Do you want to know how to hire the best SEO agency for your company needs?
Look no further, we’ve outlined practical tips and actionable insights for selecting the right search engine optimization company. In today’s post, you will find the best 35 SEO agency owners across the globe their input on the topic: “What should in-house marketers look for when hiring a SEO agency and what should they avoid at all costs?”
Enjoy the answers and feel free to share the post across your social channels. And, if you are looking to hire a SEO agency, please do not hesitate to contact us!
1. James Reynolds
Dubai-based entrepreneur. I tweet about #marketing #seo and #business – Contributor to @Entrepreneur and @GulfBusiness
Here are several things client’s and in-house marketers should look for when hiring an SEO agency.
I’ll start with the things to avoid:
Excessively long or short service agreements
Short contracts encourage tactics that will likely be detrimental to a site’s long-term health. Long contracts are mostly employed by agencies who are never going to get you a result, no matter how long you give them (which is exactly why they use them).
I recommend service agreements of around 6 months, by which time you should be seeing significant improvements regardless of where your website starts.
I often hear business owners say “I’ll go with the cheapest option and if it doesn’t work out , I won’t have lost much. I can upgrade to a better supplier later.”
Unfortunately, the cheaper end suppliers are forced to take shortcuts, like buying links from ‘fiverr.com’, or using link farms or automation scripts. The repercussions of such could be catastrophic for your website.
Despite the fact no-one can be sure of getting a number one ranking for your business, many SEO providers do offer it. Ranking guarantees are not only unethical but they are also dangerous.
Most SEO guarantees I’ve seen state a specific (high) result in a short span of time (months) which encourages shady crash and burn SEO. For more on this, check out this post on SEO guarantees and why you should avoid them.
When you stay clear of these things you will be well set. Now let’s turn our attention to the things you should look for:
Proven results over long periods
The best way to know how an agency has performed in the past is to speak with their current and past customers.
Ask them how their experience was, and what results were achieved. You should call several clients, relying on the opinion of one will not provide an accurate assessment.
Dedicated research and development
SEO as we know it is an ever changing landscape. I strongly recommend you work with an agency who has a dedicated resource and development department team.
The R&D’s job is to monitor changes in the algorithm and tests various scenarios in order to maximize your results.
Sizeable client base
An agency with many clients has access to more data and learning than an agency with just a few clients.
Exposure to many websites and markets (along with the experience that comes from that) gives an agency an advantage. That said, make sure they have the resources such as people, processes, and infrastructure to handle a large volume of customers.
2. Chris Dreyer
SEO specialist and CEO of http://www.attorneyrankings.org
If you’re an attorney, is the agency you’re looking to hire familiar with the legal industry?
- Do they know the ins and outs in regards to how to successfully promote a law firm?
- No matter the industry, you should look for an agency that has expertise in your sector. They know how to leverage assets that other generalized law firms do not.
- Also, by working in only one industry it’s easier to identify what works and what doesn’t. These can be determined with time but time is money and time should ultimately be utilized as much as possible for promotion.
- Go with someone that already knows how to market successfully for your business.
When someone is looking to hire you to help them, this is a transfer of trust. They need to be able to trust you and your methods to get them to the end result. Take a look at the bios and read them, do they have the experience to do the job well? Read their testimonials and investigate yourself to see if those clients are ranking well and have visibility.
Also, be sure to read the reviews from 3rd party sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google, BBB.org, etc.
Lastly, do they have case studies you can read to get in the mindset of the agency so that you can get a feel for how they work and if this process is something that you feel would be beneficial to your organization?
Communication & Deliverables
Ask questions about how they communicate progress.
Do they provide deliverables, answer emails within 24 hours, have an assigned dedicated account manager, do they use project management like asana or basecamp, do they have a timeline and deliverables for transparency?
Do they have a plan? How do they execute it?
3. David Jenyns
Here are my top considerations to think about when hiring an SEO agency:
Experience and reputation
It’s true, bad SEO can hurt you and since your website is the most important asset within your business, choose wisely! Take your time, do your research, ask for referrals, look for reviews and ensure they’re their own best example.
Transparent & happy to share
Look for an SEO that will help train you and your team so that you can bring some of the core activities back in house. This helps to ensure your content remains on brand and everything is done as cost effectively as possible. As your team’s knowledge grows, they’ll ask better questions, provide better support for you SEO and get better results.
