Questions to ask an SEO Agency
For the purpose of this article let’s assume that you have a short list of a few companies that are good candidates for becoming your SEO partner.
The next step is to interview them (either by email or skype) and then decide which one to hire. During the interview process, you can ask them these questions:
Question 1: What is their online experience
How many years have they been working online? Is it a new company or established (and for how long) and who are the SEO experts behind it.
You need this information so as to understand their background, experience and most importantly who is going to be responsible for your website’s SEO.
Hiring the wrong people can sometimes be catastrophic (meaning that it can damage your rankings, domain reputation and Google trust).
Once you get their response check their website, social media pages and blog.
It is a common practice for agencies and SEO professionals to have an active blog and social media presence.
This is a good indication that they are up-to-date with latest changes in the SEO industry and have something to share (from their working experience) with other people (mainly through blogging).
Question 2: What kind of services they offer?
The reasons are a lot but the most important is for SEO to really work, you also need content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, ppc marketing in order to utilize all possible ways of promoting your brand or business online.
If you can get all these services under one roof you gain a number of benefits related to uniformity of work, having common goals and lower prices.
It will also be easier for you management wise since you will have a single point of contact for all services without having to deal with many people or companies.
Question 3: Do they have a client portfolio?
One easy way to understand more information about a company is to look at their client portfolio.
If they don’t have a portfolio on their website then ask for it.
Browse through the list and visit some of the mentioned websites to get an idea of what other companies are already using their services.
It’s good (but not necessary) to hire an SEO company that has prior experience related to your niche or industry or at least to related areas.
For example if you are an online retailer it is better to hire someone that has worked with ecommerce before.
Question 4: Any success stories / Testimonials / case studies to share?
Besides the client portfolio is also nice to get some feedback from their existing or past clients.
Ask for testimonials and a list of persons (with their contact details) that you can speak to.
You call optionally email or call them and ask them about their feedback.
Basically what you want to find out at this stage is whether they have a list of people you can talk to.
If they are in business for a long time they will probably have, if not then this is something you should consider in your final decision.
Another element you can consider is case studies and success stories.
While in most cases companies cannot easily share information without the client’s approval (and many clients don’t like to share their success stories with others and especially competitors), they should be able to show you examples where their methods and techniques were successful.
Question 5: Ask them about their SEO practices. How do they plan to increase your website’s organic traffic.
The way search engines work (especially Google) allow for practices that can temporarily manipulate rankings.
In other words some SEO’s use tactics that can create an increase in organic traffic but this is only temporary until search engines refresh their algorithms.
What you are looking for is companies who use Google best standards and practices and techniques that will gradually increase your traffic without taking any risks and without putting your business in any kind of trouble.
That’s why it is important to look at their client portfolio and talk with their existing clients to make sure that their practices are ethical and according to best standards.
You can also ask them for a draft outline on how they plan to increase your traffic so as to get a better idea on what to expect for the first months of your co-operation.
Question 6: How pricing works?
SEO (and digital marketing) is not a low cost solution. Most SEO consultants or agencies charge $50 to $125 per hour for digital marketing services.
The truth is that in order to get good results you have to invest in quality services.
If you think about it, one of the goals of SEO is to generate more traffic and money for your business and this naturally comes at a price.
When interviewing your potential SEO partner you need to make sure that you understand how their pricing works.
How do they charge you for their work? Is it per project, per hour, monthly? How much you will have to pay and when? Do they provide a detail report of the tasks performed and related costs?
It is better if they accept to get paid after the completion of their work (for example at the end of each month) rather than getting paid in advance.
Question 7: How do they measure progress / success of an SEO campaign
SEO takes time to work and you should not expect to hit your targets from the first months.
What you can do in the meantime is monitor (with the help of the SEO company) some KPIs that can show the level of progress made and this is usually increase in your organic rankings (but this does not necessarily mean more traffic).
Question 8: Ask them about link building
Most black hat SEO practices are associated with link building. Incoming links (i.e. links from other websites pointing to your website) can affect your SEO performance in many ways.
Natural links can boost your SEO and rankings while non-natural links can get you into trouble (Google does not like unnatural links since this is against their guidelines).
During the interview process ask them about their link building practices and how they approach this part.
As a rule of thumb the best approach in link building is to create superb content that can naturally attract incoming links from other websites and not a process of going after spammy link sources (for example low quality sites, commenting without purpose, article directories).
Question 9: How does communication work
Communication is very important. If you choose to hire a big SEO company you need to ask them in advance to give you a single person you can contact in case you have a question about your SEO campaign.
What usually happens in big companies is that they assign a ‘project’ or ‘client’ number to you and when you contact them someone will look into your account to answer your question.
In the case of smaller companies or solo consultants communication is easier and more effective since you are always talking with the person that is doing the work on your website and for them you are not just another client or project entry in their clients database.
Question 10: Ask them if they have the availability to work on your project
It is common for all types of companies (mainly in the services sector) to want to get as many new clients as possible since this will give them more work (and income).
One of the mistakes they are doing though (something that I have to admit I used to do in the past), is to signup more clients than they can handle.
The result is that both new and existing clients get dissatisfied because of the slow service.
To ensure that you won’t have this issue, raise this point during the interview and get their confirmation that they do have the manpower necessary to work on your project within the agreed deadlines.
If you want to be 100% sure that they will keep their promise add a clause in the contract for a money back guarantee in case deadlines are not met.
What happens after the SEO interview process?
Once you have all the answers, it’s time to make a decision. Things to note:
- Don’t commit into long term contracts. Better work with them month-by-month instead of signing up longer term contracts.
- In case you decide to terminate the contract make sure that they are no penalties or hidden fees (ask this in advance).
- Try to provide them with as much information as possible about your website and marketing efforts to date. Don’t try to hide anything as this will make their work more difficult. For example if you bought any links or fake social media followers in the past, let them know, don’t hide this important info.
- It may take 4-5 months (or more) to see some results from SEO so be patient and don’t jump into conclusions too early.