In-house SEO is out — almost regardless of your business’s size and scope, you probably need the expertise and resources of a third-party agency, which can devote much more knowledge, time and energy to ensuring your SEO success.
However, not all SEO firms are created equal. Before you go hiring the first company you find listed on Google, you need to make sure the agency you hire is compatible with your brand’s style as well as your business’s goals. Here are a few questions you definitely need to ask your SEO agency before you sign the dotted line.
What SEO Services Do You Offer?
If you are utterly unfamiliar with SEO, a better first question might be: “What is SEO services?” How the agency answers this question — whether they patiently explain SEO purposes and practices in terms you can understand or they drown you in jargon and long-winded technical explanations — will tell you how the agency will communicate with you going forward. You always want to outsource to a company that communicates clearly, so keep this in mind throughout this interview process.
Once you get a handle on what SEO is, you do need to understand what this particular SEO company provides. Without question, you should contract the services of a white-hat agency, which uses respected techniques to improve your ranking in the long term — as opposed to black-hat SEO, which uses outdated practices that might boost rankings in the short term but will create serious problems over time. In particular, you will need your agency to do the following things for your business:
- Keyword research
- Page creation and optimization
- Link building
- Technical audits
You might also need help with generating content, social media marketing, brand development and more — but these tend to be services offered by a fully fledged digital marketing company, not just an SEO agency.
Can I See an Example of a Successful Campaign?
Generally, you don’t want to be an SEO agency’s first client; you probably don’t want to be their second client, either. You want to partner with an SEO company that has an established history of success, and to prove that success, your agency should be able to show you at least one case study of a real campaign they managed from start to finish.
They should be able to walk you through their strategy for the case and the activity that led to a positive result. It might be possible to contact the client in the case study, so you can verify the SEO agency’s assertions and receive the client’s perspective on the project.
What Do You Do for Your Own Brand?
Most businesses leverage their greatest assets, and SEO agencies should be no different. Your SEO company undoubtedly takes steps to optimize its own search rankings, and it might be enlightening to learn what SEO services they perform for themselves. Some specific questions you might ask in this vein include:
- How did you decide on a specific SEO strategy?
- How do you modify your strategy to conform with SEO trends?
- What results have you seen from your SEO efforts?
SEO companies have the knowledge and power to do almost anything in their SEO campaigns, so seeing what they choose to do — and how successful it has been — can be enlightening.
Do I Need Any Tools for Collaboration?
Because SEO is a rather technical field, and because you should be somewhat involved in your business’s SEO efforts, you might need to download certain types of software to assist in communication with your agency or monitoring of your SEO campaign.
Some SEO companies develop bespoke tools, which they should provide you for free; others might offer licenses to apps or programs that they utilize, or else conform to whatever collaboration platform you use. Finally, some SEO companies might require you to invest in a specific tool.
How Do You Break Down Costs?
Even if you try to manage your SEO on your own, in house, the effort will be far from free. SEO requires expertise and time, resources that always come at a premium, and you will simply get more results for your dollar if you outsource to an experienced, professional SEO firm. Still, you don’t want to be surprised by any unexpected fees down the road.
You need to know exactly how your agency will charge you for different services — whether it is an ongoing flat rate, whether you are paying per hour of service or whether some other price structure is in place. You might ask for an example invoice to see exactly how the agency organizes your costs.
Contrary to what you might read online, SEO is not easy, and not every business leader has the time, energy or knowledge to do SEO and see success. The sooner you find an SEO agency that suits your business style, the sooner you can see your webpages creep higher in search results — and the sooner your audience will find greater engagement with your brand.
Interesting related article: “What is Search Engine Optimization?“