10 Questions to Ask an Agency Before Buying SEO

10 Questions to Ask an Agency Before Buying SEO


As the world continues to evolve into a global digital enterprise, businesses need to adapt to the changes to maintain a strong online presence, which is crucial for their growth and success.

How does a business get ahead of the online competition? Through a robust, intentionally designed SEO plan.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become an indispensable tool for improving website visibility, driving organic traffic, and ultimately boosting revenue. However, with countless SEO agencies competing for your attention, it can be challenging to separate the good from the bad.

Before handing over your digital marketing efforts to an agency, you want to ask the right questions to ensure you’re making an informed decision.

If you’re a small business, here are ten critical questions that will help you evaluate an SEO agency’s expertise, transparency, and ability to deliver tangible results.

What Is SEO?

SEO is akin to strategically positioning your business in the most prominent locations to attract prospective customers. By optimizing your website with relevant keywords, quality content, and a user-friendly structure, you essentially increase its visibility and interest to search engines, making it a top recommendation for related queries.

1. What is your approach to SEO?

Inquiring about an agency’s approach to SEO is crucial as it reveals its overall strategy, methodologies, and techniques. This question helps you understand if they follow industry best practices and keep abreast with the latest trends and algorithm updates.

Here are some key points to look for in their response:

  • •Comprehensive strategy: A reputable agency should have a well-defined, multi-faceted SEO strategy that encompasses various aspects such as keyword research, on-page optimization, technical SEO, content creation, link building, and performance tracking.
  • •Ethical practices: They should emphasize following search engine guidelines and avoiding any black hat techniques that could result in penalties. Black hat is the practice of going against search engine guidelines to manipulate SERPs (search engine results pages) for higher rankings.
  • •Data-driven approach: Their approach should be data-driven, relying on thorough research, analysis, and measurable results rather than making assumptions or using outdated tactics.
  • •Transparency: A transparent agency will be open about its methodologies, techniques, and the rationale behind its approach rather than keeping the processes opaque or proprietary.

2. How do you measure success?

Measuring success is an essential element of any SEO campaign, as it allows you to quantify the impact of the agency’s efforts and ensure that they deliver tangible results aligned with your business objectives.

When asking this question, you should probe deeper into the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) they use to track and report on the success of their SEO campaigns.

There are certain metrics that are so powerful that overlooking their performance level can break a business’s marketing success.

Relevant KPIs

Ensure that the agency tracks KPIs that are directly relevant to your business goals.

Common SEO KPIs include the following:

  • •Organic traffic
  • •Keyword rankings
  • •Conversion rates
  • •Leads generated
  • •Revenue growth

The agency should tailor these metrics to your specific objectives, whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving e-commerce sales, or generating leads.

Data Sources

Inquire about the data sources they use to measure these KPIs. Reputable agencies should rely on reliable and industry-standard tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, and third-party rank tracking software.

Benchmarking and Baselines

Ask how they establish baselines and benchmarks to measure progress effectively. They should have a process for capturing your initial performance metrics before implementing their SEO strategies.

Goal Alignment

Ensure that the KPIs they measure align with your overall business goals and objectives. The agency should be able to demonstrate how its SEO efforts contribute to your bottom line, whether it’s increasing revenue, reducing customer acquisition costs, or improving brand visibility.

3. How do you conduct keyword research?

Keyword research identifies relevant keywords, analyzes competition, and optimizes content to target the correct search queries.

You’ll want to ensure the agency has a strategy in place to optimize keyword research.

Ask how they conduct the following to optimize content.

Search Intent Analysis

The agency should understand the intent behind each keyword, whether it’s informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional, and tailor content accordingly to match user expectations.

Keyword Mapping

They should have a process for mapping relevant keywords to specific pages or content pieces, ensuring that each page targets a focused set of keywords and provides value to users searching for those terms.

On-Page Optimization

The agency should optimize content by intentionally placing keywords in titles, headings, meta descriptions, and body copy while maintaining a natural flow and avoiding keyword stuffing.

Content Quality and Relevance

Ultimately, their approach should prioritize creating high-quality, relevant, and engaging content that genuinely answers users’ queries, as this is a crucial factor in ranking well in the latest search algorithms.

Analyzing Competition’s Keyword Research Success

While it’s great to have a solid keyword research plan in place, an SEO agency should always have its eyes on the competition to give them a baseline of where their efforts stand.

4. What is your link-building strategy?

Link building is another heavily weighted component of any successful SEO strategy, as high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites are a reliable indicator to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy.

When inquiring about an agency’s link-building strategy, you should understand their approach to acquiring backlinks ethically and sustainably.

