With thousands, if not millions of websites competing for people’s attention, one could say that the internet is practically a world of information waiting to be tapped. And, we’re referring to just one topic here. Do a quick search of say, “iPhone” on search engines like Google and Bing, and you could be staring at that computer or mobile phone screen for hours on end just sifting through each search result.
This is the reason why many companies employ search engine optimization or SEO to try and get to the top of the search engine results food chain. The better the search results, the more chances you’ll have of getting noticed by web users who tend to have short attention spans.
Let’s face it: managing your website’s SEO can be a pretty demanding task, especially if you’re not an SEO guru yourself. This is why a diverse number of SEO agencies and solution providers have cropped up over the past few years. But how do you separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say? Choosing the right people to do the job can spell the difference between staying on top or sinking to the bottom of search engines.
Questions to Ask When Outsourcing SEO
To achieve success in SEO outsourcing, asking the right questions is a must. Consider the following questions when screening possible candidates for SEO solutions:
1. Are specific results guaranteed?
Any SEO company that tells you it can guarantee that your website reaches a top-ranking spot or say it has a special “connection” a search engine is either deceiving your or are into black hat techniques.
While legitimate agencies will tell you that they’re confident with what they can do to help achieve your business goals based on their past work, others that promise they can give you a specific ranking or traffic level is all smoke and mirrors. It would be prudent to stay away.
What you should look for is an SEO company that could work with you in forecasting general scenarios based on your budget, creating strategies in line with your business goals, and edging out the competition.
2. How long will it take to expect results?
This is possibly the most revealing question you could ask. As an instant disqualifier, dismiss any companies that promise to give you “immediate” results or tell you that your website will be at the top spot of search engine results pages (SERPs) in just a couple of weeks. This means the SEO techniques they’re using aren’t sustainable or perhaps they don’t know what they’re doing. Or worse, they’re not being upfront about how SEO works.
The barebones truth is that SEO takes time. It may seem that a potential company is using delaying tactics when someone there tells you it may take three to six months to start getting results, but in fact this is going to help you understand that SEO doesn’t involve any sort of wand-waving that magically delivers a favorable outcome. There are metrics at work that need to be influenced to improve your SERP ranking.
Keep in mind that different niches come with varying levels of competition. There are some cases where it only takes a few months to see results, while others take some more time to reach some degree of success.
This is where the metrics come in. There will be deliverables, such as the content that needs to be published, links that should be built, and so on. But if you’re not getting anything like this in your monthly reports, chances are the SEO company working on it isn’t doing it right.
When things take a downturn, don’t fret. There are times when traffic may be bad at first before they get better. A good SEO company would know how to make the necessary adjustments in the strategy it employs before the trend is reversed.
But if you do experience a drop in traffic, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern if it doesn’t persist for months before it’s reversed. What you want to keep your eye on is incremental growth in conversions and not just traffic as a whole. Take a close look at SEO-specific metrics such as year over year sales numbers, backlinks, rankings, and qualified leads.
3. How do you measure your SEO success?
Of course, being ranked number 1 is one thing. But translating this into sales is another story altogether. You need to know how your potential partner agency will measure success in its SEO dealings. Will they measure this via traffic, actual sales, or other types of conversions? Or will they combine all this into real results, showing all aspects and metrics of the search funnel? Conversely, stay away from SEO agencies that can’t give you accurate measurements of what they’re doing.
4. Is your content SEO friendly and relevant?
There’s no question that SEO is highly dependent on quality content to be successful. We live in a content-driven society. As mentioned above, the internet is filled with sites that are vying for one’s attention, so content that can easily be found is a big plus. It’s not just about keywords and the like. Content, such as blogs and texts, should be able to integrate these keywords and search terms in a way that is both reader and search engine friendly. If the potential SEO partner has a team of content creators and copywriters that are experts in building optimized content, that’s a definite bonus!
5. Which search terms will you focus on?
Getting these right, along with determining how these jive with the site and the company and its products is even better. Remember that there is no hard formula for this one. It’s a matter of testing and research to see which keywords/phrases work best for your site and your business. This might take time, but eventually, you’ll have a much better idea of what search terms are actually generating revenue for your business and which ones just contribute vanity metrics. An SEO partner that does this gets added brownie points.
