SEO is one of the most effective long term marketing strategies available to businesses that would like to increase their online exposure, but deciding who to hire for SEO work isn’t always an easy decision. Some SEO firms take shortcuts that can temporarily boost rankings, but harm your reputation in the long run. Others have limited experience and may not provide the value you’re looking for.
How can you decide which SEO firm to work with? These 20 questions should help you weed out the bad choices and focus on the most promising agencies.
Question #1 – What do You Know About the Recent Google Algorithm Updates?
Any SEO agency should be familiar with the Panda and Penguin updates, but there are other Google search algorithm updates that they should have knowledge of as well. These include the Exact Match Domain update, 7 Result SERPs, DMCA Penalties, Link Warnings, the Knowledge Graph, and more. Follow the link above to see an infographic of all the updates. Any SEO firm should be able to tell you what these updates did and why they matter.
Question #2 – How Do You Identify the Cause of a Penalty?
We’ve noticed several agencies have misconceptions about Google search algorithm updates, and many of them are incapable of differentiating Panda and Penguin penalties. If you find yourself penalized, it’s important to understand what caused the penalty in the first place, in order to resolve the issue effectively.
If you fail to identify the true cause of the penalty, your actions could do more harm than good. If you took a hack saw to your link profile when the true cause of the penalty was your content, this would be a tremendous waste of resources and it would hurt your rankings. See the link above to find out what your agency should know before you hire them.
Question #3 – What is Your Technical Experience?
Much of SEO is an art, and those who think it’s a purely technical exercise are very wrong. Despite this, it’s important to work with a firm with some technical skills, including knowledge of:
- Server level redirection
- Dynamic rules for unique titles and meta descriptions
- An SEO friendly information architecture
- A consistent URL naming convention
- A logical hierarchy that doesn’t produce duplicate content
- Proper handling of 404s and server codes
- Optimized coding that loads fast
- High quality user interfaces and user experiences
- Responsive web design
While an SEO doesn’t necessarily need to do all of this work themselves, they need to have enough knowledge of these subjects in order to communicate with a web designer effectively, providing effective instructions in order to avoid conflicts, errors, and wasted resources. Google does consider the internal design and coding of a website when it assigns rankings, and SEOs should be aware of this.
Question #4 – How Experienced are Your Content Producers?
The core goal of SEO is to become an established authority on a topic. This can’t be accomplished without the help of a skilled team of writers and content producers. High quality content is the backbone of any long term SEO strategy. Any SEO firm you work with must be able to produce high quality content on a consistent basis. None of the following strategies can work otherwise:
- Viral marketing
- Guest posting
- Relationship building
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
Skilled content is key to all of these.
Question #5 – Do You Employ Social Media Optimization? How?
SEOs can’t ignore social media anymore. It directly influences rankings and it’s an important relationship building tool. Relationships, meanwhile, are crucial for link building and many other tasks. The modern SEO should understand how to:
- Build influential relationships using social media
- Produce content that is social media friendly
- Expose content via social networks
- Encourage sharing activity without being pushy
- Convert social subscribers into email subscribers and eventually customers
Question #6 – What is Your Link Building Strategy?
This is the perfect question to ask up front. Any SEO that can’t answer this question in plain English is not to be trusted. They should understand how to build links in the wake of Panda and Penguin, and they should take advantage of advanced link building strategies in order to ensure long term results. Avoid any SEO who still:
- Submits your site to a long list of directories nobody outside of SEO has ever heard of
- Submits articles to article directories
- Guest posts on obscure blogs that never send referral traffic
- Uses any form of automated link building
- Outright buys links
Instead, your agency should be engaged in link building strategies that make sense as marketing efforts such as:
- Guest posting on popular blogs that send either targeted referral traffic or massive amounts of traffic
- Collaborating with influencers on mutually beneficial projects
- Building exposure through social networks, forums, and advertisements in order to build natural links
- Any creative link building strategy that sends referral traffic
Question #7 – What Are Your Relationship Building and Outreach Skills?
No legitimate SEO strategy is complete without relationship building and outreach. It’s virtually impossible to earn worthwhile links without these skills. It’s certainly necessary in order to earn the hard links, and the type of links that your competitors won’t have. These skills are absolutely necessary in order to build a truly diverse and robust link profile that will stand the test of time.
Question #8 – How Does Your Team Adapt to the Needs of Different Clients?
This is a very important question to have an answer to. As we’ve said before, the core value of SEO is becoming an established authority. SEO agencies are experts in SEO, not your niche. How can they help you become an established expert in your field?
There are many legitimate answers to this question, but almost all of them will involve you. The answer may also rely on hiring experts or seeking out proprietary data. It certainly relies on extensive research, fast learning, and a dynamic skill set. Push hard on this one. It should be very clear how your SEO agency plans to help you become an established expert in your subject matter.
Question #9 – What is Your Knowledge of Content Marketing?
As QuickSprout has said, content marketing is the new SEO. Content marketing is hard work, but as we’ve said, content marketing isn’t rocket science either. By involving you in the process, in combination with skilled writers, graphic designers, and other content producers, it is possible to reach a wide audience and attract massive attention online.