How can you be sure that the agency you’ve set your sights on is truly worth your investment? Well, it all comes down to asking the right questions. But here’s the catch: if you’re not well-versed in SEO, figuring out which questions to ask can feel like navigating a complex labyrinth. And let’s not forget; you also need to know what answers you should seek.
But fear not because that’s where our team at iMarketing steps in to save the day. We’re a passionate group of SEO enthusiasts with extensive field knowledge. We’ve curated a collection of secret weapons – a list of questions to ask your SEO agency, red flags to look for, and the perfect responses you should seek. In this article, we’ll reveal it all to you.
We’ve carefully handpicked the fifteen most crucial questions that should be on your radar when evaluating an SEO agency or SEO provider. Consider us your trusted companions, guiding you towards a partnership that provides valuable assistance rather than subjecting you to another headache-inducing ordeal.
Remember, these questions are your armour, empowering you to make an informed decision and ensuring a fruitful collaboration with the right SEO agency. So, get ready for the ride as we dive straight into the action!
When Should You Consider Hiring an SEO Company?
How can you tell if it’s time to bring an SEO agency to boost your business? Look out for these telltale signs:
- Dealing with an SEO penaltyIf you find yourself facing the consequences of using unethical SEO tactics to boost your rankings, you may have received an SEO penalty. Penalties can demolish your ranking, diminish your website traffic, and severely impact your profits. The good news is that hiring a knowledgeable SEO company can help reverse these penalties and get your business back on track.
- Witnessing a decline in SEO rankingsThere could be various reasons behind a drop in your website’s rankings. However, if you notice a consistent decline over time or experience a sudden significant drop, it’s a clear sign that something is amiss. Whether you’ve been penalised or your current SEO strategy is failing to deliver results, it’s wise to consider enlisting the services of an SEO agency to analyse and address the issues affecting your site’s performance.
- Invisibility of Google search resultsNothing spells trouble for your website quite like being deindexed by Google. Such an action is typically taken in response to violating Google’s guidelines. If you discover that your site has been deindexed, engaging an SEO company becomes crucial to resolving this predicament.
- Nonexistent or declining organic trafficA well-executed SEO strategy should naturally lead to an increase in organic traffic in Search Engine Results Pages to your website. If you find that your organic traffic is either stagnant or steadily declining, it’s a clear indication that you may need external assistance to revamp your SEO efforts.
In any of these scenarios listed below, seeking the expertise of an SEO agency can prove to be an invaluable solution for your business. Remember, the right agency will help you navigate these challenges, optimise your online presence, and drive meaningful results.
The 15 Questions to Ask SEO Agency Before Hiring Them
What is your ideology of approaching SEO to deliver results?
When it comes to SEO, successful agencies understand the importance of addressing four crucial aspects as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy.
- Technical SEO: Technical SEO focuses on the site structure, speed, and other metrics that can impact your search traffic. During a technical SEO review, a skilled SEO professional ensures that search engines can easily crawl your site and its content. They also address issues like 404 errors and analyse redirects to optimise your website’s technical performance.
- User Experience: User experience (UX) optimisation involves enhancing the content on your digital platforms. During an on-page SEO review, an expert SEO analyst examines user-facing elements of your site, including content quality, navigation, and keyword optimisation. They strive to create a seamless, engaging user experience that aligns with search engine algorithms.
- Content SEO: Content SEO is another crucial component which involves creating high-quality, relevant, and optimised content. An effective SEO agency will research keywords, develop content strategies, and ensure your content aligns with user intent and search engine guidelines. They will focus on crafting compelling headlines, informative articles, and engaging multimedia elements that attract users and search engines.
- Off-Page Efforts: Off-page SEO aims to enhance your SEO presence by earning valuable backlinks, strengthening your brand’s online visibility, and boosting the popularity of your website and content. To execute off-page SEO campaigns effectively, a competent SEO agency seeks opportunities to improve your domain and page authority through high-quality incoming links from reputable sources.
However, it’s important to note that not all SEO agencies operate in the same manner. Some may specialise in only one aspect of SEO, such as link-building, while others might excel at research and strategy but struggle with implementation.
