5 Questions to Ask Your SEO Firm

5 questions to ask
2013 is almost over, and 2014 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 2013 have been positive. Companies have cut costs in the past few years and are now looking to invest more in digital marketing. 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.

Each agency or firm has a different mix of expertise. Below are 5 questions you should ask your consultant or marketing company.

1. Who will be managing my account?

When talking to an account person or owner of the agency, you may be thinking they will be the one running your campaign. In smaller firms, this may be the case. In larger firms your account will most likely be handled by a junior resource. 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.

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. In order for online marketing to be effective, it must have the right combination of budget and industry experience.

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. 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”.

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. 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 on your project.

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, they should not be the primary report in 2014. A good SEO campaign will report on goal metrics and return on investment. Keywords DO NOT equal results. Make sure you are tracking additional performance metrics driving business results. Being #1 for “Keyword X” may just be driving a lot of worthless visitors to your website, which means wasted spend.

These are just 5 of the many questions you should ask your next digital marketing partner. If you get the answer you are looking for on 4 out of 5, they may be a good fit for your business.

Sean lives in the Cleveland Ohio area working as a SEO consultant and owns the digital marketing company Interactive Cleveland. Sean also enjoys running, cycling and spending time with his wife and daughter. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Posted in ecommerce, search marketing, seo

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