Personal Referrals Drive Almost Half of SEO Agency Selections

New data from Clutch shows referrals are leading driver of hiring decisions for search engine optimization (SEO) companies, but do not always produce good results.

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2015 — Nearly half (45%) of businesses hire SEO service providers based on a referral or existing personal relationship, according to Clutch, a leading source of reviews on SEO companies.  

Company attributes such as knowledge, customer service, and transparency were the next largest influence, mentioned by 43% of companies. Other factors included company location near the client (15%), client reviews and case studies (14%), and culture fit (13%).

However, one-fifth of interviewees volunteered that their business previously had a negative experience with an SEO company before finding the right fit.  SEO thought leaders interviewed by Clutch advised businesses to evaluate a multitude of factors when selecting a vendor, including past performance, thought leadership, and transparency.

“Does this company walk the walk?  Do they have a plethora of clients that would be willing to talk to you about them?  Do they have great reviews online?  Can you show me case studies that quantify performance?” Ian Stevenson, vice president of sales at online marketing agency Straight North said.  “Without question, that definitely weeds out the amateurs from the pros.”

Bruce Clay, president and founder of search engine marketing firm Bruce Clay, Inc., said, “Google has distilled what they’re looking for when ranking websites into three simple ideas: expertness, authority, and trust.  These same three qualities can guide businesses in their search for any partner or vendor, including an SEO company.”

The data is based on 150 interviews conducted by Clutch analysts with clients of SEO and digital marketing services companies.  To aid buyers in their search, Clutch developed a free tool to select a vendor based on focus area, proven ability to deliver, and value.  The approach is based on Clutch’s interviews with SEO thought leaders and the firm’s own research methodology. 

The full statistics and Clutch’s vendor evaluation tool can be found at

About Clutch

Clutch is a Washington, DC-based research firm that identifies top services and software firms that deliver results for their clients. The Clutch methodology is an innovative research process melding the best of traditional B2B research and newer consumer review services. Clutch utilizes a proprietary framework, the Leaders Matrix, which maps firms focus areas and their ability to deliver on client expectations. To date, Clutch has researched and reviewed 1000+ companies spanning 50+ market segments.


Natalie Beach

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