How to compile an RFP for search engine services
From time to tome I get a cold phone call from prospects that have read me on my blog and ask a question you may have asked yourself one time or another:
"how much does it cost to optimize and rank a website on search engines ? "
A consultant should never answer a question with another question – it just doesn’t work out like that. someone seeking advise already feels uncertain about things and the last thing they want to hear is a question – they want answers.
Unfortunately with a question like that I simply cannot avoid but asking:
" Excuse me, what reaction would you anticipate from a car salesmen if you asked him how much an automobile costs? "
I can sense surprise on the other end of the line every time I ask – people understand there’s something wrong in how they formulated the question …
Same thing happens when companies go out to the marketplace and ask for search engine consultancy or services; most of times they really don’t know that they want or what they need.
Do a good job in writing your request for Proposals
If you don’t know what you’re out for then don’t expect others to figure it out for you – in most cases it won’t work like that. You’d better do your home work and identify 3 key factors before anything else:
The first pages of major search engines are equivalent to prime time slots on national TV networks: you can’t be there unless you’re willing to pay.
Do your research
I think it’s up to you to do some basic work before asking for RFPs.
If you’re not in the condition to do it internally, then hire an external consultant that will do it for you – a couple of days work (maybe a bit more) will be enough for a preliminary assessment of your website:
- develop a short list of quality, theme focused keywords
- evaluate website architecture and identify indexing barriers ((you might not be able to do this yourself so you can skip this point unless you get some professional help in this phase of your project))
- write out a short list of major competitors in your field already ranking of the search engines for your keywords
With this information you can write out your request for proposals:
Information you should include in your RFP
- An introductory chapter about your company
- who you are
- what you do
- which are your products or services you wish to promote online
- which are your markets
- identify your competitors, provide information about them
- Short list of keywords
- This is probably one of the biggest mistakes companies make when they write out RFPs – leave the keyword research up to the supplier. The whole proposal will depend on the keywords you target, different keywords mean different levels of competition, hence (completely) different strategies when it come to organic placement. By providing your set of keywords you level the field and force all bidders to provide equivalent proposals.
- Website statistics
- statistics are to websites like Xrays are to broken bones: without them you’re only guessing. A professional will certainly ask you for a sample – they are an essential piece of information to evaluate the status quo of your website.
Information you should require in your RFP
- A preliminary analysis of your website: you need to know their perception of your website
- Search Engine Optimization Proposal: they will not share secrets or provide full visibility in this very preliminary stage but you should require a global scenario identification with (some) details on the following aspects:
- On site optimization
- what is their approach ?
- what do they believe should be changed on site ?
- is new optimized content required ?
- is website architecture optimal or does it require modifications for it to become 100% search engine friendly ?
- is it possible to have a sample of optimized content they have generated ?
- will the work be done in house or are they outsourcing to contractors or 3rd parties ?
- Off site optimization
- what is their approach to linking ?
- based on their judgment, how many links would they estimate as necessary to rank for selected keywords ?
- would they rely on paid links ?
- what is the order of magnitude of a paid links budget ?
- Web 2.0
- would they support (and encourage) use of web 2.0 ?
- which strategy would they find appropriate ?
- On site optimization
- Cost Matrix
- a natural consequence of all this is going to be the bill – how much is it going to cost ?
- are there set up fees ?
- are there costs related to website architecture modifications ?
- which is the (estimated) link procurement budget ?
- how much is creation of new copy going to cost ?
- does the strategy foresee training and know how transfer to internal staff ?
- what will training fees be to bring internal staff up to speed and maintain the website optimization ?
- how long will the SEO efforts take to be implemented ?
- what are the costs of support on an annual basis ?
Show your Search Engine Knowledge
If you write out a great request for proposal Consultants and Agencies alike will understand you know what you are talking about, and provide quality proposals in line with your expectations.
Running the preliminary analysis and preparing the RFP is more work and effort on your side, but it will make things much easier when it comes to evaluating proposals once they’re in.
There is another aspect as well: Costs. Working out the activities that are necessary, and writing a detailed (well formulated) RFP will give you a pretty good understanding of how complex things are (especially when you analyze your competition).
There might be something missing here but it’s a step in the right direction and would certainly make things much easier for Consultants like myself to write out proposals … add whatever you feel is missing on my list.