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The Best Questions To Ask An SEO Company Before Hiring

Questions To Ask An SEO Company Before Hiring
It's an exciting journey when you have the budget to allocate to an agency that provides SEO services, but to start the process you'll need to be equipped with some tough questions to ask.
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Beginning your journey into the realm of SEO is difficult, especially if you have no knowledge of how it works, what implementations will be considered for deployment to your site and what tasks are involved in the process(es) of increasing your positioning in Google. All you care about is being at the top of Google, you don’t know whether or not the SEO company is legit, you just need to go with your gut feeling.

I know what it’s like, I have worked for an SEO company before and the clients that come in with questions to ask know their stuff, I instantly put the gobbledygook B.S away and talk facts, as I’m worried they will catch me out. On the other hand, the clients that put 0 effort into researching about SEO, my colleagues would talk about all of these ‘secrets’ they have under their sleeve to get them to the top of the search engines, strategies that other SEO companies ‘don’t know of ‘- they fall for it instantly, and they proceed with signing the paperwork and then the company proceeds with implementing reckless strategies to their site. You don’t want to be in that situation, come prepared with some questions to ask the SEO company, and do your research to avoid working with a dreadful company.

Matt Cutts Penalise

Remember this, folks: A decent SEO that understands how Google works and is genuinely good at what they do, will not work for a cheap rate. If you’re looking for a bargain SEO deal then expect to get what you paid for: bad practice.

This doesn’t mean that a decent SEO won’t cut corners and implement bad practice techniques either, but you’ll need to try your best to eliminate the bad ones by asking some technical SEO questions. As most business owners with websites don’t know how to evaluate the level of SEO work and have never worked with an SEO before, the chances are the SEO will probably charge a lot more than they normally would as website owner doesn’t know any different. Be careful.

SEO is primarily principle and theory, it’s about implementing best-practice techniques and replicating tests over and over until you find a method that just works for a site, every site is different, every niche is different. There’s nothing worse than working with an SEO company that promises that they will get you to position #2 in just under 2 weeks, then you find yourself being sat in Google’s sandbox due to a penalty, it’ll affect both your organic performance and revenue. You don’t want that.

Google Sandbox

In short: If you’re going to invest into SEO; take your time and have a decent budget aside for when the right company comes along, don’t rush into it as working with a rubbish agency can negatively affect the integrity of your domain, due to malicious and spiteful tactics. You don’t want to hear about the number of times I had to clean up a site’s link profile when I worked agency side, I found all sorts of malicious stuff .. thousands of forum links, links from porn domains, gambling sites, foreign sites, sites linking to their site using the anchor text ‘terrorist’ etc. It’s bad stuff, the same applies when you’re looking to hire an SEO to work for your company, have some interview questions prepared. You don’t your employees to be implementing spiteful tactics, best-practice implementations are the way forward.

Be Prepared – Questions To Ask An SEO Company

I’m aware of the frustration involved in choosing an SEO company to work with, therefore I have compiled a list of the best questions to ask an SEO company for those going through the process currently / and or sometime soon.

1) Ask them how they do it.

This is probably the best question you can ask, you’re the client and you are paying for their services, you need to know what implementations you are paying for. Yes, you’re paying for a higher Google ranking but how are they going to deliver on this, what strategies/tactics are they going to use to further improve your Google rankings?

What's their SEO strategy?

This will probably put them on the spot, as they already have a strategy in place, a strategy that they weren’t planning on revealing to the client, so they will probably make something up on the spot, make sure you watch their body language for anything suspicious.

2) How long will it take to see results?

The answer you’re looking for here from a realistic point of view is anything above a month, as SEO is a long-term commitment, you don’t see results overnight. If they come out with some gobbledygook that they can deliver results in just under one week, you don’t want to be working with a company like this as the chances are your site will be penalised later on down the line due to malicious, spammy links being associated with your domain.

3) What kind of links will you build?

It’s your site, your link profile. It’s important to know what links will be built to your site moving forward, you’re not interested in forum profile links, signature links, site-wide links, exact match anchor links .. ask this question and see what they come out with. The links you are really looking for are high-quality, authoritative links from sites in your niche. If they come out with some garbage that they have a secret recipe, I wouldn’t risk it, they’ll only spam a tonne of malicious links and take chances to *try* and increase your rankings. It’s difficult to recover from a spam of bad links, don’t get yourself involved, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and the possible consequences.

4) Now Penguin is real-time, how will this affect your strategy?

This question clearly demonstrates that you are staying up to date with industry trends, algorithm changes and that you have “some” knowledge of SEO. This is good. You’ll want to know how their magic SEO strategy (that will hopefully make you money) fits in with the latest algorithm updates, now Penguin is real-time. If they aren’t adapting their strategies to fit in with the ever-changing landscape in search, they may not be the go-to specialist(s) as they make themselves out to be.