Here are some key aspects to explore:

  • •Quality over quantity: A reputable agency should prioritize acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative, relevant, and trusted sources over pursuing a large volume of low-quality or spammy links.
  • •Domain authority and relevance: They should evaluate potential link sources based on their domain authority, topical relevance, and overall trustworthiness, as links from reputable and industry-related websites carry more weight.
  • •Content-based link building: The agency should emphasize creating valuable, relatable, shareable content that organically attracts backlinks from other websites.
  • •Guest posting and contributed content: A legitimate strategy may involve contributing guest posts, expert articles, or other forms of content to authoritative websites within your niche.
  • •No paid links or link schemes: A reputable agency should strictly avoid any form of paid links, link farms, or link schemes, as these are considered black hat tactics and can result in severe penalties from search engines.

5. How do you guarantee compliance with search engine guidelines?

The purpose of asking this question is to understand the agency’s practices to ensure they follow search engine guidelines and avoid any unethical or "black hat" techniques that could result in penalties.

Ensure your contract articulates details about the following subjects.

  • •Knowledge of guidelines
  • •White hat approach
  • •Content quality
  • •Technical best practices

6. How do you stay up-to-date with industry changes?

When you enlist an agency’s SEO services, you want to identify their methods for staying informed about the latest algorithm updates and best practices.

Here are some key points to look for in their response:

  • •Continuous learning and research
  • •Monitoring industry news and publications
  • •Experimentation and innovation
  • •Collaboration with industry experts
  • •Leveraging data and analytics

7. What is your pricing model?

When asking about their pricing model, you should inquire about the specific structure they follow and ensure it aligns with your business needs and financial considerations.

Here are some common pricing models to explore:

  • •Project-based pricing
  • •Retainer-based pricing (monthly)
  • •Performance-based pricing

Ultimately, the agency’s pricing model should be transparent and flexible enough to be tailored to your requirements. It’s essential to understand the inclusions, exclusions, and any potential additional costs associated with each pricing model.

8. What is your reporting and communication process?

When you partner with an agency for your SEO marketing plan, it’s tempting to hand over the reins entirely and hope for the best. But in order to get the most out of the partnership, you’ll want to participate in the plan by engaging in regular communications.

Ask how they intend to commit to the following.

Reporting Frequency and Formats

  • •Reporting cadence: Inquire about how frequently the agency provides performance reports, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
  • •Report formats: Ask about the formats in which reports are delivered, such as PDF documents, interactive dashboards, or presentations.
  • •Customization: Understand if the agency offers customized reporting tailored to specific goals, KPIs, and data requirements or if they provide a standardized report template.

Communication Channels and Collaboration

  • •Primary point of contact: Understand who your primary point of contact will be at the agency and how you can reach them for any questions or concerns.
  • •Communication channels: Inquire about the various communication channels the agency uses, such as email, project management tools, video conferencing, or in-person meetings.

9. What is the expected timeline for results?

SEO is a long-term strategy that requires managing expectations and planning for the future. This includes breaking down timelines for each phase and technique.

Getting answers to the following inquiries will give you an idea of the agency's sense of urgency and dedication to results.

  • •Inquire about the expected timeline for delivering measurable results.
  • •Ask about the time it will take to conduct preliminary audits and generate strategies.
  • •Find out how soon they will begin to measure their efforts and implement fixes for minor initial improvements, which are required for sustainable growth.

10. Can you provide case studies from previous and current clients?

When asking an SEO agency, "Can you provide case studies or references?" you’re essentially requesting tangible evidence of their past work and proven ability to deliver the results you need.

Reviewing case studies and speaking with references allows you to gauge the agency’s track record more thoroughly.

Here are 3 key points to consider regarding their response:

Case Studies

  1. Evaluate the measurable results achieved, such as increases in organic traffic, keyword rankings, conversion rates, and revenue impact. Reputable agencies should quantify their successes.
  2. Assess the depth of the case studies. Comprehensive examples should cover the timeline, tactics used (e.g., technical SEO, content creation, link building), and insights gained throughout the engagement.
  3. Prioritize case studies from clients within your industry or with similar business models, as this can provide more relevant insights into the agency’s expertise and approach.

Take on the Internet With LinkNow’s Failproof SEO Strategy

Your business is your baby, and you need to nurture it as such if you want it to grow. LinkNow is a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO strategy and plan implementation, and we can help you do just that. We’ve taken businesses without an online presence and given them a digital presence that propelled sales and grew their brand. The best part is that we can do the same for you by creating a customized SEO plan that works and gets you where you want to be.

Get ahead of your target customers and show them why you’re the solution they need. Contact us today at 1.888.667.7186.

Maria Kalomiris

Author: Maria Kalomiris

About Maria Kalomiris

Maria is a professional copywriter specializing in SEO, with a diverse portfolio spanning multiple industries. Holding a diploma in Public Relations with a specialized focus on Crisis Management Writing, she brings a unique and valuable skillset to her craft. Particularly passionate about writing updated and informative content in the health and fitness niche, Maria is also a dedicated freelancer who continuously invests in her professional development through ongoing education. When she's not crafting compelling content, you'll find her working out in her home gym, exploring horse-themed social media pages, or exploring the backroads looking for hidden gems.