A guide to choosing the right SEO agency for your business.
Commissioning a Search engine optimisation agency can be a difficult task, so we’ve put together this guide to 10 questions that your SEO company should ask you before they agree to take on your project.
The point to remember here is that these are questions they should ask you – if they don’t, we believe that they won’t be collecting the information they need to provide you with an effective SEO service that gets you results.
1. What do you want the SEO campaign to achieve; what does a successful SEO campaign look like to you?
Ok, so this sounds a bit obvious; sales (not always, but mostly).
However, this question should be asked not to establish the obvious, but to gauge your expectations and how realistic they are.
There are many, many factors that affect the sales you generate from your website. These may include the quality of your product or service, your price-point, your sales staff or your delivery charges.
The vast majority of these factors are outside the control of the SEO agency, so they need to ask you this question to establish if they are the right agency to make a positive difference to your rankings.
2. What do you want to invest in your SEO campaign?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SEO and no two clients have the same requirements.
There are also two different things you can invest – your time and your money.
Rather than simply quoting you a cost for SEO, an agency should ask you this question to establish if you aren’t going to waste each others time and to get an idea of the best service they can provide you with in terms of what they can actually do themselves and what they might suggest you do yourselves.
Given that there are lots of different aspects to SEO, such as on-page, backlinks and technical optimisation, the level in which you want to invest in SEO is crucial.
If you don’t have the capabilities and experience in-house, it’s going to be best to get the agency to do everything for you.
However, if you do someone or a team in house that can write and publish content, for example, you might what to share the workload and pay your employees to complete aspects of your SEO that you can do yourselves.
3. What is working for you already?
If there is no desire to find out what you (or another agency) has already done it suggests that no previously completed work has value.
Simply wading into a new project and not investigating historical information sets you up for SEO failure.
You may have not done SEO before or think that what you had done didn’t work, but providing you have historical data, there might just be some easy-wins in there that the SEO agency can capitalise on to get you returns quicker.
4. What have you done in the past that hasn’t worked, and why?
You may not be able to answer this question, but as mentioned in the previous point, it’s important for your new agency to understand the historical issues you may have had with SEO campaigns.
A good example of this that we always come across the Google Ads.
You may have run an ad campaign in the past and found that it didn’t bring you any work or new business – this could be down to a lot more than just Google.
Again, this is a question that will help the agency identify ways that they can help you revive old campaigns that simply didn’t work as they weren’t set up correctly in the first place.
5. What does your target customer look like, what do they search for and where do they hang-out online?
At the point in any SEO campaign, you know your market better than the agency does (unless the have proven experience in your niche).
This question is designed to get the information out of you that the SEO agency needs to help you get the best out of your campaign – and this isn’t a simple question to answer.
Be prepared to share as much information as you can with your SEO team and make sure you include additional input from your whole team (or at least anyone involved in sales).
We supply our potential clients with a lengthy questionnaire around this and all the questions in the post to make sure we can help you before we take your money.
The more information you can share, the more effective the campaign will be.
6. What are your customers main pain-points?
Again, this is something you’ll have the expert knowledge on.
Answers to this question will help the agency audit the content of your site to make sure you have readily available content to answer questions (searches) made by your audience.
What’s more, they should then look at these pages to see how well they are converting and if any improvements need to be made.
This type of gap-analysis helps to improve the content you already have and identify crucial gaps in the content of your site that may have been overlooked (it’s easy to do).
7. What is the typical buying cycle?
If your buying cycle is 10 months long from initial enquiry to final sale, this is going to impact on your SEO planning.
You need to allow for at least three months of any campaign before you start to see results and if your lead takes an age to convert, you’ll need to factor this into any campaign reporting (sales).
For products or services with a long time from initial enquiry to final purchase, there are different ways to approach the campaign to make the reporting make more sense.
8. What are your current conversion rates once you have a qualified lead?
Ok, so this might be sensitive information but will help your SEO company best plan the campaign for you.
If your conversion rates are naturally low, due to product, service or price-point, then traffic becomes the main target of the campaign.
If you have ridiculously high conversion rates then other considerations need to be put in place – for example, could your business cope with 10x the amount of orders if they started coming in overnight?
Whatever the scenario, getting an SEO campaign right for your business is about much more than twiddling with some keywords – a great SEO company will look at how it ties in with your business as a whole.
9. What is a customer worth to you over their lifetime?
The agency will want to know this as part of its commitment to return on your investment.
If a lifetime customer is only ever worth £10, then that’s a lot of new customers you’ll need to find from the search.
If your lifetime customer is worth £20,000, then it’s a completely different matter.
The worth of the customer to you should again impact how your SEO campaign is structured and what else is put in place around it to make it work.
10. How much in-house resource do you have?
Successful SEO can often rely as much on your own staff as it does the SEO agency.
During the life of the campaign, your agency is going to be chasing you for content (especially if you’ve said you’ll write it yourselves), so knowing how likely this work is to get completed is important.
This isn’t a bad thing, but we know from experience that content production and other aspects of SEO often get pushed down the to-do list as more urgent matters on a daily basis.
Again, no problem, but we want to address this from the off – if it is probably that you are going to struggle writing four blogs a month, better to know from the off and do something about it to stop the whole campaign grinding to a halt.
This is especially true of smaller businesses where people tend to wear lots of hats and be stretched quite thin.
If your prospective SEO agency doesn’t ask you these (and more) questions about your business and objectives, be wary.
As an SEO, I need to know a lot about you, your product or service, some financials and other data to even consider whether I can help you.
Whilst this may put some barriers up to getting an actual proposal and costs together, it’s worth investing the time.
Without inserts to questions like these, I can’t possibly quote, or work on the project, and if you don’t have time to answer them, it gives me a good idea of what time you will invest into the entire project.