20 things to lookout when selecting the best SEO service in Vancouver

If you run a business in Vancouver or you are looking for someone to help you with digital marketing this blog post is for you. If you need to work with a marketing team have greater visibility either through search or social media this post is a must read. Where ever you are in your business journey if you want to rank high on search and dominate your competition you will need expert help. If you are struggling to choose the right team this blog will help you out. 

What this blog is not about?

This blog is not about explaining lingos and jargons. Which is to say, I assume you kinda know what SEO is. What digital marketing is and what marketing in general is. This blog is not going to teach you about SEO or how to apply it. If you want to know more about SEO and marketing I suggest you reading these blogs  
The above blogs will help you get started the right way. If what you are looking for is a service or an agency to help you out without you going through the trouble of learning and fixing your digital marketing presence this blog post will help you. 

Before we list what to look for when selecting the right agency or marketing team, let us be certain whether you need SEO in the first place. 

Do you really need SEO help?

Most agencies will tell you, you need SEO to grow your business. I do not think SEO is for every one. I run a marketing company here in Vancouver and I will be the first to tell you if you are wasting your money. If your customers are generally older people and are not particularly internet savvy they are not looking for you online. They probably will find you through word of mouth.  The first step in any marketing endeavor is to get into the minds of your customers. You need to take time and ask powerful questions. For e.g. 
  • How are they finding you? 
  • How do they prefer to find you?
  • What sources do they trust to find someone like you?
  • What are they exactly looking for when they plan to use a service/product like yours?
  • Who will be your customers 2,3 or 5 years from now? Would they start to look online for services like yours?
  • When would your customers visit your website? Do they even need to visit your website? If they do, what should your website offer that your prospects or customers are looking for?
Without getting into the mind of your current customers and somehow believing SEO is going to help you grow is not really a game plan. Most likely you might end up wasting money with no real results. You might gain some vanity for showing up on search but with no real proof that SEO is working for you. 

Get out of your head, out of your business and start viewing your company from the lens of your prospects. Only then will you be able to make a judgement if SEO is what you need right now.

Also, do not focus too much on your competition. No one knows how well their online presence is performing. Just because they are showing up on search does not mean their marketing is converting. You have no clue because you do not have the data. 

What you have is your data. You know your clients, your prospects your customers and how you are getting business. Dig deep and see how you can exploit your current referral streams. Only after you know the answers to the above question, should you start to look for an SEO consultant.

Why should you hire a marketing team to help you out?

Just as with any skill set, online marketing too is a skill set. It takes time to master the in's and out's of digital marketing. A good marketing team will have years of experience, intuition and a visceral understanding of the subject. This is what you will be hiring. A skill set.  It can save you time, money and a lot of mistakes in the long run. This is assuming you have selected the right marketing partner to help you out. So how do you select the right marketing partner? And before that, why should you even trust what I say in this blog.

Let me live up to your expectations and hint you on what you can really expect from this read. 

What can you expect from this blog?

There are few ways in which you can get the most out of this read.  I strongly suggest to first answer the above questions before moving further. Start getting into the minds of your prospects and customers. After which, read all the points in sequence. Have a note-pad ready to take notes. If you have questions, write them down in the comment section below. We will take time to answer your doubts. 

And getting back to 'why you should trust me'. Technically, you should not. The only reason why you should is because I live, breath, walk, talk and have spent more hours on online marketing than most people. I have a deeper insight into which companies need online marketing, why they need it, what is their growth and profit from online marketing and which industry will benefit the most. These are questions I ask my self all the time and I work with customers whom I can help. Based on our data at ANTSAND, our skill sets, our intuition, visceral understanding of this subject and actually helping our clients grow a profitable business, I bring to the table a perspective you might not have.  

Let us get started.

20 factors to consider when choosing the best SEO service

This list is in no particular order. But all are necessary to make a good judgement. In this post I will emphasis a lot on looking at the team you will be working with, their skill sets, their accolades and what makes them tick. You are technically hiring a marketing team. So hire the right team. 

I will also focus a lot on software skills. Most companies run a business without any software expertise and they do just fine. Surprisingly. But that is not a strategy I will root for. Why? Because digital in the broadest of sense means software

Digital means software. So why are you not asking for their software expertise? It is the fundamentals of what makes everything tick online.  

1. Who is the team behind your project

When you hire a marketing service or agency, know the people who will be working on your project. Most projects fail because the client is unaware who is actually doing the job. I am not recommending you bother the team, call them when you feel like and disturb them. I am recommending you know who is doing the work. What are their qualifications, what are their qualities and what you can expect.