6. How will you integrate SEO with marketing campaigns?
Keep in mind that SEO is just one aspect of the overall marketing thrust. A good Search Engine Optimization partner must be able to mix and match all campaign activities with SEO efforts as though they ‘re crafted from one tree, so to speak. A PR campaign, for instance, for a new product must have the same keywords and search terms as SEO activities. Or at least relate to them in a way that readers and viewers can easily spot the family resemblance. Furthermore, paid search efforts should also be tightly aligned with your SEO campaign, so your future SEO partner should also be flexible and holistic with their keyword targeting strategies.
7. What will you do to maintain our SEO presence once we’ve set things up?
It’s a lot of work to create a site that is SEO friendly, write copy, create content, and build links during the first few weeks. That’s called the setting up phase so naturally, getting it off the ground with all this activity is a given. But once the dust settles and you wind down to a daily/weekly routine, you need to know what your SEO partner will be doing to earn that monthly retainer. Will they still be producing SEO-worthy copy and content? Will they continue to build links that will drive traffic to your site and your store? It’s things like these that you need to figure out. Again, this could spell the difference between long-term SEO success and lingering at the bottom.
8. How will you get quality links that will drive traffic to our site?
This is admittedly what makes a good SEO partner—the ability to get and place quality links that will drive authority for their clients’ websites. Building quality links that are relevant to your brand’s products and services is critical. It’s not easy but it can be done. Ask for a few samples of their past work. Even better, try to see what kinds of results these links brought while you’re at it (using an SEO tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs). This way, you can get an idea of what they can for your site.
9. What’s your success story?
Yes, it’s all about how successful a partner was in increasing website and sales traffic for a client. Don’t be shy to ask about who their past clients were, what they did for them, and how successful they were in their Search Engine Optimization efforts. A partner that is proud of what they’ve done and has something to show for it would clearly be the right one.
Important Technical Questions
Another approach could involve asking questions that encompass services, technical matters, and how well a partner knows your industry, among others. The questions for these can go something like:
10. Will you be performing services that complement your SEO efforts?
As mentioned earlier, it isn’t all about doing Search Engine Optimization nowadays. Complementing these with Marketing and Public Relations activities would be much better and may drive more people to your site and store. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to meet the team who will be doing the SEO and other activities as well. This way, you’ll actually get to know the faces behind all this. And ask about how many times you’ll be meeting each month, how many hours they intend to put in per month, and the like. In the end, it’s about knowing who will handle your SEO activities, what they’ve got lined up, and how they intend to go about these.
11. Will your SEO activities involve making technical changes?
It must be made clear from the onset if technical changes will be made to your website. The last thing you want is to find your site non-existent all because the SEO partner agency made a few “adjustments” in the name of increased results. A good rule of thumb is to plan out all the technical adjustments that need to be made so that everything is clear from the get-go.
12. What do you know about our industry?
Being a good SEO partner, just like anything in life, means doing your homework in order to get it right. This is what you should be looking for in your SEO partner—one who understands your industry and can make the most of this knowledge to drive home results. We’re not saying that partner be an expert in the field. That’s your job. But knowing enough to get to best results in the search engine and sales charts is key. Nothing is worse than a partner who is merely “winging it” as they go.
13. Will you be needing our team members on a regular basis?
Needless to say, this is a given. The more important question is: how often will they be needed by the SEO partner. This must be determined from the start in order for the right members to manage their time and availability each month. This way, a steady and uninterrupted workflow can ensue. Plenty of resources can go to waste when work stops all because of a miscommunication.
14. Are you in any way, connected to our competitors?
In plain and simple terms, do you have a conflict of interest? Not only does this personify the saying No Man Can Serve Two Masters. It likewise opens up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities, chief among these is espionage. Sure, that may be quite extreme but there has to be some amount of ethical behavior here. One must choose which company they wish to work with.
15. Can we get out of the agreement without much complication?
Before signing that contract, make sure that you can easily terminate the agreement if you’re not happy. Nothing is worse than being stuck with a partner that you’re not happy with or one that doesn’t produce the desired results. Not only is this a waste of money but of time and energy as well. All this can be addressed when building out your SEO contract. Make sure to include legal details, contingencies for when things don’t go as planned, and of course, comprehensive cancellation terms.
In the end, get to know your Search Engine Optimization partner before signing on the dotted line. Get to know their success stories as well as their weaknesses. Get to know the team you could be working with, and understand what they can do to help you and your business make it big in today’s information-filled landscape—both in the virtual and physical world.
Looking for a reliable SEO partner? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help grow your brand!