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Questions to Ask an SEO Before Hiring Them

Communication is the key to running a successful service based web business. SEO firms should have no problem answering a few questions prior to you hiring them. Communicating before business partnerships builds trust. With so many variables in the SEO field trust is an extremely important issue.

There is no reason to make blind investments when asking a few questions can help you find a great SEO.

How Long have You been doing SEO for?

Years and years of experience are not necessary, but you probably do not want to be their first project.

How Would You Describe Your SEO Process?

Most good SEOs have no problem explaining how they do what they do. Good SEOs want their clients to understand what they are doing. It helps to build trust.

Building trust with clients is important so clients will know the SEO firm is working hard to restore their rankings if search engines change their algorithms and cause rankings to drop temporarily.

Words like doorway, hidden, or automated are usually a bad sign unless you are willing to take large risk. While most do not, some industries will require aggressive sales techniques. Anything that is “just for the spiders” is usually a bad call if you are trying to build a long-term brand.

Is My Industry Competitive?

Understanding the economics of your business away from the web should help you discover how competitive your business field is. If their response surprises you ask them why it surprises you and explain a bit more about why you thought your industry was more or less competitive.

A good SEO can usually gauge how competitive an industry is quickly. Since their workload will dependent on how competitive your industry is your SEO should be able to tell you about how competitive they think your industry is while or before they quote you a price.

Do you have any other clients in my Industry?

Most quality SEOs will not work for competing websites in the same industry. It may benefit you if they are working for similar sites that are not directly competing because of geographic boundaries or other limits, but I would not recommend hiring an SEO firm whom actively had customers competing against each other.

Does My Site Needs a Redesign?

Many sites have design flaws which make them unappealing to link to and sometimes even confusing to the user. User confusion will equate to a low conversion rate. Your site should make it simple and easy for your user to do what you want them to and look appealing to the eye.

Do You think My Site Has the Ability to Rank well with its Current Design?

They should tell you if they think there are problems with your current design because they will likely need to be changed, and the changes will have associated fees the firm will need to justify.

You should also make sure your SEO is comfortable working on a site built with the technology your site is using. Optimizing an ASP (or other dynamic language) coded site requires additional knowledge which optimizing a straight HTML site does not.

Have You Worked for other businesses which are similar in size to my business?

A good SEO can do a good job on small sites and large site alike. Different sized companies have different policies and it would be helpful if your SEO had worked on a site owned by a company of a similar size/ in a similar position as your company.

What is the most competitive phrase you have ever ranked well for? Do you still rank well for it?

If you site is not in a competitive category you may not need a great SEO. If you are in a category such as debt, consumer electronics, casinos, world travel, pornography, or prescription drugs you need an SEO whom is aggressive and has a proven track record. In these competitive fields you likely will spend at least $10,000.

How Long Should I expect to Wait to See Results?

If you are doing pay per click marketing they may be able to have you set up in a week or less. Regular SEO takes a good bit longer.

For most SEO projects you should expect at least a two-month wait to see results. If a person tells you that you will have top rankings in only a few days it is typically a reason to be suspicious. The SEO firm should commit to a rough time table. It may not be a firm one but they should at least give you a time range where they would expect you to see results in.

Some search engines occasionally have major shifts in their algorithm which can delay results, but usually your SEO should be able to give you some idea of how long the process should take and when you should start seeing results.

If you are in a competitive category you should expect to pay the SEO ongoing monthly fees for keeping up with the competition.

What Phrases are We Targeting?

For an SEO to quote you a solid price they should know what goals you have. To do this they should know some of terms they are going after (perhaps not all of them, but at least some of them).

Basic economic knowledge should help your SEO guess at how competitive each industry is, but much of the work done in the SEO field is on a keyword or keyword phrase basis.

Do not pay an SEO until you and the SEO firm both understand what they other’s intent is.

I understand that Link Building is Important. How Many Links Should I Expect to See Added Each Month? How many new unique sites should I see linking to me each month? How do you go about building link popularity?

Some sites may need a few dozen links from a few dozen different sites. Many sites need a ton of links to compete for competitive phrases. By looking at some of the top ranking sites for your keywords (and checking their backlinks) you can determine how competitive your keywords are.

The word automated is often a sign of bad things if you are trying to build a long-term brand. The key is to get a bunch of links (with your keywords in them if possible) from various sites. If you can get links from related sites they should help more than unrelated links since they may also send direct traffic to your site.

Some search engines may use filters to penalize artificial link building, so you want to make sure you use a couple different link text phrases in some of the various links pointing at your site.

Quality link building takes time, but you should see more links pointing at your site a few months after you hire your SEO firm than you saw the day you hired them.

Do you use cloaking or other techniques which are considered risky or deceptive toward search engines?

Cloaking and other deceptive techniques in and of themselves are not bad. What is a bad thing is when an SEO firm uses deceptive techniques without letting you know. In certain competitive fields aggressive SEO techniques may be necessary, but most keywords do not require cloaking or other aggressive techniques to gain top rankings.

If you have a pharmacy or gambling type website expect to need to use risky techniques, spend a large sum of money, and build a large linking campaign.

Have you ever got any sites banned from search engines?

Getting a single site banned is not necessarily bad. Some of the most respected SEO professionals have been too aggressive and had websites banned from search engines (though many SEOs are conservative and never have had this happen).

You do not know what the limits are unless you test them. Most webmasters buying SEO services are not interested in donating test sites though. Ensure your SEO firm knows how much risk you are willing to take.

It is not important whether they have got any sites banned, but what is important is the language of their response. If they sound defensive and rude then they probably would be a bad SEO partner.

Do you have any guarantees of your work?

Many top SEOs work off their reputation and do not have any guarantees. Many SEOs will explain why they do not have guarantees or what their guarantees are. Make sure you understand exactly what keyword phrases, search engines, and time frame they guarantee.

Could I please speak to a few of your current customers?

Many SEO firms keep many of their clients secret so they may keep their competitive advantage. It does not hurt to ask and talk with a few clients though.

Some SEO firms may have buddies sing for them. Check out site details of the sites they worked on from sites like Internet Archives. If a client says they have worked with the firm on their current site for 3 years and the site is 2 months old it is likely a shady SEO firm.

Also use your best judgment! If something seems like it is questionable or it is too good to be true then you should look elsewhere.