Hiring the right SEO company can rank among one of the top business decisions you’ll make. The right SEO company can help your business dominate search engine rankings and drive an ongoing stream of highly targeted traffic to your website at zero cost per click.
Hiring the wrong SEO company however, can cost you severely. In addition to the fees you’ll pay them, poor SEO tactics can cause your business to suffer from lost revenue opportunities and can severely damage your company’s brand, not to mention bruise your professional reputation.
What are the key credentials you should look for in an SEO company? What questions should you ask to help you determine if they have the industry experience, talent, and technology needed to grow your business? How can you be sure their tactics won’t put your business on Google’s blacklist?
Below are the top seven questions to help you hire the right SEO company and avoid some costly pitfalls.
#1: Who will be my designated contact?
It’s unlikely that the person selling you will also perform your SEO work or serve as your day-to-day point of contact.
A professional SEO company will assign you at least one designated contact who will be available to you by phone, email, or in person. You may find it helpful to have a designated contact in or near your time zone. Ask to be introduced to your designated contact and their location up-front to make sure you’ll be able to work well together.
Blog post ideas. Questions about a PPC campaign. Reverse-engineering a competitor’s SEO strategy. New products or services to add to the website. These are just a few of the topics your service experts should routinely discuss with you.
#2: How long will it take for SEO to produce results?
Achieving top organic search engine rankings for highly competitive keywords takes time, technical experience, cutting-edge tools, hard work, and often out-of-the box creative thinking.
To avoid disappointment, the smart move is to work with an SEO company that’s willing to perform an up-front technical analysis of your website along with competitive keyword research. Then provide you an honest assessment with reasonable goals and a clear action plan.
Beware of any SEO company that guarantees page #1 Google rankings.
Google clearly states that no company can guarantee a #1 ranking on their search engine. Any company that makes such a promise is either intentionally trying to mislead you or is simply incompetent. Either way, they’re setting themselves (and you) up to fail.
Get an honest assessment about the competitive nature of your target keywords and the amount of time and work required to achieve top organic search engine rankings.
#3: Can you show me case studies of real clients in a related industry?
Ask the SEO company to share real-life performance results they’ve achieved for businesses similar to yours. If all their case studies are about dentists and you run a contracting business, they may not be a good match for you.
Check out the results and stats of those case studies. Google page #1 rankings are a great start, but also look for increases in site traffic, leads, and quality conversions.
More than just a star-rating, you should also be able to read feedback from actual clients, whether found on the company’s website, on Google, or through Clutch.co, the leading review site for verified agencies. Read the feedback their clients have shared about what it’s like to work with the company.
#4: What’s included in my proposal?
Before you sign a contract, you should be able to receive a proposal that outlines the current state of your website and a clear SEO strategy the company plans to implement.
The first step in this proposal is a technical SEO audit, which reveals technical errors that may prevent your site from achieving top SEO rankings. Their SEO experts will correct these errors and tune your website to top performance.
From there they should identify the primary keywords that will not only deliver site traffic but also conversions.
#5: How familiar is the SEO company with your industry?
Your SEO company should be able to understand your business’s unique demographics and needs in the digital marketing space. If you’re a local B2C business in a small town, for example, your SEO strategy should focus on Google Maps results for keywords related to your products or services. If you’re receiving traffic without conversions or unqualified leads, you may need to reevaluate your partnership.
On the other hand, if you’re a large, national B2B corporation, you’ll need a different strategy. The SEO company you’re interviewing should be able to provide insight into what marketing tactics will work best for your business.
#6: Can I meet the team?
In addition to the salesperson, it’s helpful to meet members of the team who’ll be working on your account. From technical SEO, to content development, to link-building, to performance analysis and reporting, getting SEO right requires a multitude of skillsets. Get to know their experts’ professional backgrounds. See how long they’ve been with the company. Are they certified in Google Analytics? If you’re using PPC, are they certified in Google AdWords?
You’ll also want to know the day-to-day activities of the team working on your account. What is each person’s role? Do they specialize in one thing, or do they work on multiple areas at the same time? Ideally, each person will be a specialist in one particular area. That way you’re getting the best content, the best optimization, and the best PPC management.
#7: How long has the SEO company been in business?
Working with a startup has its risks. You can’t be sure that company will still be around a year from now. A professional SEO company will be able to demonstrate a strong track record of success.
- Have they worked with web design/development teams?
- Have they developed long-term, successful digital marketing strategies?
- Are they experienced with SEO, PPC management and social media marketing?
- Do they have the capability to create high-quality content that converts visitors into sales?
- Do they understand how to leverage the power of social media to boost search rankings?
If the SEO company you’re vetting can’t answer all of these questions without hesitation and to your satisfaction, keep looking. Remember, you’re looking for an SEO company that will work as an extension to your team and a true partner to your business.
BONUS: 3 Costly Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring an SEO Company
Still wondering if you’ve made the right decision? How can you be certain you’ve selected the best SEO company for your business? See the most common mistakes businesses make when hiring their SEO company.
#1 Opting for the quick fix
It’s easy to be tempted by an SEO company that promises fast results and offers cheap rates. The truth is, no matter how good an SEO company might be, nobody can guarantee top organic SEO results in the first month or two. Web crawlers of primary search engines don’t work that fast. Attracting quality traffic – visitors that actually convert into customers – takes a concerted effort over time.
In contrast, an agency that knows SEO will be laying the groundwork for significant improvement during that first 30 days that will come to fruition over time. The payoff won’t be instantaneous but will be genuine in terms of gaining loyal customers.
#2 Hiring an SEO company inexperienced in your industry
Hiring an SEO company with little/no experience in your industry means you’ll likely end up frustrated as you spend your valuable time and a good portion of your SEO budget educating them. They’ll be learning on your dime and may end up making mistakes that embarrass you and your company.
Although SEO basics span all industries, the strategy and execution behind industry-specific keyword research, backlinking, and analytics is best left to experts with prior experience in a field related to yours.
Conversely, hiring an SEO company with prior experience in your industry means they’ll not only be able to hit the ground running, they’ll be able to bring you fresh, actionable ideas to propel business growth.
#3 Not asking about analytics
Your ability to meet your business goals is in part directly related to your ability to measure SEO effectiveness over time. Ask prospective SEO agencies how, when, and what they provide in terms of performance reports. Ask to see examples.
A professional SEO company will be able to deliver statistics beyond Google rankings and website traffic. They’ll also track your site’s effectiveness at attracting new viewers, how many visitors return for more information, how many complete forms or call in, and most importantly: how many convert to customers.
You might be shocked at how many SEO companies don’t provide their clients direct access to their analytics and effectively keep them in the dark about the performance of their SEO program.
Have you been through the SEO company hiring process? If so, would asking these questions have influenced your purchase decision?