SEO is one of the most misunderstood and most widely scammed business strategies. There are businesses all over the globe that will promise businesses the world and guarantee top rankings, yet have little knowledge of what it actually takes or what SEO actually is.
Having been in the SEO world for close to 15 years now, I have worked for and worked with many different types of digital agencies (I won’t name names); they usually fall into one of the groups below:
- Do SEO (just not ethically).
- Say they do SEO (but don’t).
- Say they offer SEO (but see it as a line item and not an inclusive strategy).
- Those that actually do SEO and know what it is all about – these are few and far between and is why our team was born.
The questions below will help you weed out those spammy SEO companies that are just out to take your hard-earned money and provide little value in return.
Questions To Ask When Choosing An SEO Company
Many unethical SEO companies and individuals are just looking for a quick buck and don’t have any vested interest in growing your business. Beyond the basics of making sure they have the skill set to provide high-value SEO, it is just as important to make sure they also have the following attributes.
1. Do they have a detailed and established SEO process?
We always talk with potential clients who have received quotes from other agencies – it’s just how business works. When we start to talk about our SEO process, most are taken back and tell us that when they asked other prospective agencies about their process, the agency responded with “it’s top secret” or “we don’t give away our secret sauce.”
These responses are BS! They either mean that the SEO company doesn’t have a process and methodology, or the one they do have is built upon spam tactics.
2. Do they include custom monthly reports outlining metrics and strategies?
One of the things that most spammy SEO companies do is only show you the end result. They won’t provide insights into the details that lead to the result, such as links they’ve earned or the value that their marketing strategies have provided.
But why would they not want to show you how awesome they are and the awesome links they have earned for you? Simple, they didn’t earn anything of value, and they are hiding the spam – which is usually only uncovered when your site rankings and traffic tank.
3. Do they include SEO training?
Doing an introductory SEO training seminar can be a great way to get to know your SEO company and the team members that you’ll be working with.
This should always be part of the overall SEO process and only bypassed if it’s something that you as a business don’t want.
4. Do they provide a list of people who will be working on your SEO?
Knowing who will be working on your account and their role in the agency is important.
Often, agencies don’t cast a client team based on the experience that each team member brings to the table. They usually cast a team based on:
- Who has free time?
- Or, to keep their cost down and profit high, they will assign junior people to your account.
Neither is inherently bad, but it’s your right to know who will be working on your brand before signing the contract.
5. Do they have testimonials from well-established businesses and people?
When using testimonials to influence your decision, make sure the SEO company has:
- A diverse set of reviews from authoritative people.
- The names and titles for each of the people who have given a testimonial – feel free to look these people up on LinkedIn to make sure they are real.
Anyone can get their friend to write them a review.
6. Do they have a belief system and higher purpose?
This is probably the hardest thing to fake and can be the thing that separates fly-by-night agencies from the quality shops. It is important that they know why they are doing what they are doing and not just blindly offering services.
So what does it mean to have a belief system or higher purpose? Here is a hint, it’s not a boilerplate “mission statements” such as:
- We provide leading internet marketing solutions to businesses on a global level.
- We are a top-rated SEO company that gets you #1 rankings.
- We are a global marketing firm that builds custom marketing solutions that drive bottom-line results.
- Our custom-built solutions will help transform your business and help you engage with users.
- We offer our clients leading customer service and digital solutions.
What do these even mean? They make me just shake my head in disgust.
So what is a belief statement?
Belief statements define the culture of a business and must prevail against all adversity and challenges. They should be the backbone that all strategies are derived from and lead by.
7. Do they have a well-designed website and SEO experience?
Finally, I am sure you’ve seen an agency website and wondered why the design was so bad, why the content was stuffed with keywords, or why they’ve not earned any links or social shares for their content.
You’ve probably also asked them about this and got an answer like, “we focus on our clients and don’t have time to SEO our own site.”. This statement is BS!
One of the easiest things you can do when determining if you think a company will be a great fit as your partner is to examine how they take care of their own website.
Things to look at are:
- Do they have content that has earned social share and links?
- Is their website experience well thought out?
- Is their website well designed?
- Do they have a blog where they publish in-depth content or is it just thin 500 word articles?
- Are their title tags and content optimized for both users and search engines?
- Do they stuff keywords in their content and title tags? We often see this spam tactic, even from “reputable SEO companies.”