Questions to Ask an SEO Marketing Agency Before Hiring Them

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is among the core elements of a successful marketing strategy. It’s crucial for increasing online visibility and long-term sustainability.

However, many still find SEO confusing and challenging to navigate. With algorithms changing constantly, and at times even drastically, it can be difficult to fully understand its complexities. So, what’s a business to do? Two words: outsource SEO.

Hiring an SEO agency becomes a strategic move that enables you to focus on your core business operations. But before handing them the reins, check if their ethos aligns with your business goals and if their strategies seem sound and effective.

To help you gauge whether an SEO agency is an ideal fit for your marketing needs, we’ve compiled a list of questions you ought to ask before signing on the dotted line.

Questions to Ask an SEO Marketing Agency Before Hiring Them:

Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Marketing Agency

Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Marketing Agency

1. How realistic are my goals?

Before searching for an SEO agency, you should already have goals in mind. Do you want to level up your brand’s reputation? Are you attempting to snag the top spot on Google’s VIP list? Is boosting your site traffic your primary need at the moment? Or maybe you want to get your audience to vibe with your content. Whatever your goals are, ask the SEO agency if they are realistic.

This question is a litmus test to gauge if they’re on the same page as you. Now, you want an agency that's all about that "yes, we got this" energy, but watch out for the ones promising you the moon. A legit crew will give you an answer that's both hype and down-to-earth, weighing what's doable within your timeline and budget.

If your goals seem more out-of-this-world than achievable, a trustworthy agency will say outright that they are unrealistic and then slide some alternatives your way. They'll break it down for you, dropping statistics and industry wisdom so you know exactly how to reach milestones that fit your goals.

2. Who’s in charge of my account, and how long have they been in the field of SEO marketing?

In marketing, experience speaks volumes. But let’s be clear—we shouldn’t be asking about the age of their agency. What we want to know is how long they’ve been crushing it in the SEO scene. Older agencies may have been doing their thing for ages, but newer firms may bring in fresh ideas and more agile approaches. Some new agencies may even have seasoned experts from established firms at the helm.

When you’re chatting it up with a potential agency, ask them who’s in charge and how long they’ve been in the SEO fieldnot how many years their agency has been in business. Get the lowdown on their previous experiences and what they’ve learned along the way. 

One thing you should watch out for is someone who claims they’ve been handling SEO for over three decades. Remember that Google’s been around for just 26 years, so anyone claiming 30+ years of experience in the field should raise an eyebrow.

3. Have you worked with a business in our niche or industry?

An agency that knows the ins and outs of your turf has an edge in delivering the right solutions for your business. If they’ve worked with similar businesses before, they’d be familiar with the strategies that work in your niche.

Think of it like finding that perfect playlist for your brand. If they've jammed with similar businesses before, it's like they've already got the beats that work. Ask for the details on how their strategies vibed with those brands and whether they hit the right notes.

Don't rule them out if they haven't dipped their toes in your industry. Sometimes, fresh eyes bring new tunes to the mix. They might have killer strategies from other industries that could be just what your brand needs to hit the top charts.

4. When can I expect to see results?

If an agency promises immediate results, cross it off your shortlist. A promise of overnight success sounds enticing, but it often rings hollow. Even the most solid SEO strategy would take weeks to have a significant impact on your business.

A good SEO agency knows that SEO marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady wins the race in this field. You’d want your partner agency to have a realistic timeline that shows how they’ll pace their strategy over time.

An answer you’d want to hear is that you’ll start seeing some of the effects of optimization within a few weeks but would have to wait three to six months to see substantial, measurable results. During this time, progress would be monitored, and the approach would be fine-tuned in set periods. Once you’re given a timeframe, clarify what steps will be taken if the desired results are not achieved within the specified period. If results aren't met within the agreed timeframe, a thorough review and strategy adjustment would occur, including transparent communication and a possible revision of the timeline based on strategic changes.

5. What’s your onboarding process like?

A well-structured onboarding process sets the tone for a productive collaboration. Asking what their process is gives you a peek at how they’ll guide you during the initial stages and what role you’ll play in the long run. 