Think of hiring an SEO service as an extension to your company. A new marketing team. Won't you like to know the people behind the work? Get to know the team, the members and make sure there is transparency.

Questions to ask the agency:
  • Who is the team behind the work?
  • What are their qualifications and experience?
  • Can I get a brief of what each member brings to the table?
  • Who is the point of contact for this project?
  • What makes this person responsible for this project?
  • Will the work be done in-house locally in Vancouver?
  • I just want to make sure you are not outsourcing the work to someone, somewhere else. I like the work to be done in-house locally. Can you prove it to me?  
  • How does the team handle criticism?
  • How do you want me to communicate with the project leader? 
  • How often do I get to meet the project leader. What if things go wrong, I rather correct things sooner than later. 
Be inquisitive. Ask proper questions. Make sure you have a system for recruiting a marketing team and that system gels well with your companies ways of working. A lot of problems can be solved by clarifying doubts. Make sure you clarify them.

The reason I emphasis on asking for the team is because many agencies leave a bad name to this industry. They start a marketing business and go on portals like fiverr, upwork or freelancer and recruit someone from some other country to do the job inexpensively. Then when the project is completed you most likely will get a very mediocre project done. This is the state of this industry. Outsourcing.

I have had many clients come to me just because their previous marketing efforts from a previous company was horrible. I then go on to question my client, did you ask about the team behind the work. And to which my clients reply, who would know that they would out-source. 

To save you from the trouble, clarify the above questions. 

2. Show me your Website portfolio and design

To know what the team is capable of, look at their previous work. It will be a good indication of what to expect. The projects might be different but having a look at what they can accomplish is a good start. See if all they work looks similar. If so that is a tel-tale sign they are using templates to do the work. The layout looks the same, the feature looks the same and just the content and pictures appear different. They are using a template. Not a good sign.

If that is OK with you, that is fine. But I do not see the point in using a template to get the job done. You might else well use a portal like marketplace.antsand.com or other platforms out there and select a wide variety of templates.

The whole idea of using a marketing team is to get them to create something unique, beautiful, functional and engaging. Using templates is not the way to go. Question you can ask.
  • Can I see a list of your work?
  • How did you develop these websites?
  • Why did you select this layout ?
  • What makes this layout work?
  • Did you build this layout from the grounds up or you used a template to get the job done?
  • Why would you use a template? Where is the creativity?
  •  What platform would you be using? Is it safe and secure? How can you guarantee that? 
  • We do not want the use of any plugins or 3rd party tools? How would you develop our website with these constraints?
Make sure you ask the right questions. Make sure you know how they will be developing your website. And have a look at their portfolio. 

3. How strong is your Software skills

I cannot emphasis this enough, but you need to know if there is a software team behind your digital marketing efforts. Most people feel you just need a marketer to get the job done. I beg to differ. Most often than not, when there is an issue with your website it is a software web-developer who can solve it. With a strong website developer ( Software developer or website developer mean one and the same thing in this context) this is what you can expect.
  • They have the ability to convert any design to a functioning website
  • They will have the ability to optimize a website based on speed and security
  • They will build a website from the grounds up. No need to use any platform, plugins or 3rd party tools. 
  • A software developer will be able to add elements and features to your website no tool, design or plugins can do with ease
  • A software team is an asset. After all, every company today is being disrupted by a software company 
  •  A great software team can bring a concept, idea, vision or design to reality
So, how do you know if a team has software skills. And how do you judge that. There are few ways in which you can judge that.
  • Ask what is the level of knowledge on a scale of 1 - 10 in writing software 
  • What languages are they comfortable writing in? HTML, JSON, CSS, Javascript, XML
  • What is their qualification?
  • How long have they been writing software?
  • What kind of applications can they build? 
If I had to rate how important this skill set is, it is very high on my list. Software is very important. Do not under estimate the power of having a strong software team working on your marketing. 

4. No Hypocrisy

This goes without saying. If you are selling SEO services, are you ranking high on search? Are you producing high quality content? Are you getting leads from SEO? Is internet marketing working for you and your company? 

Question the agency. Are they applying all the strategies and concepts they plan to do to your business, themselves. And are those strategies working effectively. 

