The Questions You Should Ask When Investing in SEO For Your Business
As a business owner you want to know exactly what you’re investing in and why before agreeing to parting with your marketing budget. Whether you’re the business owner, marketing manager or and outsourced marketing director, we’ve collated a list of questions you should be asking any prospecting SEO agency before committing to working with them. The below guide will enable you to understand whether the company is a good fit for your business and give you an understand of what your strategy should be.
SEO (aka – Search engine optimisation) is an ever-changing industry where the search engines continue to update the algorithms to provide a better user experience for those making there way across the internet. SEO could once be done quite simply with some basic technical work and backlinks – however this has progressively changed in the last 15 years. There are now over 200 rankings factors to be considered when building an SEO strategy for your business.
1. What is your philosophy when delivering SEO results?
There are 4 main pillars of SEO that need to be considered for an efficient campaign. When questioning a prospecting agency, you should contemplate and consider if they can cover all 4 components.
Technical SEO is the art of limiting and fixing any issues a website has when crawling. The search engine will crawl each website that is indexed, what they are looking to understand is – will this website achieve a good technical experience for our user? Technical SEO will consider the code of the website, site structure, speed that could affect the website. For example, does the website have any broken images or 404 pages?
Off-page seo is all about building authority to the website through off-page factors. What is the link building strategy? Does the agency your prospecting look at your competitors back link profiles? The agency should be looking to build your authority through relevant backlinks – this will support your wider strategy!
UX & CRO
What is the reason 99% of business owners invest in SEO?…. Leads, conversions & return on investment is the most likely answer. Therefore, it is so important that the prospecting agency you’re working on is looking a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation). This will ensure the increase in traffic results in the increase in sales you’re looking for. UX needs to be considered to ensure you are providing a great experience for your website users, while also appeasing search engines that consider UX and ranking factor.
Here at Mr Seo we delivered a 146% increase in conversion rate for a recent customer, read about the strategy here.
Keyword Research & Over-arching strategy
You’d be amazed how many SEO agencies will start an SEO campaign without knowing what the over-arching strategy is.
The questions you need to be asking here;
- What keywords are you going to be targeting?
- Why are we targeting these keywords?
- Who are our competitors for these keywords?
Without this information – you essentially do not have an SEO campaign.
Before we start any technical SEO, we understand what leads we want to achieve and the value they have to the business. We then move onto the keyword research stage and understanding what keywords we need to target.
2. What SEO package do I need?
SEO is NOT a one size fits all service.
Be wary of any agency that has a list of deliverables as
- 1 links
- 2 blogs posts ext.….
SEO is a bespoke service that should be based on the following.
- The authority of your current website
- Your competitors in the market
- What your campaign goals are
That’s why before we quote a customer, we engage in a free consultation call, to understand this information before we put together a SEO package.
3. What Businesses Have You Helped in The Past?
One of the best ways of vetting a potential marketing partner is looking at their recent work.
What clients are they working with and what results have they achieved?
Look out for detailed case studies that showcase the businesses ability to provide a best practise SEO campaign that has proven a success. We would always recommend asking If the review is recent. You can also ask the business if they have worked in a similar niche to your own or have a case study that might be relevant to your business.
If the business can demonstrate a successful SEO campaign within your industry, then this can be a great proof of work.
The second part of this is vetting the reviews of the business to work out their legitimacy. Do they have genuine 5 start reviews and where are they reviews hosted?
We use both Trustpilot & Google reviews for our business and give all partners the opportunity to review our work.
4. How Much Should I Be Investing In SEO?
This is an incredibly important question to ask any agency. As a business owner you need to know the monetary outlay of the work and why it’s this cost.
More importantly, it gives the agency an opportunity to demonstrate how they price their campaigns.
Red Flags to look for;
- One size fits all cost
Green flags to look for;
- Bespoke costing based on competition
- Bespoke deliverables based on current website
Let’s say you know who your competitors are, the prospecting agency should be comparing your website across a range of factors to see where there are gaps within your strategy and what bespoke strategy (and relating costs) your business needs.
If you have fewer referring domains to competitors – then this needs to be considered as a deliverable and when quoting!
5. How Long Will It Take To See Results?
Of course – the question I’ve been asked a million times. The million-dollar question… HOW LONG DOES SEO TAKE?
