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18 Questions to Ask an SEO Company Before Hiring Them

18 Questions to Ask an SEO Company Before Hiring Them

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial for businesses that want to drive relevant organic traffic to their website and improve conversions. However, not all SEO companies are created equal. You need an SEO partner that understands your business goals, has the right processes and expertise to execute campaigns successfully, and can deliver measurable results month-over-month.

Before hiring an SEO company, you should ask several critical questions during the discovery call to determine if they check all the boxes. This guide will provide a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask an SEO company before signing a contract. Let's dive in.

What is Your SEO Process From Start to Finish?

One of the first things you want to understand is the SEO agency's overall process. A solid methodology with clearly defined phases and deliverables at each stage indicates an experienced company.

Here are some follow-up questions about their process:

  • How do you start an engagement? Do they kick things off with a thorough website audit and gap analysis? Or do they make assumptions and start optimising right away?
  • What ongoing optimisations do you perform? Quality SEO requires regularly optimising existing content, fixing technical issues, building links, monitoring rankings, etc.
  • How do you track and report on progress? Are delivered reports customised and actionable? Or just a data dump?

Their answers will reveal if they have a strategic, analytics-driven approach tailored to your specific needs.

What is Your Experience in My Industry?

Ideally, you want to partner with an SEO agency specialising in your particular industry or niche. They will have existing benchmarks, competitive insights, and content frameworks that can be leveraged for your brand.

Some critical questions about their experience include:

  • How familiar are you with our industry dynamics and target audience? Niche experience leads to better campaign optimisation.
  • Have you handled SEO for direct competitors in our space? If yes, find out what results they achieved.
  • Will our account have a dedicated SEO team? Or will you juggle multiple clients?
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An SEO firm with deep industry knowledge can create more impactful campaigns personalised to your customers.

What SEO Tactics Do You Utilise?

Local Seo Vs National Seo Campaign

Not all SEO agencies take the same approach when optimising websites. You want to partner with a company that utilises a diverse blend of the latest tactics – not just a single channel like link building.

Ask them to elaborate on the specific tactics they leverage for clients:

  • On-page optimisation – Keyword targeting, site architecture changes, technical SEO, etc.
  • Content marketing – Blog, videos, tools, resources, etc.
  • Link building – Manual outreach, partnerships, contributor posts, etc.
  • Local SEO – Google My Business, citations, reviews, maps signals, etc.
  • Technical SEO – Site speed, security, crawlability, indexing, etc.

Their response will reveal if they take a holistic approach or focus on one or two areas.

What Are Your SEO Deliverables and Timelines?

It's essential to agree upon clearly defined deliverables upfront so you know what to expect from the partnership. Ask them to outline their typical deliverables across different phases:

Audit & Strategy Phase

  • Week 1: Competitive analysis, technical audit, content gap analysis
  • Week 2: Keyword research, buyer persona development, SEO roadmap

Implementation Phase

  • Month 1: Keyword targeting for ten priority pages
  • Month 2: Optimise site architecture, improve page speed by 30%
  • Month 3: Publish ten new blog posts, build 25 backlinks

well-structured programs indicate an experienced SEO agency with rigorous optimisation standards.

What Tools Do You Use for SEO Campaigns?

Sophisticated SEO software and analytics platforms are essential for maximising results. You want an agency well-versed in utilising top technologies across areas like:

  • Keyword tracking – SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Analytics, etc.
  • Rank tracking – Sensor Tower, Moz, Serpwoo, etc.
  • Technical audits – Google Lighthouse, GTmetrix, WebPageTest, etc.
  • Link analysis – Majestic, Moz Link Explorer, Ahrefs, etc.
  • Content research – Buzzsumo, UberSuggest, Answer the Public
  • Performance analytics – Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, etc.

Their martech stack reveals their technical capabilities and depth of campaign analytics.

Can You Provide Case Studies From Previous Clients?

Rather than taking an agency's word for it, request to see examples of success stories and proven results. Reputable SEO providers will have compelling case studies covering:

  • Client overview – Industry, goals, targets
  • Campaign strategy – Tactics, keywords, and content mapped to buyer's journey stages
  • Results achieved – Increase in organic traffic, lower bounce rates, more conversions
  • Client testimonial – Feedback on working relationship, deliverables, and impact

During vetting, third-party validation of an SEO firm's capabilities through online reviews and client case studies is extremely valuable.

What Are Your SEO Pricing and Billing Models?

