While the number of companies reporting that they plan to take search marketing in-house has increased over the past two years, a significant number have not yet established enough internal SEO/PPC vendor management capabilities to make the move. Most companies start by hiring a search engine marketing consultant or company and gain sufficient knowledge through the first year or two engagement to start bringing some of the ongoing activities in-house. However, many companies continue to retain an outside vendor for strategic consulting.
There are a variety of resources online that list search marketing vendors. However, if you´re a company looking for a new search marketing 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 our search marketing agency.
However, if you don´t have a network that includes people that are
satisfied with their search marketing agencies and prefer to go the search,
evaluate, selection route via a larger universe of vendors, here are a
few resources: (not in any particular order)
- 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.
- Ad Age Search Marketing Fact Pack 2006 – PDF file. Lists top 20 SEO/PPC agencies by revenue.
- topseos.com – Ranks the top 30 SEO firms world wide each month based on competitive advantages, services and pricing levels support, unique attributes and
- SEOmoz – Recommended SEO, web development and support firms.
- 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.
- SEO Consultants – Strict inclusion guidelines for this directory of search engine optimization specialists and companies makes sure vendors do not engage
in search spamming. They claim to reject 70% of the consultants that apply. After 7 years, there are only 140 SEO consultants and firms currently included so the process of inclusion is indeed selective.
- 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.
Also, Search Engine Watch offers an interesting article 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 search marketing companies from a variety of sources including the list of lists above. These sources may include: referrals, industry resources, forums, and even conferences. Then interview each candidate firm according to the criteria you´ve established.