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The Big, Bad List of Pre-SEO Questions You Need to Answer, Part VI

So far in this series of questions we've discussed in-sourcing your search marketing efforts, answering questions related to doing SEO yourselfSubbing out SEOhiring an in-house SEO with and without SEO experience. In Part V we started moving into the realm of outsourcing your SEO campaign completely, asking questions regarding of hiring an SEO consultant and what that may mean to your marketing campaign efforts.
Today we'll look at the questions pertaining to hiring a multi-person SEO/M firm to manage your campaign. By asking and answering these questions you'll better understand the differences between a consultant and a firm and give you the ammunition you need to decide which, if any, is the better route for you to take.
Question 41: Do I Hire an SEM Firm? The primary difference between hiring an SEO firm vs. hiring a consultant is the number of people that are available and working on your campaign. Consultants are generally one-person operations while an SEO firm may have anywhere from two to twenty to two-hundred people working for them, with anywhere from one to a dozen people working on your account. What that means to you can be assessed by answering the questions below.
Question 42: Will a firm have qualified people working on my account? The hiring process of each SEO firm can differ radically. Some firms will only hire "names" who they can verify know their stuff. Other firms prefer to hire people they have to train because they come with a significantly reduced paycheck. Others may hire someone with some experience but neither has the price tag of having an industry recognized name, nor do they have to train them to do the job. Yet still, any firm may have a combination of all of the above. While there is nothing wrong to having newbies working on your account, it is important that you know that there will be ongoing oversight by someone who knows what they are doing.
Question 43: Will a firm have too many clients to give me quality time? Regardless of the size of the firm or the number of people on the team, there is problem issue that can prevent any firm from being effective: Taking on too much work. Any firm you considering hiring needs to know where their boundaries are in terms of how many clients they can take on at a time. If they know their limits then they must be willing to turn work away if they think it will interfere with their current accounts. If they want to continue to take on more work they they should also have a pool of new talent readily available as needed.
Question 44: Does the size of the firm matter to me? The size of the firm shouldn't matter so much as the ability of the firm to do it's job and to do it well. But there is an issue of how personalized the service will be and how well you will be able to interact with the "machinery" that often clogs the wheels of communication. The larger the business the more difficult it often becomes to reach your project manager. On the other hand, smaller firms can have similar problems simply because of the lack of resources and time for the fewer people in charge.
Question 45: Is the firm a "ranking factory" or will they be sure to pay attention to my needs? Very large firms tend to hire a lot of lower skilled individuals and give them largely repetitive tasks. Because the skill and experience level of these employees is so low its often the case that your account doesn't get much personalized attention. While it's easy to automate the basics with low-level employees, someone needs to be able to analyze your account to assess problem areas and then to assign them to someone who is knowledgeable enough in how to fix them.
Question 46: How responsive will my search marketing firm be with my concerns?When you have concerns regarding your account you need to know who you can address them with. Larger firms often provide you with an account manager that is it be available to help with any concerns and to answer all your questions. However if too many people are in your account working on auto-pilot the project manager's knowledge of your account may be limited. This isn't always the case, but definitely can be a concern. Smaller firms, however can often lack the resources as mentioned above, to be able to address the very same concerns.
Question 47: Will my calls and emails get answered? While any firm can hire a receptionist to take calls, the level of service you get can be a primary concern. Call and emails both can often go unreturned for days. Any SEO firm you hire should have a policy of getting back to you within 24 hours or less. You have to be confident that your needs will be addressed in a timely manner.
The primary concern you must have when hiring either a firm or a consultant is that they'll spend adequate time on your account to ensure your success. SEO is not good if the people you hire are too busy working on more important clients! In the next installment we'll look at questions related to costs involved and ensuring you're getting what you're paying for.