The Average Cost Of Seo Services Is 500 Per Month 1
Source: Backlinko

SEO encompasses a broad spectrum – from basic on-page optimisation to comprehensive digital marketing – so agencies offer several pricing options:

  • Hourly Consulting – For ad-hoc optimisation tasks
  • Monthly Retainers – Ongoing optimisation and reporting
  • Project Basis – Fixed fee tied to campaign deliverables
  • Performance Fee – % of revenue attributed to SEO

Understand precisely what is included at each tier based on your budget and needs. Also, clarify upfront:

  • Payment terms – Net 15, Net 30, etc.
  • Billing frequency – Monthly versus quarterly
  • Traffic purchase – If part of the fee covers media buys
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Transparency into pricing and billing models is mandatory.

What Are Your SEO Contract Terms?

You'll want an SEO Master Service Agreement covering scope, deliverables, pricing, cancellation policies, indemnification, and other legal details.

Be sure to ask potential agencies about the following:

  • Typical contract length – 3 months, six months, 12 months?
  • Cancellation policy – 30 days notice? Prorated fees?
  • Intellectual property rights – Who owns content and creatives?
  • Indemnification – Who is liable for trademark issues?
  • Reporting requirements – Frequency, metrics, insights delivered

A detailed SEO contract reassuring both parties indicates an established agency that values the partnership.

What Are Your SEO Team Backgrounds and Certifications?

The capabilities of the SEO professionals executing your campaigns directly impact performance. You want an experienced team with diverse skill sets.

Ask about employee backgrounds across areas like:

  • SEO certifications – Number of staffers with SEMrush, Moz, HubSpot, and other certifications
  • Digital marketing experience – Years focused specifically on SEO versus peripheral skills
  • Ongoing education – Conferences, courses, and events they attend annually

Inquisitive questions around the team reveal their competency, training processes, and skill-building programs.

Do You Offer Any SEO Guarantees?

Video Thumbnail: Seo For Restaurants: Rank #1 On Google For Free (2023)

Some SEO firms may offer guarantees – key performance indicators tied to financial penalties or rewards. Typical examples include:

  • Traffic lift guarantee – 10% increase in organic users by the end of 6 months
  • Rankings guarantee – Top 3 for five target keywords in 9 months
  • Lead conversion guarantee – 100 sales inquiries generated monthly

While guarantees indicate confidence, they aren't always advisable for complex campaigns. Clarify terms like:

  • Qualifying metrics – Unique users, impressions, clicks?
  • Campaign scope covered – Which tactics are tied to guarantees?
  • Refund policies – Cash back versus free months of service

Avoid agencies making outlandish ranking promises without proper context.

What Are Your Customer Support and Communication Policies?

Ongoing communication and access to your account reps is imperative to align efforts and tackle issues quickly.

Good customer service practices include:

  • Single point of contact – Primary account manager
  • Urgent response times – Within a few hours for priority one issues
  • Communication cadence – Weekly calls, monthly reports
  • Needs assessment – Quarterly account reviews
  • Issue escalation – Clear hierarchy for complaints

The right agency partner acts as an extension of your marketing team. Ensure they meet your expectations regarding access, visibility, and relationship nurturing.

Do You Have Any Conflicts of Interest In Our Industry?

In highly competitive niches, you want to safeguard against potential conflicts of interest posing risks, such as:

  • Working with direct competitors simultaneously
  • Reselling your data or campaign intelligence
  • Moving clientele up the priority hierarchy based on size

To dig deeper, inquire about:

  • Non-compete clauses – In force while working with you? What is the scope?
  • Data isolation policies – Access controls across client accounts/campaigns
  • Campaign transparency – Full visibility into link-building outreach lists

Vetting for conflicts early allows decisive action if competitive overlaps arise.

What Differentiates You From Other SEO Agencies?

Google Seo Website Ranking Algorithm

With so many SEO firms vying for business, it's reasonable to ask what uniquely positions the agency you're evaluating.

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Competitive advantages to look for include:

  • Expertise in specific niches – elevation, food service, healthcare, etc.
  • Proprietary software – In-house tools for campaign management
  • Tenured staff – Low turnover rate demonstrating employee satisfaction
  • Unique optimisation strategies could be content syndication networks, localised outreach processes, technical workflows, or authority-building tactics popular in Europe versus the US.

Essentially, you want elements that are hard for competitors to replicate.

Do You Handle Other Aspects of Digital Marketing?

While SEO can be a standalone channel, it often integrates closely with paid advertising and other digital efforts for amplification.

Determine upfront if the agency also offers services like:

  • Pay-per-click ads – Google, Bing, Facebook, Amazon
  • Content creation – Video, podcasts, animation
  • Email marketing – Segmentation, automation, newsletters
  • Social media marketing – Instagram growth, influencer partnerships
  • Public relations

A full-service digital agency can synchronise initiatives across channels for maximum impact.

