10 Questions to Ask an SEO Company, Consultant or Freelancer Before Hiring Them

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10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a SEO Company

10 Clever Questions to Ask A SEO Company, Consultant or Freelancer

We've worked with many businesses in several industries and markets.

But there’s one question we always ask, whist almost always leads to the same conclusion.

“Have you worked with an SEO company before?”

If they answer yes, they will proceed to explain how that relationship went.

In each case, where things didn't go to plan, the company failed to ask the SEO agency prudent questions that would change the course of their journey with SEO and save them money.

So today, we're going to give you 10 questions to ask an SEO company and what signs to look out for if they're the right fit.

But before we do, let us match your business with the right SEO company today. Who knows, you might even be matched up with us ;)

1. Do you have experience generating traffic and leads for businesses in my segment?

I've included this question here because we were asked this once by a prospective client and answered “no”.

We didn't win their business.

Whilst the best practices of SEO doesn't change across industries, working with an SEO company who does have direct experience growing the traffic, leads and sales of businesses just like yours will give you the confidence you need to fully trust then with the job.

Let's say you run a restaurant in Detroit.

You'll more likely get better results with a smaller SEO company who works exclusively for restaurants across the US, as they'll have unique industry knowledge compared to a large agency who serves everyone.

Size doesn't matter when choosing an SEO firm, relevancy does.

2. What international SEO expertise do you have? (Have you lead an SEO project/campaign in my country)

French Bakery and Pastry Shop - questions to ask seo company
‍Petite France Boulangerie & Patisserie

An SEO agency who has only worked with US based businesses will not be a perfect fit for you, if you run a bakery and café in France.

You'll need a provider with extensive local SEO expertise and a team of SEO executives who speak your native language and understand the landscape your business is in.

To the average agency, that might sound like a lot to ask. 

But you're not looking for average, you want the best fit.

If you do choose an SEO company who hasn't worked with a business from your country, you'll need to ask for additional requirements up front to ensure they're the right fit to take you forward.

Are they willing to hire a native speaking SEO expert just for you?

Seeing how much, or how little an agency is able to move around internally to fit you in, speaks volumes of the level of custom support you'll receive when working together.

3. How experienced are the SEO executives and account managers that will be leading my project?

One of the biggest fears companies have when looking for SEO companies to work with, is that their project will be managed by low-level staff or interns.

This worry becomes especially prevalent when working with large agencies who manage 20+ accounts.

How do I know my project will be a priority?

Well, you don't.

Ask the SEO company early on, exactly who will be the strategist/account manager behind your project.

What relevant experience do they have working on businesses like yours?

It's all well and good finding an agency who has experience working on brands like yours, but if the real strategist behind that experience is too busy working with L'ORÉAL this year for example, it does you no good.

4. Could you provide 3 references for us to contact about your work?

Much like hiring in-house staff, SEO agencies will only provide references for those who absolutely loved their work.

There's nothing wrong with that, but you won't get a full understanding of an SEO provider's capability unless you ask for specific references.

The three references you ask should cover the following:

  • One client where they did their best work
  • Short-lived engagement, less than 6 months
  • Client who they failed to generate results for

Never trust an SEO company, consultant or employee who can't point to a time where they failed to achieve goals and targets.

Nobody's perfect, and that's perfectly ok.

You're not trying to open up old wounds, you just want to know how adept they are at recognising and fixing problems.

5. What is your payment structure like?

A simple, important, yet often overlooked question to ask an SEO company.

SEO services can cost anywhere between $1,000 - $20,000/month depending on the complexity of your project.

During your evaluation process, ask prospective SEO companies, “what is your payment structure like?”

There are several payment structures used by SEO companies and consultants alike. The most common ones are:

  • Standard monthly fee
  • Hourly fee
  • Performance-based pricing
  • Value-based pricing

I won't get into the specifics of each type here, but make sure you're absolutely clear on how you'll be charged.

We opt for a combination of performance and value-based pricing, so the client is only paying for results they agree to.

6. Do you have support during my Timezone (if you're working with an international company)?

The world of work is changing.

