10 questions to ask your SEO agency

Contracting with an SEO agency

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.
  • Check out the agency’s attitude to your existing website architecture and question how important this is to the success of the proposed campaign. If your website has any chance of becoming an authority site which dominates the search engine results pages for a wide range of keyphrases, your site architecture will be fundamental in achieving this. If site architecture is not deemed an important issue, you might want to question why.


  • Is the agency interested in your ideas and objectives. Little or no emphasis on achieving your goals is a sure sign that there will be little focus on achieving you a good return on your investment (ROI). ROI is something which great agencies pay close attention to – starting to realise ROI as early on in a campaign as possible, in order to offset the cost of the exercise, will undoubtedly be important to you as a client and this should be factored in with medium and long term goals. An agency which understands your objectives and underpins these by keeping close attention on ROI will work with you to satisfy the boardroom as well as to create longer-term success. Ask for a forecast ROI broken down into intervals – 6 months, 12 months, 2 years etc.


  • Question how frequently the campaign is reviewed. Seasonal changes, market conditions, consumer buying patterns and special factors concerning your industry could all impact on the direction of the campaign. Make sure that your chosen agency is intending to review progress and report back to you regularly. They should also have a mechanism in place for feeding market information, news and updates to those managing the account.


  • Assess the agency’s fees. You get what you pay for in natural search engine optimisation. Expect the first two or three months of a campaign to be more expensive, with costs spread consistently and evenly throughout the campaign period. Optimising a website is a long, steady process – beware those that promise you the earth, delivered over a short period of time.


  • Trick questions: Ask the agency how frequently they would advise your website to be submitted to the search engines – Google in particular. If the answer is that they will submit the site directly to the search engines or that they will undertake to do this on a regular basis, then you should run a mile. If they are doing their job properly, the site will be indexed by the search engines through a quality link from a trusted website source. The search engine spiders will find the site, crawl and index the pages, and revisit regularly. There are plenty more trick questions you could ask your agency to test their knowledge – all available by doing a quick Google search.