SEO Company Ratings are useless – and 8 ways to fix them

I get about 2 calls a week from people who have used cheap SEO companies or some other company who has not performed to the levels they had expected, and I feel bad, I have always hated seeing people get absolutely ripped off, which is why I have a standing offer to review any SEO proposal in my free time.

What I am hearing more and more of is that many people who purchase SEO services are now turning to lists and ratings of SEO companies with websites like TopSEO's to help them sort through the garbage SEO companies. "On their homepage the big slogan is 2000 companies evaluated, only 80 chosen." The question is, what is the criteria used to filter out the 1920 companies who weren't chosen?

But just when you think you've got something you can use…buyer beware…I have found that a very recent winner listed by in 2008 as a TOP SEO company that doesn't currently rank well for their own brand name – this reeks of problems. Major problems.

When I find a company that is not ranking well for its own brand name it spells problems, problems that usually come from overly aggressive tactics. If an SEO company doesn't rank well for its own brand name that especially raises issues as they (the SEO companies) are the trusted advisors for their clients. Their clients come to them saying, “hey can you help us navigate this confusing SEO space and to get results”? They expect us to use tactics that won't get them in trouble.

I was told about this company by one of their ex-clients (they will remain unnamed), they are in SEMPO, sponsor major events, and the like, they seem credible right?

We learned about this company because one of their clients called us to explain the situation of how he used the SEO company listings at TopSEO's to help find a good TOP SEO company, this company was highly rated which made him feel more at ease as he left his old offshore SEO firm who didn't perform well either.

Note: when I type in this company's name, I see a few old blog posts that are on important sites which heavy anchor text links within the blog posts. Maybe they used pay per post or some similar service to get links? Who knows.

For those of you using SEO rating services, it really is buyer beware!!

The only list I would trust is this one Rand Fishkin and the SEOmoz crew doesn't make a dime off of this list, I think they developed it out of a love for the industry and hoping to connect people who need good SEO services to those whom they feel are reputable.

Lee Odden of TopRank has a nice list of ways to select a company, not sure if he'd still include topseo's.

Ideally marketingsherpa would bring back their SEO guide

I don't know the due diligence process that TopSEO's does for listed “top SEO companies”, but to truly make that list valuable and honest I would recommend that they do some of the following:

  • Stop accepting sponsorships, it creates a conflict of interest, if you want to be the consumer reports of SEO then you have to remove opportunities for those conflicts
  • Calling past clients of SEO companies to see if the SEO company's client list is truly reflective of who they have truly worked for
  • Reviewing results of those past clients
  • Investigating the tactics used to achieve rankings, including the low value links, high value links, linkbait, social media work, etc.
  • Setting up automated brand keyword searches (use digitalpoint - or Aaron Wall's SEO rank checker for firefox ) to make sure that those on the list don't fall for their own brand name when they do they should be investigated
  • Interview the staff to get an idea for experience / results in SEO
  • Develop a quiz that gauges a company's abilities
  • Subscribe to their blogs, see how often they post, are their posts getting comments, delicious adds, stumbles, etc?

I really would love to see TOPSEOs let us know the due diligence process on companies and seek out suggestions to improve the current setup, I've done my part in the 8 bullets above, what other suggestions would you have to build a better SEO company mousetrap?

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President