If you’re doing business in the 21st century, you know that the key to success lies in online visibility. To get the inside track against your competitors, you need to position yourself in front of prospective customers at the intent-rich moments when they’ll turn to their favourite search engines to find the kinds of products and services that you offer, and that means getting to grips with SEO.
TLDR; We think we’ve covered all the important questions to ask your SEO agency but if you have any suggestions please Tweet us @searchworthy.
The trouble is that SEO is a complex and multifaceted discipline and it can take a lot of time, care and effort to master it on your own. Thus, many businesses turn to SEO agencies to help them. But with so many out there, it can be hard to know who to hire.
SEO is a completely unregulated industry, so all you have to go on is the agency themselves, their track record and what their clients say about them.
All these things can essentially be faked, so this makes the decision even harder.
To help you whittle-down your SEO company shortlist, we’ve put together this list of 21 questions to ask an SEO expert to help you get the answers you’ll need to make an informed decision. It is possible to find affordable SEO services that really deliver results so read on to learn more.
1. How long have you been doing this?
Let’s start with the obvious.
If the SEO company has not been around long, will they still be around in six months?
Good SEO is about building up a relationship and understanding about you, your business and your product or service.
The last thing you want is the SEO agency to go belly-up when you’ve invested a lot of time and money working with them.
The longer the company has been around, the more experience they’ll have, and this is an important benefit.
2. How many of you are there?
The size of the agency you are talking to will give you an idea of:
- How many accounts they can actually manage
- How successful they are
- The sort of response times you can expect
- If they can bring anything else to the table (design skills, web development etc)
If you are talking to a sole freelancer, you may save some budget on fees, but you may also end up waiting ages for work to be done, find them difficult to get hold of, or simply find they don’t have the breadth of skills they effective SEO needs.
3. Where are you based?
As you’ll often be asking these SEO questions remotely or over the phone, make sure you check where the SEO agency is actually based.
Do they work out of a garden shed or have a nice office in the centre of town?
Company premises can also tell you a lot about an agency in terms of how well they are doing, whether they are investing back in themselves, and if you are actually ever going to be able to meet them at their place.
If your agency doesn’t invite you over, ask why; obviously this might be a logistical issue – SEOs can work remotely with clients all over the UK, so it’s not always practical for a physical visit but check them online.
Part of this also leads to the next question…
4. Do you do everything in-house?
This is a very important question to ask an SEO agency.
Some agencies outsource pretty much everything, so the SEO consultant you are talking to on the phone isn’t the one doing the work, or even in the same country as the people doing the work.
If you are happy for a bunch of under-paid off-shore workers to do your SEO, then this might not be a problem for you, but it can lead to issues.
Fragmented SEO teams simply can not provide the joined-up service that effective client SEO projects need, and you can find that you feel like no one actually knows what is going on.
5. What else do you do other than SEO?
You might be just looking to hire an SEO company, but in reality, SEO requires a broad range of proficiencies that are not often found in one person.
Unless the person you are talking to has years of experience, it’s unlikely they will be able to deliver everything themselves.
This means that you will also need a designer, a web developer, copywriters, strategists, planners and a whole range of other skillsets to make your SEO campaign more effective.
See what other skills the SEO agency has in-house and ask them about how everything fits together.
An SEO company that has everything you need under one roof may not be the cheapest, but the fact they can do everything will save you time and money in the long run.
6. Who will I be working with?
Some agencies have account managers (that don’t do, they just manage), other agencies have more hybrid teams where you will talk to more than one person about your SEO campaign.
You’ll need to decide if you want an account manager or if you would prefer to talk directly to the people that know what they are doing.
Most SEO businesses will have online tools such as Basecamp to manage projects, so it doesn’t really matter if there is more than one person involved – the whole team will be up-to-date on what’s going on.
Working with a team can often mean things get done quicker.
As the person talking to you on the phone is going to be directly involved in your project, they are not making promises for someone else to deliver.
An account manager, on the other hand, has to report back to the people doing the work. They are telling you ‘yes’ and then talking to someone else to deliver on that promise.
Both options have pros and cons, so ask the question.
7. What experience do these people have?
It’s relatively easy to make a company look experienced, but ensure you go a little deeper than face-value.
Ask about the experience of the team that will be working on your project.
Is it one experienced person managing a group of apprentices, or do more of the team have wide-ranging experience?
It’s important to remember that SEO is essentially about your bottom-line, so working with someone who has no idea about costs, profits or any business experience at all may not think about your business, they’ll just deliver what they are asked.
If you can find a team with good professional experience AND a broad life experience, you are more likely to click.
Also, ask them what they did before they did SEO.
Have they always worked in the digital industry or were they a window cleaner two years ago?
SEO attracts a lot of wannabes – virtually anyone can set us as an SEO agency tomorrow, so dig back a little and don’t be afraid to ask some deeper questions to get a real feel for the people you will be working with.
8. What tools do you use?
This is a great question to sniff-out SEO experts that do it on the cheap.
