There’s no doubt that SEO can be a bit baffling at times, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology. Even if you consider yourself reasonably search savvy, the demands of your business may leave you with little to no time to develop and implement an optimisation strategy. Using an SEO agency is the ideal solution for companies who need a helping hand, but with so many to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming trying to find the right one for you. Here are 10 questions you should consider asking when you’re deciding on a new search agency:
#1 Who are your clients?
Ask to see a list of past and present clients, including any testimonials or case studies. This will give you a great idea of the kind of work that the agency has carried out in the past, and which sectors they have specialised in. It’s also a good idea to ask how long the agency have been operating so you can get a better idea of their experience and expertise. You may also want to ask about their client retention rate, as a long list of past clients isn’t necessarily an indication that they were all happy ones.
#2 What are your SEO tactics?
You should always ask a potential agency how they plan to improve your SEO. What is their approach to link building, outreach etc. and what is their time frame? If they don’t have a clear cut strategy from the start, it’s unlikely you’re going to get very far with them.
You should also ask them to name some tools they will be using, so you can be sure the process will be as efficient as possible. SEO tools are common practice across the industry, so if they don’t use any, it’s likely they’re going to be doing things manually, which will, at best, slow down the process on your account, and, at worst, lead to inaccurate data. However, while tools are an essential part of an SEO agency’s kit, they should know when, and when not, to use them. Tools are fantastic for estimating the success of potential plans, measuring competition and monitoring target audiences, but tools used to automatically build links, produce content and outreach will produce really low quality results, so you should avoid an agency employing the latter tactic at all costs.
The best way to determine whether your agency is credible or not is to educate yourself about SEO. Learn the difference between black hat and white hat SEO and make sure your agency only employs ethical tactics for long term gains, rather than quick fixes for short term results, which may damage your website’s reputation down the line.
#3 Do you offer any guarantees?
While we all like the idea of guarantees in life, unfortunately SEO is one area where there aren’t any. Although a good SEO agency will work with you to continually monitor and adapt your campaign in order to get the best possible results for you, it’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty the outcome of any aspect of SEO. Agencies can help you with what is likely to work, based on their expertise and experience, but given that Google is continually updating its algorithms, any agency offering a guarantee on rankings and resulting traffic is offering false hope and making an unrealistic promise.
#4 Do you operate locally or globally?
SEO agencies will tend to focus on different areas, so you need to make sure you find the agency which will be most helpful for your business. If you only operate a handful of shops in Birmingham for example, it would be pointless to appoint an agency who prioritise global SEO over local. Reputable agencies will have built up relevant and authoritative contacts within their operational area, so they should be able to use this influence to add value to your brand and your target audience.
#5 How will you communicate with us?
Communication is key in all areas of business, and without it progress is almost impossible. Ask the agency what their preferred method of contact is, be it email, phone or Skype, and establish a common ground that works for both of you. Find out how involved you will be with day-to-day decision making, how much control they’ll have over your website, and how you will be kept updated with progress on your account. Preferably you should be involved as much as you possibly can, afterall this is your brand, and your knowledge of it is valuable.
#6 How do you measure success?
Success can be very subjective, so it’s important that you and your agency agree on what this means in terms of SEO. An agency that is only fixated on improving rankings is looking at SEO in a very literal sense. If your rankings and traffic increase, but your conversions don’t, then you are not getting a return on your investment. Rankings for the sake of rankings are not enough for a successful campaign. Good SEO agencies will be able to see the bigger picture and the implications for your business, and measure their success on this basis.
#7 How have you dealt with previous failings?
Just as no business is infallible, no agency has a 100% success track record. They may have had a small failing, or a large one, but unless they’re just starting out, they’ll have some ups and downs under their belt. Ask them about difficulties they have experienced in previous projects and how these were resolved. Have they ever lost an account? If so why was this and what did they learn from the experience? Failure in itself is not a recipe for future disaster, but refusing to learn from past mistakes is. Most agencies will have had some experience of dealing with a Google penalty, if this is the case with your agency, ask them how they resolved this to rebuild the client’s SEO and how they will work to avoid them in future.
#8 Who will be working on our account?
Just because your potential agency is well established doesn’t mean your account manager will be. Make a point of asking who will be running your day-to-day projects, and find out more about their background and experience. As SEO is constantly evolving, you’ll need your SEO team to be continually learning in order to keep up. Make sure your agency has a thorough training policy in place, and ask how they keep their team up to date on the frequent changes within the industry. Ideally there should be multiple people involved with your account management, all with their own area of expertise. At Ricemedia up to 8 people work on each of our client projects.
#9 How can you develop our content?
Content now forms a very important part of SEO, and any reputable agency will be able to offer suggestions for improvements or additions to your website content, as well as other content marketing initiatives to enhance your campaign.
Content development doesn’t have to be complicated but it is time consuming, and so your agency may use freelancers to complete this work. Ascertain whether your agency has an inhouse content team or whether they outsource this work, and if they use freelancers find out the experience and skill level of those involved. Ask to see examples of the kind of content the agency has produced in the past, and make sure you will be involved in the decision making process throughout any such initiatives.
#10 Why do you want to work with us?
It’s a simple enough question but it really comes down to what the agency can offer your business. Do they have prior experience of your sector, and if not how can they gain an insight into it in order to enhance your SEO? What do they like about your brand and why do they think they have the potential to improve your optimisation? Any strategy they offer should be tailored to you and your unique position in the marketplace. Don’t settle for a formulaic answer, reputable search agencies don’t have a ‘one size fits all policy’ for SEO.
What Ricemedia can offer your business
At Ricemedia we know that choosing a new search agency can be a difficult process, but we’re happy to talk to you, in confidence, about your aims and ambitions for your business in order to formulate a bespoke strategy that’s tailored to your needs. We offer a wide range of services including organic SEO, content marketing, competitor analysis, and site health services, so please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.