5 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Company

Hopefully, you’re reading this blog on the front end of your search for a reputable SEO company. All too often, customers have come to us after being dazzled by figures and projections only to find that their investment of time and money in an SEO partner was a waste.

Unfortunately, there are bad apples out there who can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk when it comes to achieving the results you need. Here’s a comparison between some of the common experiences that clients have shared with us after making a poor choice in a SEO partner in the past.

Differences Between Quality SEO Companies & Poor SEO Companies

A Poor SEO Partner… A Strong SEO Partner…
Takes the client’s money and does not report to the client what is being done with it Provides a thorough marketing plan that can be tracked and monitored
Provides clients with skewed reports customized by the SEO company to show surface-level data Shares login access and actual platform dashboards so the client can see all reporting metrics
Reports only the good results to make themselves look better than reality would show Includes comprehensive results for a stronger analysis of what is working and where to make improvements
Slows communications with the client or stops follow up altogether. They just go dark. Incorporates a communication plan to keep clients in the loop and aware of actions planned and taken. This keeps the company accountable and responsible for strong communication.

To avoid these pitfalls, Hughes Media suggests adding the following five questions to your interview process. Armed with these direct questions, you should be able to evaluate and compare how an SEO company will truly perform and work with you to achieve your goals. To help analyze the answers, we are including what good answers should look like as well as bad answers to be wary of.

Question 1 – What’s your SEO process, and how long until we see results?

GOOD ANSWER: Seek partners who know there is a lot of work involved in SEO and mention Google’s more than 200 ranking factors. This requires many different SEO tactics, both on- and off-site. They should mention auditing your competition using tools such as SEMRUSH and other popular search analytics software. Ranking results are typically achieved in about 6 months to 1 year, depending on a client’s past efforts and a successful plan moving forward.

BAD ANSWER: Watch out for highly technical responses like, “uploading a sitemap” and “optimizing page tags.” Typically, people who get very technical usually employ a cookie cutter template approach and apply the same pattern to all their clients. While tactics like these are important, a lot of SEO companies will just do these tasks and often only once at the outset. So, the odds are they will only perform the on-site technical tasks and little else while they take your money every month. A strong SEO partner realizes that not all companies are the same and thinks “outside the box” to plan strategically for every dimension of its client.

Another bad answer: Apply caution when a company guarantees a #1 ranking. This should be a huge red flag that the company is just trying to capture your business with a promise or possibly using deceptive schemes that may work at first but may subject your website to blacklisting by Google when they are eventually uncovered. A reliable SEO partner cannot make guarantees and knows that high rankings are achieved by continual hard work over time.

Question 2: What tools do you use, and what types of reports will I receive?

GOOD ANSWER: Reputable SEO tools include SEMRUSH, Google Search Console, Google Keyword Planner, Screaming Frog, Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, to name a few. At Hughes Media, we constantly evaluate the best tools, old and new; so an exhaustive list is difficult to provide all at once. However, a good SEO company should be using tools such as these as a starting point. Clients should always receive comprehensive reports that detail both good and bad results. Too many SEO companies share only positive outcomes to inflate their image. We at Hughes Media believe you have a right to know every development that your investment achieves. That’s why we provide full transparency with you in our reporting.

BAD ANSWER: A poor SEO partner will be vague about the tools employed or the types of reports you will receive. Be judicious if someone tries to talk over your head. You should always be able to get a simple and solid response to your questions.

Question 3: What is your MO as far as communicating with your clients?

GOOD ANSWER: Obviously, the more communication the better. However, agencies do have crucial work to perform in order to strategize and implement your efforts. Start with whether the company has a communications plan. When engaging with a client, Hughes Media begins by communicating every week to biweekly as the plan is put into action. As the process moves along, communication frequency can be reduced to about once a month for optimal productivity. However, we will always initiate contact whenever our clients deserve to know something. We take pride in our client follow up, and it is rare that a client will reach out to us first. Additionally, look for SEO companies who provide interactive meetings (phone calls or face to face) rather than just emails. We prefer to give clients the chance to respond or ask questions immediately rather than waiting on email traffic for a response.

BAD ANSWER: If a company does not mention phone calls or in-person meetings, be very suspicious. If a company plans to communicate solely via email, that is just lazy. And, it shows a lack of confidence in its ability to respond on the spot to your questions. Also, a company that does not provide a specific communications plan cannot be held accountable. Make sure the expectations set in communication can be measured against a concrete plan.

Question 4: Do you perform any SEO on your own website?

GOOD ANSWER: Yes, of course. Not only should SEO companies conduct SEO to optimize their online marketing plan, but they should be constantly evaluating what strategies work and which ones don’t for their clients. Your company should not be their guinea pig. Look for companies who provide specific plans and goals. For example, we at Hughes Media optimize our website every month or at a minimum every quarter. We also run audits and reports, looking for the best opportunities for our own strategy.

BAD ANSWER: It may sound good for a SEO company to say something like, “We don’t take time away from our clients to help ourselves.” However, as pointed out above, this does not make sense for the reasons stated. Of course, a flat “no” is an indicator that the company has no SEO strategy for itself and may be just guessing when it comes to client strategy. Vague answers are never encouraging.

Question 5: How are you keeping up with the latest strategies and algorithm changes?

GOOD ANSWER: As always, you want to hear specific answers. Good SEO companies will work with other SEO consultants/companies to exchange information. They will subscribe to blogs, articles, newsletters, and podcasts to keep current with the ever changing industry trends. Specific sources that we would hope to hear in a response include Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, and Neil Patel.

BAD ANSWER: Any unstructured answer such as “We just know,” or “Our experience is our guide.” If a company is not constantly reforming itself through external research and partnerships, it will end up mired in yesterday’s products and lackluster results.

We understand there exists a small “leap of faith” when entrusting your time and resources to a SEO company. However, we hope this quick guide has given you some key points to consider that will give you confidence in your ability to choose a strong SEO partner who has a proven track record for analyzing and understanding a client’s current position and taking it to the next level in achieving results.

As always, SEO specialists at Hughes Media stand ready to help you evaluate your options in SEO and SEO partners. If you happen to be one of those clients who may be “gun shy” because of a bad past experience, we will look forward to learning what went wrong. Through the process, we believe you’ll feel good about partnering with Hughes Media to set you on the right path toward your SEO goals.

About the Author:

Deedra Hughes

Experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Integrated Marketing, Advertising, and Pay Per Click (PPC). Strong business development professional with a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Communications from Ohio University.

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