7 Questions You Should Ask to Qualify an SEO/SEM Vendor
Are you looking to hire an SEO vender, but aren’t sure how you qualify one for the job?
With so many different SEO companies and services on offer nowadays, it can be daunting finding the right one for your business – especially if you don’t know exactly what you need.
Over the years, many people have come to me facing this exact same struggle, and I’ve been able to help them determine the questions they need to be asking in order to qualify an SEO vendor.
Today, I’m going to highlight the most important questions you need to be asking, as well as some of the questions you should ask yourself.
How much revenue could SEO bring your business?
Question 1: What are the services you offer?
The type of services SEO vendors offer can differ greatly between companies. Ideally, you should be looking for an SEO vendor that will not only provide services to generate more traffic to your website, but also services that help you generate leads from that traffic.
Before going any further, find out more about the services a vendor is providing, and whether they can truly provide what your company needs. This could involve a more in-depth discussion to address your current challenges and concerns.
Some of the services you’d typically expect from an SEO vendor include:
- A technical analysis of your website’s SEO
- On-page optimisation
- Content creation
- Link analysis
- Competitor analysis
- Social SEO
It could be that you already have an idea of some of the services you require, or perhaps you just have a clear set of company goals that you need to achieve.
In which case, my second question is equally important…
Question 2: What results can I expect?
If an SEO company can answer this question right off the bat, it should set alarm bells ringing. They should first take the time to understand more about your business and how it works, before being able to predict the results you can expect to achieve with them.
Watch out for guarantees about getting you to the top in search rankings – if an SEO company mentions this, look elsewhere. It could be that they will resort to tactics such as building poor quality links to your site, that will eventually result in your website ranking even lower than before.
They should at least be telling you how much more leads and sales you can expect, as well as how much more traffic they will generate (although this should not be your main concern).
TIP: A company should also be able to tell you openly how they will achieve these results, and the methods they plan to put in place. If they won’t divulge this with you, you should look elsewhere.
Question 3: What value will you provide in relation to cost?
If you’re like most businesses, you probably have a budget you want to stick to. Most SEO companies will at least be able to give you a relevant price range upfront, before sitting down to discuss the finer details and the total cost of the services you require.
However, more importantly than the actual cost, you need to ask about the value you will receive for that outgoing cost. After all, if you’re going to be spending £3000 a month on SEO services, you’re going to need to know that it’ll be worth it.
Typically, if a company can’t give you a predicted ROI for the services you’re purchasing (say, an extra £500,000 a year in revenue), then it’s not worth the risk.
Question 4: Can I see some case studies?
If you are to put your trust in an SEO company, it only makes sense that you’re going to want to see some proof that their services get results. One of the best ways of ensuring this, is to ask to see some cases studies.
Preferably, these case studies should be as closely matched to your business model as possible, with examples of wins clearly demonstrated.
Some SEO vendors may even agree to let you speak to their previous customers, but usually this only happens later down the line, when they are sure your company is a good fit and you’re almost ready to come on-board as a fully-fledged customer.
Question 5: Do you practice what you preach?
By this question, I mean, are they following their own SEO best practices? For example, their website should be easy to navigate, lead you down a path, and speak to you as a customer with well-designed landing pages and clever call-to-actions.
Are they using the same techniques on their own website as they are promising to do for you? If possible, ask them to demonstrate examples of how they are using these techniques for their own benefit. They should be able to show you.
Question 6: How will you measure success?
I cannot stress enough how important this is. You need to specifically ask them what metrics they will be tracking in order to measure the success of your campaign, and how often you will be updated on these metrics.
You should expect a monthly report detailing key performance indicators, so you can see the results for yourself. Remember, leads and sales are always more important than traffic and keywords, which should come lower down the scale.
If ALL a company offers you is a monthly keyword report: run.
Question 7: Will I have complete transparency?
A good SEO vendor will have nothing to hide. If they are using software such as HubSpot for their SEO efforts (and you’re paying for it), you should be able to log in and see exactly what they have been doing.
If a company is simply using analytics software, you may not get this access, in which case it will be even more important for them to be able to demonstrate transparency to you.
The very least you can expect is a monthly report that includes the tasks they have recently carried out for you, as well as being able to answer any questions you might have.
Things you need to ask yourself
If an SEO vendor has successfully answered all of the above questions, and you’re still feeling uncertain, there are some questions you should ask yourself before proceeding.
- Do I trust them?
- Do I like them?
- Did they demonstrate value?
- Will I be able to work with them?
- Do they share my company values?
- Did they listen to me?
- Do they have a good understanding of my challenges?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of the questions above, there’s a good chance they might be a good fit for your business.
Managing your expectations of SEO
The practice of SEO encompasses a lot nowadays, or at least, it should. This is because SEO is traditionally very manipulative and mainly focused on tactics designed to bring more traffic to your website; not actually convert it.
The truth is that if your website isn’t converting well, adding more traffic to the mix won’t fix the problem, which is why you ideally need a more holistic approach, such as inbound marketing.
Some SEO vendors are starting to introduce other elements such as content creation (as mentioned above) and website flow into their packages, and this is what you should be looking for.
Remember, if ALL an SEO company talks about is keywords and search rankings, without being able to predict a solid increase in leads and sales, they might not be worth your time.
For more on this subject, read my blog entitled: ‘Why SEO is’nt the Solution to Your Business Problem’.
If you’re contemplating hiring an SEO company, it can be a bit confusing when looking at all the various services and techniques out there. SEO has had to adapt in recent years, and ideally an SEO company should be offering you more than just increased traffic to your website, and keyword optimisation.
A good SEO vendor should be able to tell you the kind of results you should expect in terms of leads and sales, as well as the tactics they will be using to help you achieve them. They should also give you a good idea of the increased revenue you can expect to get in return; otherwise, you won’t know that the services you are paying for will really be worth it.
Your chosen SEO company should also be able to tell you which metrics they will be tracking to measure success, and keep you in the loop with monthly (or weekly) marketing reports. Transparency is important, so if you can be involved with the software they are using, and log in to see exactly what is going on, even better.
Finally, SEO traditionally focuses on generating more traffic to a website, rather than converting than traffic, so it may be that you’d benefit from a more holistic approach such as inbound marketing.