The SEO methods that can help or hurt your small business change every year, so it’s important to know the right questions to ask an SEO company before hiring them on. Unfortunately, search engine optimization is a business field that has many fake and deceptive companies in it; so you need to know what to look for to find the legitimate businesses.
1. How Much Experience Does Your Company Have in SEO?
Just like with any job interview, you should always ask companies that you’re vetting how much experience they have. When did they open for business, and how many clients have they helped? Ask about their staff, and be sure that the people they would allocate to working on your website have experience and prior successful projects. Pay attention to the way they talk. Do they seem knowledgeable in SEO? Are they able to define terms for you and can they explain the basics?
After they’ve told you their experience and background, the next step is to see what they can do. Ask for a list of their past and current clients, and then take your time researching how well their client’s websites are doing. Where do their other clients rank in search results? Contact the clients and see if they’re completely happy with the service they received. The SEO company might only be able to share a few names if many of their other clients aren’t open to being contacted, so don’t be worried if the list isn’t long.
2. Does Your Company Have Experience with Local SEO?
A company with experience in local SEO can help you to draw in more local customers in your area. For small businesses, this is paramount. With local SEO optimization, your business should be suggested by search engines when people nearby type in keywords relating to your business. If the company does have expertise in local SEO, they will add your local data – like the city and state location of your business – to your website’s metadata, and work to have your website listed with the online local directories of Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
3. What Tactics Will You Use to Improve my Website’s Ranking?
Only trust SEO companies that are willing to tell you their normal methods and procedures. Legitimate companies start with a technical assessment of your site to find any problems that could be detrimental to your current ranking, and then suggest an array of possible action plans that can be implemented after the results of the initial assessment. They should be able to tell you about the different strategies and methods they’ve used with past clients, and be able to explain how each strategy works. This will show you whether or not they know what they’re talking about, and if they’re using safe or unsavory practices to boost ranking.
4. How Long Will it Take to Implement These Strategies?
Ask for a timeline as well. Any SEO company like “Small Business Seo” that is worth their money will know roughly how long it will take to move you through the preliminary steps, how long your initial website assessment will take, and how soon they will be able to start on the actual optimization of your page. Don’t trust a company that is trying to drag out the initial assessment and preliminary steps; this is only a ploy to get paid for months while doing nothing to help your small business’s SEO.
5. How Long Will it Take to See Results?
Once again, look for a realistic and honest answer here. If the company claims that you will see ranking results almost immediately, they’re either using methods that will eventually get your website banned, or they’re lying. After implementing proper SEO strategies, it will take some time for Google to recognize the changes to your website. As your incoming traffic rises, your likability will rise, and your site will begin to rank higher. Each new strategy will help your website go up in ranking as well, and each takes time to implement and see the results from.
6. How Do You Measure the Success of Your Efforts?
Any SEO agency that knows what it’s doing will know how to track your website’s traffic before and after they begin using strategies to improve your SEO. Google Analytics is a popular and free tool that most companies use, and you can use tofo. The SEO agency should send you detailed reports on how much your traffic has increased, where this new traffic is clicking through from, and where your placement in search results is. They’ll also be able to find what keywords are driving people to your site. Over time, your website’s traffic and your placement in the search results should improve, otherwise, they’re not doing a very good job.
7. Do You Guarantee a Number One Search Ranking?
If the company you’re interviewing says they do guarantee a number one spot search ranking, walk away. There is no way for them to guarantee this, and claiming they can only subtracts from their credibility.
8. Do You Abide By Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
Any SEO company you hire must follow the webmaster guidelines with no exceptions. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all post a list of their own webmaster guidelines. These guidelines list all of the SEO tricks that used to artificially boost websites ranks. Google now has bots and algorithms in place that catch websites trying to use these tricks to cut corners. When a website gets caught using these practices, they either end up buried under other search results or banned. Since this would be hugely detrimental to your business, always check that your SEO company follows the webmaster guidelines.
9. Will You Notify Me with Any Changes You Make to My Website?
Before you trust someone with the fine details of your website, be sure that they are going to keep excellent records of each thing they change. Since search engine optimization requires lots of little, and big, adjustments in metadata and coding, you need to have a record of everything that was changed just in case it needs to be changed back. Also, it’s good to have a record of all the changes for the future. After the SEO company finishes their work on your website and you’ve seen the results, you may end up being comfortable enough to take over for yourself, or perhaps you want to hire on a different SEO company to take over. In either case, having a record of previous changes will help you or the new team to see what’s been done, and carve a path forward.
If you would prefer to have the SEO company contact you first with the proposed changes, be sure to communicate that during the interview or hiring on a process. In this way, you would have a record of any changes before they happen, and you won’t have any unexpected charges on your bill.
10. When Our Contract Ends, Will We Still Own the Content the SEO Company Created?
Even if you decide to end your contract before its expiration date, you need to have ownership rights over all of the web content that the SEO company created and optimized. Check with the company, and read through the contract before signing it. Since you are paying them to provide this service and to create and alter your content, it only makes sense that you would get to keep ownership rights over it after the contract ends. Otherwise, you would have to pay the company forever to keep your newly optimized website. Sadly though, this is a real problem you have to look out for.
Most business and SEO company arrangements last between half a year, and a full year in length; long enough to make all of the changes necessary, build links, and see results.
11. What Should I Expect Communications to Be Like?
Each company varies on their communication styles and policies. Be sure to ask all of the SEO companies that you’re considering how often and through what means they communicate. Do they call, text, email, or use video calling? What methods of communication do you prefer? Find a company that works best with your business practices, and what you’re comfortable with.
12. What is the Cost of Your Services, and What are Your Payment Terms?
Don’t forget to ask what costs and fees the company is expecting from you in exchange for their services. You need to know if they are expecting pay per hour or project, and if they require a retainer fee. Most companies choose to charge by the project because of the varying skill and speed of employees, as well as the variables that each project brings to the table. Last of all, ask when and how often they do their invoicing, and when your first bill will be due. Be sure your budget can handle hiring on this service before moving forward.
Take your time interviewing a few SEO companies before you decide which one is the best fit for your small business. Watch out for red flags like guaranteed number one search ranking, lack of experience, lack of references, dragged out timelines for SEO strategy implementation, or unrealistically fast timelines for good results. Be sure that any company you choose follows the webmaster guidelines, has experience with local SEO, is willing to tell you their strategies for SEO, and guarantees in their contract that you will still own all the content they altered and created even after the contract ends. Most of all, be safe, be thorough, and ask lots of questions.