If like many businesses you are looking to hire an SEO agency or consultant to help improve your search visibility and get leads that generate new business you may already be aware of what a minefield this industry can be.
Being able to achieve those business goals is already a complex matter. The one thing you want to make sure is that any such results in the first months and even a year or two do not compromise the future of your site and by proxy your business.
Be particularly aware of claims of results in 30 days, growths in the region of 1000% or more over less than a year. Growth hacking agencies, a growing trend are probably amongst the least suited to provide SEO, which is by nature a slow process and the very opposite of the fast results of paid search.
Recommended guidelines from the major search engines state that SEO should focus on bringing a good user experience for website visitors.
How to hire an SEO – Google official video
SEO agencies can help with the following
Review of your site content or structure
Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages
Management of online business development campaigns
The industry is full of companies who may promise the earth, but fail to deliver. Likewise, there are others who, through malpractice, may severely harm your business with shady SEO techniques.
Questions to ask an SEO company – the bad
Claims to rank you #1 – No agency or consultant can guarantee a top ranking, and any such claims should immediately ring alarm bells. Therefore, try to avoid promises of rank and instead look for approaches that aim to bring in more sales leads.
Lack of transparency – Is the agency secretive about their methods? This should concern you. Dodgy SEO tactics can impact your traffic or, worse still, get you banned from search engines altogether. Make sure your consultants are upfront and transparent with the methods they use to rank your site.
Hidden costs – Some SEO agencies or consultants attach hidden costs, so you should endeavour to avoid this practice wherever possible. Instead, look for clear, transparent pricing – so you know where you stand.
Claims of instant results – No company can guarantee instant results. SEO is a process that needs time and dedication. Solid, recommended practices should bring benefits over the short to medium-term, but claims of instant results should be avoided at all costs.
It’s all about links (tip: it’s not!) – Some companies will claim that you need as many links as possible pointing back to your site to compete. While this may have been the case some 15-20 years ago, it is no longer true. Instead, your consultant should focus on all manner of approaches, not merely links. If your agency states you need to buy dozens of links, run a mile!
How to hire an SEO agency – the good
So, now you are aware of the types of claims unscrupulous SEOs can make, how do you go about hiring a reputable SEO? Here is what you should inquire about:
Their methods – What approaches do they use? Are they compatible with major search engine guidelines, such as the Google Webmaster Guidelines? What will they actually do on your website? These are vital questions to gain answers to.
What the service includes – It is crucial to find out what the SEO service actually includes. For example, is it a full service, or does it only focus on a few areas? Ideally, you should opt for a fully rounded SEO service, that focuses not only on the technical aspects, such as site structure, navigation, hosting, and redirects but also other aspects, such as content production, digital PR, link acquisition, etc.
Realistic timeframes – Timeframes for improvement must be realistic, and not overly optimistic. Your SEO should base their answer to this question by looking for continual, steady improvement – and not ‘pie in the sky’ thinking!
Measurement and reporting – It is important that you ask how the SEO campaigns can be measured in terms of ROI. A reputable SEO will provide regular reports, along with more detailed reports at key milestones throughout the year.
Local SEO – If you operate a local business, you should ask your SEO provider if they have experience in local SEO. This knowledge can help put your business on the map and can be especially useful if you have passing trade as a restaurant, bar, cafe, or similar.
Payment schedule – Establishing a transparent payment schedule with no hidden fees should be done prior to work commencing. This way, you will be well aware of the cost and any contractual terms and conditions (if any). Try to avoid providers who have overly complex or hidden payment terms.
Website accounts and assets – Be sure to inquire about who owns the website accounts, data and other website assets, such as Analytics accounts, the content itself, or social media accounts. Note: It should be you – otherwise if you move providers, you may have to start all over again!
We are a digital boutique in central London our core is SEO, paid search and content marketing. Based at the centre of it all, the Silicon Roundabout in Old Street and Shoreditch and work with tech startups and innovators all the way to the other side of town in Soho, Marylebone and Mayfair with the beauty, health, luxury, fashion and media industries to mention but a few.
SEO, paid search and content marketing boutique specialising in long-term strategies.