When it comes to identifying the absolute best SEO firms and marketing agencies to help grow your business there are many factors to consider. Considering the average marketer knows how to present their best “face” online and with the digital landscape becoming increasingly difficult to follow; it is easy for the average business owner to miss interpret the value a marketing agency has to offer. After all, SEO experts all use similar jargon when describing their services and a flashy website doesn’t always imply sales, business growth, and profits.
To help you answer the question, “How Do I Choose The Best SEO Company” we have put together an easy to follow checklist of 20 questions you should ask a potential marketing firm before hiring them to handle your SEO & online advertising campaign.
Here are questions you should pose “as is” to a marketing agency of interest:
1). What is your agency’s primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?
This is an important question to answer to make sure the agency has your best interests in mind. Their focus should be aligned with your particular campaign’s goals. Their goal should ultimately be to help your business receive a measurable return on investment. Be ware of SEO firms that are only interested in keyword rankings as this does not always correlate to an increase in revenue, growth, and add to the bottom line.
2). What type of marketing and analytic reports will I be receiving, and how often?
For any SEO campaign you should receive keyword ranking reports, traffic reports, conversion reports, service reports, & a campaign analysis.
3). Will there be a campaign analysis report included?
The campaign analysis is most important so you can understand how the overall success of the marketing campaign is performing. The other reports are just pieces of the puzzle. The analysis should be very clear cut, and to the point as to how well and why your project is performing well. (example: Your monthly SEO campaign cost to the marketing firm is $1000/month and this month we converted 87 customers for a revenue of $3500 and profit of $1670. Your return on investment was $670 this month.
4). How long is your minimum contract?
Make sure you are clear on the terms of your contract. The average contract duration is 6 months in the online marketing industry. Confident firms will give you a 3 month contract.
5). Do you have any long term clients?
Many of the larger marketing agency’s have 100’s of clients. Seeing a long list of client logos on their homepage is normally a good sign. However these may not be clients that decided to stick with the marketing agency longer than the initial contract. In fact, sometimes more clients may suggest more turnover.
What you want to hear is that the SEO firm your interviewing has clients they have worked with at least over one year and preferably over several years. What you want to hear is that clients are re-signing or extending their initial contract because they were so happy with results.
6). What types of links will you be building?
It’s important to know how a potential SEO firm plans to achieve results.. You must be sure to gain an understanding of the type and quality of links they will be building. The best types of links are authoritative and industry relevant. Although there are many ways to go about building links successfully you’ll want to understand why the SEO firm believes their strategy will get you results.
7). Is your link building strategy white hat, grey hat, or black hat?
Beware of any SEO firm that uses any type of software or automation to build your links. This is considered to be “black hat” SEO and although it can often deliver short term results, long term results are hard to come by. Additionally stay clear of SEO firms that plan to “buy links” on your behalf. Again paid links can work temporarily but if caught by Google, your site can be permanently penalized and will ultimately cost you big time money. What you want to hear is that your SEO firm used white hat link building tactics which include building links by hand, leveraging content marketing to attract inbound links & social shares, guest blogging, digital PR, and old fashioned out reach to build links on your behalf.8). Does your solution include an aspect of content marketing or onsite blogging?
Inbound marketing is at the heart of a complete online marketing campaign. It is important that your SEO firm plans to write high quality blog posts, press releases, or guest posts on your behalf.
9). Is On-Site SEO included in our campaign?
Onsite optimization is essential to the success of your SEO campaign. It is the foundation to first page Google rankings. Make sure a potential SEO firm line items the exact on-site optimization steps they plan to make on your behalf. Listing “on-site SEO” in a proposal is not sufficient. You need to see that an SEO plans to complete at least the following core on-site moves:
- Title tag optimization
- Meta Description optimization
- Keyword URL structure optimization
- XML sitemap creation
- XML sitemap syndication to Google & Bing
- Google Analytics + Webmaster Installation
- Keyword Density Optimization
- Inter-Linking Optimization
- Alt Tag optimization
- Canonical URL Optimization
- Blog Category Optimization
- H1 header optimization
10). Which pages of my website will you target with keywords?