Here’s what you need to look out for—an onboarding process that makes you feel more like a partner rather than a customer. Right at the beginning, you should be assured that you’re in the SEO journey together and your goals are their goals. When you pop the question, "What's your onboarding process like?" Look for agencies that lay it all out on the table and make you feel valued.

The onboarding process should include an initial consultation that lays down the groundwork for your collaboration. This should be followed by an SEO audit to assess your current standing and a strategy session for your tailored marketing roadmap. The agency must also be able to explain clearly all the paperwork involved, what type of access you’d have to tools (if there are any), and what level of support you’d be getting as their client.

6. What approach will you use for our campaigns?

A top-notch agency will have everything mapped out for you. They’ll have a playbook detailing every move in their tried-and-tested approaches to SEO marketing, and they'll walk you through the game plan, from setting goals to diving into the actual SEO strategies.

They should be able to provide specific strategies on how they intend to approach campaign execution. It doesn’t have to be highly detailed at this point, but there should be top-of-mind recommendations for tactics or techniques.

Whatever their approach is, ask if it could be customized to meet your specific business needs and goals. There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution to marketing, so the agency should be able to confirm the customization of their services.

7. What tools do you use?

In SEO marketing, cutting-edge tools are the engine driving success. You’d want an agency with a toolbox that amplifies its capabilities. This gives you a glimpse into their arsenal of resources, such as tools for diving deep into keyword research, automating ads, and tracking those sweet, sweet analytics. Many agencies use a combination of industry staples and proprietary software. You also need to check how they leverage the latest technologies to innovate marketing solutions.

Remember that one of the major benefits of hiring an SEO agency is access to all this high-tech gear without dropping stacks on your own equipment. Knowing their toolbox gives you a peek into what they can bring to the table.

8. What metrics do you track?

Let's get down to the digits. SEO marketing success isn’t just about launching campaigns—it also entails meticulously tracking and analyzing the right metrics. Understanding the metrics they monitor provides a window into their data-driven approach.

The specific metrics would depend on what your goals are and what channels you’ll be running your campaigns on. Are you all about crushing it on Instagram, or are you aiming for that top spot on Google? Regardless of your goals, there are some basics you’d want to see on their radar. These include rankings to gauge visibility, traffic to measure engagement, and conversions to track the ultimate impact on your bottom line. These metrics paint the picture of how well your campaigns are rocking the digital world.

Most importantly, your SEO agency of choice must have a comprehensive approach to metrics. Opt for one that has a robust tracking system that offers actionable insights into campaign performance for continual growth.

9. In what manner and how frequently will I get updates on the progress of our campaigns?

While outsourcing SEO marketing means you’re giving the nitty-gritty tasks to your agency, you should still have the final say on critical decisions. To make informed decisions, you must be kept in the loop.

When you ask how you’ll be getting progress updates, you get insights into their reporting infrastructure and their transparency. Many agencies now have a dedicated platform or client interface with a comprehensive view of campaign metrics, strategies, and outcomes. Those that do not offer this feature should be able to give you regular reports through email or during scheduled consultations.

Clarify the frequency of reports—will they be delivered weekly, monthly, or at key milestones? Also, inquire about the format and content of these reports. Are they detailed analyses with actionable insights or concise summaries for quick updates?

Ask if you can get a preview of a sample report. A firsthand look provides clarity on the level of detail, visual representations, and depth of analysis you can expect.

10. Do you outsource some of your SEO tasks?

Even the best SEO crews sometimes bring in extra firepower to crush those digital challenges. An agency may enlist freelance writers for content development or technical SEO specialists to address intricate issues such as 404 errors and duplicate URLs affecting indexing and crawlability.

Understanding the agency's outsourcing practices provides insights into their agility and capacity to assemble specialized teams for diverse project needs. Moreover, it underscores their commitment to delivering comprehensive and effective SEO solutions tailored to your brand's unique requirements.

