Last week I wrote a post over at our brother site www.ppchero.com on this very topic, questions to ask a potential new PPC firm. The post received a good response and seemed to be helpful to our readers. Therefore, I’d like to do the same thing here at SEOBoy but only for a potential new SEO firm.
It’s really the same scenario as PPC, you may be trying to run your own SEO account but you’re not seeing great results and you know more could be done. If you’re deciding to interview SEO management firms, below are a few questions you should ask and I’ve also provided the answers so you know what to look out for.
- What is the first thing you’ll do when taking over the SEO account?
Answer: The first thing we’ll do is after discussing the account goals is performing our SEO keyword research. Knowing which keywords you want and need to rank for is essential before completing any on-site optimization or keyword targeting. We will review the website, competitors’ websites and various keyword research tools to find keyword that have high search volume and a lower number of competing pages. Once we have our master keyword list with all research, we’ll pick out 2 to 3 keywords for each ‘silo’ or ‘category’ of your site. Also, note that while doing my keyword research I will typically begin to set up the Google Webmaster tools, Yahoo site explorer and MSN WMT accounts as well.
2. What’s your link building strategy and will I get to see the websites?
Answer: Our link building strategy is to find highly targeted, relevant sites with high PageRank and request one-way links from them. We also do research on free directories as well as paid directories. Yes, you can see all of the websites and directories we have obtained links from or have requested links from.
3. Will you set up an XML sitemap and robots.txt file?
Answer: Yes, we do both. Some people feel robots and sitemaps don’t really help SEO. But there is no evidence that they don’t help SEO, so we still use them. We have both files set up for each of our SEO clients and have been getting good results from the beginning. We will create an XML sitemap and a robots.txt file near the beginning stages of managing your SEO account. The sitemap.xml file should be updated depending upon how often you update your site content.
4. Do you do any black hat SEO?
Answer: Now, I know this sounds like a silly question, but it’s still something you should bring up. The answer should be, no, we only use whitehat SEO techniques. We’re very transparent in that we’ll show you all of the data we can including increases or decreases. But furthermore we will not engage in any blackhat SEO practices.
5. What will on-site optimization look like?
Answer: One of the first things we do after our keyword research is write new page titles and meta descriptions that are keyword rich but not keyword stuffed. We then will look at each individual page on your site and incorporate relevant, targeted keywords into the copy. The copy we will optimize will never be keyword stuffed and should read easily to the user, not the search engines. We also will recommend keywords for flash elements and images so the search engines can read those too.
6. How will you help improve our crawl stats and the number of pages that get crawled?
Answer: We use Google Webmaster tools as well as Yahoo Site Explorer and MSN WMT accounts. These accounts help us find things that need to be corrected on the website in order to improve the number of pages crawled and how quickly they are crawled. We also recommend a good internal linking structure so PageRank from the homepage can get funneled throughout the rest of the pages in your website therefore increasing their PageRank as well. There are many other things that can help increase crawl rate and number of pages crawled but these are the top two.
7. What kinds of content will you recommend?
Answer: We will constantly be reviewing your website and competitor sites for new content ideas. The more relevant and useful content you have, the more people will link to your site and the more pages that will get crawled and indexed by the Search Engines.
8. Is social media included in our SEO program?
Answer: For some SEO management firms social media may be an extra cost due to the extra time it takes to set up. However, we don’t charge anything extra to set up these accounts. We will do whatever we need to in order to increase your SEO rankings and traffic, and if setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account is what needs to happen then we’ll do it. Now, the management of these programs is up to the client. Because they will be industry specific, we don’t normally know everything that’s going on with the company in order to send constant updates to their client base. Therefore, we recommend the client makes sure they have time to keep up with the accounts.
9. What kinds of results should we expect to see the first month and what reports will you include?
Answer: Results can vary on a client-by-client basis. Meaning that depending on how quickly recommended changes can be implemented, hold new or old the domain name is, etc call all either negatively or positively affect the performance of the account. Generally speaking though you should see a small increase the first month in position and traffic. As for reporting, any management firm should provide you with a keyword ranking report among the top 3 search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) as well as a monthly performance report on visits, leads, bounce rate, time on site, etc. We also give a bi-weekly report detailing work we have completed as well as work we will be completing in the next few days or weeks.
10. What kinds of things will you be recommending to me and can you prioritize them?
Answer: It’s my philosophy that SEO management firms should do anything and everything they can to increase SEO results. That means optimizing content, continuing to do more keyword research to find new keywords, recommending new content to add to the site, making suggestions on website structure and navigation as well as the back end code and more. And yes, they should be able to prioritize them for you.
I can think of many more questions but these I believe will give you a good idea as to whether the SEO management firm knows what they’re talking about. If there is one thing I want all of my clients to know when it comes to SEO is that getting good rankings and traffic is about combining all of your SEO efforts and over time will you see great results. If there was only one or two things that truly controlled SEO rankings then everyone would do them and no one would need an SEO firm to help them out. So there isn’t just one thing that creates this SEO gold – it’s a combination of everything you do over time that helps your traffic and rankings increase.