The answer is, there is no perfect or correct answer here. Agencies can make an educated guess based on the following factors
- Current Website Visibility
- Keywords the suggested campaign is targeting
- The keyword difficulty
- The competition within the market
- Current Authority of the website
- The goal of the campaign
Having the answers to the above questions will give a prospecting company half an idea of the time it can take to generate results.
I believe it’s a bit of a myth that ‘SEO takes a minimum of 12 months to work’, each campaign is completely different.
I know that we’ve managed a campaign and in 4 weeks saw RESULTS. When I say I results, I mean increases! Going from not ranking to 1st in 4 weeks is not achievable.
Any agency that promises 1st page results in a certain time, I would avoid as this is almost impossible to guarantee.
6. How Can I Monitor The Success Of The Campaign?
A good SEO company will no doubt provide you with some form of way to monitor your campaign. 9 times out of 10 this will come in the form of a monthly report.
The report should be bespoke and give you an insight into how the campaign is preforming and provide information about the ROI of the campaign or any specific goals you have discussed with the agency.
The report could include any of the following.
- Traffic Insights
- Keyword Movement
- Local SEO Stats
- Conversion’s stats
- Technical SEO Work
- Any content created
If an agency is suggesting a report less frequently than monthly or do not provide a report – I would see this as a major draw back of making an investment.
Ultimately you need to see what your investment is getting you.
7. What Tools Do You Use?
Unless you were a SEO in a past life or tried to do some DIY SEO yourself, it’s likely you won’t be very familiar with the tool’s agencies use. It’s important to understand what tools the agency you’re looking to work with are using, and why they are using them. How are they benefiting campaign?
Some of the tools that might be mentioned would be;
- Screaming Frog
- Majestic SEO (Not wine)
Each agency will have a different tool set based on how they work with there customers. There is not wrong or right toolset, however, it’s great way to understand how the agency works.
8. How Long Should I Be Doing SEO For?
I often have prospects that arrange a free consultation with me and ask, once I’ve done SEO for 2 months, why do I need to continue doing it?
Unfortunately, SEO isn’t like fixing your bath, it’s not a do it once and then it’s done.
SEO is a marketing discipline that needs to be done naturally over a consistent period to increase the efficiency of a business’s marketing budget.
The goal is that with every month that passes, you continue to increase your ROI and make as much from organic search as possible, while spending the same amount.
Some agencies will look to tie you into a 12-month contract, I would always advise looking for flexibility.
P.S all our contracts are monthly rolling 😉
9. What Do You Need from Us To Complete The Work?
Another thing to look out for when working with an agency is there on-boarding process. It’s key that the agency understand your business and are ASK YOU the right questions.
Have they asked you what products are services generate you the highest ROI? Or which of them are a priority for your business?
If you serve certain locations, I’d expect the agency to ask which location needs the most optimisation from an SEO point of view.
A forward-thinking SEO agency will also ask you for any competitor any direct competitors (They should also be finding your competitors from an SEO point of view, as these can differ). At Mr Seo we look at competitor gap analysis across content, backlink and keyword opportunities to ensure the campaign looks to fill these gaps and increase your market share.
They should also be asking for the following information to enable them to complete the work
- Website or CMS Access
- Access To Google Analytics
- Access To Google Search Console
10. What Changes Will You Make To My Website?
Once the agency has asked for the relevant details to start work on your SEO campaign. It’s then a wise decision to understand what changes are they actual going to make?
You might also want to ask how they track the changes they make?
Each agency will have a different system.
For example, we tend to build out the optimisation of the strategy then implement the basics such as title tags & H1’s.
We then also track keywords prior to our changes so we can report back to the customer on the effectiveness of the initial optimisation.
Your business website is almost like your shop front, when a prospect lands on your website, you have a small amount of time tell them your value proposition. You need to be sure your SEO Agency understand what the business does and who your target market is as it’s key to finding a balance between changes for SEO, and changes that make sense to your business.
For example, you may have spent ages crafting the perfect content for your website only for an SEO to come along a change it to an exact match keyword. Again, the key is to find balance here.
11. How Will You Work with Our Wider Marketing Team?
This is a key question that I often seen left out when I have strategy calls with businesses. It’s so important that there is alignment with both the internal marketing team & your perspective SEO agency.
Are you utilising the skills of both teams?
For example, our clients tend to work with us to create any extra content needed for there website. Why? They know their service & customers better than we will initially.
