8 Essential Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Company
8 Essential Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Company
You’ve read the articles, you’ve done your research, and you’ve seen the ridiculous ROI that is possible with the right SEO company.
So, what are the next steps for hiring an SEO company?
Well, if you’re anything like our clients, you head to Google and do a quick search for “SEO Company” or “SEO Services”, choose a few of the companies ranking on page one of Google, make a shortlist, and then shoot off some emails enquiring about their search engine optimisation services. Of that list, you get a response from 75% (who knows what the other 25% are doing) and you set up a consultation to go over your business, your goals, and how SEO can fit into that equation.
So, before you head into the meeting with your potential SEO partner, it’s a good idea to have some pre-planned questions so that things don’t get railroaded by a sales spiel. To save you the headache, we’ve compiled a list of the most important and revealing questions that you can ask any SEO Agency.
Of course, don’t let these questions guide your consultation, if you have additional, specific questions about your business model, past SEO work, or unique goals, then it is a good idea to write them down ahead of time.
1. Ask about who will be doing the SEO work
In many cases, SEO companies can be quite disjointed. There will be a sales team, an accounts team, an account management team, and then – right in the back corner of the room, there will be a few people who actually do the work for your campaign.
It’s a good idea to ask who will actually be completing the work in your campaign. Whether they have a team of 5, 15, or 50 – it is worth asking what % of their team actually performs the SEO work for an SEO strategy. Here are some things that you can ask:
• How many copywriters do you have working on SEO campaigns?
• How many developers do you have working on SEO campaigns?
• How many off-site specialists (link building) work on SEO campaigns?
• How many technical SEO specialists work on SEO campaigns?
By asking these questions before hiring an SEO company, you will get a better idea of what sort of in-house, SEO expertise that they have.
2. Ask who your point of contact will be
Having a great SEO consultation with a prospective agency is one thing, have a great working relationship with your day-to-day contact is another thing altogether.
Here is a situation that a lot of companies will find themselves in:
• You have an SEO consultation
• Everything goes well, you really click with the person who has conducted the meeting
• You sign the dotted line, ready to kick some of the SEO goals you discussed
• The person who conducted your meeting goes missing
• You find out that they are just the onboarding specialist
• You get lumped with an account manager that doesn’t really care about your business
In reality, the salesperson or account manager that conducted the consultation may go missing. You might find out that they are responsible for onboarding clients but have nothing to do with the day-to-day work. At the end of it, you get lumped with someone that you do not have the same chemistry with or that don’t understand your business in the same way that the original consultant did.
For that reason, it is important that you meet the people that will be working on your campaign (before hiring an SEO agency) and who will be your point of contact throughout.
3. Ask about their backlink/link acquisition strategy
At the time of writing, backlinks account for roughly half of how a website ranks in the search engine results. For that reason, it’s important that you work with an SEO company that has a sustainable, white-hat link building strategy in place.
So, when you’re heading into your SEO consultation, you need to understand how they are acquiring these links.
Here are some link building red flags that you should listen out for in your meeting:
• We have a ‘team’ of guest post writers who write articles for websites
• We have a trusted ‘network’ of sites that we can get links from
• We would not know until we started working with you – everyone is different
• We have an automatic program that creates links
• We don’t disclose our link building techniques – that’s our own IP
Here are some green flags that you should listen out for:
• We look at your competitor’s backlinks to understand what they are doing
• We conduct outreach to sites to get backlinks – it is a manual process
• We only get links from niche-relevant websites
• We only get backlinks from sites that have good traffic
The reality is that link building is a repeatable process that involves a lot of outreach, a lot of rejection, and then (finally) some good link placements on high-quality websites. The process is not a secret, and you should have a comprehensive understanding of how what the process looks like.
An SEO company should be sending you a monthly report (at a minimum) that shows all of the new links that have been acquired. If an agency refuses to share your links with you, then you need to avoid them.
4. Ask what % of their team are SEO specialists
A 100-person digital marketing agency may seem like it has more resources and more know how than a 10-person boutique SEO company, but that isn’t always the case. The truth is, in large agencies, their team of SEO specialists may only be 3-4 people and the rest of the team might be made up of salespeople, account managers, business development consultants etc.
