One thing for sure in the wonderful world of SEO is things are ever-changing; each algorithm update results in a cacophony of tweets, blog posts, and think pieces on how an organization should or should not react.
SEO has changed at such lightning speed and long gone are the days where a simple keyword report and a backlink acquisition plan would do the trick. Modern SEO is a complex, dynamic, and critical aspect of an organization’s digital marketing plan.
Marketing teams are often short-staffed and bogged down with multiple responsibilities. Developing and implementing and executing a successful SEO strategy just isn’t at the top of a busy, overworked CMO’s list of things to do.
Eventually, the question of building an in-house SEO team or hiring an SEO agency comes to the table. When that happens, there are some questions you need to ask before hiring an SEO agency.
Before we get to the questions, let’s quickly lay out how a full-service SEO agency can help an organization. SEO agencies help organizations grow their organic traffic, improve search engine result rankings, support, and drive lead generation and revenue growth campaigns. Some agencies also offer Content Marketing services, which include content development and promotion.
Now that we have that laid out let’s get to the questions:
1. How Long Until We See Results?
The speed in which you will see results ultimately depends on a variety of factors including:
- Your goals and KPIs
- The services you need
- The efficiency of your internal team
The answer to this question will tell you so much about an agency; results usually develop around 6 months; sometimes some quick hits will result in slight upticks.
At iPullRank, we like to get started with a comprehensive SEO Site Audit, which includes a list of recommendations. We prioritize each recommendation based on ease, readiness, and impactfulness to help our clients better understand how to prioritize specific needs best. Additionally, the SEO Site Audit serves as a baseline we can refer back to over the course of the engagement to monitor, track and report results.
2. How Will SEO Impact Other Marketing Channels?
A well-thought-out SEO plan will take into consideration all other Marketing Channels and if executed properly the implemented SEO strategies should impact all marketing efforts. Especially on the technical side, in-depth research and analysis will yield findings, identify key changes to be made, and help prioritize how to best leverage other channels.
3. How Do You Approach Keyword Research?
How an agency approaches keyword research is a telling sign for the level of effort and strategic nature you can expect in all other deliverables. Anyone can pull a list of keywords from SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs, but top-notch agencies will take the extra step and show why they are worth it to your company.
Showing how each keyword relates to your target audience personas is a good sign that you’re getting real value out of the keyword research. Going a step further to show the grouping of keywords and how they relate to audience need states should perk your ears up. In short, the more value that an agency can provide with keyword research, the better future deliverables will be.
4. What is Your Approach to Link Building?
The answer to this question is one of the best ways to identify how up to speed an agency is with current SEO practices. For years, agencies would create what’s known as a link farm to gain more links. Leveraging link farms has been penalized by Google for years, as has the practice of buying links.
Quality link building takes a lot of time and energy through manual outreach, guest blogging, and creating valuable content. Agencies might not come out and explicitly say they buy links for their clients, but if they don’t show their methodology for link building outreach, it should be a major red flag.
5. How Do You Adapt to Algorithm Updates?
Google continuously makes updates to their algorithm to ensure they are providing the best possible results for their users, and the actions an agency takes when an update is rolled out shows how they approach strategies in general. Be sure to ask them:
- Do you consider yourselves to be proactive or reactive to algorithm updates?
- How long do you wait after an update before making significant changes to your strategy?
- How have you helped clients recover from issues that have arisen due to algorithm updates in the past?
The first question will show how much time is put into understanding what Google is trying to do and putting together an idea of how they expect Google to make updates to achieve their goal.
The second question will test their SEO experience. When a major update is rolled out, do they instinctively move too quickly before understanding that it might merely be a test, or do they stay the course to get an understanding of why the update was made?
The final question will test their experience in the past to see how they have helped past clients recover from issues that are now well-known in the SEO community.
6. So Do You Have Case Studies or Testimonials?
Any established agency that has seen great success will be able to provide you with all the information you need to make your decision. Case studies are one of the first things you should request, especially case studies related to the services you need.
You can also request to speak with their current, past, or clients to get a sense of how campaigns were managed. Some clients may not be able to do this due to company policies, but if the agency has succeeded in some capacity in the past, you should be able to get some testimonials.
7. What Sets Your Agency Apart?
Now, this is the moment for your prospective agency partner to turn on the razzle-dazzle and share what makes them different from other agencies. For example, iPullRank is a team of highly creative, curious, driven digital marketing professionals. We develop and execute impressive SEO campaigns/strategies based on extensive professional experience and a commitment to the maintenance of up to date industry knowledge and trends. Clients come to and stay with us because we are excited about SEO and are consistently seeking out ways to outperform our client’s expectations/goals.
Asking even these seven questions should provide you with more than enough information to narrow down your choices and select the best agency to work with,solicit proposals/ideas, and help you address your organization’s SEO needs.
Your agency’s role is to help advance your organizational goals, so properly vetting potential business partners could save you time and trouble in the long run.
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