There’s a few ultra-important questions to ask before hiring and ad agency for SEO purposes. If you don’t get the answers to these questions, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because most digital advertising agencies are focused on delivering creative work, not results. Others have business models centered on billing you for their time (which, again, does not take results into account). That’s not to say there aren’t agencies with strong, proven search optimization chops. There certainly are. But there’s far more who have no clue what SEO really is, yet they’ll bill you for it each and every month. To avoid that ugly scenario, here’s the vetting questions you’ll want to ask, from an online consultant’s point of view.
Do you have an actual SEO professional on staff? The answers you receive may surprise you. Some ad firms will have their individual account managers take responsibility for everything. That includes your SEO work. That’s a terrible scenario for any business. Only slightly less awful is having an IT or web developer handle your SEO work, as some people often assume (incorrectly) that anyone who builds or maintains websites must know how to rank them. That’s not the case however. If the ad agency pitching you on SEO as part of their work doesn’t have a dedicated search engine optimization pro at the helm, who can show you that they’ve had success ranking sites, you should walk away. Briskly.
What tactics does your company use to rank websites? What you’re looking for here is detail and transparency. If the agency can’t or won’t tell you, that’s a big warning sign. Likewise, if their answers don’t include any mention of outreach strategies or aggressive content marketing, that’s a red flag. And most importantly, if you have an aging, sub-par website without a strong mobile experience, the first words out of their mouth should be about how they plan on fixing that first. If they don’t “get” that SEO without a great user experience is wasted money, they’ll learn this by wasting YOUR money!
How will you report on activity and success? There’s a few simple things to look for here. First, if they don’t discuss showing you Google Webmaster Tools data with REAL results on how you are moving up the ladder, there’s a problem. If this is an advertising agency that thinks backlinks don’t matter, aren’t discussing how they measure and report link acquisition, there’s a problem. Finally, if they aren’t giving you Google Analytics reports showing how their work is not only impacting search results, but is driving real, qualified traffic…you guessed it…there’s a problem.
There’s a lot more that goes into vetting a digital agency relationship. Cost is a major one. The full scope of work that will be completed is another. However, if your ad agency of choice is also talking SEO, make sure they are talking about it right. Otherwise, it’s in your best interest to find a proven SEO firm elsewhere.