It’s typically a red flag if an SEO is looking to tie you and your company into a long term contract.
I believe SEOs should be performance based and you should only want to continue working with them because they provide good value… not because you’re locked into some contract.
Regular, if not weekly, updates.
Your SEO should be able to provide you clear, transparent documentation as to what they’re working on.
Don’t just wait for your monthly report to see a data dump of your Google Analytics account.
Ask for links, examples and documentation… if they’re running a good operation they should be able to provide regular updates.
Trust your gut.
Often times you get a “gut feeling” if someone knows their stuff and is helpful and honest. If an SEO exhibits all of the the previous points mentioned and you get a good feeling about them… trust your gut!
4. Brock Murray
Entrepreneur & Digital Marketing Specialist @seopluscanada
When hiring an SEO company, the biggest thing to look for is a transparent process, concrete deliverables, and clear expectations. Any company worth working with should be able to clearly explain their process and what actions they will take to improve your search engine rankings. They should also be able to demonstrate and explain the work that has been done so far at any checkpoint you request.
SEO is an on-going process and requires many adjustments, constant monitoring, and a lot of hard work. This transparency holds the agency accountable for the work and ensures that the primary objectives remain front and centre. Do not trust a company that promises too-good-to-be-true results with no plan of how to deliver them.
Otherwise, not only do you have no guarantee of results, you may even be penalized for black hat techniques that the company took to secure results unethically.
The last thing you want with SEO is to be left in a worse position than where you started, because penalties are very difficult to recover from.
There are far too many agencies out there who will promise anything in a bid to secure a contract, with no plan of action or intention of ever delivering. Avoid such agencies at all costs.
5. Chris Burgess
Passionate tech geek. Co-founder of Melbourne-based digital agency.
Some of the things to look for would be an agency that wants to understand your business and objectives, combined with a good mix of experience, honesty and transparency. Excellent communication skills are also critical, since this will lay the foundations for a solid long term working relationship. You want to find people you enjoy working with, who want to understand your needs and where both parties push themselves to always do better. That’s when the real magic happens.
When hiring an agency, avoid anyone that feels “spammy” and doesn’t clearly explain the type of work they do. Spam is a major issue for search engines, as well as the digital marketing industry as a whole, and there are still a large number of agencies that don’t follow best practice. High risk strategies and tactics can hurt your marketing efforts, be wary of those that focus too much on outdated terms such as blog commenting, private blog networks (PBNs) and social bookmarking – anything that feels unnatural or that could be automated.
These activities are not only ineffective, but can also cause penalties. Some other red flags to look for are agencies that promise guaranteed results, especially without truly understanding your unique business goals and challenges.
When it comes to succeeding online, the bar is constantly being raised. Low quality work and outdated practices will hinder your marketing efforts, so find good people. Seek recommendations from other businesses you know of who are already working with an SEO agency. There are plenty of agencies that do great work, so take the extra time to find them.
6. Dan Petrovic
Australian Search Marketer
In-house marketers should consider what they’re trying to achieve. If they’re under pressure to perform quickly and their management is willing to take the risks then a sound business decision might be to go with a more aggressive SEO company. They tend to offer guarantees, may use unsafe, risky tactics or short-term benefit practices. Some of them actually bring good results. The risk is moderate though. In all other cases my recommendation is to understand the company and their process and see if it makes good sense. For example whether they make their decisions strategically, based on data and logic or act on a “piñata marketing” level, blind to data, whacking around hoping to hit targets at random.
Secondly it’s good to set goals, but remember that goals are something to aim for, and not something to get upset about if it wasn’t met 100%. Understand the reasons behind both success and failure. Lastly, speak to the people that will be working on your campaign and communicating with you on a regular basis. Do you like them?
Can you communicate effectively? A company is only as good as its people so make sure you can get a long with the people that will be working on your campaign.
7. Casey Meraz
Founder of Juris Digital & Ethical SEO Consulting. Moz Ranking Factors, Local Search Top Contributor, Author, Speaker
Over the years I have worked with a lot of in house relationships and have also heard the horror stories clients have told me. When an in house marketing team is looking to hire an in house agency it’s important first and foremost that they mesh and the communication is solid between the teams.
