The online marketing and SEO industry is a highly competitive arena. Businesses from all niches vie for the top spot to place their products and services before a target audience doing search.
With their techno savvy, competitors could easily swallow you up.
If you’re running a business that operates only online, you need to master effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Time is probably not on your side, especially if you don’t have the necessary resources to run a team of Internet marketing specialists. If that’s the case, you would probably benefit from professional SEO services.
Hiring an SEO agency will save you time and money, and will ensure you compete well in the cutthroat world of digital marketing.
This is definitely a time to proceed with caution, however. Plenty of entities out there claim to be “experts in the field” of digital marketing or SEO. With hundreds of SEO companies on the market, how do you choose the right one?
To simplify your search for the right SEO service, you need to ask the right questions. That will enable you to zero in on the company that can help you achieve your marketing goals — without bogging you down in the details and possibly breaking the bank.
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But first: What is SEO?
SEO is the process of improving the online visibility of a website in a search engine’s organic section. It costs nothing to get listed, but to get to the top requires a thorough understanding of the process.
SEO requires significant chunks of time and consistent labor to achieve first-page ranking on Google. With the rise of Social SEO — the inclusion of Social Media Signals in SEO calculations — there’s even more work to do now, just to be able to compete in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing.
Can companies simply ignore SEO? Certainly not!
Tests have shown that users pretty much depend only on the information that appears on the first page of Google and Bing searches. The rest usually go unregarded.
So if web searchers don’t see you on Google’s first page, they’ll go to your competitors instead. That’s why you need to hire the right SEO company.
Let’s look at some of the key questions you need to ask an SEO provider before you choose to hire them.
What marketing services do you offer?
Some SEO agencies have a bench that is both deep and wide.
Some do not.
It is best to determine if the agency even has the chops to do the work internally.
And, if they are outsourcing any of the SEO, they should explicitly let you know which pieces are not being done in house.
Many SEO agencies rely on partnerships for things like white label link building services and general white label SEO, but there are a whole host of other services to consider when hiring a full-service digital marketing agency:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services (on-page vs. off-page)
- Keyword research
- Content creation and optimization
- Landing page optimization
- Web design & development
- Conversion rate optimization
- Link building strategy development
- Social media marketing
- Content creation
- Community management
- SEM/PPC management
- Reporting or analytics for campaigns
- White Hat SEO compliance
Understanding first what the agency can do, will help you determine whether you can rely on them for all your marketing needs or just a few select niche requirements for your site.
Does your SEO experience extend to my industry?
It’s crucial to learn not only how much experience a prospective SEO firm has; it’s at least as important to determine the depth of their experience in your particular industry. In addition, try to determine their rate of success in achieving their clients’ goals.
How will you measure the success of my campaign?
What are my KPIs (key performance indicators) and how can I trust you to provide campaign guidance on things like return on investment (ROI)?
The success of an SEO campaign can be measured in a number of ways. The most important metrics to consider include website traffic, organic visibility in search engines, keyword rankings, conversions on the website and (most importantly) revenue driven and directly attributable to SEO efforts.
- Website traffic can be measured by looking at the number of visits and the duration of time spent on the website. It is important to look at both the number of visits, as well as the quality and origin of these visits to ensure that they are actually coming from organic search sources.
- Organic search visibility should be tracked to monitor how often the website appears on SERPs (search engine result pages) for relevant searches. Tracking keyword rankings is an important metric because it helps identify which keywords are driving traffic to the website.
- Website conversions can be measured by tracking the total number of conversions, as well as the conversion rate (the ratio between visitors and those who actually completed an action).
- Website revenue attributable to search should give you a clear indication of whether or not the SEO strategy is working.
Keep in mind, not all organic traffic is good traffic.
Make sure the metrics you use are not simply vanity metrics and that they actually drive real results.
How do you build links to improve SEO?
Building links for improving SEO is a critical component of any successful search engine optimization strategy.
Links from other websites are one of the most important factors in determining how well your website performs in organic search results.