If you ask your agency what they use and it’s all freebie tools that you can use yourself, ask yourself why.
A good SEO agency will invest in the tech it needs to deliver and report on a project effectively.
A more questionable SEO team will do everything on the cheap, won’t be able to give you any meaningful data or reports and is probably not worth talking to.
9. What is your process?
This is a massive question and it’s really important that you understand how your prospective SEO agency plans to spend their time (and your money). A lot of SEO agencies won’t be up-front about the work they plan to do so aim for an agency which offers a transparent process and regular reporting.
It’s very easy for unscrupulous SEO agencies to appear busy by bamboozling you with complicated reports. Make sure their activities are bringing you results and meeting your expectations (which should have been clearly established at the outset).
10. Why do I need you?
It’s a brazen question, to be sure, but it’s one worth asking. The truth is that doing all of your own SEO in-house would require around 15-20 hours of dedicated activity per week. Few businesses or entrepreneurs can afford to lose that much time, nor can they afford to employ someone to it for them on a full or part-time basis. Outsourcing SEO requirements makes commercial sense for many businesses.
Nonetheless, it’s a good opener that will gauge how far above and beyond the agency is prepared to go for you.
11. What is organic traffic?
It’s pretty fair to say that all businesses want to increase their flow of traffic. There are two ways to do this- through organic or paid means. As any SEO agency worth their salt will tell you, organic traffic, the kind where people come to your site willingly rather than because they’ve clicked on a paid ad, is key to online visibility. It delivers sustainable, intent-rich traffic while ads might give you a surge which is short-lived unless you follow through with more organic strategies.
12. How long does it take to see results?
Be wary of any agency promising you fast, organic results. SEO is all about the long game and requires consistency as well as an agile, adaptive approach. This means it can take some time to see results… but they will be more consistent and sustainable for it.
If you’re desperate to see short term results, an agency may suggest a mixture of paid and organic strategies.
We recommend clients invest a minimum of 3-6 months in organic SEO activity.
13. What’s the difference between On-page and Off-page SEO
Your prospective agency will likely have a lot of strategies in mind. Some may be On-page and some may be Off-page. While they’ll provide greater details, On-page refers to things you do with your site and content to make it easier for search engine crawlers to parse and index. Off-page SEO refers to things like link building and developing your domain authority to increase your value to search engines.
Which is more important? A good SEO agency will be able to explain in detail why both strategies are essential in achieving lasting results.
14. Can you guarantee a ranking?
While all SEO companies would like to be able to guarantee you a ranking, the truth is that none can. There are simply too many variables at play and search engines can be unpredictable in nature.
However, a good agency will be able to delineate everything that they do to give you the best possible chance.
15. What can I do to boost my SEO?
If you have a blog or other content marketing means on your website, there’s a great deal you can do to make your content more SEO-friendly. A good SEO agency will be able to give you practical tips to tweak your writing to improve its quality in the eyes of search engines.
Of course, if you’re pushed for time they may be able to generate a steady stream of SEO-friendly content for you.
16. How often should I be posting content to boost my SEO?
The more quality content you have, the more likely users are to spend on and move around in your website. These are both key metrics for search engines. Plus, they make your website bigger and more frequently visited. An agency will likely recommend that you post new content at least 2-3 times a week, although every day is the gold standard.
17. What are backlinks and why do they matter?
Whenever a website, social media platform, directory or other online source links to your business this is known as a backlink. Backlinks are absolutely essential in determining your website’s rankings.
18. Should I aim to get as many backlinks as possible?
If an agency starts detailing a strategy to get you hundreds and thousands of backlinks, this may be a red flag. When it comes to backlinks, quality trumps quantity every time. Backlinks from trusted, high authority websites and sources show search engines that your website is trustworthy. Backlinks from sites it deems dodgy or low authority can do way more damage to your SEO than good.
19. What is Domain Authority and why does it matter?
On the subject of backlinks, if an SEO company says they can get you backlinks from high authority websites this is an encouraging sign. A high domain authority means that a site gets a lot of inbound traffic and links and serves as a seal of quality for search engines. Thus, when they link back to your site, search engines will notice.
20. How will you make my website more responsive?
In SEO terms responsive doesn’t mean how quickly your page loads or reacts to user prompts (although these are also important). It also means how the agency will make your site look good and handle well on mobile devices. As of November 2016, mobile use is how the majority of people access the internet. A good SEO agency will make your site more responsive to ensure you don’t miss out on all that mobile traffic.
21. How is the approach you’ll take unique to my business?
You should be wary of any agency offering one-size-fits-all solutions. Every business is unique and has its own unique long and short term goals. These will have far-reaching implications for your SEO strategy. A good agency will give you an SEO client questionnaire and use your answers to dictate the parameters of a unique strategy that’s tailored to your needs and goals.
Looking for Affordable SEO?
We hope you found this compilation of questions to ask your SEO agency helpful. If you need help with Search Engine Optimisation get in touch with our experts here at Searchworthy who can answer all your burning questions.