Effective search engine optimization (SEO) requires you to stay updated on best practices and quickly adapt to Google’s changes. Many businesses turn to SEO agencies to help navigate this important marketing element, given the time-consuming nature of understanding and implementing proper and useful SEO.
How does a company embark on a search to find the bestSEO agency? We recommend seeking out firms that practice tactics that both meet and stay within Google guidelines for SEO. Some SEO agencies employ “black hat” SEO practices that violate a search engine’s terms of service. Repercussions from implementing black hat strategies can range from mild to severe, so it’s best to ensure your agency of choice is on the up and up.
The best way to ensure effective and above-board SEO practices is to hire a legitimate “white hat” SEO company that both collaborates with you and educates you along the way. To do this, we suggest you ask these seven key questions before making a commitment:
How do you collaborate with clients? Look for an SEO agency that intends to spend quality time with you upfront to understand your business, and that will also present keyword recommendations to you for approval. You understand your business and the appropriate words and phrases that describe your products and services better than your SEO company, after all! Since the keywords will be implemented in main headlines and copy on your web pages, collaboration and approval to ensure accuracy are downright critical!
Will you educate us, too? We believe the best SEO agencies not only perform great and effective work, but they also teach clients about the methodology and rationale for the work they conduct. If the agency doesn’t want to teach you about the art of SEO, this should be seen as a red flag. Perhaps the agency doesn’t place value on customer service, or the practices are too simple or a little shady.
What reports will you send and how often? Consider clear, frequent and easily understandable reports essential. Ask about the types of reports the SEO agency uses before signing on the dotted line. In addition, you should always have complete access to and control over your account analytics, both now and in the future when you potentially sever ties with the agency. Ensure the agency will do work through your analytics accounts, not through their proprietary account where you won’t have access. To do this, set up your Google Analytics and Google Search Console Accounts and then make your agency contact a “user” of those accounts while you retain ownership; you will own the account, and you can always revoke the agency’s user privileges when or if necessary. It the SEO agency isn’t down with this plan, show them the door.
How do you stay updated on SEO policies and how often do you update your best practices? Since you aren’t an expert on SEO, the answer to this question may challenge you. However, look for a methodical approach to how this SEO company stays abreast of changes in the landscape. Consider how often the team participates in formal education on the topic. Ask where they turn for the latest information. If nothing else, be sure they mention Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, Google’s “official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index.” If the team doesn’t have this site bookmarked, or isn’t consulting news sources that write about the latest algorithms, you should be concerned about where and how they get the latest and greatest information.
What SEO methodologies do you use? You are hiring an agency because you aren’t an SEO expert. But, you need to arm yourself with some very basic knowledge of SEO to make an informed decision about the authenticity of the firm you are paying to keep your company searchable. Remember that black hat practices may land you in search engine jail and ignorance is no excuse! Reputable publications frequently publish content on this topic, and a quick search of “black hat SEO techniques” will yield plenty of research like this Forbes article. If a potential agency even suggests any of these techniques, run!
How much time will this require of me? Understand who from the agency will be leading your project and his or her process for keeping deliverables on time. Ask how you will know when you need to be involved and how much time will be expected of you in the startup phase and then on an ongoing basis. For example, you will likely need to update website copy to properly reflect the keywords and ensure keyword density. Is the SEO agency clear about expectations, timelines and turnaround times? Do the time frames work for you?
What complementary services do you offer? For your new SEO to be implemented, updated copy and web pages will be necessary. Does the agency offer copywriting and development services in the event you or your previous vendors can’t execute on a new plan? Or, can they point you in the direction of such services if needed?
Be sure you are hiring the best and brightest for your company’s SEO. Arm yourself with general SEO knowledge – especially SEO practices to avoid – and ask key questions before hiring an SEO agency. When researched and executed properly, SEO drives valuable visitors and demand to your company; don’t miss out on potential customer or clients because you didn’t do your homework or ask the right questions!