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According to clutch.co there 17,369 advertising and marketing agencies. Over 10,000 of these advertising and marketing agencies offer some form of search engine optimization.  So how do you choose which SEO agency is best for meeting your company’s goals?  In this article we will explore the top 10 most important questions to ask the SEO agencies you are interviewing.

1. Expertise – Although there are over 10,000 marketing companies that offer SEO, we recommend choosing an SEO agency that specializes in search engine optimization, not just one that simply offers SEO.  It should be the primary service they offer and the main focal point of their company.  We firmly believe that if you are a jack of all marketing services, your are likely a master of none.  Look for agencies that focus on perfecting a few services, with SEO being the primary.

2. Experience – We recommend looking for established SEO agencies with 10+ years of successful SEO business experience.  This should assure the company has had several years to refine and improve its SEO business practices.  Many SEO startups fail or fizzle out in the first 5 years of business.  SEO agencies that are at least 10+ years old have proven to weather the storm of business cycles and beat their competitors, we assume based on results, performance and customer loyalty.

3. Case Studies – Ask to see several case studies, preferably in the same industry your business operates in.  SEO case studies should contain clear data in the following SEO key performance indicators (KPIs):  Overall organic visibility (impressions),  Rankings, Organic Traffic and Organic Goal Completions (Conversions).  Additional SEO KPIs may include data from Google My Business listings including: Search Visibility, Map Visibility, Clicks to Website, Click for Directions and Clicks to Call.  Performance of these SEO KPIs may vary widely from industry to industry and by company size, but we usually look for 50%-300% increase across several of these KPIs.

4. Reviews – Look for both quantity and quality of reviews.  We recommend looking for agencies that have at least 30+ reviews on Google.  Reviews should extent back a minimum of 5 years.  Companies that have lots of reviews in a short period of time and all 5 stars should be flagged.  This usually indicates fake reviews.   Like most businesses, reviews tend to be either be 1 star or 5 star.  We expected established, good SEO agencies with a long history to have negative reviews from time to time. That is expected in the industry with honest companies not seeking to scrub their reputations.  Probably 1-2% will be negative, however, SEO agenies with 4.5 star rating or less should be avoided, this would indicate a higher percentage of negative reviews.

5. Keyword Research  & Integration Strategy – Properly setting the stage for an SEO campaign is critical to its long term success.  Assure the research aspect of the SEO company is thorough at gaining a deep understanding of your business model and products or services.  Discuss how they go about taking that information and translating it into search.  What metrics do they use to determine the best keywords to optimize? Search Volume? Relevancy? Competition? Assure they have a thorough understanding of your competition so they can properly position your SEO campaign targets for success.

6. On-Page SEO Strategy – Good SEO campaigns start with on-page SEO.  Ask the SEO agencies you are interviewing what their on-page SEO strategy looks like.  Do they have a checklist?  How many elements do they check during the on-page SEO strategy.

7. Link Building Strategy – Link building is one of the most challenging, yet important aspects of search engine optimization.  Its important the SEO agency you choose has white hat link building methods.  Any type of black hat or old school link building methods should be completely avoided such as: any type of bots, comment links, forum links, etc.  Discuss the link quality standards the SEO company puts in place.  Do they seek links from websites with a minimum domain authority?  Do they seek links from website pages with a minimum page authority? Do they do guest posts or advertorials?  We recommend using an SEO company that takes a diverse approach to link building, incorporating a broad spectrum of link acquisition methodologies.

8. Content Strategy – Content is king and a critical part of search engine optimization.  Ask the SEO agency you are interviewing what the content strategy they would outline for your company.  A good way to approach this is discussing which existing products or services you offer that need to have the content expanded and optimized.  Discuss additional products or services not listed on your website that might need to have pages created, content written and optimized.  Ask the SEO company about their blogging strategy.  Do they blog? How often? How do they go about choosing topics to write about.  Good SEO companies will have strategic content optimization strategies as a part of their overall SEO campaign.  Assure the SEO company you choose is excellent in this area.

9. Reporting & Consultation Methods – Looking at reports and stats can be extremely boring to some people.  When interview SEO agencies find out what a typical SEO report that send looks like.  How often to they send reports? Do they have a dashboard or login, so you can see the SEO data at any time.  We recommend finding an SEO company that allows you to access your SEO progress data at anytime via a dashboard.  Here a few SEO KPIs that you should assure are reported on regularly or tracked in a dashboard.  1. Overall organic visibility or impressions.  This is tracking via the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.  2.  Keyword rankings.  You should select a set of keywords to track and focus on.  Your SEO company should provide clear rankings progress for this set of keywords.  3. Organic traffic statistics.  Organic visitors is best tracked with Google Analytics.  Your SEO company should provide you with a report that outlines all of the stats related to your organic traffic.  4. Organic conversions.  Organic conversions are also best tracked in the Google Analtyics goals section.   Your chosen SEO company should discuss conversions or goal completions with and the value of those goals.  The main goals to track are phone calls, form submissions, ecommerce purchases or certain events…..like a button click or white paper download, etc.  Discuss how the SEO agency plans to help you interpret the SEO reports and the actions they will take based on the data.

10. Client Retention Rate – The final question we recommend asking the SEO agencies you are reviewing is their client retention rate.  This can be a good indicator to how long other companies are sticking with that company’s SEO services.  When it comes to SEO retention rates, sometimes they are better understood by converting the metric into months vs. percentage.  If you ask an SEO company what their client retention rate is, and they respond with a percentage metric like, “96%”, you can re-phrase the question too “how long does your average client work with you”. This should yield a months or years response like, “22 months”.  We’ve found that average retention rate for good SEO companies is usually somewhere between 94%-98%, which means they should keep clients for 1.5 to 2+ years on average

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