If you have trouble communicating during the sales or on-boarding process that’s probably a red flag that means trouble down the road. You need to like who you’re working with and feel 100% confident working with them. Once the trust and communication is there it boils down to KPI’s and expectations. In house marketers need to have a clearly defined goal instead of a broad one and hold their agency partner accountable to the milestones and KPI’s.
No matter what the relationship seems like at the beginning if there are not clearly defined goals and the agency isn’t willing to work with you to define those or be held accountable for them, then run for the hills.
8. Jake Bohall
Technical SEO | Link Development | Google Penalty Recovery | Search Marketing Strategies | VP at http://Angular.Marketing (Formerly Virante)
Overall, I think the biggest thing a marketer should look for is a company that seems to have a deep understanding of your issues and can quickly provide and relate potential solutions based on past experience.
Things like being Moz recommended, having an A+ BBB rating, etc.. is should be common sense, but engaging with an SEO that easily understands your problems and can help you solve them is most important, especially as SEO becomes more specialized in different areas, you need an SEO that is an expert in topics related to your needs.
The biggest thing to avoid will always be companies that guarantee top rankings, don’t have an established presence in the search community (speakers, contributors on moz, etc.), and provide strategy recommendations without having knowledge of your prior SEO efforts or having reviewed analytics and search console data.
Ask the company about their ethics policies and the type of companies they work with. You don’t want a company that seems “greedy” for clients, but one that has passion or interest in your products or services.
9. James Norquay
SEO & Content Marketing Consulting Director from Sydney Australia. Work with Big Brands, Funded Startups and B2B’s to drive huge growth online.
If you are an in-house marketing team picking an SEO company you need to look for the following things:
Some positive signs (How we do business)
- 100% transparency on work completed – The agency need to show you 100% of the links acquired and work completed on a monthly basis.
- Setting KPI’s – For organic search and sets goals for the business to track.
- Strong industry specific case studies – Look for agencies who have experience in your niche.
- Valid current testimonials – Look for agencies who have testimonials where you can call past clients and ask for a reference.
- Ability/ knowledge to tackle technical and advanced SEO – Ensure you have a list of questions for your SEO agency to ensure they can tackle advanced areas of SEO.
- An agency who works within Google Guidelines
- Passion – Is the agency passionate about SEO? Do they actively talk at industry events and conferences?! Do they produce GREAT blog content?
Some possible warning signs:
- Agencies who will NOT show you the links they are building.
- Agencies who lock clients in for a long term such as 12-24 months.
- An agency who does not set up Google Search Console and Analytics at the start of the project.
- Limited reporting only showing favourable data.
- Anyone who guarantees a specific number of links each month.
- Anyone who guarantees rankings is a warning sign.
- Any agency who is difficult to get work from and has poor quality account management.
Additional information on picking an agency can be found here
10. Jessica Bowman
Enterprise-level SEO consultant, Specialize in SEO Strategy, Technical SEO & Evaluating Processes for SEO…Kick butt at Connect Four
Obviously you have to find someone who is truly an expert, but beyond that, you need to ensure they’re going to identify the issues and tell you how to fix the issues in a document you can forward in your organization.
The reason this is important is that documents have legs.
When I was an SEO manager I received audits in PowerPoint that required a narration to understand – I couldn’t easily forward and when I couldn’t recall something, there was nothing to reference. It required us to use more consulting hours, thus eating up budget.
Now, when doing audits for clients I make sure that audits contain what the issue is and how to fix it, often with alternative options in case the recommendation is too complex for their world.
If you’re an organization that needs to do SEO in-house, you need deliverables that will:
- Educate the entire organization on the issue.
- Tell them why the issue is a problem for search engines.
- Itemize exactly how to fix it.
- Give alternative options when the solution might be a too extensive or grandiose for your world.
11. John Doherty
Founder of @getcredo. Growth marketer. @distilled/@zillow/@hotpads alum. Speaker. Husband. Kingdom follower. Caffeinated. Outdoorsman. Lab owner.
There are as many types of businesses as there are types of SEO. Therefore, what one company needs to grow their SEO traffic can vary.
There are three main things that businesses should look for when hiring an SEO agency, and three main “gotchas” off of those.
