10 questions you need to ask before hiring an SEO Agency

It can be a daunting task when looking to hire a digital marketing agency. Agencies have different specialisms with some labelling themselves a full services digital agency or a specialist SEO agency. It can be easy to get lost in a world of jargon and semantics. The best advice is for you and your business to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve but to scrutinise and interrogate this aspect.

For example, you may be tasked with getting a website built and there are many freelancers, developers, agencies that will build you a website but if months after the website has been built it doesn’t appear for the brand / business name, chances are you or your boss will be unimpressed. At SEO Strategy we aim to push back and drill down to ensure there is a brief both parties believe to be appropriate, realistic and achievable.

Questions to ask when hiring an SEO Consultancy / Digital Marketing Agency

What do you think of our brief?

Any good consultant or agency will challenge your brief. It’s important to ascertain what is trying to be achieved along with your exception as a client. To be able to quote accurately it’s important to have this understanding between both parties. The brief may need to be re-visited and revised, possibly broken down into stages.

Do you have experience working in our industry sector?

This tends to be a commonly asked question and understandable as clients may feel reassured if you have dealt with their industry. This is where you may want to identify the level of expectation particularly when it comes to who is doing what. For example, when it comes to content marketing and blog articles it may not be feasible for your agency to write these for you. For example, a law firm would need specialist legal insight and knowledge to write about particular topics. Many firms opt to have their own solicitors write these articles as opposed to outsourcing them.

How do you measure results?

As part of the brief it should be discussed what metrics will be monitored and what results are expected. Establishing what constitutes a conversion is very important. It’s important to state though that SEO’s primary concern is increasing rankings which increases exposure and encourage increase in web visits. However, conversion rate optimisation is concerned with what happens when visitors land on your website. Some agencies will handle CRO as part of the overall SEO Strategy but some agencies may suggest you deal with a specialist CRO Consultant or agency.  However, at The SEO Strategy Agency,  we do not want to unpick CRO so we include it as part of our SEO work and packages. CRO can inform the SEO efforts. For example, if SEO is driving lots of traffic to a particular landing page but if that page has a bounce rate of over 90%, something could be very wrong and need adjusting. 

How long will results take to see?

The first thing is to identify what are results. Results can include improved site health, site speed, website rankings, CTR, Page visits, schema markup, and website enquiries (calls / form submission). Expecting page one rankings after a matter of weeks is unrealistic. Find out how competitive your search terms are if you are to pay for Google Ads. This will give you a good idea of how competitive search terms are. Also, it may encourage your to think laterally and consider focussing on other search terms which could give your website relevant exposure. Google does have algorithm updates and these can impact results. Sometimes changes can be picked up in a few days or few months. Typically, initial ranking results and improvements would be expected to be seen between 3-6 months but national search terms may be 12 months and beyond. Also, bear in mind no agency can guarantee you results.

What are the benefits of a Professional SEO Audit?

An SEO Audit, if executed correctly, will identify issues that may be preventing your site from reaching page one. Audits can also identify opportunities for improving overall organic search engine performance. Essentially, an SEO Audit can act as a health check for your website. They are keeping a check on crucial performance and security updates. WordPress websites are notorious for being left not updated, leaving a site vulnerable to hackers. So a website maintenance package is always advisable. Still, an SEO Audit Report will take this to the next level and ensure best practices adhere. To avoid losing those all-important website rankings. Any decent SEO Audit will identify issues and opportunities across the following areas; technical SEO, on and off-page SEO, content development & optimisation, social media optimisation and conversion rate optimisation.

How much does SEO cost?

SEO agencies tend to work on a monthly retainer basis. SEO is a long-term undertaking and needs regular, consistent monitoring and implementation. A monthly SEO retainer in Hampshire would cost anywhere in the region of £500-£5,000 a month. This will largely depend on the scope of work, number of services. Make sure to give a detailed brief as possible so your SEO Agency can supply an accurate quote.

Are Local SEO Consultants or London SEO Consultants better?

Your personal preference might determine how you want to proceed. However, with the power of today’s technology, it is not essential to be based locally. Especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have adapted and utilised working from home. It is better to find an SEO agency that is the right fit for your business and schedule in monthly or quarterly meetings. At The SEO Strategy Consultancy, we have clients all over the UK (London, Manchester, Southampton etc). An SEO Consultant in London is arguably competing in a more saturated market than somewhere outside of London such as Southampton. Therefore, if they stand out, they may be more skilled or focus a lot on their marketing and SEO efforts on personal promotion. However, nothing beats a personal recommendation. Sometimes a smaller virtual agency can offer more value for money, due to lower overheads and a higher level of service. Still, some clients feel more comfortable justifying to management going with a top 5 SEO consultancy. Just weigh up your options, budget and the SEO proposals and pitches presented to you.

Do you have a track record and client testimonials?

Above all else you want to hire an agency that is a right fit for your business and is able to take on your requirement. Testimonials can give you a good idea of strengths of the firm. They may have a scheme where they can put you in touch with an existing client. They may be able to arrange to send you results from other clients. However, their response to your brief should speak volumes; has it been tailored, did it meet your requirements, have they done their research. The proposal coupled with a meeting or two should confirm your decision. Some agencies may charge for a proposal or initial consultations. From point of view of overheads and viability this is understandable. We do not tend to charge for proposals that may secure your business. However, we are very upfront and honest and would rather say if we feel you will not be a right fit for us. We do not accept every client. We focus on having clients we can work well with and achieve positive results.

How will you work with us?

This will be discussed early on at the brief and proposal stage. We will need to know your expectation and what sort of level of service you will require, then we will be able to suggest what package level would be suitable for your business. However, we can sometimes get this wrong and this is why review meetings will be scheduled to review the rate, level of service and performance. As a virtual digital SEO agency, we tend to work in a remote manner. However, we are happy to meet with our clients and come to your office. 

What advice do you give for writing blog articles?

This is a question we get asked time and time again, so we thought we would include it. It may be a question you want to ask your prospective agency / consultant. Our best bit of advice when it comes to blog article writing is … Write for humans, optimise for robots! As SEO professionals it gets a bit worrying when clients are quite keen to keyword stuff articles. We want you to focus on quality content that is useful and relevant. Your articles should be natural sounding and easy to understand. There tends to be an inclination in technical industries to over use jargon, corporate terms which can over complicate the article and make it more difficult for the reader. Write with the reader in mind. Maybe you are talking to industry professionals but have pieces that also target the end user, client, customer.