11 awkward questions you must ask before hiring an SEO company

SEO can be a wide-ranging and confusing field for those not in the know.

It’s an area of marketing that is full of jargon, tech-speak and is constantly changing. Google regularly change their search algorithms, and to stay ahead of the game businesses have to adapt their SEO approach.

For this reason, most businesses hire an SEO firm to do the work for them. It’s best to have some idea of how to find out whether you’re hiring the right company for you. The following 11 questions will find out all you need to know before making this important decision.

1. What SEO services do you provide?

Not all SEO companies offer the same services. Some will only tackle certain tasks and leave the rest to you. For instance, most will offer to produce SEO-enhanced content, but some won’t. Others will only do the off-page stuff such as meta-tags and setting up and monitoring analytics. Find out how their SEO will tie-in to other marketing efforts. There is an increasing number of companies that will offer a full digital marketing service including SEO, content marketing and advertising through Pay-Per-Click (PPC). This can be a good option as all these different areas complement each other, so it can be beneficial to get a joined-up approach.

2. How are you going to increase my traffic?

What you’re looking for here is that the company understands the importance of increasing organic traffic over the long term. Some unscrupulous companies will use shady practices to boost your ranking in the short term. This could result in penalties from Google which is disastrous in the longer term. Ask for a detailed action plan on increasing organic traffic and make sure they understand how important this is.

3. Can you give some examples of successes?

Ask to see their portfolio or any case studies of past or present happy clients. Check Google rankings of their previous clients to make sure that the methods they employ work over the long term. Also, search for the SEO company’s own website. If that isn’t ranking well, that should set the alarm bells ringing.

4. What tools and resources do you use?

At the very least, a good SEO company should be using tools for keyword research and technical software such as site crawlers. They should also be familiar with reporting tools and analytics. Be wary if they rely too heavily on forum scrapers or link building software, these can have legitimate uses, but can also be used for shady practices.

5. How often will you send me reports?

You need to get regular feedback on SEO metrics. It’s important to know how your site is performing and that things are heading in the right direction. If they play down the importance of producing reports, treat this as a red flag. It’s possible they want to hide things from you.

6. What is your link building policy?

Link building done badly can cause you serious damage. If they put lots of backlinks on low-quality sites, your search ranking will suffer. For the best results, you want good links from high authority sites. This will be looked on favourably by Google’s algorithms.

7. Can you keep a log of all changes made to my website?

You need to be able to trust your SEO company, as they will be changing things behind the scenes on your website. If they’re trustworthy, they’ll be happy to keep a log of all changes made and give you access to them or send you regular reports.

8. What results will I get?

If they promise the earth (i.e. first page on Google guaranteed), then run in the opposite direction! No SEO firm worth their salt make promises like that, as nothing in the world of SEO is guaranteed. There are too many uncontrollable factors at play. A modest promise such as an improvement in ranking for some keywords is more believable.

9. What is the cost?

The adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is true in terms of SEO. Very low prices often mean poor service. Anyone can set themselves up as an SEO expert these days, so make sure you do your homework. Some companies charge a fixed price for the project, others per hour and some will charge a monthly fee. All of these are valid payment methods, so don’t be put off. Ask for an estimate for the cost of the whole project if it’s a per hour or monthly fee, to reduce the chances of them dragging out the work.

10. Can you estimate what my Return on Investment (ROI) will be?

SEO from a good, reputable company doesn’t come cheap. So, you need to have an idea of whether it’s going to be worth your while. If they are competent in tracking and analysing their previous projects, they should be able to give you a pretty accurate projection of ROI.

11. What happens if I want to end the contract?

Most SEO companies will want some kind of minimum term for an hourly or monthly contract, usually at least three months. If it’s a fixed price job, many will ask for some of the payment upfront, which is unreturnable. Also ask if there are cancellation fees if you pull out before the minimum term is up. There are times you may want to do cancel, if the company isn’t delivering any results or reports for instance.

These are the basic questions to ask if you want to avoid the major pitfalls when hiring an SEO firm. Of course, you will probably have other questions that are related to your business. Just remember to be assertive, and if you feel that they are trying to hard to get the sale, it often means they aren’t as trustworthy as you would like from a company doing such an important job for you. But there are great companies out there too, so don’t be put off!

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