I USED to think the answer was a clear and emphatic “NO” – if not a “HECK, NO!”
Until I started doing SEO (search engine optimization) for clients. And making some claims as to being halfway good at it, too.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear – I DO feel that anyone you hire to do SEO work for you should be able to provide evidence that they can do the job, and do it well.
What I’m saying is that don’t judge how well an SEO firm does their job by looking at where they – or a random client – ranks in Google.
First – you have no idea what keyword term the SEO company is trying to rank FOR (if they’re doing SEO for themselves at all.) Is the company trying to rank for “SEO Columbia MO” or “search engines Missouri” or “optimize website Columbia” or any of the virtually endless variations of keyword terms related to SEO? They may be #1 for half a dozen terms, but not the term YOU choose to type in.
Second – you have no idea if the client is having any SEO work done, especially when you’re evaluating a company (like mine) that does SEO and web design. I do “onsite SEO” on every site I build (unless a client convinces me they don’t need or want it, which has happened once or twice.) That’s often enough to get a site to rank high for a while – but not forever. When rankings start to drop, I have no control over whether or not that company hires me to bring the rankings up again.
Third – you don’t know where in the process they are, or where the site started out. Maybe they’re ranked #14 in Google now – which isn’t anything to write home about – but if they started at #51, the website owners are probably pretty pleased.
I’m not trying to make excuses – I’m just saying that there are reasons you don’t know and cannot know – that impact where any site ranks in the search engines. So that in and of itself is not a good reason to rule out working with a prospective SEO company.