5 Questions to Ask Your SEO Firm

2015 is almost over, and 2016 is on it’s way. Many companies are now preparing for the new year, setting budgets, looking at their marketing plan from last year and exploring opportunities for growth. The overall economic trends in 2015 have been positive. Companies have cut costs in the past few years and are now looking to invest more in digital marketing.

seo-buying

Don’t settle for any old clunker. Know before you buy!

Perhaps you are considering increasing budgets for paid search advertising, improving your social media presence, or getting more aggressive with search engine optimization? What ever the case may be, make sure you are prepared when evaluating service providers.

5 questions to ask

Each agency or firm has a different mix of expertise. While most offer similar services, how those services are structured can be completely different based on your budget, level of agency experience, level of client interaction, etc.

Five Questions to Ask Your SEO or Paid Media Company

Below are 5 questions you should ask your consultant or marketing company when evaluating their services.

1. Who will be managing my account?

When talking to an account person, owner of the agency, or sales person, you may be thinking they will be the one running your campaign. Not the case. In smaller firms, this may be the case. In larger firms your account will most likely be handled by a junior resource (or team of junior resources) with only a few years of work experience. You may never actually speak to the person doing the day to day work on your project. Make sure you know who is on the team and how your service is structured.

If you are looking for more personalized service or a campaign tailored to your business, team structure is key!

Many larger firms will package your SEO service with a set number of hours each month for each activity. This package may be the same service no matter what type of business you run. If you are looking for more personalized service or a campaign tailored to your business, team structure is key! Don’t be afraid to ask your account person who is on the team and the level of SEO experience of each team member.

2. What type of industries have you serviced?

If you run an e-commerce website with many different marketing channels, hiring a small marketing firm that focuses on “mom and pop” type businesses may not be the right fit. That small firm may be cheap but do they provide any real value to your business? Getting results for a local mom and pop is much much easier than getting results for a large online retail website. Learn what type of customer you are first, then approach a few agencies you think might be a good fit based on their work history.

A red flag would be if you’re in a very competitive space and they price your SEO campaign almost a “too good to be true” price.

In order for online marketing to be effective, it must have the right combination of budget and industry experience. A red flag would be if you’re in a very competitive space and they price your SEO campaign almost a “too good to be true” price. This is an industry where you get what you pay for like any other. Don’t set your budget too low and set yourself up for failure. On the flip side, don’t over spend just because you think you need it. Many times a smaller and more specialized firm and generate great results if they are well qualified.

3. What is your marketing firms’ primary focus?

Check to see what other services that firm provides. Are they a “jack of all trades” or do they specialize in one or two areas? Beware small “full service” firms that look like they are trying to be all things to all customers. If a small firm doesn’t focus on what you need, move on to another.

Just make sure you are not paying top dollar for a freelancer that “works for peanuts”.

It is highly likely they will outsource part or all of your project to freelancers. Having freelancers involved is not a bad thing if they bring depth of experience to the project. Just make sure you are not paying top dollar for a freelancer that “works for peanuts”. What should you be paying for SEO? In most cases, a specialized SEO firm will charge between $100-300 per hour. This article may help.

The Local Full Service Agency

The truth about most local full service agencies is they don’t have a lot of experience in search engine optimization or paid media. They may have a PPC specialist that “knows a bit about SEO”, or a web programmer that knows about paid search, or someone who pretends to know a lot. The truth is most don’t have the expertise in-house to handle your SEO or paid media campaigns.

In fact, many local full service agencies outsource their paid media management to an outside firm…

That person may manage 1 or 2 SEO or SEM clients but that’s about it. In fact, many local full service agencies outsource their paid media management to an outside firm or outsource their SEO strategy to a consultant with more experience. If you’re paying this firm $100-300+ per hour, are you comfortable paying them to outsource your campaign? If not, talk to an SEO firm or consultant first. You will likely get better service, without the middle man, and still have room left in your budget.

4. Are you certified with Google?

Google certification isn’t a deal breaker, but knowing the person working on your account is certified (or has been certified in the past by Google) is a real confidence boost. Advertising platforms like Google AdWords and Product Listing Ads are becoming more complex.

Often a smaller firm will have one true “expert” on staff…

Certification proves you know the platform in depth, which can be the difference between a good campaign and a great campaign. Certification takes time and resources, so industry experience may trump certifications. Often a smaller firm will have one true “expert” on staff. Check to see if that expert is working on your project. If you’re one of the smallest clients to a large agency, your interactions with that expert may be limited to a short monthly status call.

5. What type of reporting do you provide?

SEO firms have been providing keyword reports since the early 2000s. While keywords are still used for strategy and trend spotting, they should not be the primary report in 2016 and beyond. There are just too many factors related to social media, user experience, and mobile for a keyword report to count as a primary indicator. A good SEO campaign will report on goal metrics, return on spend, and more. Keyword rankings DO NOT equal results! Make sure you are tracking additional performance metrics driving quotes, sales, or leads. Being #1 for “Keyword X” may just be driving a lot of worthless visitors to your website (or zero visitors), which means wasted spend. Don’t let an SEO fool you into thinking you’re doing great in SEO when your other business metrics like leads and sales stink.

These are just 5 of the many questions you should ask your next digital marketing partner. If you get the answer you’re looking for on 4 out of 5, they may be a good fit for your business. Not every marketing partner is a perfect fit but you shouldn’t settle for a “clunker”, especially if you’re paying for a Rolls-Royce.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you find this information helpful, please share this on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+. Happy SEO partner shopping!

photo credit: Nash car dealership (license)