Here at HubShout we offer an SEO reseller program, and we want it to be the best possible option available for people who are entering the search engine optimization space. In other words, we want to be the best SEO reseller in the market. So we think quite a bit about the process of trying to find a great SEO reseller program so we can understand life on the other side of the table. Here are the criteria I have come up with:
1) Is the SEO reseller program backed by an appropriate SEO philosophy? In other words, does the firm that does the search engine optimization delivery work use appropriate tactics? And without getting into the entire debate on what is exactly appropriate, I think I'll just say that you need to be 100% comfortable with how they approach rankings and link building. This is a place where complete congruency is needed between your organization (the sales and customer support group) and the SEO reseller (the delivery group). If these things are not well-researched up front, it will mean customer complaints and lost revenue down the road. So take the time to understand what the offering really is.
2) Is the SEO reseller program completely clear about what you get? This one may sound obvious, but indeed some programs are black boxes. I am not condeming all black box offerings. For example, I listen to Pandora Internet Radio. I have no idea how they know what songs I will like, but they just do. I'm happy to pay my $3 per month for this service without understanding how it really works. No problem. But the search engine optimization space is not like that. People are really jumpy about how you do it and the stakes are large. For these reasons, we at HubShout feel that transparency is a critical aspect of any SEO reseller program. And you know when it's not there. When you ask direct questions and you get fuzzy answers, that bad. When things are clear, crisp and all written down in easy-to-understand documents, that's good.
3) Can you make money? Oh yeah - You got into the SEO space because you wanted to grow a business - and not a non-profit. That's fine. Never be bashful about your desire for profit when you are starting a business. However, also recognize that you can take things too far. You need to evaluate each SEO reseller program you consider in terms of both the profits it can bring to you but also the value it will bring to your end customer. Many people make the mistake of reaching for the cheapest SEO plans on the shelf. Believe it or not, this is not the path to big money. Sure, you may have the highest closure rate with these low-priced plans, but come back and talk to me six months in. When you realize that your customer retention stinks, you will start to see that the long-term game hinges on both closing deals AND keeping customers around. Customers stay when they feel that they are receiving fair value for their money. I urge you to make some spreadsheets and think about the numbers over a 2 or 3 year stretch. As you do, you will have to make some assumptions about customer churn. This will really drive the point home as you look at the numbers. It has been written many times, but the cost of customer retention is almost always lower than the cost of customer acquisition.
4) Are you comparing apples to oranges? The next critical criteria for evaluating an SEO reseller program is to ensure that you are making appropriate comparisons. We had someone tell us that our $199 / month SEO plan was expensive because they were comparing it to an SEO plan that was $99 / month. But when we started to do the research on our plan vs the competitors, we quickly learned that the competitor didn't write any of the content. They were simply posters and link builders. The HubShout plans all come with content generated at least 90% by US-based native English speakers. Of course that plan will be more expensive. But on a relative scale, once you added in all the costs of generating the content - we were actually less expensive. I talk to many people who just say, "We need SEO" and don't really dig into the many shades of gray that can mean. If you are going to be reselling in the SEO space, you will need to be comfortable with picking an offering apart to it's essential pieces. It is only here that the true comparisons and the real value for the end-customer can be discerned.
5) Does it work? We all know that reputable SEO firms can't promise page 1 rankings. However, that does not mean that good SEO firms don't have great business case studies. They all do. Ask them about rankings that they have achieved. Look at their own rankings. Would you go to a dentist with bad teeth? I find it amazing when an SEO reseller program does not use their own plan on themselves. It almost screams "this doesn't work!" Why else would they avoid it? In the end, you are selling business results. So you need to be darn sure the firm you partner with has them.
In sum, I'm sure this is all more complicated than you want. Most people are in a hurry and just want the cheapest and the best. Of course, we feel that is what HubShout offers in it's SEO reseller program. But rather than taking our word for it, I've laid out 4 solid evaluation criteria that you can use to dig deeply into any program to ensure you pick a partner that will bring the success you want.