What to Ask an SEO Firm before You Hire Them

by Eleanor Pyne Figaro Digital

Search engine optimisation (SEO) has become a vital aspect of website marketing. Its ability to attract traffic and leads to a business makes it possible for that business to increase sales and get a high return on investment. Better still if the business builds a partnership with a reliable SEO agency that can deliver on their promises. To find such an agency, there are a few things a business owner or a marketer needs to ask before they go through with the hiring process.

Understanding the importance of hiring an SEO agency

In today’s commercial scene, a strong online presence is an essential means of survival and growth. The competitive nature of internet marketing means that simply having a website is no longer enough. No matter how well-designed it is, it becomes ineffectual if nobody can find it – much like a brick and mortar store you can’t find on the map. SEO addresses need this. To make the most out of your website advertising budget, you need the assistance of a specialist.

Here’s why:

  • SEO is a full-time job in and of itself. It requires a digital marketer’s full attention. It is composed of a broad range of strategies that require an entire team. Web design, keyword research and analysis, and content creation (eg blogging and infographic design) are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an extensive checklist of on-page and off-page SEO tasks needed to fully optimise your website.
  • SEO strategies need constant updates. The internet is dynamic, ever-changing, and search engine algorithms are being updated continuously. Anyone dabbling in SEO needs to discover what these updates are, and how to alter their strategies to appease these algorithms.
  • SEO professionals have advanced tools at their disposal. True, there are a number of free and freemium tools available online. However, for a more comprehensive approach, SEO experts rely on specialised (ie paid) tools. They also have the ability to interpret and analyse the extensive data these tools may present.
  • SEO experts have the necessary skill set and experience. Take advantage of their expertise. You don’t have to go out of your way to learn new skills. Your business website needs a solid foundation for it to be successful – not guesswork. Additionally, seasoned SEO specialists have most likely worked with businesses in various industries. They should be familiar with your target market and have the ability to customise their strategies to suit your needs.
  • SEO agencies can get you better results. Experience, skill, tools, time, and dedication – these factors give SEO professionals the upper-hand. Even if business owners do take the time to research and study the fundamentals of SEO, an agency can produce better results.
  • Hiring an agency lets you focus on your business. As a business owner, you may not have the time to dedicate to learning the ins and outs of optimising your website. Trust the experts so you can put all your energy into doing what you do best – your business.

Questions to ask your candidates

There are a great number of SEO agencies around the world. You will not be at a loss for options. However, it’s essential that you choose the agency you want to work with carefully. Doing so can make (or break) your attempt at digital marketing. A trusted and reliable agency can contribute to the success of your business. A sketchy one will make promises they cannot deliver.

As with any hiring endeavour, it is a challenge but one that is worth the time and effort. Learn the factors to look for in a great SEO partner. After all, your online reputation depends on your company of choice.

When you’ve selected your candidates, ask them the following questions:

What strategies do you use to deliver your results?

An effective SEO company uses three major strategies:

  • Technical SEO is the process of making your website readable to search engine crawlers. It ensures that your site can be accessed by crawlers, is mobile friendly, has fast loading speeds, and can be indexed in Google.
  • On-page SEO. The purpose of on-site SEO is to make your website functional so it attracts search engines and earns higher rankings. Aspects include keyword research and integration, optimising meta-descriptions, page titles, headings, image tags, and placing calls to action.
  • Off-page SEO generally involves promoting your website to build authority. Tasks include link building, social media marketing, guest posting, and registering in online listings.
  • Content creation. Content is the foundation of your website; without it, your website is but an empty shell. Content tells your visitors what you’re offering, your qualifications (eg licences), experiences, and other salient information they need to know to do business with you. This includes your “About Us” page, service pages, and blogs.

What tools do you use?

A competent SEO agency will be using various tools to help them track and analyse various strategies. For more in-depth information and specialised commands, they will generally go for advanced tools. Ask them what they use for auditing SEO, keyword research and analysis, competitor research, content marketing, rank checking, and link building.

The SEO agency should provide explanations of their choice along with the general information. You don’t have to know exactly what these tools do but they should be able to break it down for you. This way, you have an idea of what these tools can accomplish, how they can improve the work process, and what information you can expect to see during progress reports.

What do you know about our industry and our market?

Choose an agency with experience working for a business in your industry. A basic understanding of your business is a step in the right direction. Knowing your goals, which of your products and/or services drive revenue, and which marketing practices are acceptable in your field – these are factors to consider so strategies align with your business.

If they are not familiar with your business, you can ask them a follow-up question: How much time will you spend to get to know our business?

How long before I can expect to see results?

If you want to boost your business using radio advertising, SEO is a long-term play. It can take six months or up to a year before you can see results. An honest and experienced SEO professional will tell you as much, and will offer you a timeframe. Be wary of any agency that promises to get you exceptional results in a short period of time, saying they’ll get you “the number one spot in one month.” These agencies may be using black hat SEO techniques which Google frowns upon and will get your website penalised.

How will you integrate SEO with our other marketing strategies?

An SEO campaign should complement the other marketing strategies your business already has in place. SEO can be integrated well with your public relations efforts, social media, and email marketing. As a follow-up question, ask them if they are willing to cooperate with your marketing department.

How frequently and in what manner do you present your reports?

Select an SEO company that will give reports regularly. Many will do so on a monthly basis, which is acceptable. A reliable firm will offer you progress reports that are clear cut and easy to understand. Secure a compiled list of your most important keywords (between 10 to 20 will do). This way, you’ll know which ones to track.

Choose an SEO professional that delivers results

SEO is a complex and multifaceted approach to marketing. It is an effective method of generating traffic, leads and, ultimately, sales. With a trustworthy partner behind the wheel (and a little patience), you can make the most out of your marketing budget.