5) How many hours a week will be dedicated to our project?

This depends on the price that you’re willing to pay but it helps put things into perspective. While I was working agency side, I was working on some projects that I could only spend 4 hours a month on, as you could imagine in order to deliver results based on this budget, I had to use pretty spiteful black-hat tactics to get the site to climb in the SERP’s. If the SEO company state that they will spend a maximum of 5 hours per month on your project, it’s not worthwhile working with them. To obtain results in such a small time frame will require tactics that are probably against the Google guidelines.

6) How will you keep me up to date when changes are made to my site?

You’ll need to verify your preferred process with the company beforehand, otherwise, they will probably dive deep into action and make all the necessary changes needed. If you’d like to confirm each and every change being it being rolled out to live, you’ll need to state this.

The first part of this process will be handing over the administration details to your site (scary, but it’s needed), this includes a login to the back-end of your site and FTP details so they have access to your files. Before proceeding with any of this, I would suggest backing up your entire site beforehand, I’m sure they will do this but it’s worthwhile adding to your to-do list just to make sure. As there is nothing worse than losing your site’s data.

A decent SEO company/freelancer will provide an up-to-date report that contains all of the changes/implementations that have been conducted on your site, outlining the reason for the implementation and the outcome they are expecting.

7) Do you follow best-practice from Google?

Again, you don’t want to work with an SEO company that gets involved in black-hat activities as this can damage the integrity of your domain later down the line. Remember: SEO is a long-term commitment, results don’t come overnight. If an SEO company promises to deliver results in just one week then they aren’t following the best-practice rules, a strategy that will soon die off over the upcoming weeks. When a website doesn’t stick to the rules, Google isn’t happy.

8) What SEO tools do you use?

There are some tools currently on the market that are looked down upon by white-hat SEO’s, tools that are designed to create hundreds or thousands of links to a site, otherwise known as an automation tool.

The word “tool” is used to define the software and applications that an SEO company uses to ensure their strategy is implemented correctly. There are certain tools that everyone should stay away from, I have listed some of the tools below.

Tools to avoid:

  • Automated link building tools;
  • Xrumer;
  • SE Nuke;
  • Scrapebox;
  • Ultimate Demon.

If the company uses the above tools, I’d stay away, however, Scrapebox can be used for a wide variety of reasons, one of which is blog spam commenting. That’s something you don’t want to be a part of, if they mention Scrapebox, ask how they use it. (It’s quite popular for keyword research and other tasks).

Tools that are relatively good:

  • SEMrush (In-depth keyword research; optimisation; link analysis).
  • RankWatch (Keyword tracking, research, reports, competitor research)
  • Screaming Frog (Technical SEO; Site usability; Metadata; Sitemaps; Redirects; Duplicate content etc);
  • Buzz Stream (Outreach; Content promotion; Digital PR);
  • Majestic SEO (Link analysis; Trust flow & other metrics; history checker etc);
  • Moz (Rank checking; Link analysis; Keyword research; Site crawls; Optimisation etc);

9) Tell me about your other clients.

Before proceeding with work you’d like to hear about their success stories and how they have helped other clients get to where they are today. Ask for details, websites URL’s (so you can conduct Google searches) and possibly an example end-of-month report. This will give you an idea of what marketing collateral you’ll receive and the possible benefits of working with that particular SEO company. It’s always nice to read some successful case studies.

10) Ask for client references.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the contact details of their existing clients. I’m sure they have an online portfolio of their clients on the web, I’d suggest taking 5 minutes out of your day to give their clients a call to personally ask them what they think about the SEO company.

State that you are thinking about working with them on a new project and you want their honest opinion. Trust me, you’ll be surprised with some of the answers you get, references are important.


Take your time and don’t rush into it, otherwise, you’ll end up working with an SEO company that doesn’t operate within best-practice, and uses a ton of shady tactics to attempt to get you to the top of the search results. Remember that SEO is a long-term investment, results don’t come overnight, therefore you want to work with someone who sticks to Google’s guidelines.

Attached to this post are 10 questions to ask an SEO company, I personally feel that these are good questions to ask when you’re thinking of hiring a company, you are more than welcome to add/change questions depending on your project requirements. Lastly, don’t work with an agency that uses shady SEO software, otherwise, you’ll probably get hit with a Google penalty down the line.

Oh, one last thing, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @semtuts.

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About the author



Brett is currently working as a full-time SEO Analyst for a leading, international eCommerce company that recently won a Queens Award For Enterprise. In addition, he's also worked client side for 3 years at a digital agency, managing just over 20 local SEO projects. He's very knowledgeable when it comes to technical SEO and he's well known for his consultancy during https site-wide deployments.

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