Five Things to Ask a Potential SEO Consulting Firm
One of the unfortunate things about many consulting industries is that there are virtually no barriers to entry in terms of calling yourself an expert. This is especially true in the world of business, where many advisers and consultants come out of the woodwork with little to no credentials to speak of. The world of digital marketing and SEO is no exception.
In fact, it’s particularly true that there are many low quality service providers in the SEO industry. The reasons for this vary, but the most prevalent ones are the abundance of free and accurate information available on the Web, and the general lack of a universally accepted certification program. After all, there are no college degrees for Search Engine Optimization. And when you consider all this, it’s no wonder that virtually all of our client engagements are with companies coming off a less than optimal experience.
If you’re a business owner or marketing person, chances are pretty good that you’ve already encountered one or even many different people working in the SEO industry. But how do you know the good ones from the pretenders? It’s difficult for the average business owner to discern this. And it is especially troubling when you consider that the wrong hire will result in a significant loss of time, money and marketshare. So to help you along, here are five specific questions to ask any SEO agency you’re potentially interested in hiring.
1) What key performance indicators (KPIs) are most important for a typical SEO campaign?
Google Analytics offers a myriad of information that covers a wide variety of data points. And while it is almost all useful to some degree, certain elements are much more relevant and actionable than others. It’s easy to export an impressive looking report or two with pretty graphs and charts, pass it along to the client and call it good. It’s entirely another to be able to express to the client succinctly what the data actually means.
When interviewing a prospective SEO for your company, ask to see reports that they’ve generated for previous clients. Are they informative and insightful or are they data dumps?
2) Aside from Google Analytics, which online tools do you use to assist with your SEO campaigns?
While many SEOs good, bad and otherwise are reluctant to share their ‘secret sauce’, I stand firm in my assertion that transparency is the key to doing business in the digital age. After all, what are they afraid of? That a potential client will subscribe to all same tools you use, learn how to read and apply the data and no longer need you? That seems quite unlikely. But even if they do – good for them!
Virtually everyone uses Google Analytics, but there are many other tools that are very helpful with the various elements of an SEO campaign, such as competitive analysis and keyword research. For these reasons, tools such as moz.com and semrush.com and Google Webmaster Tools and majesticSEO.com are instrumental in helping clients be successful.
3) What demonstrable SEO successes have you had in the past and how does that experience translate to our project?
The initial part of this question is obvious – you want to hire people who’ve done a good job for others. But the underlying point is that you want to hire an SEO firm that has taken a look at your project to at least gain a few insights as to what it’s going to take to be successful. SEO isn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’ and not every project is going to be a great fit for a given firm. But there are agencies that unfortunately don’t take that approach, and are more interested in acquiring your business than actually helping your company succeed.
4) Have you ever had a client incur a penalty from Google? If so, was it a manual penalty or an algorithmic penalty? What steps did you take to correct the problem and what was the ultimate outcome of those efforts?
If the answer to any of this is ‘yes’, be very careful. Any agency that has incurred penalties from Google has in all likelihood done something very wrong.
5) Do you offer execution of SEO initiatives?
This of course speaks to the difference between a ‘consultant’ and a full service agency. For example, some consultants will provide a wealth of knowledge and will be present in a coaching/consultative role, but don’t actively participate in the execution of SEO tactics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; many companies have internal resources and just need a little guidance. But it’s important to understand what those needs are and what resources you already have in place in order to hire the agency that is best for you.