1. Complementary working style.
Most businesses don’t think about how they will communicate with their consultant or agency, and different people have different working styles. If you like working 9-5 and unplug in the evenings and weekends, working with an agency that is emailing you all the time may become stressful for you.
Or if you appreciate quick email responses yet your agency takes two days to respond, then there may not be a good fit there. At a minimum, ask the questions ahead of time how to best communicate and figure out how everyone gets what they need.
2. Experience with your type of website.
Because so many types of businesses exist, there are various SEO tactics and strategies that will work or not work depending on your site type and industry. You should make sure that your agency or consultant has experience with sites of your type, both industry (eg fashion), size (eg small or large), and the technologies your website uses.
3. Services vs consulting.
Some agencies are “strategy” agencies in that they put together the strategy for you, in collaboration with your team, and then rely on your team to implement with their guidance. Others are more “full service” and can not only put together the strategy but also execute on the work themselves instead of relying on your team to implement.
In order to know which type you need and how to ask the right questions, you first need to know if you have the ability and team internally to do the work or if you need your agency to do the work themselves.
12. Marcus Miller
SEO Consultant specialising in technical SEO. Wearer of a silly hat. Husband, father of 3 kids. Lover of my family, board games, video games & the Rocky movies.
It is always tough to answer these kind of questions in a general way. We often have very specific needs yet a very high level or general question. Ultimately, when you are hiring an agency you have to ensure they are a good fit.
SEO in and of itself is a very umbrella term. If this is your first step into the world of SEO you need some consulting initially to know what is practical and achievable. It’s all good and well thinking you want to rank for terms thrown at you by the board but is this achievable? If so in what time frame? Strategically is this correct?
13. Marie Haynes
Completely obsessed about Google Penalties and algorithm changes…Penguin, Panda, Unnatural Links and diagnosing the reason for a site’s traffic drop.
My work with sites that have been penalized or demoted by Google’s Penguin algorithm has shown me what happens when a company hires an ineffective SEO company.
Many times I have heard a business owner express regret that they did not do their research before hiring an SEO to help promote their business online. I have a small handful of SEO companies and individuals that I personally trust to do good work. For those who are vetting out new companies, I give the following advice:
-Ask for references.
A good SEO company will have several businesses who are raving about them.
Don’t let them hide behind an NDA. With that said, I’d only ask for references once you get to the point of seriously considering hiring this company. It takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the SEO company to get clients to give a reference.
-Ask them for examples of what they will do to help promote your site or perhaps what they have done to help other sites.
If the answer is filled with marketing speak but nothing concrete, that’s not a good sign. If they can’t give examples of links that they have obtained for other clients, then it’s possible that they are not getting links in Google-approved ways.
-Ask them what types of things they will do to improve your site’s quality.
If the company only focuses on links, that’s not a good sign. A good SEO has to be knowledgeable about what makes the site better overall as well.
-Ask them how they plan to communicate with you.
One of the biggest complaints that I hear about SEO companies is the lack of communication.
The other advice that I can give is to be patient. Good SEO takes time and you will likely not see significant results until they have been working for you for a few months.
14. Ross Taylor
SEO and Internet Marketing services in the SF Bay Area and Dallas, TX. Tweets about SEO, Marketing, and Tech
My answers for an in-house marketer would be much the same for any business who wants to work with an SEO Agency.
Here are three quick points:
1. Be very wary if they called you first. 99.9% of the so-called “SEO Experts” cold calling your business are going to end in a bad experience.
2. Claims of “Google Certified” or “Google Partnerships” refer only to the Google AdWords service. No SEO agency has a special relationship with Google to help you in organic search.
If an agency calls themselves a “data provider for Google”, avoid at all costs.
3. Do they take their own medicine? Look to see how the agency ranks themselves. SEO is a competitive space, so make sure they have a decent rank in their home city at least.
Can you find reviews or mentions of them online on independent review sites? Look at their Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds. If their updates are sparse or unrelated to their business, you don’t want to work with them.
15. Russell Jones
1. What to look for:
– Thought leadership: Read their blogs and their community interaction to see if they are ahead of the curve.
– Upfront Risk Assessment: The agency should tell you the risk in each tactic/strategy they propose.
– Previous Client Recommendation: Ask them to speak to a previous client of theirs, not a current one, for a recommendation. This will allow you to hear from someone who has been through the whole process with the agency.
