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SEO isn’t what it used to be. Rather than using tricks to manipulate the system, SEO is now on a more level footing. Many different digital marketing variables factor into ranking, including content, inbound links, outbound links, social media signals, reputation, video optimization and more. It’s often difficult to figure out where to start. A website evaluation and consultations with several web marketing firms can help you determine the course you should take with your SEO efforts.

Determine What Your Needs Are

The digital marketing needs of a new business are vastly different than those for an established business. A new business, for example, will need a comprehensive web marketing plan that includes a website evaluation, link building, content management, establishing a social media presence and ongoing SEO. Existing companies may benefit from services such as SEO auditing, retargeting and a website evaluation every few months to adjust the SEO strategy as necessary.

Establish a Goal

Without a particular goal in mind, it will be difficult to measure the success of the web marketing firm. You don’t need to know a lot about SEO or marketing to set a goal; start with a website evaluation first to see where your current figures stand. If you want to improve your sales, set a goal to increase sales by 10 percent in the next quarter. If your goal is to rank higher in the search engines, set a goal to move to the first page within 6-12 months of your first website evaluation. Your SEO goals should be in line with what you want to achieve for your business.

Don’t Fall for Gimmicks

Businesses that are new to the SEO arena often fall for the gimmicks promised by unscrupulous web marketing firms. Confusion and information overload are common, leaving businesses feeling a sense of panic as they rush to select the first firm that promises the number one spot in Google. Ask to see case studies for similar businesses where they’ve achieved the results that they’re promising to get for you. Look for consistently high rankings despite the Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates during the past few years. This is evidence that the web marketing firm uses solid techniques and quality content rather than blackhat techniques that may get you penalized in the future.