What To Ask When Hiring An SEO Agency
Do you want your business to be consistently seen on the first page of Google?
You and a bazillion other companies.
It doesn’t just happen accidentally. What you see on page one is usually the result of some SEO nerd’s hard work.
But, like politicians, there are good ones and bad ones.
In the 20 years of being in business, nearly 80% of the people who walk into our retail shop tell us they’ve been burned by digital marketers before It’s part of why we decided to open a retail office 10 years ago. We joke about being a “local throat to choke”.
But, it seriously helps people trust us. That and the fact that we actually do the work and get results.
So, how do you find the right SEO agency? Simple. You ask a lot of questions. Here are some of the most important things to ask.
Demystifying the Magic: Get a Clear Roadmap
Forget the buzzwords. Demand a transparent breakdown of their SEO process. Ask about keyword research, technical optimization, and content creation strategies. They should be able to explain their approach in language you understand, not just SEO jargon.
One of the first steps involves getting a sense of the company’s overall approach. Ask them to walk through the plan they propose to implement and how each individual step contributes to better visibility and ranking. It is important to understand how their strategies are practically executed.
Is the firm adaptable? Can they efficiently maneuver through the dynamic landscape of search engine algorithms? Do they take into account user experience and the structure of your website in their planning? These are important aspects to explore when trying to understand a company’s SEO framework.
Discussing Content: An Essential Part of SEO
Content is a major player in any SEO strategy. Seek to understand the firm’s view of the relationship between their strategy and your content.
How do they plan on optimizing your content for maximum outreach? Get insights into their strategy for using content in their link-building efforts. It is also important to discuss their plans for keeping your content fresh and engaging over time.
Remember, the agenda is not just asking questions but probing for clear and comprehensive answers. It’s about generating a mutual understanding between you and the advisory team so that your online presence optimally aligns with the company’s vision and goals. The strategy should be one that doesn’t just increase visibility but also builds and strengthens your brand digitally.
Proof in the Pudding: Show me the Data
Past performance is the best predictor of future success. Ask about case studies and whether they have worked with businesses in your industry. While that shouldn’t be a deal breaker, it always helps if they don’t have to climb a learning curve.
If they haven’t worked with your industry, ask them how they plan to get up to speed with what they need to do to rank your website in your industry. The answer is that they should do more work on the competitor analysis.
Meet the Brain Trust: Assess the Team’s Expertise
Are you entrusting your digital destiny to seasoned veterans or Google-taught whiz kids? Inquire about their qualifications, experience, and specific roles within the agency. You’re building a collaborative partnership, not just outsourcing to a faceless entity.
Dig into the qualifications and backgrounds of the professionals involved in your project. This information sheds light on their expertise. Understanding the company’s task distribution process helps you comprehend their work hygiene.
Don’t expect to work with a bunch of Ph.D.s in SEO because, well frankly, we’ve never met any. SEO changes so rapidly that there are very few colleges that offer any formal education, so it’s not unusual at all to find that most SEO professionals are self-taught.
Ask about the company’s unique value proposition and what it means for your business. They should show a solid commitment to client satisfaction and handle feedback effectively. Lastly, try to comprehend the company’s approach to innovating and adapting strategies in the face of rapid digital changes.
A good SEO nerd should be able to reel off who he or she follows, reads, and listens to about current trends in the industry. Since the industry changes all the time, anyone who isn’t consistently learning is left behind and can be of little use to your company.
Open Communication: Building Trust One Chat at a Time
Imagine this: your website crashes, SEO vanishes, and your agency is radio silent. Will they vanish like smoke or be your SEO lifeline? Discuss their communication channels, frequency, and response times. Open communication is the lifeblood of a successful partnership.
Do you have a main contact person or a team of people? If it’s one person, do you have that person’s cell phone number and a consistent way of reaching them?
Make sure to ask if your new SEO nerds will be doing technical SEO. This includes things like updating your WordPress plugins and theme, increasing page load speed, dealing with 404 errors, and any other issues with your site. That should all be included.
Measuring the Climb: Define the Success Metrics
Let’s face it. There’s only one metric of success for SEO.
Your business needs to make more money. All the other metrics are important but not nearly as important as that one. Any SEO agency that tells you otherwise isn’t keeping its eye on the right ball.
Other key performance indicators can be things like:
- Website traffic
- Conversions (people following through with your calls to action)
- Increased domain authority
A competent agency will align its success with yours, establishing clear goals and tracking progress with laser focus.
