Based on anecdotal evidence Iâ€™ve collected after working in the digital-marketing space for 15 years, Iâ€™m confident saying that the vast majority of those hiringÂ an SEO firm end up being disappointed.
While even the best SEO agencies won’t have a perfect track record, some are better than others. Clients shopping for SEO services can save themselves time, headache and money by asking the following simple questions:
Related:Â 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
1. Have you done work before for a business like mine?Â Perhaps no other question goes to the heart of the matter like this. If you own a self-storage business and want an SEO agency to help you obtainÂ moreÂ customers, the ideal shop would have a proven history of securing them for other like companies. The same applies when hiring an SEO agency to target a certain language or geography.
Yet, just because an agency has worked with a company like yours doesnâ€™t necessarily mean it will do a better job than another outfit that hasn’t. But this isÂ definitely a factor to weigh heavily.
2. Can you show me case studies? Whether the agency you’re consideringÂ has worked beforeÂ with a company of your type, case studies of its work will enable you to see the results delivered to other clients. In theory, this means the companyÂ can also come throughÂ for you. Talking with an agency representativeÂ about the case studies will also help you understand how the organization works.
3. Can you provide references? No agency will intentionally give outÂ as references the names of clients unhappy with its work. But if an agency canâ€™t even provide three positive references, what does that say?
4. What metric do you focus on the most? Surprise! The right answer is not rankings — or traffic or links. The kind of SEO agency you want to work with wonâ€™t ignore rankings or traffic as metrics in measuring a campaign’s success but will primarily focus onÂ customer leads, sales or conversions of prospects into clients.
5. How long until I start seeing results? A representative of aÂ good agency will underpromise and overdeliver. While every situation is different, this generally means the company will promise early positive results within four to six months and more substantial results within six to 12 months.
Itâ€™s not unreasonable for an SEO consultantÂ to sayÂ you will start seeing things movingÂ in the right direction within two to three months, but he or she should make it clear such results will likely not be the kind that affect the primary metrics cited above.
SEO is a long-term tactic, and if it is sold to you as a short-term solution to get sales,Â then move along to an agency where you’ll be told the frank truth, even if it isnâ€™t what you’d like to hear.
6. What is your link-building philosophy? The right answer emphasizes quality over quantity. Any SEO agencyÂ promising a certain number of links a month deserves skepticism if not outright rejection. The best links come naturally, from high-quality sources like news or industry websites.
Therefore link building is more like traditional public relations. Any SEO firm worth hiring for link-building services should be able to provide samples of high-quality links built for other clients and explain the process of how they were procured. If there’s an explicit mention of buying links or anything that suggests the agency pays for links, run away.
Related:Â 5 Ways Google Is Changing SEO
7. How has SEO changed over the past few years? It can be tricky to parse the answer to this. Itâ€™s just as correct to say that SEO practicesÂ haven’t changed at all as it isÂ to remark they have been completely transformed. People at a firm that has always engaged in SEO through creatingÂ high-quality content and building high-quality links might feelÂ that not much has changed.
On the other hand, Google has rolled out major changes to its search engine that make high-quality content and links more valuable than before, while penalizing low-quality content and links. In addition, more searches are being performed on mobile devices.
And today more searches use â€œnatural language,â€ or complete sentences, rather than just a keyword or two. This has changed keyword strategy to a focus on more on long-tail results rather than just those â€œgolden keywordsâ€ that many clients think will bring them the most traffic.
8. What is your reporting process? The industry norm seems to be to promiseÂ monthly reports and then not deliver them. The idealÂ agency should promise monthly reports (and more frequent onesÂ when necessary), andÂ when you talk to references,Â verify that the company follows through.
Related:Â 5 Things Most People Forget About Local SEO
9. How do you price your services? The answer youâ€™re seekingÂ isnâ€™t whether the firm overprices its services or offers a good deal, butÂ whether it’sÂ offering fixed-price packages or custom options.
If you have a small business want local SEO that costs several hundred to a few thousand dollars a month, a fixed price-package might be a good fit. If your budget is $5,000 per month or more, then probably SEO is a more critical service for your business and you want a customized service from an agency that canÂ accommodate your changing needs.
10. What other services do you offer? Are they integrated? Maybe you need an agency that does nothing but SEO. But chances are that you could benefit from other digital-marketing services like web design, paid-search management, content marketing, conversion-rate optimization or marketing automation.
Itâ€™s not enough to know if the agency offers these services. You will want to know how these services are tied together behind the scenes. If your SEO is being managed by one guy and paid search by another, but they never talk with each other about your account, then valuable data is being squandered and a strategy is lacking.
Your agency consultant should explain how everyone connected to your account works together in an integrated fashion so that the tactics used match your digital-marketing strategy.
Most clients trying to hire an SEO firm donâ€™t ask these questions. Thatâ€™s why many clients end up disappointed. Asking these questions and understanding the answers will help you avoid agencies that might take your money and give little in return. Find the one that will help your business grow.
Related:Â SEO for Business Explained: A Conversation With Rand Fishkin
Article source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241485