Partnering with an SEO agency is a great way to scale your SEO efforts and grow your business, but how do you know which agency is right for you? We’ve put together some of the most important questions you should ask an SEO agency (as well as what answers to expect) so that you can determine whether they will be able to follow SEO best practices and help to deliver the results you’re after.
Top questions to ask an SEO agency
What monthly deliverables can we expect from you?
The type of work undertaken each month can change according to the SEO strategy; there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach here so true SEO professionals will be ready to adapt and respond to your website’s performance in line with your goals. That said, you can expect the following deliverables each month:
- On-page SEO and content creation
- Technical and website health checks
- Keyword research, tracking and monitoring
- A performance report
What types of SEO strategies do you typically implement?
SEOs can take different approaches to search engine optimisation but a good SEO agency should be able to share their plan of action for optimising your online presence. It can be a good idea to dig into their case studies to see how they’ve helped other businesses with similar offerings to you as well as their blogs to get a sense of their level of expertise. For example, they should be able to tell you how an ecommerce SEO strategy works for selling products vs. a content marketing strategy for increasing traffic and awareness.
What SEO tools do you use?
SEO specialists should be using a range of tools to track keywords, analyse traffic and to help with reporting on your site performance. Without the help of SEO tools, what insight will they have? Guesswork isn’t going to fly in the realm of SEO. Listen out for tools such as Search Console, Screaming Frog, Semrush, Ahrefs and Majestic SEO to name a few.
How do you approach link building?
Link-building is a tricky strategy to grasp and there are risks associated with getting this wrong. For example, if links are bought or added to sites with poor credibility, you could be penalised or negatively impacted by an algorithm update (losing money along the way). If link building is a priority for you, your SEO agency should be able to tell you how they build links without paying for them. In many cases, this will go hand in hand with content marketing and digital PR.
It’s crucial that you can trust the agency to follow good SEO practices and perform safe content promotion and outreach methods. Good link building will take into account the relevancy of other businesses, naturally built over time and will avoid tactics such as paying for links and commenting/spamming online forums. Find out more about how to build links for SEO safely here.
Do you stay up-to-date on changes in the industry?
It’s important for an SEO agency to be aware of any changes or updates in the industry that could affect your organic search campaigns. You can expect them to say that they read through articles on newsletters (for example, by Search Engine Land or Search Engine Journal), check on the Webmaster Central blog by Google or that they're actively using Twitter and other online forums to engage with SEO professionals. Without keeping themselves informed of any industry changes, they may not be prepared for algorithm updates or understand why there are certain shifts in the rankings.
Which industry sectors do you specialise in?
It’s a good idea to find an SEO agency that specialises in your sector, whether that be travel, B2B, B2C, ecommerce or any other sector, as they’ll already have an understanding of what types of tactics could be successful for your brand’s specific needs.
At the end of the day, a good SEO agency should be able to adapt their strategy to your business’s niche and take a unique approach to ensure that you reach your goals, but if they are claiming to be a specialist in a certain sector, they should be able to back it up with case studies and their general marketing efforts e.g. the events they attend, the blogs they write etc.
How do you conduct keyword research?
Keyword research is at the heart of SEO but how the keywords are chosen can really impact the success of your SEO campaigns. Looking at the ‘monthly search volumes’ of keywords is important, but an SEO agency should look much deeper than this surface level, looking at relevance, user intent and the level of competition for the keywords as well as your website’s own current performance.
This will ensure that the keywords you are targeting are relevant to what searchers will likely be looking for and caters to their position in the marketing funnel. Moreover, if you target keywords which have high levels of competition, you could be wasting your time, effort and money as these will be significantly harder to rank for.
Can you show us some case studies of previous clients you worked with?
They can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Looking through case studies of clients an agency has worked with who offer similar services or products to you is a great way to see what they can do. You could ask for them to walk you through a few examples to highlight how they achieved the final outcome and whether the results continued to grow over time.
If an SEO agency can’t show you any examples of previous projects they’ve worked on, this could be a red flag.
When can we expect to start seeing results?
Unlike PPC which can earn you instant clicks, SEO takes time to see results - but it is invaluable for your business in the long-term. The answer to this question will really depend on how competitive your niche is, but, generally speaking, it can take around three to six months to start seeing results. It will also come down to the health of your site; if there are technical issues that can quickly be fixed, you could see some swift SEO gains.
If an SEO agency claims that they’ll be able to propel your site to the top of the rankings within weeks and guarantees instant traffic and sales, you should rule them out, it’s just not realistic. You could even challenge them and ask how it will be possible but you should be wary of spammy techniques (known as black hat SEO) such as buying backlinks or scraping content from other websites and republishing it which could end up doing more harm than good. Essentially, if the SEO agency sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
How do you measure success and how will you report on progress?
There are numerous ways in which you can measure the success of organic search campaigns, this includes looking at:
- Clicks - this is the number of times users click on your web pages from the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
- Impressions - this is the number of times your web pages appeared on the SERPs.
- Sessions - this represents the number of visits your site had from organic searches.
- Visitors to site - this is the number of unique users who visited your site from organic search.
- Shifts in rankings - this relates to your positioning on the SERPs and where you rank for target keywords.
- Conversions - is your website seeing an increase in conversions from organic traffic?
There are of course more metrics than these to consider (such as geographical factors and time users spend on your pages) but the goal for the SEO agency is to help increase your revenue, not to simply score you high positions on the SERP that may not actually lead to goal completions.
In terms of reporting on progress, you should expect regular communication with the SEO agency and updates on the impact of your organic search campaigns. For example, here at Adido, we provide our clients with monthly reports, highlighting the work completed and any movements in the metrics mentioned above.
How much can we expect this to cost/what is your pricing model?
Of course you need to consider the costs involved with working with the agency so it’s important for them to be transparent with you here. Find out whether you’ll be paying by monthly retainer, work carried out or results achieved so that you can compare this with other agencies. An SEO’s work is never finished, so you should be wary of an SEO agency that asks for a one-time fee. To give you an idea of our costs, our SEO retainers start from £1,650 per month, but this can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the work, the timescale it needs to be delivered, the KPIs & how fast you want to see results and what specifically needs to be included in the strategy. Based on this, retainers can increase to £3k, £5k even £10k per month. All our proposals are bespoke so if you have any questions, please do get in touch.
What will you need from us?
You shouldn’t be the only one asking questions, an effective SEO agency should be asking you for information about your business too. It’s likely that the agency will require information regarding your audience, the industry you’re in, KPIs and your goals so that they can get a better understanding of what it is you want to achieve and how they can form an appropriate strategy. You will also need to provide them with access to your Google Analytics account and Search Console so that they can measure the progress of your SEO campaigns.
So, there’s some of the top questions for you to ask an SEO agency to help you to determine whether they will make the best extension of your team. Partnering with the right agency is essential for your success but remember that great results take time - so don’t fall for any agencies promising you the Earth!