If you’re considering outsourcing your search engine optimisation (SEO) to a specialist agency, then there are a few things to look out for. For every high-quality, reliable SEO agency out there, there will be one that isn’t so trustworthy; perhaps even using black hat (unethical) techniques to boost your rankings. As such, you should ask each SEO agency on your shortlist the following questions…
What type of assurances can you provide me?
Asking SEO agencies this question is likely to garner one of two responses: either they’ll assure you that they can achieve a certain ranking or traffic level for your website, or they’ll assure you of the techniques they’ll use to support the growth of your traffic and rankings. The latter answer is the one to look for. Any agency that promises you certain rankings or an XYZ increase in traffic can’t be trusted, as there is simply no way to ensure these promises are fulfilled.
The biggest search engines (Google specifically) are fickle when it comes to their algorithms (the processes they use to calculate their rankings), meaning there’s no way to tell what they’ll do next. One month, having many links could be deemed best practice… by the time the next month arrives the complete opposite could be true. As such, all an SEO agency can do is assure you that they’ll use best practice techniques, regular monitoring of your rankings and a partnership approach to support your ranking/traffic growth.
Can you send me some testimonials and case studies?
If an SEO agency has no testimonials to show you – or worse, has them but is unwilling to share them – then walk away. Any agency worth its salt will have customers who are ready and willing to shout their praise from the rooftops. What’s more, these testimonials should be accompanied by a specific name and job title, e.g. “Dave Johnson, CEO at ABC Industries, said…”. You can then search for Dave and the company yourself, even getting in touch with him to ask what he really felt about the service he received. Denying you access to this information is a sure sign that an SEO agency isn’t confident in its work.
Will you send me regular reports and update me on your work schedule?
Don’t trust an SEO agency that won’t commit to sending you regular updates on performance and its work schedule. Although you should be prepared to let the agency get on with the work, without badgering your team every hour with emails, it’s also important that you know what’s going on. Why not suggest receiving quarterly updates on traffic, rankings etc. and perhaps a two-monthly update on the work schedule ahead? That way, you’ve got a full view of what’s happening, without having to be on the agency’s case every day.
Are off-page and on-page optimisation both part of your plan?
Knowing that your SEO agency will take care of both the off-page and on-page optimisation for your site is crucial. Of course, with on-page optimisation there will be technical or structural changes that only you/your team can take of – but your agency should provide you with detailed recommendations about what exactly you need to do. Taking this two-tier approach will ensure the best possible chances for success for your SEO campaign and website, so it’s vital you feel confident your agency will adopt it.
Stuart Wooster writes on behalf of Vertical Leap who are an SEO agency based on the south coast of the UK.