Investing Wisely: Finding the Budget Sweet Spot
Be upfront about your financial constraints. A reputable agency will work with you to develop a customized package that fits your needs and budget. Remember, quality SEO has a price tag, but it shouldn’t require mortgaging your business.
SEO agencies price their work differently. Some charge by the number of keywords they’re targeting. This means you might pay $500/month for 25 keywords. Other agencies might charge a monthly retainer. The average fee across the country for local SEO is $1000/month.
If they charge by the keyword, make sure that you get a list of approved keywords. Some agencies tell you they’ll work for free and you pay them when the keywords rank, but we’ve heard many stories of people being charged when the keywords never ranked.
Be sure to ask agencies that charge a monthly retainer about what services and work are included in that retainer and what isn’t before moving forward. We’ve heard of agencies nickel and diming their customers to death.
We use a monthly fee and include minor design work, website updates, backups and we even work on optimizing your Google Business Profile as part of our monthly retainer.
The SEO Test Drive: A Taste of the Future
Before committing to a long-term climb, request a short-term engagement or trial period. This lets you assess their skills, gauge their responsiveness, and ensure their culture aligns with yours. Don’t jump into a multi-year partnership without taking your time.
While most SEO agencies require contracts, we do not. We work on a handshake agreement that allows our customers to bow out any time they don’t think things are working out for them. We find that this dynamic keeps us working hard to win the client over one month at a time. It’s also part of why we have clients stay with us for years.
Transparency, Reporting, and Expectations
When exploring potential SEO agencies, transparency, reporting, and the management of expectations is important. These elements ensure both parties understand their roles, responsibilities, targets, and how success is measured.
Uncovering Promises and Guarantees
SEO is not a definite science and, as such, no agency can guarantee top rankings on search engines unequivocally. Thus, it’s crucial to address this issue from the outset to avoid unwarranted expectations. Be sure to discuss this aspect with your potential SEO partner. It also behooves one to understand the firm’s methods of working towards improved rankings and delivering tangible results, despite the unpredictability of search engine algorithms.
Understanding SEO Guarantees Versus Realistic Outcomes
Understand the discrepancy between what an agency might guarantee versus the realistic outcomes they can deliver. Every firm must manage expectations effectively, showcasing their potential without over-promising. Discuss openly how they approach potential hurdles or setbacks – – no campaign is without its speed bumps, but the finest agencies have remedies in place to get back on track.
Bonus Question: Beyond the Hype, What Makes You Stand Out?
This is where the agency reveals its true colors. What unique expertise do they offer?
Do they leverage cutting-edge technology? Is their team obsessed with data or driven by creative brilliance? Find the agency that stands out from the SEO crowd, the one that truly clicks with your vision.
Remember, finding the right SEO agency is a crucial business decision. Don’t rush, don’t get swayed by empty promises, and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. With the right partner, you’ll ascend the SEO ranks, leaving the dust of your competitors far below.
And of course, we at [Your Agency Name] are always here to guide you on your digital journey. Our door is always open (virtually and even physically at our retail office!), and our coffee pot is always brewing a potent SEO elixir. We may not have singing llamas (yet), but we do have a proven track record of driving real results. So, let’s talk SEO and turn your online dreams into tangible realities.
Handling Contract Termination
Before signing any deal, it is critical to clarify contract duration, renewal, and termination policies. What are your rights and responsibilities upon contract termination? Do you retain ownership of content, or maintain accessibility to the website and analytics? Understand the backup plans the company might have should their strategy not deliver optimized results.
Furthermore, it would be good to explore penalties or consequences related to early contract termination. A respectful termination process is as important as the rest of the partnership as it marks the end of a professional bond. Finally, be sure to ask about the company’s processes for transferring data, knowledge, and control back to you after parting ways. A successful pass-back process speaks of the company’s commitment to a smooth transition and respect for client autonomy.
At Make It Loud, we don’t require SEO contracts, and you own everything we do for you. If we create a Google Analytics account on your behalf, we turn it over to you since we no longer need it if you leave.
The critical first step in your SEO journey is to ensure you have all the necessary information prior to entering into a relationship with an SEO agency. It’s essential to ask clear and specific questions, enabling you to make informed decisions and establish the groundwork for a high-ROI partnership.
Any SEO agency that can’t answer these questions (and more) isn’t worth your time and money, in our opinion.
If you have questions about search engine optimization or need help from a reputable SEO agency, simply call 678.325.4007 and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.