2. What to avoid:
– Avoid any company that claims to have a special relationship with Google
– Avoid any company that guarantees rankings (even if they cracked Google’s algorithm, there are competitors to deal with).
– Avoid any company that won’t show you the links they build for you.
16. Shari Thurow
Search & findability geek; information architect; website usability, UX, & search-engine friendly design pro; love London but Iceland ROCKS!!!
(1) Remember that SEO is optimizing for people who use search engines. SEO is not optimizing for search engines only. If the consultants at the SEO firm are overly focused on the technical aspects of SEO, then I would not hire that firm.
(2) Don’t be swayed by a confident sales pitch. Even the best SEO experts do not know what “the” algorithms are. I, personally, have listened to many of my colleagues’ claims about algorithm knowledge. They are misguided (and even wrong) more often than not. If you need to hire an SEO agency to help you with algorithm recovery (i.e. losing web traffic due to an alleged algorithm change), that is a different story. If an SEO agency had done its job properly, then any algorithm change would have little or no effect on website traffic. If the SEO agency was the cause of that traffic drop? Then you are wasting your money on an agency that engages in cat-and-mouse games. You want to work with an agency that understands searchers and search experience optimization (SXO). You want to work with an agency that also understands the evolution of search technology. Often, the agency will have a team of experts. Make sure that knowledge base is in the agency’s team.
(3) SEO pros should work well with other teams. Good SEO experts are often hybrids in terms of web knowledge.
The most common SEO hybrid is an SEO/developer. This group of people are web developers who also have SEO knowledge. Most of their knowledge is technology based. If your website has technical issues, this is a good type of SEO hybrid to work with. However, please be aware that technical SEOs often lack knowledge, education, and experience in other areas such as:
- Information architecture
- Navigation systems and design
- Usability and UX (user experience)
The SEO agency’s should have a thorough knowledge base to work well with your sales, marketing, technical, design, and UX teams. An effective website is usually the result of team efforts. Make sure you have a great team.
17. Joel Widmer
I help thought leaders create amazing content. http://bit.ly/fluxe-blog
Hiring an SEO agency isn’t just about getting backlinks to your site anymore. Of course you can still do that but it won’t keep you at the top for long. Additionally you must look at these 3 things:
1. Backlink quality & relevancy – Not all backlinks are created equal – far from it. Ask for examples of backlinks the SEO agency will get for your site. The backlinks should always have a higher domain authority and be from websites that are complimentary to your industry. Another good thing to do is ask them for a few of their clients and URLs and put those into a tool like Ahrefs.com or Moz.com to see what backlinks they actually got for their clients and if they’re quality. If you see a majority of subpar directories and random forums backlink to their site, avoid them at all cost.
2. Metrics and deliverables – The dirty secret most average SEO agencies have, is they lock you into a long contract, do 80% of the work in the first two months and virtually nothing in the months thereafter. To avoid that, ask for a sample of a monthly client metrics report. Do they define keywords and track them showing progress? Do they keep the client updated on deliverables? What are those deliverables? The biggest thing to look out for is if they are task-based or outcome-based. Task based SEO’s will give you a list of things they do each month such as “submit your site to 10 local directories and optimize 5 pages of your website”. Those are fine but there is zero accountability for the SEO agency. Avoid those at all cost. Instead look for outcome-based SEO’s who set deliverables based on your goals. Say it’s ranking for a few key phrases, a good SEO will give you specific metrics related to that and keep you updated on progress each month.
3. Integration with your in-house marketing team – How will your SEO agency work with your existing marketing efforts? Look for agencies that are interested in working with your marketing team to amplify your current strategies.
SEO and marketing are not separate strategies and should not be treated in silos. If they don’t care about what you’re doing, chances are they are task-based and mediocre and will do more harm than good.
18. Brandon Doyle
I love my family, bologna, oreos, marketing, travel, TV, wallaroos, SEO, startups, sports, & stocks. Founder of @wallaroomedia
Hiring an SEO agency can be tough. If they have pre-made pricing, stay away. That shows lack of knowledge, minimal research, and no commitment. Every client is different and every SEO package should be customized. You should be looking for a tailored, unique approach to your business! Also, ask the agency some questions that will force them to do in-depth research in order to provide you with good answers. That way, you’ll really know if they care about you as a client.
