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4 Must-Ask Questions When Picking an SEO Agency

By Brian Hughes
Business.com / Business Intelligence / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Don't get slapped with a Google penalty or waste your money on ineffective SEO strategy. These are the 4 must-ask questions when hiring SEO.

Need help with SEO? Picking a reputable digital marketing strategist can be a challenge, especially for small businesses that are vulnerable to being exploited by less than scrupulous, fly-by-night organizations.

With tight marketing budgets, it’s all too easy to fall prey to big promises offered by SEO firms: “We guarantee you’ll get on the front page of Google results in one month!” “You’ll rank in the top of local search results.” “More traffic than you know what to do with!” Yikes. Those three statements are huge red flags.

Why? SEO takes time. Period. Guaranteeing page rank, especially in just a month, is virtually impossible to achieve without resulting to shady tactics. These tactics could land you in hot water with Google, long after you SEO consultant has collected your money and disappeared.

I recently sat down with Guy Sheetrit, the CEO and Founder of Over the Top SEO to get his professional insights into the wild world of SEO consulting. His message: don’t fall victim to unscrupulous SEO providers! Sorting through the good, the bad and the downright ugly can be challenging. Before signing a contract with a digital marketing partner, ask these questions:

Related Article:7 Things to Keep In Mind When Choosing an SEO Agency

1. Will I Get an “Error” Report So I Know What’s Wrong?

An SEO error report is a listing prepared by your SEO consultant detailing your website’s current “state of affairs” for SEO. Think of this report as a lay of the land. A professional digital strategist will scan your website for problems and then compile a list of these issues into a comprehensive error report. The best strategists will also include an assessment of where your website stands against the competition. Why? Your website needs to be SEO friendly (easy for search engines to read) and you need a plan for staying ahead of the competition.

“I always recommend starting with a full SEO report to identify problems,” says Guy Shitrit. “You need to know your SEO score, how search engines are viewing your website, and what you need to fix. This report is an important benchmark for future performance. Remember, success is more than just obtaining a high ranking. This report provides a foundation for assessing how you perform compared to the competition, too.”

2. Will You Address Onsite and Offsite Elements?

This is a big one, cautions Guy. “A well-rounded SEO strategy will align onsite and offsite elements in order to maximize success. An AdWords campaign can help drive traffic, but if you don’t fix broken site elements first, you won’t be able to capture and convert this traffic.

Adds Guy: “Anyone who doesn’t work to fix the problems ON a site first and only works off-site is probably not experienced enough and won’t bring you in the conversions and ROI you need. About 97 percent of all the sites I’ve seen need on-page work done to make everything come together and be truly successful.”

Related Article: The Clooney Rule of SEO: 5 Minutes that Could Save You Thousands in SEO

3. How Involved Will You Be in the Day-to-Day Strategy and Execution?

Sure, it may be unrealistic to expect a top-level account manager to execute all the nitty-gritty details of a strategic SEO plan, but the manager should always be aware of what’s happening each day. The project should be handled by an in-house team, not by a “team” that’s halfway across the world and doesn’t truly understand your challenges or needs.

“There are a lot of unscrupulous digital marketing companies out there today who off-shore all the work and do very little work to the degree a smaller business will do for you,” cautions Guy. It’s your hard-earned money. Be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

4. Can You Show Me Examples of Your Previous Work and Share Email Addresses for Referrals? 

“If you hire someone to help you get more business, make sure they take all the time YOU need on a call doing a screen share before you make any decisions to hire them,” says Guy. “Have them show you their results, and if you want referrals with email addresses and/or phone numbers ask for them.” Case studies are great, but at the end of the day, it’s always better to talk to actual satisfied customers about their experience. These customers can provide greater insight into the process and what to expect.

“Before I engage with customers, I recommend they read reviews of our work and reach out to customers to get a better feel for what it’s like to work with us,” says Guy. “I want customers to feel confident and comfortable we’re the right solution. If a consultant is rushing you to make a decision, they don’t respect your time and aren’t the right fit.”

Related Article:My Cheat Sheet: An SEO Manager's Go-To Digital Marketing Tools

Bottom Line

Don’t get slapped with a Google penalty or waste your money on ineffective SEO strategy. Use these questions as a guideline when interviewing potential SEO consultants and, at the end of the day, go with your gut. If someone makes a promise that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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