Lee Odden

Finding a Search Engine Optimization Company

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO

When KeywordRanking was still in business, our Minneapolis SEO agency used to get calls about once a month from disaffected clients asking how to get out of contracts and to see if they were getting value for the $2,000 being spent. Most of those situations were the result of overzealous sales people, cold calling businesses and making promises that were a bit ambitious.

In most cases though, the business owner had not allowed enough time for their SEO and link building to gain momentum. Even quality SEO firms can suffer if expectations are not set correctly.

Now that the subsequent iteration of KeywordRanking (MarkeSmart Interactive) is no longer doing business as usual, we are getting contacted again by companies looking for reliable, trustworthy and results oriented SEO vendors that can help improve their sales online. This is on top of the 2-5 daily inquiries we get from other sources.

There are a variety of resources online that list SEO firms and I’ve listed several below. However, if you’re a company looking for a new SEO agency, I would recommend going the referral route first. Referrals are a win win situation for the company as well as the agency. I am biased about this somewhat because referrals are the biggest source of long term and successful client engagements for TopRank.

However, if you don’t have a network that includes people that are satisfied with their SEO agencies and prefer to go the search, evaluate, selection route via a larger universe of vendors, here are a few resources: (added: not in any particular order)

  • SEMPO – This is the leading search engine marketing industry association web site. You can submit a project request and SEMPO members will reply. There are currently 500+ members world wide.
  • Marketing Sherpa’s Guide to SEO Firms, 2007 Edition – Offers a very detailed look at 106 Organic SEO firms. Yes you have to pay $199 for the guide, but the information allows you to compare firms on may levels ranging from clients to pricing to tactics.
  • Marketing Profs Vendor Selector – A list of the top SEM and SEO firms with additional information on each. There are 48 world wide SEO firms listed.
  • semlist.com – This vintage list was recently revised and is part of Incisive Media’s Search Engine Watch web properties.
  • seopros.org – This is an older list and somewhat like seoconsultants.com.

Check out this article from Search Engine Watch on SEO Vendor selection based on a past Search Engine Strategies session.

Next steps would be to establish specific criteria and gather a list of SEO companies from a variety of sources: referrals, industry resources, forums, and even conferences and then interview each candidate firm according to the criteria you’ve established.

This can take some time, but the payoff can be a high value, appropriate cost relationship with a SEO vendor that best meets your needs in the short and long term. If you’re looking for more advice on selecting a SEO firm, leave a comment or email us using the contact form.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. A company I previously worked for used KeywordRanking. For the $2000 we were spending a month on them, it seemed like they did $1 of work and insight a month. They didn’t come to us with any expectations, they just took the check and waited for us to ask them for help.

  2. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but placing TopSEOs at the front of your list seems disingenuous. There is too strong a link between the companies that advertise on TopSEOs and the monthly rankings, it’s almost comical. I’m not sure how you can put them in the same list as Rand’s personal recommendation list or MarketingSherpa’s guide.

  3. All lists like this are flawed in one way or another. This list is not necessarily in order of value or importance. Some people find such resources helpful. However, I prefer referrals myself.

  4. I guess some of these companies charge in thousands but is it really worth to spend that much when someone with a little knowledge and a few books can do SEO themselves.


  5. You raise good points, Lee.

    How about some more?

    First of all, the company seeking SEO should be ready for SEO. They should make sure their product delivers value to the customer, they have enough people and resources to get involved in anything a SEO or Internet Marketer tells them.

    And, for the most part, trust is the most essential thing here. Trusting who you work with is a key to success. If your SEO says you need to wait, you need to wait.

    (Then again, various unrealistic expectations need to be demisitified before a SEO should start the work, I believe.)

    As for referrals, I am a huge believer they are the best way to find great SEOs and get good clients. Why? Because you get them from a witness, who has seen results from the work of a SEO. You also get from someone you trust, from someone who also trusts the SEO. Did I say that trust is the most important thing here?

    If you (as a SEO client) don’t know anyone who has successfully used a SEO (which by now should be a rare occasion), you can ask a person, who runs a SEO blog (like Lee, but some other person, because this is what prompted him to write this post) to recommend other trusted SEOs, if you don’t wish to hire Lee specifically.

    So, no, you are not biased. You just have great experience in working with clients and SEOs 🙂

    P.S. I can’t emphasize enough how much people, looking for SEOs, need to do before they get their website optimized. It is pretty astonishing both how they forget about making sure they are going to work with a nice guy/gal or how some SEOs not deliver what they promise them.

  6. As an SEO Company ourselves, I wonder about the importance of being included SEO “approval” networks. Many of our local competitors are in such listings but we have never joined any that required a fee. It hasn’t hurt as we have plenty of business and our work comes from referral (70%) and people find us for search terms (20%) and clicking on competitors sites (10%). No one has ever asked about our SEO credentials or memberships. Of course, maybe we have lost out on business because of it. I’d like to know what other SEO companies think. Is it worth it to be part of SEMPO? Am I thinking to small to pay for the membership?

  7. The most important lists to be included on include no payment and involve the most scrutiny.

    It is probably more important for SEO consultants that are starting to make a name for themselves to be included in such lists. For those that are already known, their absence may be conspicuous, so it’s just part of the marketing game to be included.

    I can say being included in Marketing Sherpa’s book has been very beneficial to our firm.

  8. Let me rephrase Lee a tad: the only good lists are those, where the list creator knows himself how good the SEOs are and already actively recommends them. Otherwise, the list isn’t worth that much, in my opinion.

    Yeah, that’s the problem with the lists: when you need to get there, you can’t. When you are there, you don’t need it that much.

  9. This is one of my first blog posts but it seems pretty straight forward to me. As I mention in Who to seo? it’s easy to judge people by results. I’m not an SEO’er, but if Google consistently rates an SEO consultancy highly, then they actually must be pretty good. Or is that over simplifying things?

    John P


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