SEO pitches can get rather technical, making it difficult for clients to distinguish truly competent agencies from ones that are all talk and no results. Here are six things to look for that make it easy for you to separate real contenders from agencies that will take your money and run.

1. Terminology

  • A good pitch describes its services in plain language, not industry jargon, and makes sure you understand what tasks will be completed in your campaign, and why.
  • A lousy pitch uses industry jargon to camouflage the real message and makes you feel stupid for asking questions.

2. Promises

  • A good pitch does not make unrealistic promises about results. A reputable agency knows there are far too many factors and too much preparatory work yet to be done to theorize about how your campaign will turn out.
  • A lousy pitch promises dramatic jumps in rankings or traffic, usually based on some secret method it has created, and refuses to explain.

3. Fees

  • A good pitch includes a monthly fee that is probably larger than you expected! This is because a well-founded SEO campaign involves much more labor and expertise than many businesses understand.
  • A lousy pitch includes a monthly fee that is too cheap to be true — and you know the saying about “things too good to be true…” Often these fees are packaged into one-size-fits-all “bundles” of service options — a telltale sign the agency is selling a canned solution that cannot be customized to the individual needs of your business.

4. Key Performance Indicators

  • A good pitch focuses on the truly important metrics for an SEO campaign: increases in sales leads and relevant website traffic.
  • A lousy pitch focuses on the wrong KPIs — in particular rankings, which have very little meaning and value in SEO today, and traffic, with no regard to relevance. Having a lot of non-relevant traffic and high rankings for terms that don’t convert will produce no ROI for your SEO investment, because those do not generate revenue.

5. Service Details

  • A good pitch lays out the campaign activities in detail. A credible SEO agency operates with integrity and transparency — it wants you to understand what you are getting in exchange for their fees.
  • A lousy pitch is vague or ambiguous about service details. You get the feeling this agency is saying, “Just give us your money and let us handle things.”

6. References

  • A good pitch includes several client references who have run SEO campaigns similar to yours in objective and scope. Good agencies are excited for you to talk to their clients.
  • A lousy pitch does not include client references, or provides references not relevant to your SEO needs. This is either because the agency has no satisfied clients, or because its area of expertise somewhere other than in your industry. Either way, this is a warning sign.

Check References

It is always beneficial to talk to the references the agency provides. Hearing from actual clients about the results of their campaigns will corroborate (or contradict) what you heard in the sales pitch. Either way, thorough reference checks will make you feel much more confident that you made the right choice in your SEO provider.