In the modern landscape of SEO, a successful approach requires a holistic strategy and experienced execution. It’s crucial to ensure that the SEO agency you’re evaluating has the capability to address all four key areas (technical, UX, content, and off-page) and demonstrates a clear strategy for effectively balancing them to deliver optimal results.
How will your SEO strategy be tailored to fit our brand, business, industry, or niche?
SEO is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and your SEO partner must understand the importance of customising their approach to meet the unique needs of your industry, business model, and goals. The strategies employed for a local business targeting customers from specific zip codes will differ significantly from those used for a large corporation with a global market.
While having experience in your industry can be advantageous, it’s not necessarily a prerequisite. What truly matters is the SEO agency’s ability to clearly explain how they will adapt their general approach to cater to your niche specifically. It’s essential to ensure the company can identify specific areas where their approach will be modified to align with your requirements.
How Do You Define “Success” in SEO?
Now, this is a bit of a tricky question. While SEO companies may enter the discussion with some general objectives in mind, the definition of success should come from you. No reputable SEO company can guarantee you a spot on the first page of search results, and those who make such promises are likely using unethical tactics. These techniques may generate short-term traffic, but they will eventually lead to penalties, resulting in a significant drop in traffic and rankings.
A trustworthy SEO professional will tailor their strategies to align with your specific goals. If your aim is to increase overall website traffic, they may prioritise activities such as keyword optimisation or content creation. If you’re focused on attracting local customers, they might recommend optimising your local business profiles on the directory and review sites. The success metrics of an SEO agency should be directly tied to your business objectives. Look for companies that ask you this question and seek to understand your goals before formulating their plans.
How long will it take to witness noticeable improvements in your SEO efforts?
Achieving effective SEO results is a process that requires time and patience. However, that doesn’t mean an experienced agency shouldn’t be able to provide you with an estimated timeframe for seeing results. Generally, you can expect to observe positive outcomes from legitimate SEO strategies within approximately six months of initiating the process.
The potential for seeing early results depends on the current state of your website. For instance, if some technical errors or oversights can be addressed and fixed, you may experience some SEO gains within a shorter timeframe. On the other hand, if your website is already well-structured and lacks technical issues, it may take longer for you to witness significant changes.
If an SEO company promises quick results, it’s essential to inquire about the reasoning behind their claims. If they identify technical aspects that require improvement, that’s a good sign. However, it’s wise to be cautious if they can’t provide a valid explanation. They might be employing outdated and spammy techniques that could eventually lead to penalties for your website.
How do you handle the mobile aspect?
In an ideal scenario, mobile should be integral to the overall strategy discussion. It’s crucial to note that Google made a significant announcement last year, indicating their shift towards a mobile-first index. This development has made mobile optimization more vital than ever before. When evaluating SEO agencies, look for those with a systematic approach to conducting a mobile SEO audit for your website. Additionally, ensuring that the SEO agency you choose can effectively communicate why mobile is a critical factor in SEO success is essential.
How Does SEO Fit into Our Broader Marketing Strategy?
For SEO to truly thrive, it must seamlessly integrate with your overall marketing plan. Steer clear of companies that operate in isolation, as the most successful SEO initiatives are intertwined with content marketing. Additionally, leveraging public relations and social media marketing activities can effectively enhance your link-building strategies. A reputable SEO partner will embrace collaboration with your other marketing teams, as well as any necessary teams like web development and sales. They should also have a solid plan in place to seamlessly align their efforts with your existing marketing initiatives. After all, a harmonious approach across all fronts is crucial in achieving optimal results.
How to Approach Keyword Research?
In the past, conducting keyword research simply involved using a keyword research tool to generate a list of relevant keywords and incorporating them strategically into the content. However, the landscape of keyword research has evolved significantly. It now entails a deeper understanding of user intent – deciphering what information users seek when searching a particular keyword phrase – and creating content tailored to that intent.
As you engage with potential SEO companies, it’s essential to ensure that they emphasise user intent and discuss the tools and methodologies they employ to determine keyword intent. If the conversation primarily revolves around search volume and keyword density, they are relying on outdated practices.
What tools do you use?
Understanding the specific tools an SEO company utilises may not be crucial, but it is essential to gauge their ability to explain the reasons behind their tool selection. Reputable SEO professionals employ various tools for audits and tasks, having tested multiple options to identify the most effective ones. Consider asking the following inquiries:
- What tools do you employ for keyword research, and what is the rationale behind their usage?
