Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Consultant

Before you hire an SEO provider, you’ll usually go through an initial consultation with them to determine if you’re both a good fit for each other. But what questions should you ask to make sure you’re getting the right SEO pro for you?

The best questions to ask your SEO agency all come down to digging deeper into the process a potential SEO provider uses, how they think about SEO, and what kinds of results you can expect from working with them. These questions are designed to help you better understand how an SEO consultant will work with you and what kinds of techniques they’ll use to help your website rank.

You can use these 10 questions to ask an SEO provider as a way to not only get to know how a potential SEO consultant responds to difficult questions. Some of these are pretty straightforward but others are more complex that are the first step you should take after determining that you should hire an SEO consultant.

1. What kind of SEO do you do?

There are four main parts to an SEO strategy:

  • Technical SEO, including site speed, SSL, site structure, and SEO-specific code
  • On-Page Optimization & Content, including article writing and landing page creation
  • User Experience, including website development, conversion optimization, and user engagement
  • Off-Site SEO, including backlink building and Google My Business & directory management

In general, to be successful at SEO, you have to have all four of these elements in order. Some SEO consultants only focus on one or two of these areas while others will take care of all four when working with clients but all of these are included in what an SEO specialist does.

Asking a potential SEO provider what kind of SEO they do and where their skills are strongest can help you figure out if their expertise is the right fit for your needs.

For instance, I offer all four when working with clients in an SEO consulting capacity but when I work with clients for SEO coaching, we don’t work on all four aspects. If someone is looking for technical SEO, I always recommend my done-for-you services instead of coaching, since my technical SEO skills are better at implementing than teaching it.

2. How do you approach linkbuilding?

One of the best ways to tell if someone is a legitimate SEO provider is to ask them their approach to linkbuilding. If you’re looking for someone who can help you with best practices that will serve your website for a long time to come, you’ll see the most red flags when asking this question.

For example, if a potential SEO consultant talks about using Web 2.0 or Private Blog Network (PBN) strategies, you probably want to steer clear if you don’t understand the risks of that kind of SEO for long term success.

Instead, you should hear about their process of identifying link opportunities, creating content that earns links, and acquiring links through outreach. You should also ask if they’ve worked with your industry before to build links and what kinds of existing relationships they may have or how they replicate past successes in new niches.

For example, when I’m asked about how I build links, I explain the process of how I design and create content that deserves links, how I get links to that content, and what kinds of websites I’d advise getting links from for your goals.

3. What results can I expect?

Another great way to catch out a bad SEO consultant is to ask what kind of results you can expect. If they guarantee success, first page rankings, or make other big claims about rankings, steer clear. Google actually prohibits SEO agencies and consultants from guaranteeing results and urges you to report these kinds of scams to the FTC.

Instead, a good SEO consultant can help you understand what the results will be as your rankings increase, what it will take to get top rankings in your niche, and how long it will take to get those results.

The key to remember is that even the best SEO consultants out there can only guess—Google does what Google does. We base our guesses on the experience of working in SEO and what strategies have worked in the past.

Success with SEO is entirely relative, meaning that it’s dependent on the SEO of your competitors who are trying to rank for the same keywords as your website. A great SEO provider can help dig deep into what your competitors are doing to help you understand what needs to be done to beat them—and what’s possible for you.

4. What does success look like for my website?

This is where the numbers actually come in and when an SEO professional should start talking about what metrics they’ll track, what you can see as improvements, and what their definition of “success” is for your website.

The key? They need a baseline to create these metric goals. A great SEO professional will ask you questions about your traffic, website engagement, sales funnel, and other information that helps them get a picture of where your business is right now. If you can, it’s a good idea to share information about conversion rates, or the number of people who become customers out of those who contact you and who visit your website.

Based on the information you provide, a great SEO consultant can then help you understand how more traffic can feed into this to help grow your business.

For example, before a free initial consultation, I ask that you fill out an application that includes some business metrics that help me gauge and understand the potential impact of SEO traffic on your business. When I do some initial SEO research, I can give you better feedback based on that information of what SEO strategies will work best for you, what improvements I’d anticipate, and what “success” would look like if we worked together.

5. What will you need from me to do your work?

SEO is never done in a vacuum—because rankings are affected by all kinds of things that go well beyond what keywords you have on your website. At the very least, your SEO consultant will ask for access to a few things, including your:

  • Google Analytics or other analytics platforms
  • Google Search Console
  • Google My Business, if you serve a local area
  • Website

In addition to access requests, your SEO provider may need additional things from you, like routine, scheduled communication about what else is happening in your business. I can tell you from experience that when clients don’t communicate well with the people working on SEO, SEO isn’t as successful.

Your SEO professional may also need your help to implement specific link building strategies, like being available for interviews, providing headshots and branding elements, or even sending emails to ask for links. If you have connections in your industry with other website owners with complimentary audiences, it’s not unusual for your SEO provider to ask you to send an email they create for you asking for a link.

