10 Critical Questions to Ask an SEO Company
Searching for any kind of SEO or digital marketing agency can be intimidating. Not many businesses know exactly what SEO is, let alone the methods and intricacies behind successful SEO practices. Many SEO companies seem confident, as if they have all of the answers. But, they don’t have the answers. As a matter of a fact, they’ll happily take your money without providing any substantial results.
Before committing to any SEO company, there are important questions you need answered—and answered right.
Question 1: Is SEO right for my business, and what is your process for creating an SEO strategy?
If an SEO Company gives you a boiler plate proposal without any preliminary research, you’re already off to the wrong start. An effective SEO company should conduct research of target keywords in your niche, the competitive nature of those target keywords, your current performance in SEO, and your budget parameters. They need to ask questions about your business objectives, profit margins, and metrics that you are tracking to determine what a successful campaign looks like to you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach anymore.
The SEO Company should also present a custom strategy, after the research phase, which specifies your target audience, keywords, the pages on your website to be optimized, and a comprehensive breakdown of on-site and off-site tasks to support your strategy and end goal.
Question 2: How will you define the success of my SEO campaign?
If the answer is anything along the lines of “we guarantee to increase your rankings”, it’s time to walk away. The answer you want to hear? “We will increase qualified traffic, and thus, validated sales leads.” Invalidated sales leads often don’t lead anywhere, and certainly don’t define the success of your SEO campaign. Junk form fills with no website or a foreign phone number are only taking away resources, not adding to your revenue. At the end of the day, SEO like anything else, is all about the ROI.
Question 3: Do you make SEO-related developments to my website?
Any SEO company worth its salt will make necessary changes to your website. If you receive any answer besides “yes”, it’s time to look elsewhere. You want the team of SEO experts the company employs to make changes to your website—this optimizes ranking results, can often be completed quickly, and your staff doesn’t have to worry about making any changes themselves. In the same view, you also don’t want to have a jack of all trades. The team members who are writing content and doing link building have a completely different skill-set. A good SEO agency will have specific team members that are masters of their craft. They are typically task-driven, and work with a CRM under a project manager or team leader to quarterback your campaign.
Question 4: Do you report conversions generated by my SEO campaign?
The answer should always be “yes.” The reason you’re opting for SEO services is to generate conversions! If the SEO company doesn’t report your conversions, there’s no reason to use their services.
In addition to this, your company needs to be managing and reporting from Analytics software as well as Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). As SEO results do not happen overnight, there are many leading indicators that can help gauge progress.
Question 5: How long will it take to see results?
This is a great question for testing the true competence of the SEO company. The reality here is that every single case is different, and Google is an evolving beast—but, don’t let that get your agency out of the corner. It is important to gauge and assess where you are currently, along with how competitive your industry is. You should be seeing improvement even at the 3 month mark. But, anyone who overpromises on results on anything less than 6 months, in most cases, is setting up unrealistic expectations. This article does a great job at outlining realistic timelines and expectations for your SEO campaign.
Question 6: What do your packages cost?
If someone answers this straight away with a price, run in the opposite direction. With such different customization options, there can’t be cookie cutter pricing. Sure, pricing can be broken into buckets on some level, but the right question to ask here is, what tasks are included in your statement of work? A business looking to get found locally in the maps pack will have many different tasks than an informational or ecommerce site. There is a starting price and tiers, but with SEO you truly get what you pay for. Be wary of huge discounting with no time commitment. These companies who offer insanely low prices are never around for a long time and only hurt your business and the industry as a whole.
Question 7: Which SEO metrics do you report every month?
The main Key Performance Indicators for any SEO campaign generally start with validated conversions. You get those validated conversions from qualified organic traffic, and you get that qualified traffic through search (higher organic rankings) and referral sources that are relevant to your business. You do want a monthly summary of your campaign’s SEO metrics. The SEO analyst should also report on any actions or tasks they take throughout the campaign—transparency is critical.
Question 8: How many full-time employees does your company have in the U.S., and what are the roles of those working on my campaign?
Companies who employ more contractors overseas, as well as remote workers, can have communication breakdowns, and often provide mediocre or disjointed results. Ensure that the staff is directly-employed, full-time, and works on-site. Also ensure that the employees are based in the US. Experience and a diverse staff is key, rather than relying on contractors who “dabble” here and there. Make sure that each employee has an individual role, rather than handling multiple roles at once. This ensures thoroughness and better execution of your campaign.
Question 9: How do you manage multiple, concurrent SEO campaigns?
An effective approach should include careful documentation of all steps and creating a project road map which should be provided to you with total transparency. A fully-operative company should have a systematic, managed process—and each step of the managed process should be executed carefully! Having an outlined set of goals and processes is important, but careful adherence to the process is most important. Finally, your SEO company should use an enterprise and task management platform. It should be sophisticated, and give them the ability to manage multiple campaigns all in one place. Without an effective enterprise system, their operations may be inadequate.
Question 10: What Case Studies can you show me?
Case studies are certainly important in choosing the right marketing partner. Not that an agency should have an exact case study for your exact niche, but if you need local services, they should have a few local SEO case studies. If you are a national E-commerce brand, they should have E-commerce case studies and be able to show you proof of strategy, fulfillment, and results.
Whether you are looking to hire an SEO Company in Los Angeles or Idaho, there needs to be a higher level of transparency and alignment between your business’s objectives and the fulfillment of your SEO campaign. Knowing the right questions and being educated will take you a long way in not getting burned in the long term.