- How do you monitor rankings, and what is the significance of the chosen method?
- Which crawler do you rely on, and what makes it preferable?
- What tools do you utilise to monitor backlinks, and what advantages do they offer?
- How do you conduct competitor analysis, and what benefits do your chosen tools provide?
Your SEO partner should be capable of articulating why they favour specific tools and how effectively employing them can impact your business—not simply rattling off an extensive list of “great tools.”
How is Progress Reported and What Should You Look for?
Understanding how an SEO agency reports on progress and what that entails is crucial. To get a clear picture:
- Ask them for a sample report they’ve prepared for another client. This will help you assess their method of tracking and reporting progress towards shared goals.
- Since you’ve already discussed your specific objectives, inquire how they would tailor the progress report to align with your unique goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Stay cautious if a company cannot provide detailed information on how they measure and report progress.
The frequency of progress reports from an SEO agency typically depends on the size of your project. Most brands can expect monthly updates. However, larger companies or projects with short-term, specific goals may require more frequent updates on the work being performed. It’s important to note that closely tracking week-to-week progress is often ineffective and can be misleading.
Search engine results fluctuate due to various factors, such as Google testing new algorithm changes or competitors making significant adjustments to their content. SEO is a long-term strategy, and agencies that excessively focus on short-term changes often make hasty decisions that ultimately harm their efforts.
How do you keep up with the latest industry changes and Google updates?
Ideally, you’ll want someone who stays abreast of the information Google shares on its Webmaster Central Blog—the go-to source for updates on optimizing websites for their search algorithms. Even better, you’ll want someone who actively follows reputable industry blogs, engages in SEO forums, and participates in conversations with fellow experts. The crème de la crème of SEO professionals go above and beyond by conducting their own research. They diligently monitor the websites they manage, keeping a keen eye out for any signs of algorithm changes, and meticulously investigate potential shifts in SEO best practices.
What information and collaboration do you require for optimal results?
Reputable SEO agencies will come prepared with a multitude of inquiries and requirements. They’ll need comprehensive details about your target audience, industry, objectives, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure their effectiveness. They’ll seek to understand your utilisation of other digital marketing platforms that may impact your content, if any, such as marketing automation. Access to your Google Analytics will also be necessary. Successful SEO endeavours thrive on collaboration between various teams and organizational leaders. Therefore, agencies that require minimal involvement from you are unlikely to develop an SEO strategy that fosters long-term triumph.
What Backlink Strategy Does Your Agency Employ?
This is a critical aspect where caution is warranted, as several SEO agencies rely heavily on a technique called Private Blog Networks (PBNs) as their primary backlink strategy. If your agency mentions using PBNs, consider it a major red flag. While PBNs may offer a quick and convenient way to accumulate numerous backlinks, they also invite the risk of incurring a penalty from Google.
Google strongly disapproves of PBNs and has become adept at identifying them. For instance, if all your backlinks originate from inactive websites that rarely receive updates, Google will take notice. Moreover, the backlinks acquired through PBNs often lack relevance to your site or appear spammy, making them susceptible to detection by Google’s Penguin algorithm.
Consequently, PBNs provide no long-term value to your website, as any initial gains will vanish once Google catches on. In fact, resorting to PBNs can even result in a manual penalty.
Instead, look for an agency that embraces positive backlink strategies, such as:
- Reverse engineering competitors’ backlinks.
- Leveraging local citations.
- Utilizing Web 2.0 platforms.
- Obtaining relevant forum links.
- Securing branded mention links.
- Exploring digital PR opportunities (if within your budget).
- Engaging in guest blogging.
These approaches focus on building high-quality backlinks that contribute to your site’s organic growth and reputation.
How much experience do you have in this field?
It’s wise to seek out someone who has a solid track record with at least a few years of experience under their belt. The world of SEO is constantly evolving, with Google updates shaking things up. Therefore, it’s important to find an expert who adopts a long-term perspective and stays up to date with the latest techniques, rather than relying on short-term tactics that may become ineffective in just a matter of months.
Have you ever encountered any manual action penalties?