With more companies choosing to close down their offices to opt for remote work, the more willing they are to work with outside help across the pond.

But this means that communication has become more important than ever before.

Whether you choose to collaborate with the SEO company via email, Slack or the hundreds of other workplace communication tools - their ability and willingness to be available during your business hours is very important.

You want to work with an SEO company who's either based in your timezone, or has staff who can work during those hours.

This is essential for times when urgent matters occur, such us needing access to their files and reports for a shareholding meeting or losing access to logins, data breaches etc.

7. Tell me about a time where your SEO strategy didn't work or lead to negative results?

This is my favourite question to ask an SEO company.

Nobody has a perfect record, no matter how well they cover it up.

The goal here isn't too catch them out, but rather to identify how they respond to problems when they arise.

Do they throw in the towel? Or did they offer a free month to account for their misjudgements?

Some consultants and agencies may get defensive or be tight-lipped about these experiences.

In my experience, this isn't a great sign, and makes me think whether they'll avoid keeping you in the loop when things aren't going so great.

8. How will you generate long term organic traffic to my business?

Just because you don't know how to generate traffic to your website yourself, doesn't mean you can't question the expertise of someone who does.

In fact, we always advise businesses to learn a little bit about SEO, how it works and the different strategies you can use to generate organic traffic.

This is to ensure you don't waste your money on SEO services that deliver little results or worse yet, leave you further behind than where you started.

After all, some SEO strategies that look clean on paper, are actually black-hat and will get you a Google penalty, which can take months or years to recover from..

And since the barrier to starting an SEO company is so low, it can be difficult to tell who's actually telling the truth.

9. Do you have a performance guarantee?

An SEO company who has a performance guarantee truly sets themselves apart from other firms, as they are taking a massive risk to win your business.

Very, very few SEO consultants, freelancers and agencies can afford to provide a guarantee simply because it's impossible to guarantee where you'll rank in Google 3 months from now.

However, it is work asking, as it can be very easy to throw $20,000 at an SEO agency and have nothing to show for it.

The SEO company may pass your assessment with flying colours, but that doesn't mean you've got a winner.

If you're a small company, I would heavily insist that you choose an SEO agency who offers a performance guarantee.

A good one will offer something along the lines of this:

“If we fail to achieve your goals in 90 days, you'll won’t pay again until we do.”

Digital Kryptonite is a good example of a lead generation agency who offers a compelling money back guarantee.

performance based leads guarantee - questions to ask seo company

They promise to generate at least 1 qualified lead every single day for your business. And if they can’t deliver that, they’ll work for free until they do.

There's nothing to lose.

It exudes confidence and instills trust in the provider that their process is right fit for you.

10. Can you send me an example of your SEO reports?

Finally, you want to familiarise yourself with the data you're set to receive each month.

The reports you receive must show the following metrics:

  • Unique visits from organic search
  • Number of leads generated
  • # of keywords ranking in top 10, top 20 and top 50
  • Biggest keyword movers and shakers
  • Revenue generated from this month's SEO work (if possible)
  • All of the above compared with the previous month

Very, very few SEO companies and consultants will be able to attribute their activities directly to revenue.

Unless you run an E-commerce store, or use marketing automation software like HubSpot.

But those who can, are worth paying attention to, as they can show you the impact their work is having on your bottom line.

Reports shouldn't exist just to tell you where you're at, they must also tell you where you're going, and how next month's $5,000 bill is going to get you there.

Most clients we've worked with, never even bothered to check the reports we spent hours making each month.

Hence why we use Databox, as you can create visual marketing and business dashboards in minutes by connecting your existing data sources.

Here's an SEO report template we’ve developed for businesses and agencies to use.

Organic Search Traffic Report - Questions to Ask SEO Company

So there you have it, throw these 10 questions at a SEO company to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Looking to work with an SEO Company, Consultant or Freelancer?

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Just tell us what you're looking for, and we'll do the rest. You might even end up getting matched with us ;) - give it a shot!

About the Author
David is the Founder of Grow Hack Scale, a growth marketing company that teaches and implements fast-growth product marketing strategies across the entire funnel for organisations with products that make the world a better place.