How to Choose a Good SEO Agency: 4 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Agency

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For any business that wants to be top of the marketing game in their sector - whether they are small and growing or large and established – SEO effectiveness is essential. SEO (search engine optimisation) is an online marketing technique where you optimise the relevance of your entire website and its content’s keywords to match what your customers are looking for.

According to how useful, compelling, relevant and effective your website is at meeting visitors’ needs, Google will place your website higher or lower in the search engine results. Ultimately, this means that the better your website is suited to your target customers’ needs and expectations, the higher you will rank – leading to more valuable leads seeing your website link, clicking and making a purchase or enquiry!  
Taking into account how crucial SEO effectiveness is to your online sales process and profits, you must ensure that you are regularly testing and evaluating what you are doing. However if you’re a small to medium sized business with limited time and expertise, it’s a better idea to enlist the services of a good SEO agency.

Beware of cowboy agencies

It might seem straightforward to choose an SEO agency, but is actually easier said than done. There are a number of SEO agencies who use deceptive advertising and make unrealistic promises to make money in the competitive world of online marketing. Clients can go away with little solid evidence of improvement in their search rankings, or none at all, and with a lot lighter pockets.

Click here for more information on how NOT to get to page one of Google

How to make the right decision:

To avoid making the mistake of choosing an untrustworthy agency, the simple solution is: do your research. So search for a few agencies who have promising offers, then test their SEO services by finding out exactly who they are and how they work.

Ask these 4 key questions as key performance indicators for evaluating SEO agencies:

1. Do they make sense?

First of all, you shouldn’t trust agencies who make grand promises such as: “We guarantee first page rankings on Google”. This is an attention-grabbing but sweeping statement; a red flag that they don’t know what they are doing. Stay far away from any agency or individual who says they can guarantee first page results.  Instead, choose an SEO agency who will explain exactly what they will do to help you, in clear, understandable English, with proof to back up their claims.
The role of an SEO agency is to handle your online presence for you, but it’s a good idea to have some understanding of the methods they will be applying, such as:

  • How they plan and conduct research to determine your targeted keywords – strategising with their clients and doing research first, before making plans.
  • The analysis of other aspects of your website e.g.  graphic design, navigation, coding, incoming/outgoing links that could affect your search engine position. 
  • The analysis of online competitors to advise you on their keyword optimisation, how they are performing and how you could learn from them or do better. 
  • Using only white hat search techniques and a clear link strategy to promote additional site content. 
  • Whether they will be doing SEO optimised website copywriting for you.
  • Appropriate pricing (per day, per hour, per month) – know the total price in advance of signing the contract.

2. Are they keeping up with industry changes?

A credible SEO agency will keep up with Google’s continuous updates and algorithm changes. To ensure that only the most relevant, useful and quality websites at the top of their search rankings, Google continually evaluates and updates its algorithms. This means better advertising ROI for Google and a positive Internet experience for searchers.

Other key performance indicators are: understanding the importance of social media in all Internet marketing strategies, and how technology is changing how consumers search and buy online. Rather than buying as many links as possible, modern SEO demands the delivery of long-term value to searchers. This ranges from providing helpful additional resources, blog articles and newsletters, to writing in the correct tone for your visitors and having a clear USP (unique selling point).

If an SEO agency can show examples of whitepaper publications and guest articles, as well as conference presentations they have made, this is another positive sign of a credible agency keeping up-to-date in their industry. 

3. Can they prove their effectiveness?

Check that you will get the most out of your money by getting opinions on the SEO agency’s service from previous clients, and finding out if they offer website analysis reports.

Ask friends and other connections on social media (particularly LinkedIn) whether they can make any recommendations. Click on the top companies in Google ads and search results for key phrases like “reliable SEO companies”. Most likely, these companies will have invested a lot of money and effort to become well-matched for this keyphrase. Any testimonials on the website are also a valuable resource.

Ask them to do an SEO report for your website, to give you an impression of their capabilities and approach before you buy their service. Unlike many other digital marketing agencies, JDR Group provide a website SEO report for FREE.

4. Do they deliver the desired results?

This sounds like an obvious question, but when you are inexperienced and guided by the agency’s promises, it can be overlooked. Effective, quality SEO should take over 2 months to achieve return on investment, as it is a long-term marketing strategy. However, discuss the timescale with the agency before signing the contract, including how often you will be updated on their progress. Close, trustworthy communication at regular stages in the process is another key indicator of a high quality service.

Check what metrics will be used to measure performance, such as average visitor time on your website. You also want these visitors to be “highly qualified traffic” that is likely to increase your conversion rate, so ask the agency how they plan to attract the right kind of traffic. To help increase conversion rates, the agency should work with you to identify your specific search placement goals, opposed to bidding highly on the most competitive keywords.

After the deadline has been reached, you must have reports and hard evidence on Google Search to prove that your position in the rankings has reached its target – and that it is sustainable for the future growth of your business!

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Article by Laura Wootton

photo credit: via photopin cc