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5 Crucial Things To Know When Hiring an SEO Professional


Have you ever had this experience at an auto shop?

You're innocently perusing the magazines when you’re interrupted by that one mechanic whose hair is slicked back with what appears to be motor oil, he informs you that you need to replace the shocks, the tire tread is far too thin, your battery is getting really old, your muffler is about to die and he needs approval to put a $2,000 part on your car.

You're shocked… all you wanted was an oil change. Holding back the mixture of frustration, surprise and pent up anger you respond, “If the car needs it then fix it.”

This is a classic case of “asymmetric information” the auto mechanic likely knows much more about cars than you’ll ever care to, so when you come in the shop, he has an unfair advantage. Do you really need a new muffler? How thin is too thin for tire tread? Are the shocks giving out?

You don’t know, because it takes a lot of effort to know, but if you had learned the basics then you would have bargaining power as well as the ability to discern what is necessary and what is not.

It is the same thing when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, if you're like most business owners you want to hire an SEO firm because you don’t want to do the work yourself or exert the effort to learn in depth about the subject (and who could blame you with phrases like “Meta Tag” and “Reciprocal Link Exchange”...)

The good news is that you don’t know have to know much about SEO to make good decisions when paying someone to do it, the bad news is you do have to know a few things.

In this article we'll discuss the basics of what to look for when you are shopping for SEO firms, my goal is to give you everything you need to make a truly educated decision when shopping for SEO.

We’ll start with some helpful basic vocabulary that you should be familiar with, cover a few questions you should ask and then finish up with why you need to take seo seriously.

SEO: The Basics

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of building or improving a website so that it can show up in search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.

How do SEO agencies improve search engine results?

The four main ways agencies improve your search engine results:

Local SEO:

Local SEO is a discipline that is focused on helping businesses that are located in a specific area to show up when people search for local terms. This SEO strategy works to get you listed with a consistent name, address, and phone number across directories online as well as optimizing your content for local keywords.

If this sounds like what you're interested in, check out this Local SEO case study: “How we got a window tinter a $20,000 client using local SEO.”

Technical SEO:

Technical SEO is focused on modifying or building a website so that Google can crawl and understand it. It’s all the things that Google reads with the site. For example: fixing meta descriptions (the description of the web page that shows up in Google) and title tags (the titles that break up your content.)

Content Siloing:

Content Siloing is the process where you structure you content into distinct “silos” so that it is clear to search engine “crawlers” (little pieces of code Google sends out to gather data on web pages) how to read it.

Content sioling

Black Hat SEO:

Here is a very clear defition from

The use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines.

Some examples of black hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, adding unrelated keywords to the page content or page swapping (changing the webpage entirely after it has been ranked by search engines).

White Hat SEO: White hat is the opposite of black hat, it focuses on human interaction as well as follows the guidelines set out by companies like Google completely.

Why is SEO important?

Ray Crock, the person who grew Mcdonald's into the behemoth that it is today, is famous for saying, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.” He was completely right. Half the battle is the product, the other half is positioning the product so people can find it.

Objectively, would anyone say that Mcdonald's has three times better hamburgers than Wendy’s or a Burger King? Can you really even tell the difference? Yet, Mcdonald's makes three times more sales than either of those two companies. Why? They are the best at building where the people are.

Think of SEO as internet real estate, you pay for the best locations with high quality content and inbound links. Owning a targeted keyword online is just as important for your business in the digital world as your location would be in the physical world. Think about this, how many times have you chosen which gas station to go to simply because that’s where you ran out of gas?

The harsh reality, and your opportunity is people generally choose from the options they are aware of and if they are not aware of it few people will search extremely hard to find it.

Your customers are searching for solutions to their problems and they will likely choose the best, most easily accessible option and move on with their lives. If you're not even up where you can be considered, you will have some serious issues with traffic, at least organically. That is why SEO is so important.


How can I tell if it is a good or bad SEO Firm?

When there is a blockbuster movie that comes out, and is really well done, you will hear from your friend, “You have to see…” probably a dozen times. It’s likely that if a dozen of your friends think it’s awesome you will too.

The trick with SEO is that you need to be able to get this feedback from people you trust in an interest that is much narrower.

How do you do that?
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No Obligation Consultation


    A Netmark representative will be in contact with you within 24 hours

    I would suggest you go online and start taking a look at some of the reviews, client testimonials, facebook posts that are related to the firm or person. If they’re on Periscope or Facebook live you can talk with them in real time (come chat with us live by following our Periscope accout: I would go out and give some of them a call as well, you can learn a lot over the phone, like are they super salesy or kind and helpful?

