Choosing an SEO agency or consultant is always a hard task because of the vast amount of self confessed ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ out there, most of whom have no experience whatsoever apart from having read an article or two. If I had a pound from every time established SEO providers have rung me asking me ridiculous questions like ‘How is SEO done exactly?‘ or ‘How do we get our client up the rankings on Google?’ I would be a very rich man.
There’s over 1.8 Million SEO ‘Experts’ on LinkedIn alone yet only a fraction of these will actually know what they are doing and can ultimately increase traffic to your site. So for all of you who are in need of help choosing the right SEO person for the respective campaign here are 27 factors to consider when making the final choice:
1.Check their site for rankings
Please, please do not search for ‘seo agency’ or ‘seo consultant’ on Google and then click on a sponsored ad. I never really understood why most people do this and no matter how much I rattle my brain I still can’t. If you are searching for someone to help you with your SEO, then you should go with a company or individual that actually has proven their search engine optimisation skills already with high organic rankings for their own site. Once you found a few sites that are ranked on the first page of Google for your search terms plug them into SEMRush or SearchMetrics and have a peek at their search traffic for more reassurance on their ability to boost traffic.
2.Ask for past client case studies
Once you have found a set of companies or consultants that are gaining a lot of organic traffic for a wide variety of SEO related terms you should either scan the site for Results gained or ask them directly to send you a list of past client results.
3.What metrics do you use for reporting?
Be very wary of companies that state their main metric for reporting is the number of links built to a site or the Google PageRank of links built to the site or even Google rankings. I and many other SEO consultants are able to generate hundreds of thousands of links to a site overnight however this would do more damage to a site than benefit and most definitely lead to a Google penalty. Rankings are also easily attainable for low competition terms, where number one rankings might not even bring one monthly visitor to a site.
The most important metrics should be focused around ROI (Return on Investment), Revenue, Organic Traffic and in some cases the Majestic TrustFlow of links built.
4.How often will I get a report?
Monthly is the word you should be looking out for.
5.How do you build links?
Content marketing and outreach are terms you want to be hearing. Private network, link trades, blog commenting and forum posting are terms you don’t.
6.Ask them to explain their Seo strategy to you in laymans terms and a few sentences
This question is best asked over the phone and the famous quotes such as ‘we can’t reveal our strategy’ or ‘we know the secrets to crack Google’ should be enough to put you off.
7.What do you know about the latest algorithm updates Google has introduced these past few years?
8.Do you guarantee results?
The answer you should be looking for is No. Any guarantee on results from a potential SEO entity is a lie and you should run. Fast!
9.What tools do you use?
10.Do you practise any grey or black hat SEO techniques?
NO, NO, NO!!! This is what you should be hearing from the other end of the line and a lot of puffing and shouting too. Any shady techniques will always eventually lead to a penalty.
11.How often will we be in contact?
Ideally a service provider and his or her client should be in contact at least once a week. If the reply given is a month or more alarm bells should be ringing in your head.
12.Can you send me an Seo proposal?
Anyone who refuses to send a proposal is just plain ignorant and you should cease communication immediately with them.
For those that do send a proposal through scan the document to see if it is a lazy generic document or if it actually contains areas that are unique to your site or that have actually been analysed. If a SEO provider cannot put the time or work in to the proposal what makes you think they will once you sign?
13.Do I have to sign a contract? How long is the term?
If a SEO Provider pushes you into signing a contract then you should be worried. I have heard many sad tales of clients pushed into 12 to 24 month contracts with nothing more than a week of work spent on the campaign during the whole year or two. This is the main reason why I don’t do contracts and at any time a client of mine can leave if they are not happy with the service I have given them. However there are a few exceptions where an agency might want to bring or allocate someone dedicated to your campaign and thus would need a contract in place. Even in these extreme examples a period of no more than 6 months should be agreed.
14.Google reviews for their name
This is the fun bit. If only I could reveal to you my ‘burn list’ from clients confiding in me about their past SEO horror stories. Even just one bad review should send you running for the hills.
15.What SEO news sites, groups or forums do you visit?
16.Have you ever contributed to a site with an article on SEO or spoke at a conference?
This not really a must have however a SEO expert should have at least once in their life had a guest post published on a major SEO site or spoken at a SEO conference. These are normally good at weeding out those who pretend to know but infact don’t so it should give you a good indication of their knowledge on the subject.
17.Do you do Social Media too?
Social Media Shares are a big part of the Google Algorithm therefore find a provider that actually concentrates on increasing your site’s social shares either through content marketing or blogger outreach.
18.Do you understand technical?
If the answer is no or not really than move on to the next provider. Having a technically sound website is the foundation for every other SEO task to follow. Hiring someone who claims to know SEO without having technical knowledge is like hiring a builder to make you a house on sand.
19.Do you do website development?
In house development is always best and an SEO company or consultant doesn’t necessarily have to have or be a developer. If neither you or the SEO provider have any developers on the team then a budget for this will need to be planned for.
20.Do you have a designer in your team?
Same as above. A designer is crucial for a great content marketing piece however it is not necessarily a deal breaker if there are no designers on either team. In House designing is always best although if that isn’t possible money will need to be set aside for this task.
21.Do you write content or have a content writer?
A good SEO will not write content but instruct on what needs to be written. A great SEO will. Great SEO’s wear many hats, a technical, marketing, analyst and a writing hat all of them big and flamboyant in nature. If you do have a content writer on your team it will always be better done in house however tips on topics, length, internal linking and on site SEO elements are needed.
22.Will any of the links you build to my site be sponsored / paid links?
NO, NO, NO!!! Again this is what you should be hearing from the other end of the line. The more heavy breathing and the louder the shouting, the better.
23.Do you outsource any of your work?
Anything else than no should scare you. Countless SEO providers in the UK and the US are outsourcing at the moment and the quality of work being performed is significantly compromised.
24.Once I agree terms with you, can you send me a timeplan with expected dates of deliverables and tasks?
If you don’t ask you don’t get. Some SEO’s will say they have been ‘working on the SEO’ or on ‘beating Google’ but there is a need for a rough timeplan, list of tasks and corresponding deliverables to make sure that work is actually being done on your site.
Here’s all the above tips in a simple infographic to make things easier to digest: