As Search Engine Optimization continues to evolve, so to should the services of any SEO company worth its salt. From Panda to Penguin, the eradication of poor quality content and spam links was only the beginning.
Newer changes like machine learning in the form of RankBrain and major Google AdWords updates continue to shake-up the SEO world. Even the most minor changes can cause ripples in the SEO industry, leaving professionals with a need adjust their tactics in order to stay relevant.
With every algorithm update and change to Google’s advertising platforms, SEOs need to keep on their toes to stay ahead. If an SEO doesn’t evolve, neither can their business.
As a business owner, you expect your prospective (or current) SEO company to be an industry expert. You want a team full of knowledgeable people committed to staying ahead of the SEO curve. Even more than their knowledge and experience, you want to be able to trust your SEO to do what’s right for your individual business needs.
To see the most return on your investment and partner with the right team, here are some things you should always ask your SEO company:
1. How will you improve my rankings?
This question is by far the most important, and complicated, to ask your SEO company. If you’re interviewing a good SEO company, there should be no easy answer to this question. Because of its complexity, it’s best to ask it right out of the gate.
The best SEO company will not shy away from the question, while a less than desirable company may try to distract you with irrelevant data or industry jargon that’s simply not important at this stage in the game. They should have no problem walking you through their process – preferably with an easy-to-understand guide.
If you’re posing this question to your current SEO company, the same rules apply. They should be confident in their response and able to supply the data you need to support their choice in tactics.
2. Do you guarantee rankings?
If the first question didn’t weed out the SEO snake oil salesmen, this one surely will. Always ask your SEO company if they guarantee rankings. If they say “yes,” the conversation should end there. While guaranteed rankings might seem like a good thing, they’re an outdated SEO practice that no respectable SEO company will stand by in 2016.
With algorithm changes and platform updates, rankings are hardly ever stable. It’s natural for your rankings to fluctuate a few positions day-to-day. The right SEO company understands the natural ebb and flow of rankings and won’t guarantee anything.
What they should do instead is assure you that their processes are proven to improve rankings, optimize your site, and bring you quality traffic. Modern SEO is less about rankings and more about attracting qualified, ready-to-buy leads to your site. This is what you should want from your SEO efforts instead of a guarantee.
3. What are your certifications?
Once you feel comfortable with the high-level view your SEO company gave you of their processes, it’s time to nail down their experience. You’ll find SEOs that have been in the industry for 20 years, and those that are relatively new. While years of experience can be an advantage, you want to ask about certifications.
An SEO that has taken the time to learn new material and take a series of tests to prove their knowledge is one you want. This proves that they’re willing to do the work it takes to expand their skills, making them an expert in their industry.
SEOs that take the necessary time to complete and renew their certifications are usually up-to-date with the most current search trends. Look for an SEO company that is Google Analytics and AdWords certified, and is a Google Partner. Other certifications like Hubspot Inbound, Content Marketing Institute, and DistilledU are icing on the cake.
4. Do you need to make changes to my website?
A good SEO company will have on-page changes as some part of their SEO process. The best SEO company will have a set-up process that clearly outlines any frontend and backend changes they need to make to your site, and why these changes need to happen. If these on-page changes aren’t scheduled into their process within the first month of service, they’re not the right company for you.
On-page changes set the stage for an SEO campaign – that’s why they should be done before any other SEO efforts begin. These changes help address any technical issues that may be negatively affecting your site, getting it up to Google’s standards. You should also expect help with content optimization for important keywords, and even ways to improve your user experience.
It’s so important to ask your SEO company about the changes they want to make to your site before you give them any sensitive information like website logins and FTP credentials. Changes will most likely need to happen on a server or database level and an SEO company that is inexperienced with backend changes can seriously damage your site.
5. Can you provide case studies, references, and testimonials?
After you have a good idea of the company’s SEO processes and experience, it’s a good time to ask for some tangible data. Your SEO company should have a wealth of educational material and case studies that are used to back-up their good work. If the company doesn’t have any current case studies, that should be a red flag.
Case studies are important to look at because in most cases, data doesn’t lie. When you can see true clients with real traffic and ranking improvements, you can better understand the SEO company’s worth.
Aside from case studies, references and testimonials or reviews are the best way to hear about the company from a previous client’s position. While a company can make themselves look good by choosing the best case study, their clients will be honest. As in most things, the best way to find out if something worked is to ask a person who has used it before.
Adding SEO to your digital marketing strategy can make or break your site. While a successful SEO campaign can double your traffic and sales in some cases, a bad campaign can tank your site's rankings. Very few online business can afford a manual penalty brought on by shady SEO practices.
Protect yourself and your assets by asking these questions before signing up with an SEO company. When you find a company that can answer these to your satisfaction, you’ll know you’ve found your search partner.