Eleven Questions to Ask Your SEO Agency Before Hiring

  • You don’t have to be an SEO expert to be able to recognize a great SEO agency. You just have to ask the right questions
  • Beware of agencies that promise instant results. Instead, look for honesty regarding how realistic your goals are and what the agency is capable of.
  • Don’t forget to ask what the SEO agency will need from you. Their answer will tell you a lot about what your partnership will look like.

When you hire an SEO agency, you should feel confident that the team you choose will handle your digital marketing campaigns as if they were their own. So how do you know if that’s what you’re getting? 

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to be able to recognize a great – or not-so-great – agency. You can learn a lot simply by asking the right questions. A good agency will give you honest answers that you can use to make a wise decision about your precious marketing goals (and budget).

Over the years, we’ve given more than enough pitches and answered more than enough questions to know what a productive conversation looks like. Based on that experience, we’ve put together a list of the most important questions to ask when considering hiring a local SEO agency – plus tips on the answers you should be looking for. Check them out below!

Eleven questions to ask Your SEO agency before hiring

1. Are my goals realistic?

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, and a good agency should want to help you succeed on your terms. At the same time, they are the SEO experts, and they should know the difference between ambition and fantasy. You should be able to trust an SEO agency to be honest with you about what’s possible for your site.

Of course, the agency you hire should be supportive, but be wary of a team that simply accepts your goals without asking any clarifying questions or providing context based on their expertise. Ask explicitly whether your goals are realistic and look for an answer that’s cautiously optimistic.

If the agency does push back on your goals, they should have clear, objective, data-driven explanations for why. They should also recommend realistic alternatives. 

You don’t want an agency that is going to cut corners. Blackhat SEO tactics used by unethical agencies can work for a short time but in the end, will leave your online presence and traffic in ruins. Don’t expect overnight results, and don’t believe agencies who say they can give you them. 

2. How long have you been doing this?

There’s no substitute for experience, and the SEO field is no different. Look for an SEO team that’s been in the field for at least a few years and has lessons to show from past wins and losses.

In a tech-centered field like digital marketing, fresh perspectives and young energy can of course come with advantages. But SEO is a long game, so you’ll want to partner with someone who’s been playing for a while. 

There are plenty of agencies out there, and experience means they’ve probably learned a lot of things that don’t work. This is important because SEO is tricky, sometimes you need to make a good deal of mistakes before you get it right. Finding an agency with some decent experience means they’ve probably already made those mistakes and won’t waste your budget on things that don’t work.  

Now remember Google’s only been around for about 25 years, and changes drastically each year.  So don’t expect to find any agencies with 40 years of experience. Unless somehow there are SEO time travelers out there somewhere.   

3. Have you worked with a similar business before?

An SEO agency doesn’t have to have experience in your specific vertical to be successful – but it certainly helps. Ask about campaigns they’ve done for similar businesses or industries to get an idea of how they might approach your marketing projects.

An agency’s previous success in a similar industry can demonstrate the effectiveness of their strategies. They may have encountered and addressed challenges common to your field, allowing them to apply proven solutions rather than experimenting with untested approaches. Their track record in your industry provides reassurance that they can deliver tangible results.

4. How long will it take to see results?

There’s a lot more to this question than meets the eye. Everybody wants results overnight, but if an agency promises they can actually get you instant results, you should see it as a red flag.

As we’ve talked about many times before, SEO is a marathon, not a race. Even the most well-researched, well-executed SEO strategy will likely take three to six months to start really moving the needle. There are certain wins that can be gained more quickly, but that’s the exception, not the rule. A good agency will be honest about this.

5. What’s on the engagement roadmap?

Working with an SEO agency should feel like a partnership. You’ll want to know what that partnership will actually look like. A good agency should have their engagement processes clearly mapped out. Ask the agencies you’re considering to walk you through the steps of your engagement from onboarding and beyond.

6. What will reports look like (and can I see one)?

It’s important to understand how an agency plans to update you on the progress of your campaigns. The best way to do that is to look at a sample report. Ask to see an anonymized client report and have the team walk you through it.

7. What metrics do you track?

Tracking the right metrics is the only way to have an accurate view of how your campaigns are going. After presenting your goals and confirming that they’re realistic, ask what metrics the agency plans to track. Though the response will depend somewhat on your goals and the channels you’re discussing, the agency should at the very least mention rankings, traffic, and conversions.