Some common gigs an agency might outsource include technical SEO audits, off-page optimization strategies, on-page content optimization, content development, paid search management, and social media campaigns.

11. How do you handle SEO for different types of websites?

To gain more insights into the different approaches an agency uses, ask how they handle SEO in various scenarios. What’s their strategy for a new website versus an existing site? SEO for new sites must be focused on building visibility, while optimization should be among the primary goals for existing websites. The former should concentrate on keyword research, on-page SEO, and link building, while the latter should include an SEO audit, content optimization, and advanced SEO strategies. The bottom line is they should have different strategies for different websites.

12. What is your process for adapting to changes in SEO best practices?

It’s common knowledge for marketers that SEO algorithms can change drastically overnight. An SEO agency must have specific protocols in place to address unexpected shifts in search engine algorithms. Ask what their views on the March 2024 core updates are. What changes are they making to their strategies as Google implements algorithmic enhancements and updated spam policies to combat spammy and low-quality content? Some answers you’d want to hear should be more focused on high-quality content, user intent alignment, UX optimization, and transparency.

SEO Agency Red Flags: Don't Get Caught in the SEO Trap

Your SEO agency will be your partner in boosting your reputation in the digital space. You wouldn’t want your own reputation to be muddled by partnering with an agency that not only fails to deliver positive results but, worse, also drags you into the mire.

SEO Agency Red Flags

Watch out for these red flags:

1. Unrealistic promises of instant results.

If they're selling you dreams of overnight success and a #1 spot on Google before your morning coffee, it's time to hit pause. You might see a sudden jump in metrics in the first six months, but real growth won’t be seen until the second year.  

2. Black-hat tactics and shady practices.

Keyword stuffing, link buying, hidden texts, and cloaking are used to manipulate search rankings. Sure, they might give you a quick boost, but trust us, the fallout ain't pretty. You don't want your brand's reputation taking a nosedive because of shady shortcuts.

3. Dodging questions or giving roundabout answers.

Communication is key in any partnership. If your potential agency is more elusive than a ninja when it comes to answering your questions, it's a red flag waving in the wind. “The timeline and results can vary depending on numerous factors, but we guarantee lasting results.” Sounds like a good enough answer? No! An agency must set a clear timeframe and know what results they aim to achieve.

4. Cookie-cutter approach or one-size-fits-all solutions.

Your brand is as unique as your grandma's secret recipe. So why settle for an agency that dishes out generic strategies? Veer away from an agency that uses keyword stuffing, template-based content, mass link building, and pre-packaged SEO techniques for all the sites they manage.

5. Lack of transparency in processes and reports.

A trustworthy agency should be open about their methodologies, progress, and results. They might say their workflow is an industry secret, but they should be able to provide an in-depth analysis of the progress of your campaign. 

6. Poor online presence and track record.

Take a peek behind the curtain. If the agency's own website is outdated, their social media presence is lacking, or you can't find any positive reviews or case studies, it might be a sign that they can't deliver for themselves, let alone for you. Visit their social media channels and check if they’ve posted and interacted within the past week or two.

7. Overemphasis on vanity metrics.

While metrics like website traffic, page views, impressions, number of followers, and rankings are important, they shouldn't be the sole focus. A good agency will prioritize metrics that directly impact your bottom line, such as conversions, leads, and revenue.

8. Lack of industry knowledge or outdated strategies.

SEO is a constantly evolving field. If the agency seems stuck in the past or isn't up-to-date with the latest trends and algorithms, it could hinder your success.

9. No clear roadmap or strategy.

The lack of a well-defined plan of action is a clear sign of trouble ahead. Their roadmap must include keyword analysis, on-page optimization, technical SEO, content marketing, local SEO, performance analysis, and other strategies tailored to your needs. 

10. Lack of experienced staff.

A team lacking in seasoned professionals could stifle your success. You want a crew that's reliable, knowledgeable, and in it for the long haul. Check their website to see who’s on their SEO crew.

Keep these in mind during your search for an SEO agency partner. Ask the right questions, trust your gut, and remember that the right SEO partner is out there.