What Analytics Software Do You Use to Track and Report Results?

Sophisticated analytics are mandatory for monitoring the performance of SEO campaigns, unlocking insights, and showcasing ROI.

Ask specifically which platforms the agency leverages:

  • Google Analytics – Traffic source analysis, goal completions
  • Google Search Console – Indexing status, clicks, impressions
  • Google Tag Manager + Custom Tags – Event tracking
  • SEMrush/Ahrefs – Rankings, keyword tracking
  • HotJar or Google Optimise – Heatmaps, A/B testing
  • Custom Reporting Dashboards – Campaign metrics visualisations

Robust analytics expertise ensures everything runs smoothly performance-wise.

Do You Offer Consulting Services À La Carte?

What Does A Marketing Consultant Do

Some brands want the flexibility to tap specialised SEO services on demand around areas like:

  • Technical site audits
  • Link building sprints
  • Local SEO expansion
  • Schema markup implementation
  • Guest posting

Determine if the agency offers modular consulting around specific capabilities that could complement your in-house efforts.

What Are Your Previous Client Retention and Referral Rates?

Before putting your trust in an agency for the long haul, qualifying retention and referral rates add confidence in their service quality.

Ask directly:

  • What percentage of clients renew service contracts after the first year?
  • What proportion of new business comes from referrals versus marketing?

High retention and referrals indicate satisfied clients and word-of-mouth validation.

Do You Have a Documented SEO Code of Ethics?

With innovations in AI-generated content and Google algorithm shifts SEO squares are at the intersection of marketing innovation and ethics. Responsible agencies should have ethical guiding principles around the following:

  • Original, non-plagiarised content
  • Relevance over manipulation
  • First-party data usage rights
  • Disavowing spammy links
  • Disclosing paid posts
  • Avoiding doorway pages

A robust code of ethics demonstrates long-term thinking over short-term wins.

What Makes Your SEO Culture Unique?

SEO involves a delicate balance of technology and creativity. Beyond skills and processes, you want an agency fueled by passion, transparency, and innovation.

Explore their cultural attributes like:

Vibe checks assessing culture fit ensure shared values beyond business objectives.

Key Takeaways – What to Look For in an SEO Company

When evaluating SEO firms, keep an eye out for these best practice indicators:

  • Specialisation – Deep expertise in your niche
  • Methodology – Documented optimisation roadmaps
  • Scalability – Right team size and bandwidth
  • Technology – Leverage sophisticated analytics
  • Transparency – Ethical standards reassure
  • Results – Compelling metrics and case studies
  • Culture – Shared values build trust
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An SEO partner who checks these boxes can amplify and accelerate your organic growth trajectory.

Conclusion and Next Steps

I hope this comprehensive guide clarifies the key questions to ask when interviewing prospective SEO companies during the partner selection process.

Vetting across all dimensions – expertise, tactics, reporting, contracts, support models, culture, and more – leads to alignment with an agency that becomes an invaluable asset driving sustained channel growth.

The next best steps include the following:

  • Document your unique SEO objectives, targets, and success metrics
  • Shortlist 3-5 vetted agencies aligned to your needs
  • Invite for discovery calls and run through key questions
  • Review proposals and select the fit partner.
  • Map out the campaign roadmap, set targets and kick off!

The ideal SEO agency executes high ROI campaigns quarter after quarter and provides strategic guidance, enabling your brand to capitalise on emerging opportunities. With the exponentially growing influence of organic search, a partnership built on transparency and trust can transform sustainable business growth for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring an SEO Company

How long should an SEO contract term last?

Between 6-12 months initially. The first 3-6 months focus on audits, planning, and launching initiatives before seeing tangible results. Plan to invest at least 12 months for feeder sites or hyper-competitive industries.

How much should SEO services cost monthly?

It varies based on needs, but $1,500-$5,000 per month covers comprehensive retainers at most agencies. Carefully evaluate propositions under $1,000, claiming massive results as too good to be true.

When should I expect my SEO efforts to impact rankings?

Month 4-6, depending on site history.  Consistency reliably improves rankings the most over the years. Manage expectations for new sites or hypercompetitive spaces.

What SEO metrics indicate a successful campaign?

Increased organic traffic, lower bounce rates, more quality leads, and higher conversions. Measure against historic baselines and industry benchmarks.

How can I ensure my SEO agency delivers results?

Tie campaigns to core business KPIs, set realistic milestones, get frequent recaps on initiatives launched and optimisations completed, and review analytic dashboards showing impact. Mutual accountability drives ROI.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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