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James Challis

10 Questions To Ask Before Using An SEO Agency

5th Aug 2014 SEO | 11 Comments


SEO - Search Engine Optimisation in Word Cloud

Hiring an SEO Agency can be a difficult task, with many conflicting opinions and agency’s offering guarantees and quick solutions. Consequently, we’ve decided to look at the ten most important questions to help you separate the good from the bad and find out if a particular SEO Agency is right for you.

Here’s what you’ll want to know from your prospective agency:

1. Do They Know The Different Algorithm Updates? 

It’s important that your agency is prepared for the future and isn’t using a tactic that will damage the site in the long term. Their knowledge of these Algorithm updates should be comprehensive and any expert should at least be able to inform you that Panda affects thin and poor quality content, whilst Penguin updates impact sites with unnatural or paid links.

2. Are They Prepared For Algorithmic and Manual Penalties?

Recovery from an algorithmic or manual penalty has become a major part of Search Engine Optimisation so it’s important to understand how to prevent or recover as quickly as possible. These penalties are given to both small and multi-national websites and often cause a huge loss in Organic search traffic to the site. Ask the agency how they would recover from a penalty making sure that they include information regarding backlink analysis, link removal and disavows in their answer.

Tip: As part of the long term recovery plan for a site, if they fail to explain a strategy to increase the number of natural high quality links, they may be worth avoiding.

3. What Metrics Do They Use To Measure A Successful Campaign?

The old days of SEO used to focus heavily on where you ranked for a particular keyword, but things have changed. Personalised results for users of a search engine means that anyone’s search results can differ slightly. It may also be the case that your desired term may not be as relevant as you once thought.

Keyword rankings are still important as key performance indicators, but an agency should be focusing on improving your conversions and goals through your site such as completed contact forms, brochure downloads, newsletter sign-ups and completed checkouts for e-commerce sites. For websites with a goal that is difficult to define, an agency should be able to provide meaningful targets such as measuring the average time on site for users and bounce rates of key pages.

4. Are They Guaranteeing A Page One Ranking For A Keyword?

If an agency guarantees anything to do with rankings, walk away at a running pace. There are no certainties with search engine rankings and it is never the best tactic to target one particular keyword.

If the agency provides a money back guarantee, they will be desperate to get their money at all costs and may achieve this through building thousands of poor quality links aimed at your site to achieve a page one ranking for a day or week, which will quickly result in a site with a manual spam action penalty, ranking lower than before. Avoid this at all costs.

Money Back Guarantee

5. What Work Would They Normally Undertake And How Often?

Establish what the agency will do during an average retainer. Some agencies specialise purely on site promotion and do not cover technical or on-page issues that affect the site. Listen out for these important areas and decide if it’s what you need:

  • Technical SEO Review – Site structure, duplication issues, crawl ability, site errors
  • On Page Optimisation – Meta, page titles, content structure & quality, structured data
  • Link Analysis – Risk reduction from external links, link removals, disavows, link updates
  • Competitor Analysis – Understanding your rivals, learning online strengths & weaknesses
  • Site & Content Promotion – Outreach, PR, social

6. How Do They Charge For Content Marketing And How Do They Track Success?

Producing regular content is excellent, but if it is poor quality then the site will see little benefit. As content and SEO are so closely linked, it’s probable that the agency will be able to produce content as well. A big indicator to the quality of the content is the pricing structure, if content is charged per word or 100 words, what incentive would an agency have to produce quality, shareable content that would genuinely benefit the site?

Also check to see if any metrics are being tracked for the content such as social shares or additional traffic that comes as a result of the content being produced.

7. How Satisfied Are Their Clients And What Is Their Client Retention Rate?

A simple but important question, how happy are the clients of that agency? Does the agency have a strong client retention rate and can they produce any evidence to back up their claims. If the customers are happy, it’s probably a safe bet that the agency is achieving what the client was expecting.

Client Satisfaction

8. Are They Well Known In The Industry? Do They Speak At Conferences?

Quality marketing agencies will have employees who have spoken at popular industry events and this is something that can be easily verified. The reason this is important is because it gives a clear indication that the agency has knowledgeable employees, that they are using legitimate techniques to help clients, and are known in the industry.

9. What Is Their Strategy For The Website?

They may not be able to produce a complete on the spot strategy for your site, but they should be able to provide some insight into what they would do on your site to help achieve your aims and objectives. For instance there will be a huge difference in the strategy based on whether it is a:

  • Local, national or multinational websites
  • Smaller site or large site
  • Industry Type
  • B2C or B2B

Will the priorities be?

  • Link Risk Management or increasing good quality links
  • Managing internal duplication / multilingual control
  • Technical improvements or site promotion

10. Will They Implement The Changes On Site Or Do I Need To Do This?

It’s important to know if your SEO agency is going to make the changes on your behalf or whether you need to do them yourself. Some changes will require both parties to be involved to make major changes to the site, however it’s important to know whether you would need a web developer in house to make the necessary changes.

Whether you’d like to know Koozai’s answers to these questions, or you have another question to ask, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get in touch today.

Image Credits:

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation in Word Cloud via BigStock

Money Back Guaranteed Gold Badge via BigStock

Client Satisfaction Survey via BigStock

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About the author

James Challis

James Challis has experience in Digital Marketing for the Construction, E-Retail and Event Industries backed up by a degree in Business and Marketing. James provides Digital Marketing expertise underpinned by traditional marketing principles.

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