Are you a business faced with the daunting task of hiring an SEO agency? You might've heard the horror stories from other businesses who brought on bad SEO experts that used blackhat techniques or outdated strategies, which completely tanked their SEO progress. And now, you're wondering what steps you can take to avoid that from happening to your business.
That's why we've put together this list of 15 questions to ask before hiring an SEO agency to ensure they're the right fit and can perform high quality work.
1. Do you have experience working with a company similar to mine?
It's a big benefit to work with an SEO agency with a proven history and direct experience in growing traffic and leads for a business like yours. They'll have knowledge of the specific SEO needs and challenges of your business' industry, geography, language, or size.
For example, suppose you're an enterprise company. In that case, you will get better results with an SEO agency that has extensive enterprise experience that involves developing a scalable SEO strategy, managing hundreds of site pages, and maintaining a positive brand reputation.
2. What's involved with your process for building an SEO strategy for my business?
Any reputable SEO agency should provide a process that doesn't leave you guessing, including assessment, onboarding, discovery, production/implementation, and reporting. Each stage of the process should outline clear deliverables to ensure progress is being made.
Next, offer them specific examples and contextual scenarios so you can evaluate their level of SEO knowledge and capabilities.
3. What is your approach to link building?
You want to hire an SEO agency that emphasizes quality over quantity. They want to naturally build the best links through content creation, outreach, and content promotion from high-quality sources such as industry or news sites. You should ask them to provide samples of high-quality backlinks they've built for clients and explain that specific link building process.
If you hear the agency mention any of these black hat link building techniques, you should immediately disqualify them as a potential hire.
- Paying for links
- Mass blog commenting and forum posting
- Automatic or bulk link building through a software
4. How do you approach keyword research?
Keywords still play a significant role in SEO, but keyword research has developed over the years to be more than just keyword search volume and keyword difficulty. It's important to hear that an SEO agency takes a thorough approach to keywords that focuses on topical targeting, creating comprehensive pages, and understanding user intent.
5. How has SEO evolved in the last five years, and how do you make sure that you're using up-to-date strategies?
This question allows you to assess how closely they follow and understand the industry. Any qualified SEO agency should be familiar with the most important changes to Google. They should be able to explain in a simple way how it affects SEO and how they adapt their strategies for clients when updates are released. Here's a resource on Google algorithm changes so you can become familiar with some of the top updates.
Avoid any SEO agency that answers that SEO has stayed the same over the years and can't provide an example of how a specific update impacted their clients.
6. How long will it take to see results?
It's common not to be given an exact date because SEO strategies are ongoing, and search engines are constantly updated. However, a reputable SEO agency will research your company and provide an estimate based on your niche and competition. They can also provide an example of a past campaign similar to yours and how long it took them to achieve their marketing goals.
A huge red flag is if an SEO agency promises instant results or that you'll be ranking as #1 in a few weeks. According to Google Search Central, "Your prospective SEO should be able to give you realistic estimates of improvement, and an estimate of the work involved. If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else. No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a 'priority submit' to Google. There is no priority submit for Google."
The most accurate answer is, it depends.
For most sites, it takes about 2-3 months to rank for low-competition keywords and about 4-12 months (according to Google) to achieve significant success in search.
7. What are the most important metrics that you track?
The best answer should always incorporate your business goals. You want to hire an SEO agency that understands the big picture and mentions KPIs that directly benefit your business.
The most common metrics that SEO agencies track are:
- Rankings - They should provide a regular rankings report that shows target keyword performance.
- Traffic - They should provide a regular traffic report with a specific time frame compared to a previous range to track progress.
- Conversions and Revenue from Search - This where you can truly evaluate if there's a return on investment.
8. How frequently do you send out reports?
To monitor the progress of an SEO agency, it's essential to request information about their reports, including:
- Frequency - This could be delivered weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
- Content - This gives you a clear idea of the type of information they'll be sharing with you regularly.
You should also ask for an example of their reports so you can evaluate them closely. A thorough report from an agency should have:
- An overview of the top priorities and the results
- A list of work completed
- A list of recommendations with actionable tasks for the future
Feel free to let the SEO agency know if you have specific needs for your report. For example, you might need two different reports where one is a more high level overview to present to executives. At the same time, the other goes into finer details for your digital marketing team.
9. How will changes be implemented?
To optimize your website, changes need to be made on an ongoing basis. Thus, a good SEO agency should provide a process for implementing changes that explain clear responsibilities and communication guidelines.
You need to establish who is the primary contact on both teams for updating information such as:
- Site architecture
- Google My Business listings
Another important point is to make sure that these changes are being tracked. You want to make sure that the SEO agency is being careful with any changes and that there is a detailed log you can refer to if something goes wrong.
10. What will our partnership look like? How will we communicate, and how often will we have meetings?
You are looking for an SEO agency that can explain that they can be an excellent partner through excellent customer service and commitment to achieving your goals. Both parties need to provide expectations in terms of communication that covers the frequency of emails and meetings and optimal communication channels.
11. How will you work with our in-house SEO team?
Another aspect of the partnership involves how well they can work with your in-house SEO team. You need to determine precise roles and responsibilities for both teams to avoid overlapping work. You can ask for an example of how they are currently working with an in-house SEO team similar to your company to get more insight into how the two communicate and work together. Agencies should augment your team and be open to collaboration. It's a huge red flag if your agency is trying to replace your in-house team.
12. Who will be leading my project and how much experience do they have?
Many businesses looking to hire an SEO agency fear that an inexperienced strategist will manage their project. By asking this from the beginning, you can learn more about the strategist leading your project and their exact relevant experience working on businesses like yours. All agencies have systems, but the best agencies have experienced strategies that are actually working on your campaigns.
13. Could you share an example of a time when your SEO strategy was unsuccessful?
Many SEO agencies have had unsuccessful strategies due to a range of reasons. You're looking for how they diagnosed the problem, why it didn't perform well, and most importantly, how they corrected it for the future.
14. How is your pricing structured?
Different agencies have different pricing. Here a list of common pricing structures:
- Fixed monthly fee
- Hourly fee
- Point-based pricing
- Fixed project fee
- Performance-based pricing
You should also discuss payment and billing options to get a full picture of the partnership.
15. Could you provide me with three references and a list of case studies?
Any good SEO agency can provide a list of at least three references that you can contact to talk about the success they had working with the agency.
Case studies provide a thorough walk through a client's SEO journey with the agency by diving into their beginning state and how their SEO progressed towards the end of the partnership. It also usually includes vital statistics like growth in organic traffic, rankings, and conversions.
You can also check the agency's reviews on listings such as Google and Clutch This gives you a quick rundown on different client's experiences and how trustworthy the agency is.
Asking these 15 questions will help you find the best SEO agency for your business. It will help you evaluate which ones can put the different pieces of SEO together to align with your goals. If you're looking to see what an open and transparent SEO strategy looks like, feel free to get in touch with us.