Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring an SEO Agency

Things to Consider When Hiring and SEO Agency

There is no denying that SEO is an absolute necessity for businesses to succeed in the modern world. With over 80% of all clicks going to the organic search results and trillions of searches being done each year SEO is highly competitive.

As an SEO consultant with over 12 years experience working at some of the top SEO agencies in the world, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to what some agencies will do to “earn your business”.

In this article I will provide you with some ammunition and the best questions to ask SEO agencies before you hire them.

Here are the top questions to consider when picking an SEO agency.

Do they have experience in your industry?

If you’re looking to hire an SEO agency, it’s important to make sure that they have experience in your industry. This will ensure that they’re familiar with the latest trends and best practices for your particular industry, and that they can help you achieve your desired results.

Don’t be afraid to ask about their experience in your industry. Find out how long they’ve been working in it, and what kinds of results they’ve been able to achieve for their clients. This will give you a good sense of whether they’re a good fit for your needs. Most agencies will also give you a reference call from a client so you can get a better feel for how they service your industry.

What SEO related keywords does the SEO agency rank for?

I recommend using a tool like SEMrush or AHREFS to check on the SEO agencies SEO related keyword rankings. If the SEO agency has keywords that show big swings month in and month out that is concerning. Ideally, they would have a keyword portfolio that remains consistent and slowly grows each month. If they can’t rank for keywords themselves, why should you believe they can do it for you?

Does the SEO agency practice what they preach?

This an example of keyword rankings that fluctuate over time with big drops in rankings in May 2022 and a slow climb back in the last few months of the graph.

95 percent site health score

Make sure they fix their own technical SEO issues

Here is a test you can use: The SEO agency will likely point out a few issues they discovered on your website. This is helpful. However, I recommend checking their website for the same or similar issues. Again, if they don’t optimize their own website, why would you believe they can do it for you? For example if you have an international or multi-language website they might call out issues with your hreflang which is good to know but do they have hreflang issues themselves?

Great Employee To Client Ratio

Communication is the #1 reason SEO campaigns take “longer than expected”.  Communication break down can happen on the SEO agency or clients side but who’s at fault is the least of the issues. Find an SEO agency that communicates at the cadence that works best for you. In the same light, pick an SEO agency who will communicate in a way that you prefer whether that’s video call, phone call, email or a project management system.

To avoid communication break down, find an SEO agency that has a great employee to client ratio. The more eyes on your account the least likely something will get lost in communication.

client to employee ratio illustration

Ready to take your SEO to the next level?

Now that you’re on a mission to make your website friendly to the search engines, it’s time to plan your next move. Feel free to book a strategy session, and we can discuss your plan of action.

Does the SEO agency have a conflict of interest?

From that same perspective, you want to make sure the SEO agency doesn’t have a conflict of interest. Another common thing that happens in the digital marketing agency world is agencies will become vertical or niche specific and when that happens they often times will have a competitor already in their portfolio.

A few questions you can ask about how they have their experience and to see if their is a conflict of interest in your space.

  • Do they already have multiple businesses in your industry?
  • Are they targeting the same keywords in the same markets?

Experience is great but make sure the SEO agency you pick has your website as a priority. You can also ask for a exclusivity clause although, this is typically reserved for clients who are paying for a larger SEO state of work.

Look beyond the big logos in their portfolio

First of all it is not a bad thing when agencies have really well respected or recgonized logos in their portfolio but I would advise you to not get so enarmored with the logos that you overlook other areas of concern.

Almost every digital marketing agency in the world will have some pretty recognizable logos and brands in their portfolios but be sure to ask what they did specifically for those brands.

Here are some questions to ask agencies about their client portfolios.

  • What sort of SEO projects did you for that brand?
  • What were the results of those SEO projects?
  • Are they still a client today?

What I have seen in my career is often times SEO agencies might not have actually done SEO for those brands or organizations but did do some other sort of marketing project such as web design, paid search, CRO, analytics or even digital PR.

My best advice is to pick an SEO agency that is transparent with you!

Avoid Long Term Commitments

long term contract

This is a hot button topic in the SEO community: how long should SEO contracts or commitments be?

Oftentimes organizations end up signing long term SEO engagements because of the fact that they know organic search is a long-term investment and will take time to see results. However, that doesn’t mean you need to sign a 12 month agreement up front.

Do not enter into a long term commitment with an SEO agency. Yes, SEO does take time to see the results you want but too many SEO agencies end up hiding behind a contract rather than doing the work month in and month out like you’d expect them too.

An ethical SEO agency who are confident in their ability to produce results will not be afraid to work on shorter commitments and will enjoy earning your trust and therefore your business month in and month out.

If you must enter a long term agreement make sure the statement of work covers what will be done in each month and ensure the terms and conditions show that you can get out of the contract if any of those deliverables are not met.

It is my personal opinion that the number one red flag when hiring an SEO agency is to avoid any SEO agency or SEO person who are buying backlinks in the form of creating you a “guest blog” on these “high domain” websites.

If an SEO company or consultant tries to pitch on a guaranteed number of inbound links from high domain sites, be very wary as this is a top indication that this is a black hat SEO company. Earning high quality backlinks is done by creating helpful content on your own site that people then link to in forms of citation or sourcing. Stay away from purchasing “guest blogs” even on domains with “high domain authority” as these are often times part of a private blog network or PBN.

If you truly want to earn credible and helpful inbound links (backlinks) then you need a great Digital PR strategy that involves creating long-term linkable assets that live and breathe on your own website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Digital PR?

Digital PR is the modern day way to earn links from relevant websites. The idea is to create content that becomes credible and other websites, journalists and writers end up citing your website as a source or referencing your website in the form of a link.

What is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority is a third-party metric used in the world of SEO to measure the strength of a website’s link profile. Although it is theoretically a good idea to follow it has become manipulated over time by link spammers who offer to sell guest posts on these private link networks under the guise of being “high domain authority”. 

Choosing the right SEO agency for your business can be overwhelming with many businesses being burned by a less than reputable SEO person or agency in the past. Nothing makes me more furstrated than when a terrible agency or person scams entreprenuers out of their hard earned money under the ruse that they are offering SEO services.

With the experience I have accrued I have been able to spend the time and develope a methodology to assist in helping organizations choose the correct SEO agency to work with.

If you’re interested in my assistance with your SEO agency vetting methodology, please feel free to book a strategy session below or please contact me, i’d love to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you help me choose an SEO agency?

You can get me involved in whichever process you are currently in whether that’s listening to proposals, attending the pitches with you or even reviewing the statementes of work. 

What if I already have an SEO agency?

If you already have an SEO agency but are unsure of the results they are delivering I can help you with foresnic SEO consulting which is me helping you audit the work they have done for you whether that is matching up the deliverables you have paid for vs what they have delivered or measuring results I can help you vet your current SEO agency partner.

About the Author

Shane Hampson

Shane Hampson

Ethical SEO Consultant

Data Driven Marketer. Fantasy Football Champion. Dog Lover. Foodie.

Ready to take your SEO to the next level?

Now that you’re on a mission to make your website friendly to the search engines, it’s time to plan your next move. Feel free to book a strategy session, and we can discuss your plan of action.

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