8. How do you find target keywords?

A good SEO agency should have a solid strategy for finding the right keywords for your content and paid ads to target. Ask them to explain their strategy and any tools they plan to use, such as SEMRush or Ahrefs.

One advantage of paying for an SEO agency is that they typically have access to state-of-the-art technology your company might not have the bandwidth or budget for. If this is the case, a good agency will walk you through their tactics and tools and likely be willing to teach you how they work.

9. How will you improve my rankings?

Just as a local SEO agency should be honest about how realistic your goals are, they should also be honest about their own capabilities. Again, no SEO agency has the power to obtain page 1 results overnight, no matter how much experience or how many great tools they have.

Instead, look for specific explanations of what the agency can and can’t control, and how they plan to approach what they can control. No one can be sure that they will improve your rankings. Run fast from agencies that offer overnight results or #1 rankings on Google. Boosting online presence and search traffic will take time and effort, and your agency should be honest about that. 

10. What parts of SEO do you outsource?

It’s not uncommon for SEO agencies to outsource some work – e.g., hiring trusted freelance writers to produce content. But it’s also natural for you to want as much control over your digital marketing campaigns as possible. As outsourcing SEO and content to overseas companies in particular becomes more and more popular, it’s important for you to understand exactly who will have their hands on your campaigns.

It is also important to know the different parts of SEO: 

  • Technical SEO: is the assessment of your website’s crawlability and content indexation by search engine spiders, addressing issues like 404 errors, duplicate URLs, and missing page titles.
  • Off-page SEO: revolves around the acquisition of inbound links from external websites pointing to your own, building your site’s reputation across the internet. 
  • On-page SEO: involves the optimization of on-site content to target relevant keywords and enhance the overall user experience.
  • Content optimization: focuses on ensuring that all website content, spanning from landing pages to blog posts, is high quality, useful, relevant, and user friendly.

Ask the agency about the services they provide and if they outsource any of them. Some of the most common services provided by an SEO agency are technical and off-page SEO, local SEO, paid search, content development, and social media.

11. What will you need from me?

Again, a good local SEO agency should treat you as a partner. That means trusting your contributions just as much as their own expertise. Ask what you’ll need to bring to the table and when. Digital marketing always works best when it’s a team effort between the SEO experts and the brand experts (you).

Questions your agency should be asking YOU

If you want this professional relationship to work, you shouldn’t be the only one asking all the questions. Just like a romantic relationship is a two-way street, so is your partnership with an agency. Here are some questions you should be hearing during initial conversations with your agency.

What problems are you trying to solve? 

An agency should want to know what problem you’re trying to solve. They should be interested in the issues you might have and be offering the best possible solutions. You’re probably talking to an agency because you haven’t seen growth in areas you’ve been wanting to, or you want to try a new marketing tactic for growing your business. 

What keywords best describe your company?

In SEO, keywords matter a lot. An agency that knows what they’re doing should be asking right away what keywords describe your company and what people usually look for when trying to find you. If you don’t know your keywords, that’s ok! That’s why you’re talking to SEO agencies. But an agency worth their stuff should want to know all the keywords that your customers search for, and how you’d describe your company. 

Who are your top competitors?

Your competition matters. After all, you want to be on top of the search list right? Any agency that’s helping you out should be tracking your competitor’s search rankings as much as they’re tracking yours. 

What are your goals?

An agency should know what you want to accomplish. Remember, SEO isn’t an overnight job, and hitting your goals will take time and effort. But an agency should be a partner to your goals, helping you move towards them and offering strong experience-backed advice to meet them. 

What makes you unique? 

You have a story to tell, a great agency wants to use the tools they have to help you tell that story and ultimately grow your business. Knowing what makes you unique is one of the best ways for an agency to get you ranking above competitors. 

Redefining the agency/client relationship 

The questions in this list are ones that we would expect to hear from prospective clients and would be more than happy to answer. That’s because we’d be proud of our responses, and any agency you hire should feel the same way. If you’re looking for a local SEO agency that values transparency and partnership over profits, reach out today – we can’t wait to talk!

Author avatar
Stephanie Fehrmann
Stephanie was an SEO content writer before transitioning to a management role. As the co-founder and Head of Content at RMG, she oversees everything from the development of content strategies and content creation to day-to-day office operations. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Journalism, and enjoys showing clients the power and versatility of content.
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