Here are 10 things that we recommend you ask of any search marketers before awarding a contract to improve the web rankings of your web site:
- Ask to go to the office of the SEO agency. This isn’t an unreasonable request; you just want to take a look for yourself where the agency operates from. When you are there ask to meet the team who will be looking after your account and ask the staff some testing questions about their experience and training in search engine optimisation. You will quickly get a feel for how professional the organisation is. You can glean a lot just from how the office looks and feels, whether it is clean and organised. By asking the right questions you will also be able to ascertain how well trained and managed the staff are who will be working on your account.
- Take some soundings on whether the agency has a bias for natural SEO or PPC. Beware of being sold what the agency wants you to do and not what you want or fundamentally what is best for your business.
- For Organic search ask for full proposals of the work that will be carried out, with a breakdown of the individual tasks involved. For good agencies this is easy to scope out and in best practice all work carried out by the agency should be documented in a project review file or a monthly report. Don’t be afraid to ask for the file or a regular report as the contract progresses. In larger, more established agencies each piece of work relating to the project will probably be documented and there will be evidence of updates and review meetings detailing the progress of the campaign throughout the contract period. If such documents don’t exist then one has to question just how organised the agency is and whether your project will receive the attention it deserves.
- Ask about the balance of on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation. If you receive a standard answer like: ‘we concentrate 80% of our time on off-page optimisation’, then warning bells should start ringing. Every website is different as are the marketplaces within which these sites have to perform. There are no hard and fast rules about balance and many factors have to be weighed up.
- Question the agencies approach to link building. An agency which tells you that you will need to buy some great links or talks about reciprocal linking are probably best avoided. Building quality inbound links to your website is the trickiest aspect of all SEO activities. Your input, great content, a healthy dose of good PR and some ingenuity from your SEO agency will all be required to run a successful link campaign.