Five Key Questions to Ask Before You Hire an SEO Firm

by Clay Adams on January 17, 2013

seofirmhiringIn our ever-evolving digital age, almost every entity has its own slice of cyberspace. As more businesses are taking root in the world-wide web, the demand for digital marketing shows no signs of slowing.

Savvy business owners are becoming increasingly aware of the vast gulf that lies between establishing a website and bringing targeted traffic to it. Getting across that gap will undoubtedly require solid marketing efforts. That’s where professional Search Engine Optimization comes in.

Perhaps the most common response among business website owners when asked how they’d like to be found online is “I want to be number one in Google”. That’s certainly a common goal, and it can be accomplished with the help of the right SEO firm, with “right” being a key word here.

You probably already know how important it is that your SEO be handled efficiently, effectively and ethically. Sizing up an SEO firm can be difficult, especially with the wide array of choices out there, so we’re going to cover a handful of questions you can pose to your prospective SEO agency that can make the decision a little easier.

Of course, you’ll want to set your own unique criteria before you jump into a prospecting interview. If you’ve found a few good candidates in your research, make sure they fit well with the type of marketing you’re looking for, the scope of the project, and your budget. Then you’ll want to check out their reputation online, ensure they are a legitimate business and seek out some testimonials.

Once you’ve trimmed your prospects down to a select few, it’s time to jump into the interview process. Be thorough, don’t settle for a company that you’re not entirely satisfied with, and take your time. There is no reason to rush, and this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. In many cases, the very livelihood of your business depends on choosing the right SEO firm.

You’ll likely have many questions of your own, but the following list encompasses some key questions that can help you determine the quality of the company you’re considering:

1)      Can you describe your SEO process to me and how we will coordinate together?

The aim of this question is two-fold. Firstly, you’re testing their communication skills. You want to know that the agent is able to explain the process and offer relevant details in an understandable way, even in layman’s terms. You don’t want impatient, overly technical responses. Secondly, you will want to hear a comprehensive overview of the process, not just outlining how they are going to execute a marketing campaign for you, but also how they intend to produce results geared to your goals. Steer clear of cookie-cutter responses and agencies that lack personalized attention.

2)      Who specifically will be handling my website and how can I reach them?

Answers to this question will also give you a couple of valuable tidbits of information. For example, the simple fact that the agency already has this lined out means they’ve probably got their act together pretty well. It’s okay if they don’t have a person assigned to the project yet (after all it’s still just in negotiations), but they should at least be able to give you an answer that reassures you in being able to track down the person in charge of altering your site.

3)      What evidence of ROI and positive results on past projects can you provide?

This is a big question and a good SEO firm will be glad to show you as much of this type of evidence as they can. Be as skeptical as you wish about the proof you’re being shown and don’t be shy about asking questions regarding anything you don’t understand. You’re looking for solid, consistent results or case studies. Beware any mind-blowing presentations that seem too good to be true, and remember that SEO isn’t accomplished overnight. Too much growth too fast is a red flag.

4)      How will you insure the protection of my website from penalization?

It wouldn’t hurt to brush up a bit ahead of time for this question by taking a look at Google’s guidelines for SEO and learn about some of the common penalties and risks associated with improperly applied SEO or black hat tactics. Document the agent’s answers and check online resources to validate them if you’re unsure of anything. It is imperative to ensure that your SEO firm takes extra care in protecting your business from costly penalties.

5)      What sets you apart from the hundreds of other SEO firms I’ve looked at?

301This is pretty straightforward, and a good question to ask of any type of service provider. Once you’ve got an answer from them, just consider if what they’ve said really represents something you haven’t seen in their competitors before.

These are very exploratory, very open ended yet pointed questions. Don’t expect to have a clear picture after just one or two questions. It is imperative to take detailed documentation of the answers throughout the interview process, and consult with your colleagues regarding the results.

Once you’ve gone through your gauntlet of questions, not only will you have a much clearer picture of each prospective agency, but you can also assess the level of willingness and commitment each firm is putting forth. In the end, rather than choosing a consultant, you should seek out a partner.

About the Author:

Clay Adams is a Clicks and Clients professional serving clients across the United States with digital marketing services and consulting.

About Clay Adams

Clay Adams is a Denver SEO professional serving clients across the United States with digital marketing services and consulting. Connect with Clay on Google+.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew January 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

It is important for clients and firms to be on the same page before establishing a business relationship. This can range from creating an overall marketing plan to educating SMBs about the newest trends in the digital realm. Great article summarizing the key points to look at when considering an SEO firm!

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Ed January 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Point point about protecting your self from black hat SEO tactics. It’s really just a fast track to the bottom, ultimately.

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Chase January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Great tips – when it comes to SEO, getting it wrong is not an option. I also think exploring the link building strategies of your SEO company is a must. If they mention blog commenting as a good strategy run!

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