7 Critical Questions to Ask Before Awarding Your SEO Contract to an Agency
September 14, 2016 Nashaat Quadri
Hiring an SEO company is critical to the survival of your business. It can be scary at times, especially when you don’t know the rules of the game. A good SEO campaign will ultimately lead you to meet your sales targets and thus meeting your business goals. But, if you choose a wrong agency, then you might even lose any existing search engine traffic on your site.
As the famous proverb has it: “Success lies in details and people;” this blog post will unravel specific details that you should know before you hire an SEO agency.
We have listed seven critical questions and their desired answers below that you should know before hiring an SEO agency or a freelance professional. Here we go :
1. For What Keywords is the SEO Agency itself Ranking on?
This is a very critical question and a tough test of the credibility of an SEO agency. If they themselves are not ranking on popular keywords, how can they even try to help you rank your website on your chosen keywords? If they are ranking on some uncommon long tail keyword, it should still set your alarm bells ringing. Clearly, such agencies have not yet achieved the game fully for themselves. The popular keywords for an SEO agency can be as follows:
- SEO services (followed by the name of the country or city; e. g. “SEO services in India”)
- SEO company (followed by the name of the country or city; e. g. “SEO company in India”)
- The best SEO or digital marketing agency (followed by the name of the country or city; e. g. “The best SEO company in India”)
It can be easily verified. For example, if you are looking for a competitive SEO agency in India, use the Indian version of Google search, i.e. www.google.co.in and use the keywords such as SEO services in India, SEO agency in India, PPC company in India, or the best SEO company in India, and the concerned SEO agency should appear on the first page of Google. You can also use more specific local keywords such “the best SEO company in Mumbai” if your target market is Mumbai.
By the way, Techmagnate is India’s leading SEO agency and we rank on the first page of Google with popular keywords such as the ones mentioned above. You can try these keywords on Google and verify it.
Key Takeaway: Most of the prestigious SEO agencies themselves rank high on Google with some “popular” keywords related to their industry. Make sure the keywords they share with you are “popular”.
2. Do You Have any Case-Studies or Proven Customer Results to Share?
Case studies serve as whitepapers about company’s potential and its capabilities. Good SEO companies will invariably have some of these case studies already published on their websites, giving an overview of company’s strengths and strategies. Some reliable figures and stats related to improved traffic, rankings and ROI related to their clients’ websites should help you validate their achievements.
Key Takeaway: Don’t forget to ask for some of their clients’ case studies to have some fair idea about the agency’s performance and capabilities.
3. How Will You Improve my Search Engine Rankings?
This is actually an open-ended question, to help you extract some key information related to the contender’s capabilities, skills, and expertise at Search Engine Optimization. In the absence of a well-defined strategy, noticeable results can’t be achieved. Of course, some inconsistent results can be achieved here and there through random link-building and keyword targeting, but it never yields consistent results in terms of traffic or improvement in rankings.
So, there must be a process and a strategic plan in place. The following details would be helpful for you to assess the capabilities of your SEO agency to improve your rankings.
A. On Page and Off Page SEO
Good companies will share with you the strategy they implement, both in terms of “on page SEO” and “off page SEO”, after a careful evaluation of your website and SEO errors such as “broken links” etc. in it.
Key Takeaway: If they don’t disclose their on-page and off-page SEO strategy, stay away.
B. The Quality of Content
Quality content is an integral part of “off page” SEO strategy as it raises awareness about your business and brand. Make sure that they use quality content on social media platforms, blogs, forums and press releases.
Key Takeaway: Check the quality of the blogs posted by them for their clients.
SEO agencies are generally reluctant to share their link building strategy in its entirety; however they will tell you something along the line of – “We will identify the best keywords based on the initial audit of your site and niche you operate in and then make backlinks according to those keywords.”
Link building has been an important practice for ranking on top on search engines and there is little probability that the practice will cease to be effective in near future.
However, here is a catch. All links can’t be equal as far is their impact is concerned. Google respects links from the sites that have the same niche as yours and the sites with “authority” in your field.
One good backlink is worth more than thousands of low-quality backlinks. To know more about quality of links, read the following article:
How to Determine if a Link is Good or Bad
Key Takeaway: Go for a random backlink check for their clients’ websites. Check the niche and Domain Authority of those sites. If the niche doesn’t match (e. g. backlink coming from a travel site for a healthcare site) and the domain authority is less than 20, stay away.
4. How will You Help My Company Cover Local SEO and/or Online Reputation Management?
Your visibility on search engines with your location keywords is determined by the local SEO done on your site. It becomes even more important in case your target customers are found locally around your business location. That’s your core audience and local SEO will help you achieve better conversion rate.
Online Reputation Management services helps protect & promote your brand by bringing positive content (reviews and comments) about your business on top in search results preventing any possible damage to your reputation online through negative content by unsatisfied customers.
Key Takeaway: The agency should be proficient in both local SEO and ORM.
5. Can You Guarantee My Rankings on Search Engines?
Nobody can explicitly assure you of any kind of guaranteed results on search engines, because of the changing nature of search engine algorithms. If a prospecting agency guarantees any search engine rankings, it’s a sign of making false statements.
Yes, sometimes agencies or freelancers use “black hat” or unethical practices to get some noticeable results quickly, but these things work temporarily and as soon as Google finds it out, your site can be severely penalized.
SEO doesn’t work overnight as it’s not a magic pill. It needs time and investment.
Nobody can tell you the exact time frame for your website to appear on top of search engines. Focus on your relevance and authority.
Key Takeaway: If someone guarantees you quick and specific results (such as bringing the site on the first page of Google search within a month) in terms of rankings, stay away.
6. How Do You Measure the Success of Your SEO Campaigns?
This is a critical question and the standard answer should include the following:
- Increase in targeted traffic
- Ranking with popular keywords
- Backlinks from high authority sites
- Regular sharing of Google Analytics reports
- Action plan as per Analytics-driven research
Key Takeaway: Know these internal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of SEO to make sure that your agency is moving in the right direction.
7. How Soon and What Kind of Results can I Expect?
This is an important question and it justifies your ROI with clear goals about traffic and rankings. It’s also a litmus test of a company’s capability
A good SEO company would be able to cherry-pick quick wins against long term goals and help you know exactly which keywords have the potential to rank early on in the SEO campaign.
Key Takeaway: Go for an SEO Agency that gives you a step by step, time-driven action-plan with credible strategic thought.
SEO requires time and investment. Of course, there will be a stage, where it will pay you back, but initially, it’s a serious commitment for most of the businesses. Make sure that you are able to afford it without counting on any immediate ROI. Go for a budget deal, if the quoted price sounds too high for you. You can also go for a tailored package rather than a comprehensive plan.