19. Carrie Hill
I’m passionate about search, social media, and Schema Markup! Tweet me to talk about it!
I’d say look for someone who has a proven track record, will give you references, comes recommended, understands your role/limitations as an in-house liason, and keeps on top of emerging trends and technologies.
Stay away from anyone who uses the word “guarantee.”
20. Glen Allsopp
I run a number of successful niche-focused online marketing agencies and provide solutions for others to build their own.
My answer would be:
- If they guarantee any kind of results, find another SEO company.
- If they talk about having some connection with Google, find another SEO company.
21. Tyson Downs
Online Marketing Consultant, Helping Dentists, Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants Grow Their Practice. Health care Web Design & #SEO Company owner.
When looking for an SEO or internet marketing company, you need to look for one that you can trust. It all starts with trust. This means that as you search for an SEO company, you need to do your due diligence. Check out the SEO company online in social media, and in Google searches. Look for reviews. Ask if you can speak to any of their clients. Read their blog posts. Do they know what they are talking about? Can they be trusted?
Trust is key. If you don’t feel good about the company marketing your business, then keep looking.
22. Gabriella Sannino
International Marketing Consultant & SEO Strategist | Si, sono Napoletana | ENFJ
SEO isn’t a one-time fix. If you interview an SEO agency that talks about a one-time fee, or talks about optimization like it’s the magic bullet, run. These are the snake oil salesmen you hear so much about.
Optimization takes time, it takes resources, and it takes effort. So what should an in-house marketer be looking for?
First, an agency that talks about optimization like a long-term process. It’s an investment. The agency will get information about a site before they ever start talking about “campaign”.
Second, an in-house marketer should consider whether they want an agency to just focus on the assessment or take on the solution, as well. Can they be involved in the campaign they recommend?
A well-rounded SEO agency is capable of a rainbow of services: all inclusive and driven by the elements of SEO.
23. Dan Shure
SEO/marketer, biz owner, podcaster, musician, husband, @moz associate. Idea lover. Marketing Podcast: http://danshure.link/Podcast
They should look for understanding of the BUSINESS and good communication. It’s a very personal thing, you may want to try a project 1st.
24. Andy Drinkwater
UK based Freelance SEO & UX consultant, part-time gym goer & Southern Comfort lover. I live and breathe #SEO, #UX, #CRO, #Content and #Digital Marketing.
The in-house marketer faces many issues when looking to hire an external SEO agency. My biggest tip to anyone in this situation, look to ensure that if they are a big agency, that their communication of changing SEO trends is quickly passed down the line to the marketing teams for them to action.
There is nothing worse than Google releasing an algorithm, and suddenly the agency clients suffer because the people at the top have not researched and passed this information on quickly enough. In some cases, it can be many weeks and months before this happens.
So what should you look for? Clear communication lines. What should you avoid? Don’t sign on the dotted line straight away – the agency that tries to quickly tie you into a 12 month agreement is probably trying to just get churn numbers through and can often be very forceful with their approach.
In these circumstances, I would be tempted to walk away, or at least do your due diligence and look into their claims and past success stories. Don’t just assume that a nice list of logos means that they have actually done much for them – or indeed anything!
25. Tommy Landry
President, Return On Now: SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, Social Media, Public Speaking, Business Coaching, Blogging. Entrepreneur & Certified Master Life Coach.
Depending on the size of the company seeking SEO or digital marketing help, the right choice for an agency partner can vary. However, there are a few areas that you should focus on no matter what your business size is.
Did They Promise the Sky?
SEO is no magic wand. You can’t just throw a few keywords onto a website and miraculously jump into the top spot on the SERPs unless you run an uber-authoritative website like Amazon.com. Realistically, there’s no reasonable way an SEO agency can guarantee anything – not a ranking spot, not a specific traffic volume increase, and certainly not a concrete number of conversions or leads from a campaign. Can they promise improvement? Absolutely. Can they realistically guarantee a 25% lift in organic traffic within three months? Not in good conscience. If it appears too good to be true, trust your gut. It almost certainly is being oversold.
Are Their Strategies Rational And Well Thought Out?