One of the easiest questions to ask to spot a “rookie” SEO firm; the answer you are looking for is that the SEO firm will use several unique pages including the homepage to target different keywords based on the content of the page matching the keyword. The “rookie” SEO firm will target all keywords to your homepage only. As an SEO rule you should only target 3-4 keywords per any one page of a website.
11). Can you show me current keyword rankings for an active client?
Don’t rely on screenshots of old campaigns that the SEO company may show you. Ask to see live rankings in Google for an active client of the SEO firm. There are not shortcuts to this one so it’s a great way to make sure the firm is still delivering results.
12). What considerations do you take prior to selecting organic keywords for a campaign?SEO, like many things in life, can be won or lost before the real work begins. Particularly much of the success of an SEO campaign comes down to keyword research and selecting the best combination of keywords to target.
SEO firms should approach keyword research very strategically. They should have a list of keyword recommendations based on competition, industry, your website, your link profile, SERP analysis, search volume, your competitor’s link profile, your budget, and the time allotted to gain results. Expect to receive an in-depth explanation of why they are 100% confident in the keyword phrases they selected.
Avoid marketing companies that only discuss keywords based on search volume only.
13). Is an account rep available by phone throughout the campaign?
Make sure you find yourself an SEO firm that is willing to get on the phone with you throughout the campaign, review results, and discuss strategy.
14). Do you consistently introduce new strategies throughout the campaign?
The internet moves fast and new opportunities consistently present themselves to the top marketers online. Make sure your SEO firm plans to update your campaign, switch out keywords, A/B test ad copy and landing pages, and otherwise consistently make your campaign perform better.
15). Does your firm review overall conversions and conversion rates as it relates to sales?
Keyword rankings and website traffic is again only a piece of the puzzle. Make sure your SEO firm not only can get you to the first page of Google for your keywords but that they have plans to convert that traffic into paying customers on your behalf. Look for a firm that will A/B test landing pages and your website copy to help traffic convert at a higher percentage.
16). Does your SEO firm leverage additional advertising & digital marketing mediums to drive traffic, brand awareness, and increase conversions?
SEO is a large component of online marketing but it often requires other pieces to provide real value. Make sure your SEO firm uses re-targeting ads, social advertising, email marketing, or the combo to stay consistently in front of your target market to close more sales.
17). Is your SEO firm currently ranking on the first page of Google for any keyword phrases? How many searches per month does that keyword receive?
Don’t be fooled by the SEO firm who is ranking for the keyword “sneaky SEO expert in Antarctica”. There is no search volume for that keyword and no competition. Instead make sure your SEO firm eats their own dog food and is ranking for relative keywords such as “their city + seo” or “San Diego SEO”.
18). Who will be working on my campaign? Can I talk with them prior to signing a contract?
Is the high level SEO director working on your campaign or the just out of college account rep? Make sure your know.
19). What information does your SEO firm need to know before we can get started on a campaign?
This question will weed out the great marketing firms from the cookie-cutter ones. A great internet marketing company will want to know what are your best selling product or services are, the retail value of these products, and the profit margin of these products. This information is necessary for the marketing firm to calculate a paid keyword bidding strategy (pay per click) or how much revenue is necessary to generate via organic traffic (SEO) in order to make sure the campaign provides a return on investment for you, the client.
20). When should I expect to see results?
Search engine optimization takes a fair amount of time before you can expect to see results. There are many factors that will decide when the average marketing firm will be able to deliver such as industry, keywords chosen, past SEO efforts, current website status, and competitors. A good SEO firm can deliver results within 3 months.
Ask an SEO Agency all 20 questions and listen carefully to their response.
If the company you’re interviewing can confidently answer all 20 questions, then they have just passed an initial screening for your business. Below we have included a PDF download for print out that you can use during a phone call or initial business meeting to ensure you find a qualified marketing firm.
FREE PDF Download – 20 Question Checklist
Enter your name and email address and receive your 20 Question Checklist!