Many Startups struggle to screen SEO agencies. There are hundreds of thousands of SEOs, worldwide. In this post, you will learn how to screen a potential SEO and marketing agency from the perspective of an SEO, that has more than 15 years of experience.
SEO Agency Questions:
- How long has your company been in the SEO business?
You are looking for historical perspective. A company or an SEO Team that has been doing SEO for 1-5 years as opposed to 10+ years is not as strong as a company who has been through every Search Engine algorithmic update.
- How do you differ from your competitors?
Each company has a different philosophy when it comes to handling SEO for their clients. Some are full service SEO agencies who handle everything from consulting to implementation (Vembar falls here), other agencies consult and do not handle implementation and some agencies outsource or focus on a single marketing discipline.
- Are your services all inclusive?
Varies company by company – many companies have different offerings that are used to upsell their clients, every year. There are a few agencies, that will provide an all inclusive service (Vembar falls here).
- How many hours and heads do you get for your account?
You are looking for value because many companies put 3-5 people on the paper but each individual may end up spending less than 10% of their time on your account with remainder of time spent on other client accounts.
- Name the individuals who will work on my account.
Google each person to see their online experience and expertise. Any SEO worth his/her salt will be highly visible online. There is no such thing as a below the radar SEO in both the agency and in-house SEO world.
Cross Discipline Integration Questions:
- How do you integrate with Paid, Display and SEO?
- No integration
- Some integration – Keyword data is tested by Paid Search before the SEO targets those keywords
- More integration – Expensive KWs are ranked by SEO while Paid search pays for cheap KWs but not expensive KWs or vice versa
- Strong Integration – (3) is done with an automated tool like Kenshoo, Marin or another bid management tool
- Expert – Machine learning algorithms are used to predict and forecast the right keywords to capture, based on many different factors such as but not limited to: weather, cost, search demand, etc.
- How do you calculate return on investment (ROI) for the SEO offering?
If a company cannot calculate your return on investment for SEO. Run. Run as fast away as possible.
- How do you calculate opportunity and forecast for SEO?
Competent SEO agencies can calculate the SEO opportunity by Search position, based on current rank and current traffic, along with potential competition. It is not foolproof method and can be used as a directional view to understand potential market opportunities.
- Please show me an SEO report.
Look for analysis and get rid of companies who provide automated reports that have no actionable insights. Read the analysis to see whether they blame the results on you, guarantee results next month or provide action items that forecast results with reasonable accuracy.
- What kind of cross channel integration do you offer for SEO with regards to Email, Paid, TV, Social, Appstore, etc.
Look to see the type of support that your Startup will get. For example, your company should not get passive support like: “optimize page title here and there” but rather dynamic support, such as: when your Startup’s TV advertising occur, here is an SEO recommendation to put an optimized asset into play that takes advantages of the halo effect in Brand awareness and so forth. You want SEO companies that think holistically with the perspective of integrated marketing.
Technical Questions: If the SEO partner does not know the answer to any of these questions, it is a deal breaker.
- How do you optimize a multi-regional and multi-language website?
Implement and customize an SEO code called Hreflang.
- What is a reverse or an inverted index?
Many SEOs that lack fundamental knowledge will not be able to answer this question. You are looking to see whether the prospective partner will be truthful or skate around your question or even downright lie to you.
- Name the 6 most important link characteristics that Search Engines value:
- IP Diversity
- Anchor Text
- Topical Relevance
- Niche Relevance
- Geographic Relevance
- Link Weight or Pagerank
- What is negative SEO and how do you prevent it?
Negative SEO is when unethical SEOs prevent a website or certain URLs from showing up in Search Engines by building hundreds of thousands of bad SEO backlinks. Negative SEO can be prevented through Google Webmaster Tools and disavowal files through active hands on management by your SEO agency.
- Can Google crawl iframes? If not, then how do you get Google to crawl iframes?
The answer is no, it iframes cannot be crawled by themselves, however, iframes can be crawled if you add the iframe URL into an XML or HTML sitemap.
Social SEO Questions:
- How does Social impact Traditional Google.com Search?
Social personalizes the Search Results Pages for logged in users. If you run social media campaigns for your Startup, then you can personalize your users’ search results with SEO listings from your Startup.com website.
- How do you optimize a brand listing for Facebook Graph Search?
Listen here to see if the agency partner’s answers sound templated or if the agency admits that they do not know. The correct answer is to optimize the listing for boolean operators (AND, OR, BY, IN, NEAR etc). For example, optimize for “likes” for the query: “restaurants” IN “los angeles”
- What is the knowledge graph and how do you optimize for it?
Google “mastiff” and the fact based results at the top and the right, result from the Google Knowledge graph. You can optimize the Knowledge Graph by modifying Freebase, Wikipedia and other public trusted sources of information that Google is able to access online through crawling.
- How do you optimize for inclusion into Google News?
Look to see what the agency’s process is like here (and if they have one).
- Why were iAcquire (sold links), JCPenney (bought links) and Overstock (bought links) penalized?
The End. Happy vendor selecting! Please reach out with any questions in the comments section below.