Every business should consider these five questions when engaging an SEO agency!
We don’t believe blind boilerplate RFPs identify the best SEO agency for a business. In today’s world, successful SEO engagements require a partnership with clients, marketing & PR departments, agencies and web developers to deliver successful results. This cohesion is very difficult to glean from a series of “capabilities checkboxes”.
The vendor selection process should involve two steps: the agency getting to know the client and the client interviewing the agency. Through an open discussion about the project and client goals, both the SEO agency and client can identify if they’re a good fit. With that said, here are the five questions:
1. Do they have knowledge with your web platform?
Web platforms can create limitations related to SEO. To counter potential problems here, make sure your SEO agency has experience and knowledge with the platform you use. This can often save dozens or hundreds of hours by skipping the “platform learning curve” that new teams go through.
Some agencies may recommend you change your platform or website template. They may have good reasons, but unless your system is really antiquated or limited, it may be a sign you should continue to explore your options. A full site redesign may not be necessary or desirable just to improve your SEO results.
2. What is your average client size?
Like most digital marketing, SEO does not create good results with a one-size fits all approach. Some agencies have the resources to work in enterprise environments and collaborate with a wider IT and marketing team. Some agencies serve SMBs better. Some have the flexibility to do both.
Find out to make sure the agency fits your need. You don’t want to be the biggest client at an SMB agency and you also don’t want to be the small client that gets ignored while the agency focuses on their enterprise clients.
3. Do you have an SEO department?
This is a key question. Many large and reputable agencies that include “SEO” as a part of their capabilities have a great “SEO guy” versus a full “SEO department”. This requires a single human to understand the role of a technical SEO expert, a content specialist, and an off-site SEO expert.
It’s rare to find a single individual who understands the technical aspects of SEO and also understands how to write content that appeals to humans. Technical and content needs vary from one business to another. For most businesses, an agency that blends content and technical expertise delivers the best results.
4. Do they understand User Experience (UX) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
Google continues to change SEO. Recent tests with machine learning as a ranking signal demonstrate Google’s goal to shift search away from keywords. Today and in the future it’s all about the user experience since the goal of SEO programs are to drive conversions, not just rankings.
In 2016, SEO isn’t only about SEO. Commercial websites don’t need to have as much text as a Wikipedia page, but they also can’t look like Tumblr. Finding the balance between SEO content, brand guidelines, user experience and conversion optimization is the key to successful SEO that drives rankings and more importantly, conversions.
5. Can they say “No!”?
This may be the most important question. It’s one you need to ask yourself. Will the agency we’re talking with say “No” to us?
You see, at BFO, we’ve heard it all. Ideas on how to trick google, quick hitter strategies that involve the purchase of 10 domains to let SEO push to the primary site and even more ways to manipulate search response. Techniques like these once worked. Today, Google issues penalties for them.
When choosing an agency, you need one that will say “No” and give you a clear explanation. Or at the very least they should ask “Why?”. If you want SEO success, you need to hire an an SEO agency to give you advice as an expert consultant. It’s the job of the SEO team to give you advice…even if it’s not popular with your CMO or IT department.
We advocate transparency and directness in all discussions. That said, it might be worth asking your prospective agency some wild gray area questions. Call it a litmus test. See how they respond. Do they act as advisors and challenge or say “no”? Or do they say yes and humor your every whim to get the “deal”.
A good SEO agency will be honest, deliver bad news, counter recommendations and, if necessary, give you a firm NO. This is a good thing.
If you’d like to know how BFO would answer these questions, give us a ring or start a conversation with one of our SEO experts.