Search Engine Optimization – everyone tells you it’s important, but everyone has an opinion on how to do it correctly. Not only is having great SEO for your website crucial for your business, it is also essential that it is done correctly and ethically to protect your brand.
But how do you ensure that your digital agency is practicing ethical and effective SEO tactics? In a sea of options, it’s important to come prepared with hard-hitting questions to ensure that your agency is not only prepared to take you on as a client, but will also optimize your website in an intentional way.
To help prepare you to take this next step, the BigWing team and Senior SEO Manager Christina Galownia have compiled some of the most important questions to ask when it comes to choosing someone to optimize your website, to help determine if they are a good and ethical fit for your business.
Q: Why does my site need SEO help?
You know that your site needs SEO help – but why? Knowing exactly what needs to be done and how it can benefit your business can help you better understand what your potential clients are looking for, and your industry as a whole.
“This is a key question to ask to find out if the agency has actually looked at your site,” Christina said. “And it shows that they have suggestions for you. It proves that they have a plan and that they have work to do.”
Q: What experience do you have in our industry?
“You want an agency that has either worked with your specific industry or has done enough research before the sale to be able to speak to your industry,” Christina said.
Ultimately, you want your next agency to be an extension of your marketing team. You want them to have a basic understanding of your business and your business goals. Having your next agency on your “team” will only increase the effectiveness of their work.
“They need to show an interest in your industry and show that even if they haven’t worked directly within it, they are willing to learn.”
Q: What tools do you use?
Make sure your next digital agency uses credible tools to aid in their SEO efforts. This will ensure that they are using the most up-to-date and ethical practices, and that they are focusing on relevant key terms that will actually produce results based on research and data.
Q: How does your team do link building?
Did you know that every website has a numerical score determining its authority, and ultimately contributing to how high or low it is ranked on search engine results pages?
This number is called your domain authority, and the higher the score is, the better. A large factor in this score is the number of outside websites linking to yours. This is seen as a “vote” of confidence, which can increase your score, but only if it’s done ethically.
“Make sure that the agency has a customized strategy, and that they are not buying links,” Christina said.
Excessive links, or links from websites that don’t make sense with your content, can actually damage your domain authority – or even deplete it.
“It is good to prove that the agency is spending time searching for quality links, instead of focusing on quantity.”
Today we mostly earn links by creating high-quality content and conducting outreach to influencers and partners.
It is imperative that your SEO agency is actually earning the links from credible sources instead of buying them from third-party websites. While this is a much longer process, and might gain fewer links, it protects your authority and will pay off in the long term.
Q: Can I see case studies?
“You always want to work with an agency that is willing to show off some of their best work,” Christina said. “It gives you an idea of what you could potentially expect and it shows that they are proud of what they have done.”
Case studies demonstrate how a campaign was executed and the results garnered over a certain period of time. This is especially useful if your potential agency has worked on campaigns similar to yours, or if they’ve worked heavily in your industry. It can give you an idea of what working with this agency will be like, and what kind of work is ahead.
Q: How do you report on success?
So, a potential digital agency presents an intricate campaign for your business – but how are they going to report on the success of it? How will you know what is considered successful? When it comes to success, it is important for both sides to be mindful of what constitutes quality results for your brand.
“Quality over quantity when it comes to keywords and links,” Christina said. “It’s much better to have five good keyword rankings for high-quality terms than 100 for low-quality terms. Also, watch organic traffic and conversions to determine success on the site.”
Q: Do you guarantee results?
Guaranteed results sound nice in theory, but when it’s promised, tread lightly.
“They should always say no, and if they say yes, run away,” Christina said. “Any company that is guaranteeing results is not guaranteeing good results.”
As we mentioned above, quality over quantity is essential to protect your site and build your brand online. However, quality results take time, and they can’t always be promised. It takes work and research first.
“When someone says they guarantee results, they are just guaranteeing any metric. If they say that they ‘guarantee’ that you will rank for 50 keywords, they are typically keywords that you are already ranking for or that you do not need to be ranking for,” Christina warned.
Q: Who is doing the work?
When working with an agency, you want to know that the people doing your SEO maintenance are experienced and can be reached. If the agency is not outsourcing their work and doing it all within the agency, it’s more likely that the specialists are trained and have the experience you can rely on.
“This helps to know if they are outsourcing their SEO work or if it is done all in-house,” Christina said. “It could also give you an idea of who you will be working with and their experience in the field.”
Q: How many clients do they work with?
“This helps you to know how much attention that they will put into your account, and how much time,” said Christina
Working with an overworked specialist can make it more difficult not only for you to reach out to them, but also for them to dedicate the time needed to work on optimizing your website.
“On average, you want to hear between 10 and 20 accounts. If they are handling too many accounts, it could mean that your account could not be seeing as much attention as you would want it to.”
Q: How do you stay up-to-date on industry changes?
In the digital atmosphere, the industry changes constantly. It requires practice and education to ensure that your SEO agency is up-to-date on current rules, regulations, and updates.
“You want to make sure they have a way to keep up with industry standards, whether it be reading blogs, keeping up on twitter, e-mail updates, attending events and conferences, and staying educated,” Christina said.
Fortunately, there are many resources online to help teams stay educated, like the ones on our list of digital marketing resources.
Q: What conferences does your agency attend?
“Make sure that they are attending at least a few conferences as an agency – it lets you know that they are staying up-to-date and are always working to improve their skill set,” Christina said.
Q: What other services do you offer?
Lastly, it’s good to ask if the agency offers any other services besides SEO. Other digital marketing tactics, like Content Marketing and Paid Search, only help to strengthen your SEO efforts.
“You want to know if they are a one-stop-shop or not,” Christina said. “Do they have a PPC or Content Marketing team in house? They could be able to provide advice and assistance without you having to go to another agency for that information.”