Choosing a good SEO company to help boost your site's rankings is vitally important, yet it's not always easy to determine when an SEO agency is worth their salt or when they're simply selling search engine snake oil.
That's why we've gathered the top 10 questions to ask when selecting a new SEO company so you can determine which candidates know their stuff and which are making promises they can't keep.
1. What Types of SEO Do You Focus On?
Ideal answer: "We take a three-pronged approach that incorporates all three types of SEO – technical, on-page, and off-page."
Why it matters: Truly comprehensive SEO involves much, much more than fixing bad code or adding high-volume keywords. In fact, there are three types of SEO that must be leveraged in order to achieve meaningful results:
Technical SEO, which involves elements like URL structure, code validation, structured data, and canonicalization.
On-page SEO, which concerns user-facing site factors such as content quality, metadata, page speed, and image alt text.
Off-page SEO, which focuses on external signals such as social media marketing, backlinks, and forum activity.
Red flag: If the SEO company you're considering says they only focus on one type of SEO, then they likely can't be depended on to deliver the results you're after.
2. How Long Until We Can Start Seeing Significant Results?
Ideal answer: "We can't give you a specific timeline, but generally speaking, you can expect to see noticeable results in around six months."
Why it matters: Subpar SEO can quickly deliver a short-lived burst of results, but great SEO takes time. One survey of marketing professionals found that for the most part, SEO efforts generate measurable outcomes within a three- to six-month time frame:
So when you're choosing a good SEO company, look for one that estimates they'll be able to produce significant results in a similar amount of time.
Red flag: It's almost impossible to provide meaningful and lasting SEO results in less than a month, so be wary of any SEO company that promises to do so.
3. Can You Guarantee We'll Hit the First Page of Google?
Ideal answer: "We've helped previous clients successfully reach the first page of Google, but we can't guarantee the same will be true for your company."
Why it matters: The success or failure of any good SEO campaign is ultimately determined by search engines themselves, not by the SEO professionals implementing the campaign.
As such, there's not an SEO company in existence that can guarantee you'll hit the first page of Google (or any other search engine) with 100 percent certainty.
Red flag: When an SEO company guarantees they can get your site on the first page of the search results (or even to the number one spot), then you know they're making promises they can't keep.
4. Do You Handle Mobile Optimization?
Ideal answer: "Yes, of course – mobile SEO is a core component of our strategy. Here's how we tackle it..."
Why it matters: As of the summer of 2019, Google now uses mobile-first indexing for all new sites. In other words, they use the mobile version of any given site for ranking and indexing purposes.
So, mobile SEO is no longer an optional add-on. Rather, it's an integral part of any complete SEO strategy.
Red flag: If an SEO company says they don't focus on mobile SEO, then they'll be unprepared to help your site meet Google's modern standards.
5. How Will You Get Us More Links?
Ideal answer: "We'll help you get more backlinks through organic link building, a focus on establishing beneficial relationships, and an emphasis on content."
Why it matters: Legitimate link building requires a careful balancing act in order to effectively gain more links while simultaneously avoiding any and all link schemes. Examples of link schemes include purchased links, excessive link exchanges, and large-scale guest posting campaigns.
Google may lower the visibility of any site found engaging in such activities, so it's vital to avoid link schemes and only use valid techniques.
Red flag: An SEO company that says they use even slightly unscrupulous link building tactics is likely one you should avoid.
6. How Did Google's Latest Update Affect Your Strategy?
Ideal answer: "After Google's last update, we altered our strategy in the following ways..."
Why it matters: Google's algorithms (and the algorithms of all search engines, for that matter) are far from static. In fact, Google is known to tweak its Search algorithm thousands of times per year.
While only a few of those alterations will affect SEO professionals' strategies, it's crucial that the SEO company you hire be aware of every major change.
Red flag: It's never a good sign when an SEO company hasn't heard of a significant algorithm update or claims to have heard of it but neglected to modify their approach.
7. How Will You Tackle SEO for My Particular Niche?
Ideal answer: "Based on past experience with companies like yours, it's most effective to..."
Why it matters: Every brand is looking to achieve unique goals and appeal to a unique audience, so why should yours have the same SEO strategy as one in a totally different vertical?
To ensure your brand gets the custom-tailored SEO strategy it needs, be sure to choose an SEO company that has experience (and knows how to get results in) your niche. When in doubt, always ask to see examples of results they've delivered for other brands similar to yours.
Red flag: There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to SEO, so avoid SEO agencies that don't adapt their tactics accordingly.
8. What Are Your Preferred Tools?
Ideal answer: "We like to use X for keyword research, X for competitor analysis, and X for site audits."
Why it matters: There's a vast array of sophisticated SEO tools available, so any SEO company with a decent amount of experience will know exactly which ones they prefer to use for each given purpose.
Plus, knowing which tools an SEO company uses will give you a sneak preview of how they'll analyze your brand's site and which aspects of it they'll prioritize.
Red flag: No SEO company should have a hard time telling you exactly which tools they use and why, so steer clear of any that do.
9. How Will You Present Your Findings, Metrics, and Progress?
Ideal answer: "Let us show you some real reports we've delivered to other clients."
Why it matters: You have limited time, and you don't want to spend it poring over Google Analytics data. So, you'll need to rely on your SEO company's reports to see what they've discovered about your site, how its metrics stack up, and any progress they've made.
So, carefully analyze each potential company's report examples to get an idea of the types of reports you'll be receiving if you choose to hire them.
Red flag: If an SEO company can't show you detailed examples of real reports, you'll have no way of knowing if the reports they deliver later on will be useful or not.
10. What Do You Need from Us?
Ideal answer: "We'll need the cooperation and support of your marketing and site development teams and possibly other key players."
Why it matters: Nothing exists in a vacuum, and SEO is no exception. That's why a successful SEO campaign requires the collaboration of multiple teams.
And since SEO directly affects your brand's marketing strategy, as well as the nuts and bolts of its site, you can expect that any SEO company with a fully-fledged strategy will require the support of both marketers and developers.
Red flag: If an SEO company says they don't need anything from you or is unsure which teams they'll need to work with, then their overall strategy isn't up to snuff.
Ultimately, any SEO company can claim to deliver extraordinary results in a snap. But when push comes to shove, only those with genuine expertise can confidently answer the 10 questions outlined here.
So while choosing a good SEO company may not be easy, it doesn't have to be a herculean task either. By asking the right questions and knowing which answers to look for, you can select one capable of generating real results for your brand.
Here at First Page Strategy, we would love to answer these 10 questions for you and talk about how we can help your company. Reach out today.