6 questions that will get you an awesome SEO agency

by Rick Elenbaas
12 July 2016

Looking to hire an SEO, but not sure where to start? Here are the top questions to ask when on the hunt for the perfect agency.

With a large pool of agencies offering digital marketing services it has never been harder for Australian businesses to pick a great search marketing vendor. With no industry supervisor or standard, finding out whether you are dealing with a legitimate vendor can be a challenge.

Selecting the wrong SEO agency can not only be a waste of time, it could potentially result in your website being pushed down the rankings or even unindexed by Google. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines outline the principles by which all SEO marketers must abide.

Generally if something's too good to be true, it probably is. We've all seen it - ads on Fiverr, Warrior Forums (all promising you hundreds of backlinks for $10). Go down this path and you're asking for trouble.

This is the ‘black-market’ of SEO – aptly named "blackhat SEO". Want Google to hate you? This is the route you choose. SEO marketers that do not abide by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines can be heavily penalised by the search engine.

Blackhat practices can range from simply purchasing backlinks for your site (known as unnatural links) through to more complex schemes whereby ‘doorway’ pages are keyword loaded, often including hidden links to the SEO’s other clients. In some cases whole sites have been taken over.

Getting to grips with SEO, you see, is no mean feat. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the Google Webmaster Guidelines and the ability to keep up to date (and understand) the regular Google updates – Penguin and Panda anyone?

However, when done correctly, SEO can have a significant impact on your website. It helps Google robots crawl your site and index your pages accordingly. When done well, it can move your website up the rankings in Google for specific keywords and longtail phrases, so your customers (and prospects) can find you more quickly.

For someone who has little to no understanding of SEO, it can be a difficult task to know how to pick a good SEO agency. Here's a checklist of questions to ask all your prospective agencies that'll make your life a tad bit easier – get rid of the nerves – and help you pick an agency that's going to get you the results you want (minus any nasty surprises).

Six Questions for SEO agencies


1. Do you have client case studies and testimonials that you can share with me?

A good SEO agency should not be afraid to share their successes with you. They’re led by experienced professionals who can reference happy clients and successful case studies. They should make search marketing easy to understand and illustrate their impact is simple to track.

Ask to be put in touch with a couple of the agency’s clients to find out from the ‘horse’s mouth’ what it is like to work with the agency and what kind of results they have achieved.


2. Can I have a detailed overview of what methods you will use to optimise our site?

A good SEO agency should make an effort to understand your business, the goals you’re trying to achieve and how to integrate this knowledge into your search marketing roadmap.

Once they understand the goals that matter to your organisation, they should be able to outline the steps they will take to optimise your search marketing programmes. This should include a site audit so you can understand how your site is currently performing and what on-page (content-focused) and off-page (backlinks) changes you will need to make to improve it.

Be wary of SEOs that claim they can get you to the top of the Google rankings for a popular keyword. You could spend a lot of money chasing a false dream. A good SEO will understand the keyword landscape and suggest realistic (and most optimal) keywords your site should focus on.

Most importantly, they will know how to turn things around, within the recourses available.


3. How do you comply with the Google Webmaster Guidelines?

Compliance with the Google Webmaster Guidelines is an essential component of successful SEO. Google penalises sites that fail to comply. Ask the agency to outline how each of the methods they are proposing comply with the guidelines. For peace of mind, consider including a clause in your contract compelling them to comply with the guidelines.

4. How will changes to the site be made and tracked?

Ask the agency to outline how they propose to make changes to your site when implementing their proposals. It is advisable to keep track of all changes made so you can track the impact on your ranking and traffic. A good agency will understand that search is part of a much larger marketing puzzle and will want to work closely with your developer to make changes to the site.

Alternatively, you may wish to give your SEO agency access to the backend of your website so they can make the changes themselves. This is one reason, why it is important to find an SEO that you trust.

5. What does success look like?

Great search marketers love meaningful data; whether it’s traffic uplift, new visitor count, store locater views, demographic insights, ROI improvements or sales revenue. They get a kick out of gleaning actionable insights from piles of data.

Your agency should be able to outline what data they will collect and how they will relay the information to your business. Good SEO agencies are accountable and love delivering great results; they live to deliver a monthly or intra-month report with positive data points. When results aren't great; they’re keen to work out what’s happened, why it happened and what to do next.

They have a restless curiosity to keep testing, learning and improving. This hunger to improve means they are continually looking for opportunities to evolve your search channel roadmap.

Collecting data on an ongoing basis also protects your business should you stop working with your agency. You will have a log of the work that has already been completed and its impact on your website. Potentially, it would also highlight when something has adversely affected your site.

6. How much will it cost? (one-off and ongoing fees?)

Ask for details of how you will be charged for the work. Typically SEO agencies charge per project, but it is also possible to secure their services on an ongoing basis under a retainer. Remember, make the most the most of your SEO agency’s skills – they should be able to recommend content ideas on the back of their keyword research – and ask how you could maximise their support on an ongoing basis.

Final word

So, you see, choosing the wrong SEO agency can not only be a costly affair, it can adversely affect your website’s rankings in Google and other search engines. Not only do you need to know what you want from an SEO, you need to know what you don’t want to ensure the authority of your site remains untarnished in Google’s eyes.

Use this list of questions when you are interviewing prospective agencies and you can avoid the pain of being unindexed by Google. The perfect agency should be one that understands your business, the importance of abiding by the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and tracking your successes.

To learn more about Salmat's digital marketing solutions, get a quote today or call us on 1300 725 628.

About the author
Rick Elenbaas
SEO Operations Manager

Rick Elenbaas is the SEO Operations Manager for Salmat with more than four years of digital agency experience, working for strong brands in competitive markets across Australia. Specialising in technical SEO operations, Rick is passionate about continuously improving and automating processes to accelerate the optimisation and organic growth of his client's websites. He has also strong web analytic abilities and advanced knowledge of web based technologies, including Wordpress.

More articles by Rick Elenbaas