    Another place to look is reviews. Reviews can be extremely helpful in aggregate, but also extremely biased on their own. For example how many times have you read two reviews right next to each other that say, “Worst decision I’ve ever made” and “Best decision I’ve ever made.”

    Who’s right?

    Who knows?

    The most important part is to see the overall themes of the reviews. Do people, on average, love and trust this company? Do the reviews seem legitimate?  Also pay attention to the dates the posts were written (if there is a bad review from three years ago, people change and that employee could be fired.)

    The next step after you’ve collected a few candidates is to give them a call. I highly recommend calling up multiple agencies even if their reviews are poor, you can learn most about the company, not by their polished (or unpolished) online presence, but how you actually  interact.

    What to ask an SEO Professional on the Phone:

    1. Do you follow Google’s best practices?
      1. Google is obviously the most powerful search engine out there and it’s rules are essentially the laws of good SEO. You really need to know how familiar a company is with Google’s best practices for SEO.
    2. Can I see some of your past work with clients?
      1. Have they worked in the past with a company like yours? What were their results? Are they familiar with your particular niche and how to be successful in it? While SEO is basically the same across most categories, there is a major difference between local SEO and trying to rank for large national keywords. It is definitely a plus if they have been around the block a few times and can help you with your specific area.  
    3. How do you approach improving client’s SEO?
      1. As we mentioned in the basic vocabulary section, there are a few well proven methods to growing SEO rankings and traffic. It is important that your potential seo firm uses one of them.

        If they say any of the following it is an immediate red flag:
          1. We can guarantee that you will rank on the first page of Google for this specific keyword. (No one can promise you that, simply because they do not control Google, all SEO firms are third parties from Google and while they can be very certain they will likely get you on the first page, they cannot completely guarantee it.)
          2. They mention anything about buying links (see this article to read more about the risks of buying links.)
    4. How will you report on your work?
      1. Reporting is vital, you want to know what they are doing. Plus, nobody knows your business than you do, so to get the best results possible communication is vital.
    5. What will it cost? 
      1. Honestly, SEO is not cheap, nor would you want to shortchange yourself on SEO. Paying for quality SEO work is definitely worth it, because think of how much different your company would be if you were number one in the most important keyword in your niche? Your phone would literally be ringing off the hook. When you're talking to an agency balance your frugality with the concept of investment. You want to pay close attention to how they plan to spend and use your money so you can get the results you desire.
      2. What should you expect to pay?
        1. Hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars a month, depending on how large your project is and how serious you are about ranking for your chosen keywords.

    What can I expect when I decide to work with an SEO firm?

    1. The first step in the process many agencies will take you through is to do an audit of your website. These audits will likely show you:
      1. Who is linking to your site
      2. What keywords you are currently ranking for
      3. Your SEO errors  
      4. The areas in which the firm could potentially help you to grow and opportunities you can take advantage of. To get a free seo audit from Netmark click here
    2. Decide on how much you want to spend monthly on SEO. As mentioned before you want to walk the line of frugality and investment, because if a firm charges per hour, if you pay too little you will not get results quickly (for more on this subject check out this article on Cheap SEO) and if you pay too much you’re wasting money.   
    3. You’ll likely go through a bit of negotiation based off of what your company needs and what the agency provides. To arrive at a price, one way that agencies do it is to look at how competitive the keywords you want to rank for are, the domain authority of your website and how much work it would take to get you there and then determine a price. Others have flat fees.  
    4. Sign the final agreement. Usually these agreements are multi month with the option of you leaving at will.  
    5. Monthly reporting/calls. From these calls you should be able to see gradual progress. SEo work is not something that is done in a day, because of the way that Google is set up, most of the results from SEO work takes 3 to 6 months to see. (I know, an eternity.) (Just keep reminding yourself of how worth it the outcome is.) That being said, you should be seeing consistent improvement of different parts of the website, more content being generated, titles being fixed etc. etc. in each report. If your agency is doing that work, eventually you will reach your destination.


    Just like in college your results improve dramatically when you do your homework. Go out and explore who you can potentially do business with and find someone that you know, like and trust. SEO is not a short term game, so think about the company you hire like an employee or a spouse (perhaps slightly less intense, but you get the idea), find a company you want to spend the foreseeable future with.

    If you’re considering which agency to go with, let’s chat. Netmark has been doing SEO for 10 years, we have a solid track record of helping your companies just like yours. Give me a call at (208) 522-1016, shoot me an email at [email protected] or sign up for a free consultation at and I’ll show you how we stack up against the competition.
    Hello, my name is Bruce Peck! I love digital marketing and I am the social media strategist for