5. Do they care about you

Most companies love to make a sale, but do they care about you? Are they really worried if your marketing will work or not? Do they want you to succeed? I always tell my clients -

The best way for anyone to stay in business is to help your customers stay in business 

If I help my customers get more clients, get more leads, make more sales and their marketing is dominating, your clients will love you. So go out and ask. How much do you really care about our success? What if we do not get the results, how will you help resolve it? What should we do to get the most out of this strategy? 

Dig deep and see if they really want to see you succeed. If they do not, you need to look for someone else to take care of your marketing. 

Marketing is the only part of your business that will give you more customers. So if the person or team who is in-charge of marketing does not take care of it the right way, you will suffer. 

6. What is the strategy?

When you enter an agreement with a team or agency to take care of your marketing, what is the strategy they plan to deploy? And will this strategy work? Do not forget point #4. No Hypocrisy. 

Now each industry is different but the strategy can be universally applied. You need to find this out. Clarity is key. If you do not understand the strategy, or you feel a bit irky about it, do not invest in this SEO service.

You need to feel comfortable with the strategy. It needs to make sense. As you too would need to get involved in the marketing efforts. So it is best to clarify all doubts early on. 

7. Do they write great, beautiful and engaging Blogs regularly for their own company?

If someone is taking care of your SEO and they themselves are not writing blogs that should be a red flag. Or they write blogs but it is rubbish, not a good sign. You need to go and read their blogs. See if it makes sense to you. See if those efforts are great for your marketing. Would blogs like the way they have written for their company, if done for you, would you be impressed? 

A website or a company that is constantly writing high quality blogs must be on your radar. It is the right way to do proper SEO. Any other ways of making SEO work are short term strategies. I would suggest not working with such a team.  If you cannot visually see the strategy, for the most part the strategy is not going to be effective. May work for the short term, but will fail you in the long term.

At it's core SEO is all about creating beautiful web-pages with valuable and insightful content. Blogs help you get there. It should be the most important strategy to deploy for long term success. 

So make sure you are reading the blogs of your marketing team. See how often they write an article. Where do their articles rank on search. You should read and see if it makes sense to you? This is important. Read the blogs on their website. Not what they do for their customers. 

Why? Because what they do on their website is a good reflection of what they will do for you. 

8. Social media presence

Does the team you plan to hire have a strong social media presence? This may or may not be important for SEO. But it is good to have a strong social media presence. On this point, I myself and my company is very guilty of. 

Some brands need a strong social media presence, some may not.  Either ways, it is good to work on getting more followers. It is good to be active on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, twitter and LinkedIn. See if the company you are hiring, if they are promoting their social media presence. Ask them about their social media strategy.

How do they plan to promote your brand? What will their strategy be. The only way to be good at social media is to be social, give value, be active consistently and constantly and think long term. It is a grind. But for good reasons.

9. Conversion centric design

The idea of conversion centric is about creating a website that help convert prospects into customers. In simple English, it should be like a salesperson trying to sell and close a service or product to a prospect. You website should be the closer. 

A good SEO service understands that. They will look at the data, your values and everything around to make sense of a good website. Design it in such a way that it not only ranks on search but engages your prospects to take effective action. Be it to call you, fill a form, purchase a product online, etc. What ever the action is, a conversion centric design will take care of both. Beauty and function. So ask your SEO service provider
  • Will you be designing our website with a conversion centric approach?
  • How effective will our web-page be at converting prospects into customer?
  • What strategies do you use to optimize a website for conversion?
A website that is designed with conversion in mind, will look good, appealing, clean and functional. As these are generally the pre-requisite of a good converting website. So ask your SEO service provider about C.R.O - Conversion Rate Optimization 

10. Open source Projects/ Software

This is a lesser known approach to selecting an SEO company. Most people might say this is almost not necessary. How will this factor give me the results I need? And what is Open Source?

Open-source software (OSS) is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.[1] Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner. Open-source software is a prominent example of open collaboration.[2]  Wikipidia

The idea for asking if your agency writes open source software is to test if they really do write software. As mentioned, I believe a good chunk of SEO is understanding the software that runs the internet. Without a detailed understanding of the mechanics, I would have to call an SEO agency bluff. I mean sure you can do some tips and tricks and basic tactics to boost your rankings, but overall in the long term writing good website software is the most effective approach to ranking high on search. 

11. Innovation - Do they create their own in-house Software tools and platforms

This is going to be a very difficult trait to find in a SEO service. Do they have their own software tools? Why do I ponder on this question of Software. Because a good chunk of SEO is software. 