Partnerships with SEO Agencies That Amped the Numbers

Still unsure if it’s worth hiring an SEO agency? Here are a few case studies that can give you an idea of what an SEO agency can do for businesses.

Unlocking the Power of SEO Agencies: Real Case Studies That Speak Volumes

1. Huble Digital addresses technical SEO challenges and boosts organic traffic.

SEO agency Huble Digital successfully eliminated traffic cannibalization and improved the SEO performance of a global business across its main regions. The client was faced with the challenge of managing multiple regional websites, which were then riddled with several technical SEO issues. The primary concern was that the US version of a page would rank instead of the regional content. This impacted user experiences and the accuracy of reporting.

Huble’s solution was to implement page optimization, content localization, and the proper deployment of hreflang. Huble also worked closely with the client's website team and trained regional managers on using SEO tools like BrightEdge and Adobe Experience Manager.

The results were impressive, with a 25% increase in organic traffic worldwide and an improved SEO technical health score. Huble's efforts led to a 10% year-on-year (YoY) growth in organic traffic in the main regions.

2. Thrive becomes a powerful force that increased organic traffic by 360% YoY.

Thrive Internet Marketing Agency proved to be a formidable force as it delivered phenomenal results for GeoForce. Having faced challenges with previous agencies, Geoforce sought a more hands-on approach to its digital marketing, and it partnered with Thrive to develop and implement a holistic marketing strategy that included pay-per-click marketing, social media marketing, and SEO.  

Thrive focused on optimizing Geoforce's website for valuable industry-related keywords, leading to significant improvements in search rankings. Their SEO approach addressed various issues on Geoforce's website, such as title tags, missing H1 tags, meta descriptions, image alt text, and site speed. This involved title and heading tag optimization, image optimization, keyword targeting, mobile search optimization, backlink building, and local SEO strategies.

These efforts led to remarkable results, with a 360% increase in organic traffic year-over-year and an 88% boost in ad clicks. The combined paid and social media campaigns resulted in a 121% increase in Instagram followers, a 352% rise in Facebook impressions, and a 100% increase in LinkedIn followers.

3. Moburst brings a burst of success through optimization.

Reddit partnered with Moburst to boost the exposure and organic growth of its mobile app. Despite being one of the largest websites globally, Reddit recognized the need to enhance its app's conversion optimization and increase visibility in competitive keyword areas.

The primary objective was to scale organic growth for their newly launched app and establish it as the official Reddit app. With numerous unique subreddits catering to diverse interests, Reddit faced the challenge of standing out amidst limited space for keywords and metadata phrases.

Moburst's strategy involved in-depth keyword research, focusing on mobile searches, to identify the most sought-after content themes on the App Store and Google Play. They monitored and optimized keyword and download metrics to ensure continuous growth.

Within less than a year, Reddit experienced over a 90% increase in organic downloads. Their app indexed more than 700 phrases in the top 5 rankings of the App Store. Moreover, they secured top 5 rankings for highly competitive keywords.

Choose a Strategic Partner for SEO Marketing Success

The complexities of search engine optimization can be difficult for businesses to navigate on their own. Partnering with an SEO agency thus becomes a strategic imperative.

In choosing an agency, look for one that can align their strategy with your brand’s trajectory and can offer clear roadmaps with realistic timelines. Seek out agencies that specialize in bespoke solutions and offer toolkits powered by the latest technologies. Go through case studies, client testimonials, and online reviews to get a glimpse of their track record. Check out the list of top SEO marketing agencies in Influencer Marketing Hub to find one that fits your brand ethos and needs.

About the Author
Geri Mileva, an experienced IP network engineer and distinguished writer at Influencer Marketing Hub, specializes in the realms of the Creator Economy, AI, blockchain, and the Metaverse. Her articles, featured in The Huffington Post, Ravishly, and various other respected newspapers and magazines, offer in-depth analysis and insights into these cutting-edge technology domains. Geri's technological background enriches her writing, providing a unique perspective that bridges complex technical concepts with accessible, engaging content for diverse audiences.