3 Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring An SEO Agency or Freelancer

By John Morabito

Learn how to choose an SEO Agency and not get the short end of the stick. 3 easy to understand questions to ask any SEO agency.

If your business has a website you probably realize that Google can be one of the biggest revenue drivers out there. When you look at the ROI, search engine optimization can be one of the best investments you can make in your online presence. Just about everyone has had the experience of getting emails offering first page rankings in just weeks, or promises of increased revenue from Google.

The problem is that the industry of SEO has had a less than ethically sound image in the past. To understand why SEO may have gotten a bad reputation, you have to understand what was going on back in the earlier 2000s and even earlier before the Google Penguin Update in 2012. Marketers who understood how to manipulate rankings would do so in order to magically raise client’s rankings with black hat tricks, or cash in on AdSense revenue, and affiliate sales.

This meant if you knew SEO, you could serve businesses small and large from your living room, charging a ton, and then also be practicing your dark arts to make a stream of passive income selling things like weight loss shakes. In essence, SEO was intrinsically tied to get rich quick schemes, and hence bread a following of less than savory people.

An even bigger problem is that this group of people, who in the grand scheme of the profession of SEO is a very small group, gave an entire industry a bad name. It’s not just past history that has business owners skeptical about hiring an SEO agency or freelancer.

The fact is, it's a complicated process that’s easy to fake, or just not do much of anything at all. Additionally, business owners often don’t know the right questions to ask when hiring an SEO to help with their website. Here are list of questions to ask any person you are thinking of hiring to work on your site.

Here are list of questions to ask any person you are thinking of hiring to work on your site.

1. Who is doing the work?

If you’re never on the phone with the person actually doing your SEO, and that person isn't the same person, for the most part, there’s a problem. It's OK to have an account manager, but you should regularly be in contact with the person actually doing the work. Much smaller and more affordable SEO agencies will use outsourcing companies to do the work, and state site you're just on the phone with someone who's job it is to keep you paying. You want to make sure you are regularly meeting with the person optimizing your site.

They should have lots of recommendations for you each month. Look out for SEO companies that don't have you in regular contact with someone doing the work, and companies that outsource overseas.  

2. How do you build links?

Without links, SEO campaigns are slow going. With the right links, your website can rank very quickly, however, the problem is Google has come down on webmasters who are using links to manipulate Google rankings.This means that your links need to come from totally organic, and natural sources.

Basically, you need to be so great at whatever you do that people love to talk about your brand and link to it. Another tip about links is always make sure your SEO tells you what links they are getting, how, and why. When you evaluate the links, first ask "is this somewhere I want my brand to be seen?" then "Do I think anyone would click this and come over to my site to check out what I do?". If you answer "No" to both, those are probably not the kind of links you want. It's as simple as that for business owners to tell the difference between spam, and quality links. Forget page rank, equity and all that, as far as you're concerned, just try to feel good about a "yes" for either of those questions or better yet both.

3. How many keywords will you be tracking?

Many SEO companies will offer SEO packages that track 10-20 keywords for anywhere from $500-$1,500. The problem is that to make 10 keywords rank, you only have to optimize a small portion of a given website. It's all to0 easy to make numbers look great on a small number of low hanging fruit keywords, but make sure you choose an SEO company, agency or freelancer that offers tracking and optimization against a larger set of keywords. 50-100 keywords, even for really small sites is a reasonable number to start with. As you develop content and evolve the keywords tracked should also change.

The number of pages that an SEO company optimizes on your behalf is a great indicator of how much you'll actually get for your money. Any SEO specialist worth paying will optimize any page on your site that makes sense to optimize. If there's potential to bring in more traffic on a given page, at some point through, the campaign they should be optimizing it. Beware of low limits on keywords tracked and pages optimized. You'll regularly see "10 keywords on 5 pages optimized" as a serious offering for SEO starter packages.The fact is that's not going to be enough to justify the investment. 

The perfect keyword portfolio consists of a blend of high conversion potential, and reasonable competition terms. Be sure you and your SEO are selecting keywords that are reasonable for you to rank for, but also are those that will bring you conversions, not just traffic that's related to your industry.

One last tip 

If you don't feel comfortable about their answers, don't be afraid do move on to the next person. Any company worth your money and time will be more than happy to walk you through all of the above and make sure you understand it. Hopefully, these questions will make you feel more confident about choosing an SEO agency to do your optimization. 

 

Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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