If your SEO service team create software in-house and uses their tools and platforms to create a website or marketing software that are helpful in general, this is a very good sign. This means the company is constantly investing their time in the future, they are being innovative and will probably be able to do the same for you and your company.

In-house software tools are a form of innovation in a company. You want to see innovation in a company. You can try to cut cost here and there, but in the long term they all even out. Innovation is the only way to stay relevant. So make sure when it comes to hiring your next SEO service you see if their innovative strategies especially in building software tools is one of their assets.

12. Reference check

A good way to see if the SEO service you want to hire, promises on what they say they can deliver is to call one of their clients. Doing reference checks is necessary. You want to make sure everyone is happy with their service. They have raving fans. It is like finding tenants if you are a landlord. You technically are asking them to come and take care of your digital assets.

So why not ask and see if their clients are happy with their service? Were they getting the results they wanted? Were they happy with their customer service and support? A good reference check will help you get an idea the quality of service you will get based on their clients opinion.

Point #2 above, check their portfolio. Ask and see if you can call any of their clients or customers. And just ask for a reference name to check. This will go a long way.

13. Writing from the grounds up

Again, I get back to software. Yes, I know, all you care is if they give you results. And yes that is very important. That is why you do reference checks as mentioned on point #11. 

But, every industry is different. The markets are different and one can easily say, Oh! we cannot guarantee results. Yes, no one can gurantee results. But you sure well can increase the probability of success. How so?

1. You need to have a good strategy. 
2. You need to implement that strategy

And here in comes the reason why writing software from the grounds up must be an asset of an SEO service you hire. Similar to points #3, #9, #10, this is a bit different. In the sense, in the previous points you want to ask, how do you write software, what tools do you use. Here you want to ask, what can you make that can help boost our SEO.

Here in lies the difference. Creating some software tools and promoting it on your blog is a great way to capture lead, build engagement and position your brand as an authority. If they can build software from the grounds up with No plugins, no 3rd party tools, no platforms, you know you are in safe hands.

The idea of creating software tools in your marketing effort is 2 folds. One, it builds engagement and loyalty with your reader and followers. Secondly, you will have a lead if the interactive web-software captures your prospects information. 

Do not under-estimate what software can do to your marketing efforts. It is an asset you are building and if done right, will always give you more than you pay for.

14. Do they have their own digital assets

Digital assets are more powerful than real-estate assets or other material assets. Why? Because most of the things we use and have evaluations of over a billion dollars are mostly software products or digital assets. Do not underestimate the power of building your own digital assets.

Ask the team you are working with, what kind of digital assets you have and what can you build for us. Digital assets are:
  • Blogs, Content, infographics, video, pictures and education material
  • Website that works
  • Website software that users and prospects use
  • Data of your prospects or customers 
  • Your Social media followers and likes
  • Your Youtube subscribers and followers
  • Podcast 
  • Events and workshops
 These are all types of digital assets. Assets are things that will give you a great R.O.I in the future if you invest the time and money to build them. For e.g. if you write a great blog and users love it, it gives them value and they reference it regularly, your blog will start to rank high on search. If it starts to rank high on search you get leads, visitors and build brand awareness. If a percentage of those visitors turn into customers that is an asset. It will continue to give long after you have written a great blog. This is what we call as digital assets.  

If the blog is mediocre, no one is reading it, the value is sub-par then it is not an asset. An asset must first start giving value before it can give you an R.O.I. This is what you want to look for in a good SEO service. Will they be building you, your digital assets.

15. Events, workshops and local community

If what you are doing is for the local market you need to build brand awareness with your local community. Word of mouth is the most powerful way of building a brand and getting high quality referrals. But how do you do so? 

By hosting events, workshop and engaging with the local community. Being part of a fund raising event, sponsoring events are all good ways to support the local community. You want to make sure the SEO service you are hiring is active. This can help you promote your brand locally too, using their audience. 

You want a SEO service that help you 360 degree in your marketing efforts. You want them to help you market your events and workshop using SEO, or use the content from your event and workshop as part of your digital marketing efforts. 
  • Ask them, how would you promote an event or workshop using SEO?
  • Have you done one your self?
  • How would you extract the content of those events and market it on our blog/ social media?
  • How should we position our workshop for people to find us using search?

16. Length in business

Another indication to test the credibility of a company is to see how long they have been in business. This used to be a strong criteria, but today, many young companies are disrupting the old folks. So it is hard to say if older the company the better it is. Especially in this market. But being in business for 2+ years is a good time frame to start with.  Anything shorter can be a bit too young, anything over 10+ years their strategies will most likely be out dated today.  