Ask for examples of their work or a full outline of the strategies they want to implement on your behalf. And I’m not talking about a list of areas they’ll focus on. What happens month 1? Then what’s next? Is there a rational order to the work they’ll do? Can you understand what will happen and why that’s included? Ask questions and demand real answers. You wouldn’t hire an auto mechanic to “fix whatever on my car.” Why would you hire an SEO agency and let them just “do SEO”? Know what they’re planning to do and why you need it before you agree to the services. Otherwise, you’re taking the risk that you’ll pay too much for too little (or nothing), and it will be your fault for not asking. Caveat Emptor applies here.
Do You Trust Their Sales and Spokespeople?
If you’re comfortable that the services aren’t being oversold and the plans make sense, the last check and balance is whether or not you feel they are trustworthy people who you are comfortable doing business with. Most of the clients my agency closes tell us they chose to work with us because they like what we have to say and what we stand for. If they are aggressive or unresponsive in the sales process, what do you expect they will do once you are a paying customer locked into a six month or annual contract? I only like to work with people who I trust and like working with. It’s a good policy, and it completely applies with SEO providers.
26. Steve Wideman
SEO Expert and Consultant, savvy with Universal Search and internet marketing. Call (562) 732-4417
When hiring an SEO agency, references and reputation are going to be paramount. Ask for them, search for them, or hire a third party to handle the due diligence on your behalf.
There is no secret sauce in search engine optimization. Transparency to what is being worked and by who is critical; the agency should add your business to their project management system (or visa versa). Lastly, you’ll want to see detailed case studies of beginning to end work. Did they create a solid plan? How was the content optimized for users and search engines? What type of links and mentions did they earn? Were the links natural or paid? How have the non-branded SEO efforts improved leads and sales?
Avoid agencies where you’re final call before hiring them is with a salesperson and not the people managing the work. Avoid guarantees, nobody can control Google search results. Avoid agencies not willing to share at least one case study.
27. Bill Ross
Leader (with a background in Psychology) of an all-star team who create websites that allow users and Google to effectively & efficiently find information.
There are many unethical SEO companies and individuals, who are just looking for a quick buck, and don’t have any vested interest in growing your business. One of the easiest things you can do when determining if you think a company will be a great fit as your partner, is to examine how they take care of their own website.
Things to look at are:
- Do they have content that has earned social share and links?
- Is their website experience well thought out?
- Is their website well designed?
- Do they have a blog that they publish in-depth content to, or is it just thin 500 word articles?
- Are their title tags and content optimized for both users and search engines?
- Do they stuff keywords in their content and title tags? We often see this spam tactic, even from “reputable SEO companies”.
28. Barry Adams
Dutchman in Northern Ireland. SEO polemicist, speaker & lecturer, humanist. Founder @PolemicDigital, editor @StateofDigital. Occasional breaker of Wheaton’s Law
What all in-house marketers should do is ask for examples of previous successful projects. An agency that can’t or won’t show successful projects cannot be trusted. Some agencies will say their projects are all under non-disclosure agreements, but this is a bogus excuse – no agency does only NDA projects.
Also ask for client contacts that you can check with and ask about their experience dealing with the agency. Again, a good agency will happily provide client contacts for you to get in touch with. A good agency should have dozens, if not hundreds, of great client projects and positive client relationships that you can check and get a feeling from. That way you can make an informed decision if the agency is right for you, and if their way of working suits what your business needs.
29. Ken Lyons
Heavy Meta Hero, Co-Founder of Cornerstone Content/Measured SEM.
Look for an agency with a track record of delivering results in competitive niches. And by results I mean they’ve been able to:
- Grow qualified organic traffic on a consistent and sustained basis
- Grow qualified leads from organic traffic on a consistent and sustained basis
- Also, ask them how they intend to grow organic traffic for your company.
- If they talk about focusing exclusively on on-site optimization inputs (like tweaking existing copy and meta tags) but content marketing isn’t part of the plan, move on. Content IS the engine of growth for sites, and also critical for attracting the kinds of key trust and authority signals (links, brand mentions, etc) you need to rank well organically. Fact is, you can’t grow organic traffic in a meaningful, consistent or sustained manner by injecting keywords into title tags, optimizing site architecture or cleaning up 404s or low value pages, etc.
- Sure, those inputs can move the needle initially but the ONLY way to see consistent, sustained growth is to publish informative, high-value content targeting strategic topics on a regular basis.