I require that my clients not only provide access to the above but also are available for monthly check-in phone calls and are responsive to emails I send on a bi-weekly basis. I also ask that my clients are available for interviews in industry publications and remain open to making connections with others in their niche that I recommend for SEO purposes.

6. How do you integrate SEO into other marketing and advertising efforts?

Many other aspects of marketing have a direct impact on SEO and even more have an indirect impact. With that in mind, your SEO provider should help you integrate their work into other aspects of your marketing.

Some SEO consultants will also help you use an integrated approach to search traffic for paid and organic traffic. I offer Google Ads services in addition to SEO consulting to give my clients the best opportunities to benefit from search traffic.

Beyond search, your SEO provider should also help you use other organic strategies for growth. For example, when I create new content for clients to establish authority and trust, I ask that they share those articles on their social media channels and, in many cases, send it to their email list.

SEO also goes hand in hand with PR so integrating off-site SEO strategies into public relations can also be something your SEO consultant helps with or can provide guidance on how to use existing relationships for SEO benefits.

7. What’s one example of when SEO didn’t work & why?

This question is one of the hardest ones for SEO professionals to answer because it puts them on the spot to talk about when they’ve failed. But every SEO consultant has had at least a few failures under their belt.

There’s usually a few common reasons for failure in SEO. Some of them are due to the consultant and some are due to the client, including:

  • Ranking turned out harder than estimated
  • New traffic wasn’t beneficial to the client
  • Client didn’t provide resources needed for success
  • Client rapidly changed direction or made major business changes during SEO work

What you want to watch for is how the SEO consultant talks about how these failures happened. Do they take responsibility, even if it was the client’s fault? What have they changed since then to make sure they don’t happen?

For instance, in my own business, I highly vet potential clients before I start working with them to make sure as best I can that these kinds of failures won’t happen, both in my SEO research during my initial assessment as well as in our discussions and the questions I ask potential clients.

It’s of course not foolproof but it’s gone a long way to helping my clients see results from my work, even if things don’t go to plan.

8. What changes do you anticipate us needing to future-proof for?

You can ask your SEO provider how they keep up with SEO and they can rattle off a list of SEO publications, other professionals, and ways they stay up to date. But none of that matters if they don’t understand where SEO is headed in the future.

A better question to ask your potential SEO consultant is what they anticipate SEO to become in the near future and far future. Everyone has different opinions on it but asking a follow up about why they think that and how they know will show you if they’re paying attention to the latest in what search engines are doing.

For example, Google does make announcements every so often about updates they’re making to their algorithm. The hottest topic for a long time was mobile-friendliness because of Google’s Mobile First index. What’s next? In 2020, Google announced that user engagement stats or what they call Core Vitals, will soon be part of the algorithm. An SEO consultant today should tell you that focusing on UX is where SEO is headed for right now, in addition to the other aspects we know about how SEO works today.

9. What systems or processes do you use to make your work more efficient?

While rankings are entirely relative to your competition and your SEO strategy should be personalized for the right outcomes, a great SEO consultant has a framework they use to make work as efficient as possible.

In my own work, I start off my SEO process by developing an SEO Roadmap for my clients that sets what work will be done step by step, outlining what SEO tasks need to be taken care of, setting priorities, and systemizing the SEO process. I also use other systems for how I conduct audits, create content, and acquire backlinks for my clients.

It’s also important to make sure that the system is flexible and customizable to your particular needs. At this point, SEO is still largely manual work that has to be done by hand instead of by machines. While we like to create systems to make work easier and faster, over systemizing can negatively impact the SEO results of your website.

10. What are things I need to improve for SEO to be effective that aren’t included?

Because SEO is so far reaching, there are likely things that your SEO consultant will advise that you need to fix to get the most benefit from your increased traffic or to get on top of search results. And some of those things may be much more than what your SEO pro can help with.

This can help you identify who to work with that has a fear reaching understanding of how marketing and business works, helping you get the most out of your work together. As well, you can also understand if there are parts of your online presence or brand that could tamp down results that should be solved before focusing on SEO.

Above all else, you’ll also understand how honest your SEO professional actually is by asking this question. Often, part of my job as an SEO pro is to help my clients see things how they are from a digital marketing standpoint—and occasionally I know my clients aren’t going to like the answer. An SEO professional that has your best interests at heart will tell you the hard to hear things in a productive, professional manner that helps you improve and makes their work even more effective.

Get a Free Initial Consultation

Now that you know what to ask an SEO company, the next step is to get on the phone and start asking these questions to a potential SEO consultant. I offer free initial consultations where I do an initial assessment of your SEO, what it will take to rank for your target keywords, and help you understand what SEO can do for you.

Schedule a free initial consultation today and see how different your business could be with SEO.

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