If you’re looking to hire an SEO company, you want to ensure that you’re getting the best SEO services for your small business. Search Engine Optimization is constantly evolving, and you want a team full of knowledgeable people committed to staying on top of the latest SEO strategies.
But even more than their knowledge and experience, you need an SEO agency you can trust. With all the spammy, black hat tactics out there, SEO consultants, in general, have gotten a bad reputation. You need to be confident that your SEO company is using best practices and doing the right things for your individual business needs.
So how do you find the best SEO agency for your business and ensure they’re doing the right things? Here are five critical questions to ask an SEO company before you hire them.
1. How will you improve my rankings?
This is by far the most important question to ask your SEO company. If you’re investing in SEO marketing, you want to see real results, and any good SEO agency should be open about explaining their methods.
The best SEO companies will have a solid process and will be able to explain their services in an easy-to-understand way. Steer clear of anyone who is secretive about what their services include, tries to hide their methods behind jargon, or claims it’s “too complicated” to explain.
Here are some specific things you should expect to hear from a good SEO company:
- SEO/website audit - Your SEO agency should analyze your website to identify issues that may be hurting your search engine rankings. This might include broken links, slow load times, or non-mobile friendly pages
- Keyword research - You don’t just want to rank for any keywords - you want to rank for terms and topics that are relevant to your business. Your SEO company should research and provide a list of targeted keywords that help get the right people to your website.
- On-page optimization - After doing a technical SEO audit, your SEO company will likely find issues on your website that need to be fixed. In addition, they should have a process for improving and optimizing the pages on your website.
- Link-building - Backlinks are one of Google’s most important ranking factors, and they rely on great content. Any good SEO firm should have a strategy for building high-quality content and backlinks. Just beware of companies promising large numbers of cheap links.
Here at EZ, our SEO services include a full SEO audit and keyword research process. We do extensive on-page optimization as well as off-page SEO, content strategy, and link-building to improve your search rankings. We also have specific local SEO strategies to boost your visibility in local search engine results.
2. Do you guarantee rankings?
If the first question didn’t weed out the SEO scams and snake oil salesmen, this one surely will. Always ask your SEO company if they guarantee rankings.
If they say “yes,” end the conversation right there. And run. Far away.
While everyone wants to show up at the top of Google, no one can guarantee #1 rankings. Also, no one has a “special relationship” with Google, or “insider secrets” on their algorithm. These are outdated claims that no reputable SEO company will stand behind.
With all the ranking factors and algorithm changes, rankings are hardly ever stable. Search results vary based on the location, device, and search history of each person. And even if you look at averages, it’s natural for your rankings to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.
The right SEO agency will tell you that there is no magic formula for SEO marketing. But they’ll also tell you what sorts of results you can expect to see and how they measure and report on SEO marketing success.
Modern SEO marketing is less about rankings and more about attracting qualified organic search traffic to your site. You want more visitors who will convert into customers. This is what you should look for from your SEO efforts instead of guaranteed rankings.
3. Do you need to make changes to my website design?
On-page optimization is a big part of SEO marketing, especially in the beginning. So any good SEO agency will want to make changes to your website as part of their SEO process. If an SEO consultant doesn’t talk about website changes, that’s a big red flag that they’re probably not the right company for you.
On-page changes set the stage for a successful SEO marketing – that’s why they should be done early in the process. 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 suggestions for keyword optimization, content strategy, and even ways to improve your user experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask your SEO agency about the changes they want to make and how they will share those changes with you before you give them sensitive information like website logins. Someone who isn’t experienced with backend changes or coding can seriously damage your site. You’re giving them the keys to your digital kingdom, so you want to make sure they’re a company you can trust.
4. Can I see certifications, case studies, and testimonials?
Speaking of trust, now it’s time to ask for some proof to back up their claims. You wouldn’t hire a new employee without verifying their experience and references. The same principle applies to your agency.
Start by asking about certifications. You want to work with an expert who is knowledgeable and actively works to expand their skills. SEO companies that take the time to maintain industry 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.
(EZMarketing is a Google Partner)
In addition, your SEO firm should have a wealth of educational materials, case studies, and testimonials to back up their good work.
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.
And what better way to get the truth about a company than to hear it right from their clients? Testimonials, reviews, and references will give you honest feedback about the company’s SEO services and how they generated results. As in most things, the best way to find out if something works is to ask a person who has used it before.
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.
5. What do your SEO services cost?
As a small business, finding affordable SEO services that fit your budget is a crucial part of the puzzle. Depending on the scope of work, SEO marketing can cost between $250-$5,000/month on a retainer model. One-off projects also vary widely, typically anywhere from $1,000 to $7,500 and up.
A good SEO company will talk openly about their cost structure and help identify the services you need to fit your business’s individual goals and budget.
Remember to ask about long-term commitments and contracts as well. SEO marketing isn’t a short-term game. You should typically plan on at least six months before you start seeing significant results. However, you still want the peace of mind of not feeling trapped in a contract you don’t want. (Here at EZ, we have no long-term contracts - you can cancel at any time).
Finally, keep in mind that the best SEO company probably isn’t the cheapest. Good SEO marketing is an investment, and while it does take time, it can produce a huge return to your bottom line. Anyone promising quick returns for cheap is probably cutting corners and ultimately won’t get you the results you need.
Adding SEO marketing to your digital marketing strategy can make or break your site. While a successful SEO campaign can double your traffic and sales, a bad one can tank your site's rankings. Very few small businesses can afford a manual penalty brought on by shady SEO practices.
Find the best SEO agency for your businesses by asking these questions before you hire anyone. When you find a company that can answer these questions and you feel you can trust, you’ll know you’ve found your search partner.
Ready to start rising in the rankings? Find out what’s holding you back with a free SEO audit today!