPA model is rarely practiced precisely because of the difficulties in accounting for actions and drawing up a contract. If the company is ready to work for leads, then this is good, only it requires a very careful discussion of the conditions. And be prepared that in the end you will have to pay more than with other KPIs: this is a fee for transparency. And there is also an entry threshold: if your site now brings 0 applications per month and is visited by 100 people a day, then they will refuse you.

    This logically brings us to the next point: if you are not asked about the current site performance for those KPIs that will be in the contract, then this is very strange. You cannot predict growth without knowing the baseline. If these issues concern you more than the performer, then in the future, expect disputes over the amount of remuneration.

    Account manager


    You must have an account manager (aka client). If he was not appointed, then in the company this role is performed by combining the SEO-specialist, director or casual employee. This is a minus: a full combination of these functions is possible only if it leads 1-2 customers. If more, then communication with the client will be a secondary task. And this means delays in responding, which spoils the relationship and prevents you from identifying problems on time.

    The appointed account manager, in turn, should be interested in the same question already at the time of the initial exchange of contact information: with whom will he communicate on your side? Because there will be many questions, and we need a single center for their resolution. If you do not ask (it happens very rarely), then this indicates the absence of any experience of real work.

    Report Example


    Be sure to take a look at a sample report that will be sent to you every month. It should have the following sections:

    • Work done (preferably in hours)
    • Achieved by KPI
    • Identified problems and a plan for resolving them
    • Work plan for the next reporting period
    • Recommendations of an SEO specialist / other company specialists (for example, an UX specialist), if any
    • Performance data (by how many percent is the planned for this reporting period implemented)

    If you are offered a specific payment scheme, then the report should show data about all selected KPIs. The planned work goes into the results, and not achieved by KPI - into the analysis of the causes of failure and the work plan for the next period. This is the report of the company focused on the result.



    I understand that it’s convenient for some to bring money in a gym bag to the office. But even in this case, you should be offered several modern and civilized options. The bigger, the better. If you are satisfied with the work through Sberbank Online, then this is wonderful, but the company should also have a bank account.

    However, taking into account tax and control innovations that come into force in January 2019, only transparent types of payment under the agreement and to the settlement account will apparently remain relevant. This is probably for the best.

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