- Finally, stay away from agencies that talk about guaranteed rankings for specific keywords. They’re likely engaging in high-risk SEO tactics that will eventually get your site nuked.
30. Stefania Boleso
Marketing and #Digital strategist. University lecturer. Passionate about disruptive thinking and #innovation. Sincerely curious.
In-house marketers should first of all understand how the agency works. Never trust agencies that promise big results without taking the time to analyze and understand in depth first about the company itself, its business objectives, its past, present and future marketing activities, as these agencies won’t be able to deliver what they promise.
As in every area of business and marketing, the analysis is the first step on which you build the whole strategy. The better the analysis, the better the strategy (and the bigger the success). SEO is a long term activity, which needs to fit into the whole marketing plan, if a company wants it to be successful; for this reason, marketers should stay away from agencies that propose “one shot” activities to rank high in the SERP, as it is simply not possible, or agencies that propose “copy and paste” activities, which have been proven successful with some other clients.
Good SEO takes time and effort (and of course resources) and I believe it also needs to be custom made, as no company has the same story, needs, business and marketing objectives.
31. Kevin Indig
SEO BU Owner @dailymotion in Silicon Valley, former @Searchmetrics @uniquedigitalDE @thereachgroup
When it comes to outsourcing, there are a couple of factors you should pay attention to:
Of course you want to make sure the agency has a good reputation and experience with your problem.
32. Aaron Agius
Search, Social & Content Marketing Expert, Managing Director at Louder Online
What they should look for:
- An agency that measures their success on the actual dollar value ROI to the client instead of simply focusing on unnecessary metrics as success of the campaign.
- Focusing on things like rankings & traffic, while are positive indicators, are not enough to prove that the work is actually providing value to the client from an ROI perspective.
- Things like leads, conversions and sales should be tracked to prove the value of the work.
- You also need to check a number of other credibility indicators such as, case studies of client success, the brands they’ve worked with, how long they’ve been in the industry, how much they contribute to the industry as thought leaders and content contributors, and also check referrals by calling some existing clients.
What they should avoid:
- Run the other way if agencies make guarantees against first page rankings.
- I would also run the other way from agencies offering to charge you only once you hit the front page of Google for specific keywords.
- It’s too easy to manipulate by choosing easy to target keywords with low search volume and low competition, or the agency could use manipulative tactics in order to get fast rankings so they can start charging the client.
- I’d definitely avoid agencies that do mass spam through LinkedIn and other channels offering to do SEO – and I’ve written about that here in detail on Moz.
33. Harris Schachter
Content Marketing & SEO @CapitalOne. Owner of OptimizePrime™ LLC. Hybrid marketer, mountain biker, technologist, fan of caffeine & #PrimesPicks
When looking for an agency, it is just as important to take into account their working style and their likeability and demeanor as much as their actual expertise. Because in-house folks need to navigate an often political environment as well as a very complex one, agencies who can understand this and sympathize with them will be most successful. All too often agencies assume that their primary customer or point of contact is lumped in with the rest of their organization, but don’t understand how siloed teams can be within large corporations. If an agency not only gets it, but can help you through it, they’re a winner in my book. All of this is especially crucial for SEO because the discipline crosses into so many different organizations: the business team, information technology, marketing operations, and more.
34. Jason Mun
SEO & Search Engine Marketer based in Melbourne. Co-founder of @bespoke_agency
In-house marketers are exactly what their name suggests, they are client-side and fully embeded within the company/brand. Most of the in-house marketers that I have dealt with are generally SME’s (subject matter experts) within the organisation. If and when they require external or agency help is when there is a specific issue that is too big for them to handle themselves, they need additional resources to follow through with a campaign, or simply want a second opinion. If and when you decide to hire an external agency, putting together a robust brief is going to help with the process. Within the brief, ensure that you cover objectives, expectations, scope of work and KPI’s. Once you have this ready, agencies can generally provide a solution/proposal to respond to the brief.
35. Jim Stewart
Specialist in SEO – CEO of https://Stewartmedia.biz
Obviously this depends on your requirements and what has prompted the search for an external firm. Broadly speaking I would encourage marketers to find a firm that has experience on their platforms and transparency in their processes. SEO firms will all work differently from each other and depending on how their firms have evolved, they may have specialist skills in certain areas.