It’s not uncommon for many agencies to have never faced this issue recently, and that’s actually a positive sign. A manual action penalty is usually imposed on SEO practitioners who employ questionable tactics, commonly known as “grey hat” or “black hat” techniques, with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings. However, attempting to manipulate search engines is never a good idea, just like promising guaranteed results from an SEO strategy.
Instead of resorting to manipulation, a reputable SEO agency focuses on making meaningful improvements to a website that benefits and engages its users. Google’s ultimate aim has always been to deliver the best results and user experience to searchers, so an SEO agency’s objective should align with that. By prioritizing the needs of your search visitors, you ultimately contribute to the long-term success of your business.
Can I expect guarantees for achieving page 1 results or increasing traffic?
Beware of any SEO agency that boldly offers guarantees for securing page-one rankings. Why? Well, here’s the truth: Google doesn’t play by SEO’s rules. While there are various strategies that can potentially boost rankings and drive organic search traffic, it’s not an exact science that can be controlled or guaranteed.
Instead of promising unrealistic guarantees, a reputable SEO agency will provide you with evidence of their past results for clients in similar industries. While these results may not directly translate to your own business, they demonstrate that the agency has successfully implemented effective strategies in the past.
6 Red Flags When Hiring an SEO Agency
Identifying a genuine SEO expert can be quite challenging—many claim to possess the necessary skills by throwing around SEO jargon and showcasing an impressive website.
Remember, ranking cannot be guaranteed, and the quality of links matters more than quantity. Directional forecasts regarding rankings, website visits, and conversions differ from promising precise numbers.
Avoid using bait-and-switch tactics, where agencies tout highly regarded or experienced experts without clarifying who will handle your account. Transparency is critical, so ensure you know what to expect and regularly communicate with the designated account lead. Don’t be swayed solely by impressive resumes—ensure the work aligns with your expectations before signing any contracts.
However, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for six warning signs that may indicate a wrong SEO agency.
Number of years in business:
While it’s not a blanket rule, agencies operating for less than two years could raise concerns if you’re considering working with a newly established agency, requesting references from their previous clients and examining their portfolio before proceeding is best.
Missing contact information:
A lack of contact details on their website, Google local listings, and social media accounts could be red flags. These platforms provide social proof through reviews and followers, and their absence may indicate questionable business.
Poor design and inadequate SEO:
Anyone offering assistance with SEO should demonstrate impeccable SEO skills. A poorly designed website could suggest that the agency hastily put it together to take advantage of e-commerce websites seeking quick and inexpensive help.
Cold calling and lack of formal introduction:
Be cautious of agencies prioritising quantity over quality by cold-calling potential clients. A reputable agency should introduce itself properly before initiating contact.
It’s essential to research the SEO experts working at an agency. Obtain their business cards and explore their profiles on LinkedIn to ensure they have prior experience in the field. While a few junior employees are common, be wary if someone claiming to be an “SEO expert” was selling unrelated products not long ago.
Guarantees of performance:
Beware of agencies that make specific performance guarantees. Organic search results are influenced by complex search engine algorithms that are not fully understood by the outside world. While SEO professionals remain optimistic, any agency offering definite rankings or a specific number of new links should raise concerns.
Take the First Step Towards SEO Success With iMarkting
The key to making the right choice is thoroughness. You definitely want to avoid ending up with a shady SEO agency that could leave you in a financial mess. But don’t worry. With the questions we’ve provided, you’ll be confident to ask all the important things when evaluating a potential agency partner.
Just remember, SEO is a long-term investment. So it’s crucial to take the time and make smart decisions. Our curated list of 15 questions is specifically designed to help you weed out any sketchy SEO companies or individuals. It’s like having a secret weapon to protect your business.
Feel free to use as many or as few of these questions as you need to find the good SEO agency before signing any contracts. We know it can be a bit of a hassle, but trust us, a great SEO team can be the game-changer that propels your business to seven figures or more.
When it comes to SEO services in Malaysia, look no further than iMarketing. We’re known for our trustworthy, honest, and ethical approach. Our professional team stays up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. With our SEO specialist, we’re committed to boosting organic traffic and taking your business to new heights. Plus, we make sure your online presence shines brighter than your competitors.
So, let’s ensure you’re equipped with the right questions and find the SEO agency that fits your business perfectly. Together, we’ll unlock incredible growth opportunities!