- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
We love questions!
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!