Older companies, their SEO strategies will only work for them. Not for you. As the old strategies relied a lot on back links, on site SEO, off-site SEO and other rubbish. Today, the strategies that work are writing great and valuable content, creating a beautiful and friendly website that users want to interact with. This is more important that focusing on how long some one has been in business.
  • Focus more on the strategy they plan to implement rather than how old the company is
  • Focus on the team that will deliver the results rather than just the strategy
  • Focus on the skills the team brings to the table than just their resume
  • And make sure they are building a digital asset for you not just a website.  
Evaluate the whole process as a whole. Do not just focus on how long they have been in business. 

17. Website maintenance and support

After the SEO service is done, how do they plan to support you? Or do you want support? You want to make sure you cover all grounds. A good SEO service must be able to offer you a good maintenance package. If what they did works, then you want to keep doing more of it. So ask about their maintenance and support packages. It will relieve the headaches and you know you are in safe hands

18. Using offline methods, not just online methods

We did mention about using offline methods in point #14. Here I want to emphasis more on networking. you want to know how does the SEO company get their referrals. Is it only through online means or they do network in various places? You want to make sure they use both online and offline methods to get referrals and business. 

This is important because if your customers or clients are only local, the SEO service you use needs to understand the local conditions. They can only do so if they keep networking in local events, chapter and communities. It is this knowledge and research that will help them position your brand accordingly on search. 

Make sure they are active using offline methods too. Ask,
  • Where do you network to get leads?
  • Do you belong to any networking group?
  • What are the benefits of this networking group?

19. How LONG or what is a good TIME FRAME to see results

This is a million dollar question. Hard to answer. For a competitive keyword it can take anywhere from 6 months to years. And yes it depends on a lot of factors. How powerful is the strategy, how aggressive are you putting out high quality content. Is the market hungry for the service and products you offer? It is difficult to answer, but here are a few guildlines
  • Competitive keywords to rank for - 3 months to 2 years
  • Less competitive - 1-3 months
  • New market - 2-3 months
Do not be discouraged with the time frame. As you are building an asset. If you follow the blog, and ask your SEO service the above questions you will be in safe hands. The R.O.I you can get from SEO can be immense. Think about investing in your companies future.

20. The COST of a good SEO service

Finally it comes to cost. How much should I spend and what if we spend too much and we do not get any R.O.I. What should we do?
This is what we charge at ANTSAND


For effective SEO Service - If you need an 8 month strategy to properly deploy SEO, we charge $3500/month for a minimum of 8 months. In that time frame you should start to see tremendous results and soon get your R.O.I. We are expensive because our strategies are effective. They work.


Every company will charge differently. I reckon you budget a good $1500 to $4000 for a good SEO service. You will start to get a good R.O.I in the years to come. So this little investment and a good vetting process will set you on the right track.

What kind of results should you expect with a team who has all these factors?

This is the core question. If you hire a team and they are not able to produce any results, then your marketing efforts will render useless. We need to keep this in mind. A SEO service, if they have a good team, a good software skill-set, great content writing skills and deploy ruthlessly in producing high quality content the market wants to read you should start to see results.

There is not guarantee in life, but you can increase your probability of success. This is what we want to achieve. 

Putting it all together 

This blog post is very comprehensive. I want to give you a perspective you have not seen before. Yes, we all want results, we all want to be rich and prosperous, but no one wants to take time and look at the details. This blog is about you looking at the mechanics of how SEO should work, what to look for and how to judge a good service. Without which you will not be effective. You will be in La-La land and asking questions like - we want result,  on result,  what is the result, etc

Unfortunately or fortunately results are a by-product of a good system. Instead of asking for what results you will get, make sure you believe in the strategy. As the strategy will help you in the long term. This is what I want for my readers. 

Conclusion

Please comment below if you have questions, ideas or how you can apply it. At ANTSAND, we apply everything we preach and teach. What we put out is based on our experience, our failures and success. We love to be transparent, as it really brings out the best in us. We will soon be creating a $5 monthly marketing package for our readers. You can pay us for one cup of coffee every month, and in turn we give you strategies, ideas, tactics, mindsets and exercises, you can apply in your business immediately. If you want to know more about it, just type in the comments below, "Coffee with ANTSAND". We would love to hear your feedback. If you want to read other blogs that might interest you, have a look below. 

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