5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Agency

After digging through endless search results for an SEO agency, you’ve finally narrowed down your list to a few top choices. Once you start talking with different teams, what do you need to ask them to make sure they’re a good fit?

Are you looking for an agency to supplement your internal teams, or take over the strategy entirely and drive results for your business without your help? Are you looking to improve rankings to grow awareness, or increase the number of qualified leads from organic search? 

To find the right SEO agency partner, start by asking these questions below.

SEO Agency

1. How do you measure SEO success?

Before a potential SEO agency starts to talk about their process or their tactics for improving success, first you need to know how they quantify success? What are the metrics and measures that they use to test strategies and deliver results for clients? 

A smart SEO agency should ask about your business goals. Their SEO goals should align with your business goals, so that all of your extended teams are working towards the same goalposts. More traffic may not be as valuable as qualified leads, for example, and both will require different strategies to execute.  

2. Do you offer any guarantees for page 1 results or traffic? 

Oh, they have a guarantee for results? Be afraid. 

Any SEO agency that promises page one rankings should raise your internal alarms, as Google isn’t in an SEO’s control. There are many strategies that can boost rankings or traffic from organic search, but it’s not an exact science. 

Instead of guarantees, the right SEO agency should show previous results for clients of similar industries. Even though results from one business may not correlate to your own business, it at least shows that some strategies by this agency have worked in the past. 

3. What SEO tactics and strategies do you use? 

After discussing your business goals, it’s time to talk strategy. Ask your potential SEO agency what strategies have worked well in the past, and which ones they may be using on your own business. You could also ask what strategies have stopped working, to see if they’ve been keeping up with the latest SEO trends. 

A good SEO agency should be taking a wide-angle view of your site, optimizing all of your content, improving your user experience, and auditing technical SEO factors. If the agency only talks about keywords and keyword research, they may only be scratching the surface on what needs to be done. Keywords will play a part in an SEO strategy, but should never be the only part of it.

4. Have you faced any manual action penalties? 

Most agencies wouldn’t have had to deal with this recently. It’s not a bad thing if the agency hasn’t experienced one––it may be a good sign. A manual action is likely to happen to SEOs who use “grey hat” or “black hat” techniques that are intended to manipulate Google. Trying to manipulate Google is a bad idea, much like guaranteeing results from an SEO strategy. 

Rather than making changes to manipulate search engines, a quality SEO agency will instead make changes to a website to help or engage the end-user. Google’s goal has always been to deliver the best results and experience to searchers, so an SEO agency’s goal should be the same thing. Helping your search visitors will end up helping your business in the long run. 

5. What is your strategy for growing backlinks?  

Backlinks are important to a good SEO strategy, but they’re also one of the more difficult to execute. Some agencies focus on other areas of SEO where they can have more impact, while others focus their efforts entirely on backlinks. What you need to watch out for is link farms, or purchasing links. 

Google has repeatedly said that purchasing links could lead to a negative impact to SEO, or even a manual action. Reputable SEOs don’t use link farms or buy backlinks, as they tend to be from low-value domains that Google has already flagged as spam or junk domains. Purchasing links for your business site is more likely to get your own site flagged as spam, or reduce the overall trustworthiness of your domain. That’s no way to grow your business. 

Instead, a backlink campaign should be like a PR campaign, focusing on generating traffic from highly relevant websites within your industry. If your target audience is likely to visit that partner website and your own, it makes sense for a backlink to point to your domain, as it helps out the end-user to answer a question or consume your content. 

A good SEO won’t over-focus on backlinks. Google Search Advocate, John Mueller said in 2020 “Links are definitely not the most important SEO factor.” He then added:

I’d forget everything you read about “link juice.” It’s very likely all obsolete, wrong, and/or misleading. Instead, build a website that works well for your users. 

They matter. But they aren’t the most important thing anymore.

Find and Qualify Your Next SEO Agency Partner 

Your next SEO agency partner should be just that, a partner. Your teams may be excited to get SEO off their plates, but they should know that SEO works better when everyone is working towards the same goals. Your new SEO agency will guide your team through discovering new keywords, revising your content strategy, and implementing technical fixes. 

There are many SEO agencies out there, and finding the right one for your business will take time. These questions will help you get started to find the agency that feels more like a partner, connected with the rest of your teams. Together, you can improve rankings, boost traffic, and grow your business organically online.

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Ben Duchesney
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