10 Questions To Ask Before Choosing An SEO Agency

by Edwin Deponte in March 25th, 2021

SEO is one of the basic strategies of digital marketing, so founders and business owners who know they need help often turn to agencies to manage this channel. If correctly done, SEO will set you on the right track to earning more. But if it’s not? This could damage whatever credibility your online presence has established—plus the loss of any money or time you’ve invested.

No one wants any of that to happen because the risk is too high, so it's better to know and validate what you are getting for your digital marketing efforts. 

person using macbook air on brown wooden table

That’s why we’re  sharing ten questions to ask before choosing an SEO agency. Here we go.

1. How much experience do you have?

Yes, SEO basics can be learned by reading articles and watching videos, but nothing beats hands-on experience. 

A knowledgeable and experienced SEO agency knows what they are doing and has the capability to tackle problems head-on, as they have firsthand knowledge of the industry. They can delve into the best practices and recommendations because they have developed an innate ability to assess a situation based on their experiences naturally.

The SEO agency that you are looking at must be able to provide you with samples of their work for some of their previous clients. They can also do present case studies of top search engine positioning and lead generation results in a variety of industries.

2. What is your philosophy of approaching SEO to deliver results?

There are three major facets of SEO, and effective SEO agencies consider each as a component of a comprehensive SEO strategy

types of SEO venn diagram

Here’s an overview of each:

  • Technical SEO: This considers code, website structure, website speed, and other metrics that could affect search traffic. This means that they will assure that search engines can index your website and its content by crawling, 404 errors are reviewed, and analyzed redirects, among other essential technical SEO-related tasks.
  • On-page SEO: This involves the optimization of the content of your website. This involves analyzing the user-facing aspects of your digital property, including content, navigation, and keyword optimization.
  • Off-page SEO: This is about improving your search engine presence by earning links, strengthening your brand online, and enhancing the popularity of your website and its content. Executing an off-page SEO campaign involves searching for high-quality properties to help increase your domain and page authority through incoming links to your website, which is called link building.

Most of the best SEO agencies operate by using all three. Some will only offer one, such as off-page SEO.

3. How will you adapt your strategy to help our brand?

By no means should you think of SEO as a one-size-fits-all solution. An effective SEO strategy for one business may not be the best one for another. An SEO agency as your partner should know how to incorporate the strategy that will fit your goals and business model.

If an agency has experience generating traffic and leads for businesses in your industry, they can easily adapt. This is why sometimes, a smaller agency with experience in SEO campaigns in your niche is better than a more prominent agency with no experience working with businesses like yours. A sector that would benefit from SEO expertise is the online business brands, particularly because they don't have brick-and-mortar locations. The only way to market their products is through online means, and SEO is an effective strategy. Although the best SEO practices don’t vary across industries, an agency with experience working in your niche gives you the confidence to trust them to help your business.

4. How do you measure SEO success?

A good SEO agency will collaborate with your business to work out an outline of your SEO objectives. That makes this a trick question. They can meet general goals, but how they measure the SEO campaign’s success should stem from how you measure success, whether that's conversions, rankings, or some other kind of content analytics. This is about you and your potential SEO partner being on the same page. It’s important that their goals are aligned with yours.

One basic metric an SEO agency should measure is the ranking of your landing pages. They should show your Google Analytics statistics on which pages users visit most because knowing them will help improve your search results rankings.

seo performance in GA screenshot

5. What do you need from us?

As previously stated, this is a partnership between your company and the SEO agency. They can’t do it alone and still get you great results. 

An effective SEO agency will require the things that they need to be successful such as detailed information about your audience, industry, and goals. This is to understand one another better. If they need so little from you, then it’s unlikely that they can build a good SEO strategy for your brand.

6. Do you outsource? And if so, what SEO tasks do you outsource?

There are SEO agencies that outsource parts of the process. Just to clear things, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing; however, it can be tricky. Depending on the credibility of their vendors, outsourcing can make or break any SEO campaign.

SEO agencies usually outsource specific project tasks to save money, both on their side and on the clients. They outsource at least one part of the whole process to reduce expenses. For instance, outsourcing recurring tasks such as creating fresh content and reviewing high-ranking content to maintain its ranking helps cut overhead and lower your SEO campaign cost.