By creating quality content and building relationships with other websites and high-profile online publishers, you should be able obtain highly relevant and authoritative links to your website which will help improve your links and rankings in the SERPs.
But not all SEO companies have the right level of quality and quantity to do link building at scale.
You should ask your SEO agency what link building strategies they use and how they will go about obtaining high-quality links from other websites, particularly those within your niche.
Ask for examples of successful link building campaigns (and preferably even specific URL placements) that have been done previously, as well as for details on how the campaign was tracked and measured for success.
It is particularly important to make sure that your SEO agency is adhering to White Hat SEO practices when building links. This means avoiding any black-hat tactics such as link farms, private blog networks (PBNs), link buying and automated link building software.
Shameless plug: this is where our link building services are different. We have been building high-quality links for clients for nearly 14 years. We have the depth and breadth of quality relationships to drive real organic results for your business.
How adept is your team at technical SEO?
With the competition for top rankings as fierce as ever, technical SEO is critical.
Here are some follow-on questions to ask:
- What is the low-hanging fruit that could be immediately fixed from a technical perspective on my website?
- How would these fixes drive results quickly?
- What are the long term on-page and technical components that would need to be implemented to ensure I’m in-line with best practices?
- Will you perform a technical SEO audit is used to analyze the website’s structure and coding in order to identify any areas that could be improved to improve organic search?
How quickly could the technical fixes you propose be implemented into my website?
Do you provide customized services based on the type of business we do and on our budget?
No one size fits all. It’s important to note that every business has very specific goals and needs. If you’re just starting out, you may need to construct a web presence from the ground up. On the other hand, perhaps you simply need to have an existing website optimized. It’s important to remember this, so the type of service an SEO provider has to offer stays within your budget.
It’s the age-old battle between rate and budget.
The truth is universal: the greater the budget the more the needle will (should) move.
The question for your SEO agency is:
How fast can you move the needle with $XXXX monthly budget?
Can you provide examples of your work?
Try to get specific examples that show how the prospective marketer helped clients achieve their SEO goals. If you have solid examples, you can proceed with the confidence that the people you will work with can provide you with the right services, and that they will align with your business goals.
Also, make sure the figures they provide are recent. This gives you a sense of how well the company has kept abreast of changes in SEO.
Could you provide referrals?
This obviously can be a bit tricky, because some clients won’t want any information disclosed. But a good number of clients do allow their SEO companies to furnish certain information for referrals. Ask for the contact information for clients they’ve worked with, and get in touch with them. Find out as much as you can regarding how they feel about the services of your prospective SEO provider.
Could you describe the techniques you will use to achieve our business goals?
Although you are not an SEO expert, a good provider should be able to give you a general sense of the techniques to be used for your business. Ask them to explain and provide a clear picture of how SEO techniques work. Ask them to include in their proposal all the techniques they intend to use. Armed with this information, you should be able to make a better decision when you choose the SEO provider for your business.
Along with this would be:
“Describe how your SEO services would be considered ‘white hat.'”
How long should it take to realize my business goals with the services you provide?
There are no shortcuts to improved, substantive results in SEO.
It can take a long time to rank in SEO.
If you are in a highly competitive industry, it could take several months or more to achieve first-page ranking on Google.
Keep this in mind. SEOs that “guarantee” results in weeks, even for competitive keywords, are more likely to get your business into trouble and cost you dearly.
Try to get in touch with at least five SEO companies and put these questions to them. Remember, the cheapest will not necessarily be the best. But plenty of SEO companies out there can provide affordable services and have served their clients well by delivering real results.
For ease of communication, you may be tempted to work only with SEO providers based in your area. But with the availability of email, instant messaging, and other forms long-distance communication, it shouldn’t matter what part of the country the SEO provider is from. As long as you’ve done ample research and are satisfied that this outfit can help you achieve online profitability, you should be fine.
The questions you need to ask a potential SEO provider all depend on your business’s needs. The more you ask the right questions, the more likely you’ll end up with the right SEO company.
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