What to Ask When Choosing an SEO Company
7 Minute Read
Fundamentally, the basis of search engine optimization is feeding Google a high quantity of information about your business. When the bots crawl your website and other pillars of your online presence, they will be able to verify that the information you provide is accurate. Businesses with verified information are viewed as trustworthy, which in turn makes it more likely for your brand to show up high in search rankings.
This simple description of search engine optimization belies the complexity of these strategies. Furthermore, some agencies oversimplify the process in order to sucker in more clients.
Reputable businesses advise any client to do their research. The problem is that SEO, marketing, and advertising are dynamic fields where researching your options tend to make the buying decision more difficult, not less.
In order to overcome this, we have developed a series of simple but powerful questions to help you vet your next SEO company. You can even try them out on us!
What kind of website do you offer?
The best answer to this question should focus on what the website does for your business, rather than the many features beneath the hood. For SEO and every element of your marketing, your website should be the hardest worker in your organization.
Search marketing success comes from the work the agency performs, not a single product.
- Most business owners – and, by extension, their customers – want to know that the website is secure.
- They expect it to load quickly, whether they are on a phone, desktop computer, or tablet.
- And, when all is said and done, you want a website that looks and feels different from the competitors in your industry.
Each of these keys affects SEO on and off of your website. Generally, companies that promote out-of-the-box website themes with low, low prices are sacrificing optimization for a bargain-basement product. In fact, pre-built templates may contain unnecessary plugins that can slow down and adversely impact the security of your website.
On the other extreme, pricey SEO agencies emphasize how customizable their products (re: the websites they develop) are. This may be great from a branding standpoint, but the problem arises once again of labor-intensive themes and excessive or unnecessary plugins.
When you’re shopping for an SEO company and web developer, nail them down on the speed, security, and user experience. Other features pale in comparison when it comes to optimizing your website.
How will you optimize my website?
In the past, ranking on the first page of results for a massive list of keywords was the pinnacle of successful SEO. Achieving this was contingent on mastering just a few rudimentary tactics: write one page for every keyword you want to target, stuff the content with exact matches of the target keyword, and build a backlink profile that prioritizes quantity over quality.
Today, these tactics are completely ineffective. The agency you hire should perform ongoing optimization, adjusting the keywords you target to take advantage of consumer interest in your products and services.
In addition, optimization should include both on-site and off-site tactics. Website and off-site content should be informative, shareable, and – in order to help with SEO – worthy of being linked to by the authorities and influencers your customers follow.
When you interview potential SEO companies, look for the agencies that communicate with you in real human terms. Instead of buzzwords, they should describe the actual steps they take, the average time for campaigns to start showing results, and the outcome clients generally attain.
What is included in your SEO package?
Beware any agency that presents SEO as something done once and then forgotten. Google algorithm updates and other factors make a static website a liability for any business trying to be found online by customers.
The agency should also have a standard protocol for optimization, rather than waiting on you for direction. To be clear: Any team members should welcome your input on how to present your business. However, if you have to prod the agency every month so the SEO team members know how to proceed, that’s a red flag.
In addition to planning and executing search marketing strategies, analytics and reporting are crucial in any SEO package. Transparency is key: The report should be easy-to-read, offer useful insights, and demonstrate the agency’s expertise. Fundamentally, the reports you see are an opportunity to confirm that you are getting what you pay for when it comes to SEO.
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Do you create original content?
Quality content is one of the keys to standing out in organic search results. Search engines reward websites that provide authoritative information. This is what searchers expect as well when they type in a search phrase or ask their phone a question.
In addition to presenting you as a trustworthy source of information, your content needs to demonstrate your ongoing expertise through frequent and relevant updates. You may have dominated the search results years ago, but if you didn’t update the content to address your customers’ needs along the way, you’ve probably seen your rankings decline.
If your SEO company is not delivering unique and authoritative content on a regular basis, you should really question what you are paying for. SEO is all about answering the user’s search query. The only way to do that is with original, optimized content that consistently improves the value of your website.
What SEO metrics are most important?
The answer to this question is ultimately tied to your overarching business goals. However, there are some preliminary metrics that are important to all campaigns.
First and foremost is keyword rankings. When you invest in SEO, you should know where you stand for valuable terms that bring users to your website. Tools like SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs, and many others are available for purchase, but the learning curve is steep for non-search marketers.
When you’re in preliminary talks with an agency, the rep should be able to discuss the tools the team uses and some high-level insights, but be cautious if they dive into detailed stats right away. This may signal that the agency values numbers over connecting with clients’ business goals.
Google platforms such as Analytics and Search Console are key to measuring the effectiveness of SEO. In Google Search Console you can see the clicks your website gets for various search terms (not just the ones tracked in your keyword list). By leveraging Search Console data, your agency can optimize your website for previously unknown ranking opportunities.
Some of the most important metrics for SEO in Google Analytics include:
- Avg. time on page: Google Analytics shares how long users stay on a particular page.
- Bounce rate: Another Analytics metric, bounce rate reflects the frequency with which visitors access a particular page on your site and leave from that same page.
- Landing pages: Tracks the page on which users arrive on the site. This can be further refined by source to find out how frequently visitors come to a particular page from search results.
- Goal completions: Goals are a way to track the success of your website in generating leads. Combined with the Behavior Flow report, you can see how users proceed through your website, and where they end the journey by filling out an online contact form or taking some other action. Ultimately, effective SEO reflects the structure of the entire website. If users can move through the site easily, so can search engine crawlers, which is beneficial for helping Google see all of your content and identify the best pages to rank.
Google Analytics, Search Console, and other platforms are free to use but require setup and time to compile data before you start seeing useful trends. You can access additional details like demographic information for the visitors to your website, geo locations, and more, but the knowledge barrier to get there is often high for business owners who simply want to spotcheck their audience.
So, while understanding the metrics the agency uses to gauge success is important, you are actually looking for two key attitudes in the response:
- Knowledge of the products involved, including Google platforms and other tools that track SEO results
- An eagerness to share relevant insights without burying you in data.
Skilled SEO marketers know that most business owners are focused on just a few key details. Internally they might review a significant amount of data to get a full picture of your campaign success, but they know how to build reports and conversations around transparent high-level information that you need to know.
How are you different from other SEO companies?
As you ask this question, consistency is the key to separating answers that provide actual value from the answers that are pure puffery. If the agency principally advertises a flat fee for service, talking about customizing the work to your business should seem disingenuous.
Most business owners want at least some customization when it comes to their website and marketing. Unfortunately, inexperienced salespeople tend to stonewall in discussions of price if the company brand emphasizes customization.
SEO companies that stand apart should be able to provide an educated estimate for what you might pay each month, as well as what you get in return. For agency and client alike, there is an element of uncertainty in this arrangement.
However, during the sales process, the custom agency should have focused on earning the prospect’s trust. As the conversation progressed, this “leap of faith” on the exact price should be a non-issue compared to the excitement the new client feels about what the new SEO company can accomplish for his/her business.
Find Out Why Twelve Three Media Is a Different Kind of SEO Company
Our agency puts best practices at the forefront of the SEO strategy we implement for every client. This requires us to stay nimble not only with the way we do our work, but what we report to clients.
That is why transparency in reporting is so important to us. As we try new things, we consider it our duty to keep clients informed, work with them to assess the impact of campaigns on their business, and make adjustments to drive success.
Want to know what is hurting your SEO right now, and how to fix it? Contact us right now for a free, no obligation report!