SEO agencies have to pay attention to the work their third-party providers turn over. You, as the client, have to pay attention to the kind of tasks the agency assigns to their third-party vendors.  For example, if an agency outsources a third-party to develop an entire SEO strategy for your campaign, don’t hire them.

That action clearly conveys the message that they can’t form a strategy for a successful campaign. If an agency is incapable of providing you that, there’s no reason for you to hire them.

7. What's your pricing model?

Different agencies have different ways of pricing an SEO campaign. Knowing what pricing model an agency uses helps in comparing with other agencies. Besides that, you can also consider which services will work best for your budget.

SEO agency pricing chart

Average costs from Ahrefs.

It could either be per produced deliverables, achieved results, or monthly retainer. Paying per achieved results is commonly taken by small businesses and startups, as it’s more affordable. The payment period on this pricing model is usually made every quarter or depending on the results they want to achieve and the agency’s progress.

Pricing varies, but this is important: It’s an automatic red flag if an agency charges a one-time fee. SEO isn’t the kind of work that you leave after the initial tasks are carried out. It’s continuous work, so you have to find a more credible pricing structure.

8. How will I know about the progress of my campaign?

Agencies encounter a lot of clients asking about when they will see results. SEO is a long-term project that involves plenty of setup, experimentation, and troubleshooting. That means they can’t give a sure answer when asked about results—but they should be able to tell you about progress regularly.

SEO involves plenty of variables and navigating Google’s ever-changing algorithm. Those two factors make it quite challenging for SEO professionals to forecast how things will go. Some campaigns can take half a year before anything significant happens, while some cases take shorter than that.

How will I know if there’s progress is the more appropriate question to ask an agency. You’ll definitely get an answer to that question in the form of insights into how an agency will be tracking your progress. A monthly report is normally how SEO agencies inform their clients about how their campaign is doing.

SEO agency monthly report example

Example of a monthly report from an SEO agency.

In the monthly report, an agency will be breaking down how your campaign is performing using key performance indicators, or KPIs. If they’re using KPIs, you’ll know that they’re committed to making you comprehend how things are going.

9. How do you go about implementing changes?

SEO has a lot of variables, and most of them change constantly. For instance, if you’re having your brand’s website optimized, there’ll be many changes that come with that process. So you have to know which specific changes an agency can do for you, without you, and how they’ll present their recommendations.

They should provide a clear answer that contains the person who’ll be responsible for the implementation, so you know who you need to talk to. Communication is essential when it comes to making changes to practice transparency. An agency should have its communication lines open and prioritize details in terms of reporting the changes they think would be beneficial to your campaign.

10. What happens if I opt to terminate our contract?

This can be an awkward question to ask, but you should anyway. You never know what’s going to happen.

An agency should provide you with a transparent answer on what will happen if you end your agreement. Ask them if you can keep and use their methodology if you terminate your country because they may have claims on proprietary rights.  This is so you can plan everything out, just in case of an emergency or a sudden, unexpected occurrence outside of your control.

Don’t stop with these questions

These are ten questions necessary to ask an SEO agency before availing of their services. Here's a recap:

  1. How much experience do you have?
  2. What is your philosophy of approaching SEO to deliver results?
  3. How will you adapt your strategy to help our brand?
  4. How do you measure SEO success?
  5. What do you need from us?
  6. Do you outsource? And if so, what SEO tasks do you outsource?
  7. What's your pricing model?
  8. How will I know about the progress of my campaign?
  9. How do you go about implementing changes?
  10. What happens if I opt to terminate our contract?

But it’s always best to have follow-up questions too, in case something comes to mind or an agency answers one of these questions with something that makes you curious. Keep in mind that this is an investment, and as a business owner, you have to know where your money is going and if it will lead to better results.

About the author

Edwin Deponte is a motivational writer who is also passionate about SEO, social media, and digital marketing. He’s frequently invited to company training and seminars like in Carl Ocab Digital Marketing, to give talks about cultivating one’s digital marketing strategies.

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