9 Essential Questions for Evaluating SEO Firms
Ok, so you’ve decided that your business needs to bring in some outside SEO help. Now you find yourself stuck with one pressing question: how do I find the right SEO company?
The process of vetting SEO service providers can be difficult if you lack a strong understanding of search engine optimization.
“The SEO industry is full of reputable experts, but a few con artists leave many hesitant to trust SEO.”
We’ve seen it countless times. A company is looking for SEO services and starts vetting agencies for help, but doesn’t know where to start. Our goal with this post is to create a resource to help business owners see through the BS and avoid the con artists.
We’ve reached out to dozens of SEO experts to collect their insights. Based on their feedback, we’ve compiled this list of the most essential questions to ask while vetting any SEO provider.
NOTE: Don’t feel like you need to ask every SEO provider each of these questions. Make sure to evaluate questions 1, 3, 4 and 7 for each provider, but the remaining questions can be used as a great source of additional analysis.
1. Understand their history
Try searching for the SEO provider on local review sites like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. Check their average rating, and read a few of their 1,3 and 5-star reviews to get a feel for what a bad, average, and great experience might look like with this company.
A few negative reviews should be expected for any business with a long history, but seeing countless negative reviews should set off a red flag.
2. Inquire about their SEO processes
Every SEO company will vary in their processes. Regardless, their team should be able to comfortably speak to these processes. Don’t hesitate to request a breakdown of the phases and corresponding deliverables during each stage of the process.
If you’re still unsure, ask for clarification on what any of these deliverables entail. A large part of the salesperson’s job is to explain these deliverables in terms that anyone can understand.
3. Ask for expectations
Every now and then, we’ll talk to a prospect who thinks that ranking in search engines is an overnight process. We then reiterate that SEO is a long-term game and can require anywhere from 3-6 months to see results. Take it from us — any SEO firm that promises to get you on the first page of Google in a week is full of s**t.
While short-term results can be impressive, they are rare. The next time you inquire about SEO services, ask what a successful campaign would look like and what results you could expect to see.
4. Inquire about previous work
After hearing their benchmarks for expected results, ask to see a case study from one of their previous clients. Though these may not be available with all firms, particularly younger ones. Case studies serve as a great benchmark of what great results can look like for a specific service.
Marketers always want to highlight the outliers, so it should be noted that the results shown in the case study aren’t likely to reflect the actual metrics that you can expect to see if you were to work with the firm.
For example, our SEO foundation case study highlights a client that experienced a 127% increase in organic traffic from an SEO foundation. Normally, we’d expect a 10-20% growth in organic traffic from this service over 3-6 months, but choose to highlight an outlier in this specific case study.
Make note of how dated some case studies might be. SEO has experienced significant change over the past 5 years. Newer case studies will paint a much better picture of the typical results that a company can expect to see. Case studies that are 1-2 years old should be expected, but anything older than this is likely outdated.
5. Ask About Transparency of their Progress
At Junto, we’re firm believers in providing full transparency of everything that we’re working on. We invite clients to access a Trello board. This board shows the status of all upcoming deliverables and assigns a due date to each.
While many reputable SEO providers will provide transparent communications, some will not. Work with SEO companies who are comfortable with showing you what they’re working on. You should have transparency in their work and the status of all deliverables.
6. Ask about reporting
Most reputable SEO providers will provide some form of reporting for ongoing relationships. Ask to see a sample report that they send out to clients. You should also ask about the primary metrics that their company reports on.
Good SEO firms will report on metrics like backlink count, target keyword rankings, and organic traffic improvements. Great firms will take these metrics and tie it back to revenue for your business.
Struggling to find a reputable SEO firm? Come see how we can help.
7. Ask about time commitment on your end
Think about the value of time and money in evaluating the costs of working with a given firm. While both resources are scarce, one will be scarcer than the other.
SEO providers will vary on these two costs. Some may expect 10 hours of work on your end every week, while others may expect 2 hours per month.
Neither option is better or worse, but some costs will work better for one business than another. Understand how these costs impact your business before committing to any SEO provider. Some brands prefer deeper involvement, while others prefer the minimal time commitment. We pride ourselves on minimizing the time commitment of clients. This works great for some businesses and horrible for others.
If you can speak to an SEO specialist
Speaking with a company’s SEO specialist will give the best feel for the quality of their work. Few companies will include an SEO in the sales process, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can speak to one of them.
If the company does bring in an SEO specialist, ask the following questions:
8. Ask them about link building
The number one factor that determines search rankings is the number of reputable websites that link to you. Getting reputable websites to link to you is the best way to improve your search rankings. There are exceptions to this, but only for massive brands and industry leaders.
If the SEO provider did not mention getting reputable websites to link back to you, ask why. Some will claim that link building is too risky. This is false. Link building is risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. Link building is the fastest way to drive ROI and should be the first priority for most SEO efforts.
If the SEO provider does do link building, ask how they get websites to link back to their clients. Avoid any firms that mention “payment” or owning a network of sites that can link to you (sometimes called “private blog networks”, or “PBNs”). These methods can land you in some hot water with Google.
You should also ask the SEO specialist the following questions about link building:
- How do they conduct link outreach? Do they use their own email address, or do they need one of your company email addresses?
- How do they find new link building opportunities?
- How do they analyze website quality before requesting a link?
- How do they report on link acquisition?
9. Ask them how SEO has changed
SEO is constantly changing, and a knowledgeable SEO pays attention to these changes. They should be able to give you a brief overview of some of the biggest changes to the industry over the past few years. Keep this question broad and give them free reign to respond.
SEO is essential to the success of any business. 57% of B2B marketers say that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative. With these questions in hand, you’re ready for battle with even the best SEO cons.
Struggling to find the right SEO firm? Then contact us to see exactly what we would do for you today. Looking for more information on the changing digital marketing landscape? Stay ahead of your competition and sign up for our monthly insights today!