Secondly, it’s important you are both working towards the same KPI’s and goals. You’ll often hear agency owners say, ‘we’re an extension of your team’ and in honesty, that’s how working with a good SEO agency should be.
SEO is just one part of the digital marketing mix. A good SEO agency will be working with your marketing team or your PPC team to understand how their trends and data can benefit the work they are doing.
12. How Do I Know If I Need Consultancy or a Retainer Model?
There are 2 main types of SEO Services.
Retainer SEO – A monthly SEO package where the agency usually will manage everything from start to finish.
SEO Consultancy – Here the SEO company will build out a strategy and plan for the business to implement or work with the agency through an agency model.
I think this is one of the most important questions to ask yourself, and the agency.
In some cases, a SEO retainer model is simply not needed. For example, if you don’t have a website, then you’ll the SEO consultancy first, rather than an initial retainer model.
If you’ve never done SEO before you might work with a consultancy first to understand what your opportunities are before committing to retainer SEO!
13. How Do You Stay Up To Date With Googles Updates?
SEO is an ever-changing market where the likes of Google & Bing are constantly updating their algorithm. The onus is on prospecting agencies to keep Infront the curve and plan for anticipated updates. This will entail support your campaign to ensure the agency prepares your strategy in line with the updates.
It’s great to ask their opinion on recent updates such as core web vitals, which essentially is algorithm update where Google is focussing more on page experience and user experience rather than their traditional ranking factors.
The ranking factors for the core web vitals update include;
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): how quickly a page loads. The LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): how quickly users can interact with a page. Pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): the visual stability of a page (jumping buttons, etc.). Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
You might want to also ask the agency what tools they are using to prepare for certain algorithm updates!
14. What’s your process once we sign up?
Once you’re happy with the proposal and how the agency has answered your previous questions, you then want to understand the next steps and what the on-boarding process is once your start.
You are also looking to see if the on-boarding process is slick and organised so your team can track progress.
For example, does the company have a communication system where everything is kept in one place?
We personally use a program called Basecamp to ensure all communication is kept in one place, enabling us to efficiently update clients and give the customer an area to raise questions regarding the campaign.
This works particularly well where there are a range of people working on the campaign. This could include a web developer, SEO team, client & PPC team.
15. Why Should We Hire You Over Other Companies?
This question really gives the agency the chance to prove themselves. Why are they different? Why should you want to work with them!?
You don’t need to look for an out of the box answer here, instead it gives the agency a chance to show they’ve listened to your needs are looking to build a bespoke strategy for you.
We price ourselves on optimising for ROI. So if we are working with a business that sells used cars, if that business owners tells me they make 50% more revenue from selling BMW’s, then we will align our campaign to try and hit these targets.
Some companies may also reference case-studies and awards as proof of previous success.
16. How will you define the success of my SEO campaign?
As mentioned previously, SEO is not a one size fits all service.
Each business will have their own goals and strategy. Even if you are direct competitors. There will still be some areas that are unique within your set up.
What you are essentially looking to gauge here Is whether the SEO agency will specifically report on WHAT YOU CONSIDER SUCCESS.
There are some agencies that will just ‘seo your website’ with no strategy – this is a major red flag that you want to avoid.
Ask yourself what success is for your business and relay that to any prospecting agency.
17. How will you adapt our SEO strategy in the long term?
SEO isn’t the type of service where you get it all set up and move onto the next job.
You want to be looking at trends and business data to understand how you can improve your strategy and make your campaign more efficient.
Great SEO companies will appreciate the goal needs to be maximising your budget vs your leads. Are you generating the greatest number of leads, for the minimal amount of marketing spend?
This question will also give you an insight into the strategy the prospecting agency takes once the foundations of the SEO campaign are built.
- Are they looking at building relevant citations?
- Link building?
- Is CRO being considered? (Conversion rate optimisation)
SEO is a fast-moving industry with what worked 5 years ago, now having little affect. It’s important the tactics of an agency you work with is white hat & ethical.
- Who will be my main contact for the campaign?
This question is about managing expectations. This goes both the customer and the agency.
You may have been sold the dream by a particular consultant during the prospecting stage and then passed over to someone who wasn’t aware of this discussion. It’s key to understand who your main contact and the other members of the team who are working on your campaign.
This is the same for the agency, it’s vital they are aware of the important contacts on your side so they’re able to collaborate with your team efficiently.
We hope this has given you great insight into the types of questions you should be asking when looking to invest in SEO & we wish you all success with your campaign.