What to really ask before hiring an SEO company

Hiring professional SEO help shouldn’t be this hard. We break down everything you should really ask before signing a contract.

So, you’ve determined that your business needs SEO assistance. This is a great first step for those that want more from organic search.

But you’d be right to be concerned about who to trust in the current industry.

There’s so many SEO experts out there, just a quick google search will tell you that. I can’t scroll through Twitter these days without one of these experts segwaying their way into my feed with a top about internal links.

But how do you verify that an SEO company is actually worth its salt?

When we onboard our clients, it’s rare that they haven’t had interactions with other SEO companies.

But what often shocks us is the sheer amount of con artists that operate in the space.

So, to help you get a better result from hiring an agency or service, we’ve put together an incredibly detailed list of Qs that you can throw at these charlatans. And remember, you always have a choice. Don’t let anyone pressure you into hiring someone who will hinder your project.

Thank us later, onwards!

How long have they been doing this?

Who the **** are the people that are going to have access to your site and implement an SEO strategy on your behalf? What are they promising?

These questions are easier to ask when you can understand what experience the agency has.

Don’t be afraid to see a case study and verify who worked on the successful campaigns.

If they have just started, then how on earth are they going to increase your brand’s visibility in what is probably a very competitive niche?

Look for signs that they have tested and measured a lot of SEO tactics in the past. This is the only way to see if you will have a good working relationship.

Get some examples of their previous success or not

Now, this goes without saying, if you’ve hired someone without getting any experience, then what are you doing?

If an SEO professional has gotten results, then they won’t be afraid of showing you previous websites that they have worked on.

Don’t take a doctored graph as proof; ask for website URLs and look yourself. Are they ranking for keywords relevant to their business?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about which elements of each campaign were a success – this will help you to understand how they operate and whether they are a good communicator as well!

How will they tell you about your site’s growth or results?

If you hire an agency or professional, then you’ll need to get regular updates on how the process is going. Many local SEO companies will have a way of doing this.

Now, SEO isn’t some quick trick and boom; you’re on page one. It can take time.

But that doesn’t mean that your SEO help can’t keep you updated along this journey.

At RankRise we give daily updated dashboards to our clients so they can see daily what is changing with their campaigns.

We work with our customers to see what metrics are important to their business. For example, traffic might be important to a business with an ad-based business model. But sales could be what to track for another. So we build this dashboard to reflect that.

Please make sure to check with a marketing agency how they do this before hiring them.

Make sure it’s clear how much resource/time you will need from your side

This is a big one that many companies forget to ask about. And when they do it often comes back to bite them when they don’t have the resources to get the most out of a campaign or strategy.

Big things here to think about are:

Is there a budget? Who covers this? SEO is rarely done with zero budget, so you’ll need to agree on how much this will cost and at what intervals this will be paid. Also, please check what it will go on, don’t just blindly hand over cash.

Content – who is going to write the content? You can’t get by on SEO these days without someone writing content who knows what they are doing if you have someone in-house already, that’s great. Larger SEO agencies will have someone in-house. Sometimes it’s outsourced; make sure you know where you stand.

Ask what they expect to deliver and in what timeline

They might say that a certain keyword is important for your business to rank for. But how long will that take?

Of course, you don’t have to hold them to it to the day. But understanding what they want to achieve can be a great question to understand their experience and what techniques they will use to get to these goals.

And remember, any SEO agency, professional, or consultant that tells you they will get you into the top positions in less than 3-6 months is talking absolute bull**** and you should stop speaking to them immediately.

Search engines can’t be fooled these days quickly, so unless you are already ranking and it’s a case of nudging those positions to the top, don’t expect results that quickly.

Ask about their process from end to end

Look, I get that an SEO agency isn’t going to want to share everything about its process. It’s their secret sauce, after all.

If they start talking nonsense, don’t be afraid to cut to the meaty stuff. How do they build links? How can you trust their link-building process? How will they optimize your site for search engines? How will they analyze the competition in your niche?

All of these questions will be important to understand how they can help rank your product, service or business.

Determine whether they are white hat or black hat, or somewhere in between

Don’t waste your time on a dodgy link-building campaign. I can save you time – it won’t do anything to improve your rankings. Google is developing systems that can understand when bad SEOs are trying to game the system.

I’m not saying that this will affect your website negatively, but it sure as hell ain’t gonna get you into a position where you are making money from organic search.

So have a little Google yourself on what black hat strategies are, and see if this person is going to try and do these. They are best avoided.

Get their expert opinion on where SEO is going and what will change

The Google algorithm is always changing, and nobody really knows how it works. So much machine learning goes into ranking sites these days. Each position is different and search is personalized between two people on different devices and in different locations.

So anyone who is telling you they know how Google works is lying. They might have done something in the past that worked, but what got the success in the past doesn’t;’t mean that the same thing will work for you business.

Askign this question will let you understand how much they know about search engine optimization and how engaged they are with the changes that could potentially sink your site if they go about it the wrong way.

Ask how much it costs, lol

You’d be surprised how few people ask this simple question. Then they get the contract and are frankly outraged when they see the cost.

SEO ain’t cheap. You can’t expect an SEO agency to stake it’s reputation on a few hundred dollars a month. But please, pleas please ask how much before to avoid any nastly shocks in the future.

James Ewen

James is the founder of the SEO agency RankRise. He runs the weekly newsletter 100 days of SEO.

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