In many cases, the 10-person boutique agency will have more in-house expertise and a much better grasp of SEO concepts than a bloated, growth-oriented digital marketing agency that has to report to dozens of stakeholders within their own business.
Before you sign the dotted line with a generalist digital marketing agency, try to get a better idea of the number of people that will actually be working on your SEO campaign.
5. Ask them about how long they think it will take to see results
It’s one question that makes most SEO agencies squirm; “How long until I begin to see results from the SEO work?”.
The truth is, there are a myriad of factors that will affect how long it takes to see results in your SEO campaign. Some of those factors include:
• Previous SEO work completed on your site
• The age and health of your website
• The competition in your industry
• The budget that you are willing to put into SEO
• The location and target area of your business
The above factors may be a positive or negative influence on the time frame that it will take to see SEO results from your campaign. With that said, an SEO agency should be able to look at the following factors and provide an estimation:
• Your current website rankings
• Your backlink profile
• The amount of work required
• Your current SERP trajectory
Generally speaking, if you are a completely new website, you can expect to wait around 4-6 months before you begin to see any results from your investment. For older, more established websites, this timeframe may be slightly shorter.
6. Ask them how they measure success for clients
Working with an SEO company is usually defined by one key metric – increasing the number of clicks and impressions that they can generate for your business. But, if you are a business, there is probably a metric that you are more interested in tracking – return on investment (ROI).
The most important measure of success must be dictated by the client – not the SEO provider. When you work with an SEO company, you need to communicate what success looks like for you and what you want to achieve from the SEO work. Depending on your business model, you may be looking to achieve any of the following:
• More sales (of course)
• More subscribers to your email list
• Lower customer acquisition cost (CAC/CPA)
• More brand awareness and SERP visibility
• Higher rankings for certain keywords
• More traffic than a certain competitor
Before hiring an SEO company, it’s important to be upfront about what you want to achieve from an SEO campaign. In some cases, your goals may be a little optimistic, while in other cases, they may be too reserved.
Whichever end of the spectrum that you sit on, your SEO provider should be able to talk to you about whether they believe they can help you to achieve these goals and what a strategy would look like for your unique key performance indicators (KPI’s).
7. Ask them how they report/how often you will hear from them
As an SEO company, the #1 gripe that we hear from businesses that are looking to ditch their current SEO provider is; “We never hear from them, and we don’t know what they are doing”.
Before you start working with an SEO provider, you need to know the following communication points:
• How often you will have check-in calls/updates
• How often you will be sent reports
• What you can expect to receive in those reports
• How involved you will need to be (sign off on changes)
Knowing when you can expect to hear from your SEO provider is the most effective way to alleviate miscommunication and ensure that things are still going to plan. If you are paying a monthly retainer, you should have a set communication schedule that dictates how often you will receive emails, have phone calls, and see a report that updates you on the deliverables that have been completed in the past month.
8. Ask them whether they work with any of your competitors
It should go without saying, but if you’re speaking or working with an SEO company, they should not be working with any of your competitors.
In the same way that you will never see two football sides share the same coaches or players, you should not have an SEO provider that is using insights from your campaign and from your website to improve the standings of one of your closest competitors.
Before you hire an SEO agency, you need to ask the following questions:
• Do you currently work with any of my competitors?
• What would happen if one of my competitors wanted to work with you?
SEO companies working with multiple clients in the same industry, operating in the same area, at the same time, are creating a conflict of interest for their clients. Make sure that the data that is gathered during your SEO campaign is not being used to help your clients.
There is no shortage of SEO companies in Australia. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds and hundreds of agencies all vying for your business. For that reason, it’s important to take your time, ask the right questions, and see how an SEO company can fit in with your business and your unique goals.
At Safari Digital, we pride ourselves on delivering ethical, time-tested SEO services that provide long-term growth for our clients. To find out if our services are the right fit for your business, get in contact today to book a free consultation.
About the Author
SEO Lead & Founder of Safari Digital
Liam Ridings is the SEO lead and founder of Safari Digital and has worked across more than 250 successful SEO campaigns since 2018. In that time, Liam has been responsible for overseeing the on-site, off-site, and technical implementation of best practices for small to enterprise level companies in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.