Are you a business owner looking to engage the services of a SEO provider? How do you choose and compare different SEO providers?
Irrespective of the way you found the SEO company be it referral or a friend of a friend, it is very important to ask your SEO providers the right set of questions, so that you as a business owner can take well informed decisions. Ultimately it is your business and right providers can give it wings. We have prepared a list of Top 10 Questions to ask your SEO Providers.
- Do you adhere to search engines webmaster guidelines?
- Can you guarantee #1 rank on Google?
- Who will have the ownership of online properties you create?
- What if our site gets penalized because of your actions?
- Will you share with us all the changes you make to our website?
- Will you work with my direct competitors?
- How do you plan to do link building?
- Reporting – when & how often?
- How do you measure the success of a SEO campaign?
- Anything else you are concerned about?
Let us look at each of these questions in detail and which answers will be the most beneficial for your business.
Question 1: Do you adhere to search engine’s webmaster guidelines?
To understand the correct answer to this question, you first need to understand what are search engine’s webmaster guidelines? In simple terms, they are policies created by search engines and are applicable to their respective search engine only. Each search engine has their own set of policies which they refer to. This policy set is known as webmaster guidelines. So Google will have its own set of policies, Bing will have its own set and so on. Search engines often update the policies on their websites and it is expected that SEOs know and are aware of webmaster guidelines.
What will happen if your SEO provider violates these guidelines? Violation of search engine guidelines can result in your site not ranking well, or your site being completely removed from search engines index, resulting in your customer not being able to find your business. This is often referred to as search engine penalties. Here is a link to the webmaster guidelines for most popular search engines.
As a business owner it is absolutely critical that everybody working on your website absolutely follows search engine’s webmaster guidelines to avoid being penalised by search engines.
Question 2: Can you guarantee #1 rank on Google?
Search engines like Google & Bing considers a variety of factors to rank webpages. Google uses over 200 signals to decide which page ranks where. Nobody can guarantee #1 rank on Google. You should be wary of providers that allege a special relationship with Google or priority submit to Google. All these are red flags and you should move away now. There is no priority for anything and all the services for all search engines are at no cost to businesses. The only time they charge money is for paid advertisements, which is completely different to organic rankings.
Question 3: Who will have the ownership of online properties you create?
As a part of normal SEO process, sometimes SEO providers need to create online properties on behalf of their clients or they can take control of your existing online properties to ensure they are setup correctly. For example, in case a business does not have a Google My Business listing (yes it is rare, but still), your SEO provider might create it for you; this Google My Business listing then becomes one of your online properties.
Whilst all of these are legitimate business processes, what needs to be understood is what happens to these online properties once the relationship ends. The online properties can be valid legal entities and all representation made online is made on behalf of the business. So it becomes absolutely critical that the business also has the ownership of all online properties. In an ideal scenario:
- your SEO providers can create the business entities but they should do so using your email addresses as the primary owner.
- then you as a business owner can give them access rights, less the ability to delete the property or change ownership.
Question 4: What if our site gets penalised because of your actions?
Once a site is penalised by search engines, it can take months for the penalty to be removed and it is still not guaranteed which violation caused the penalty in the first place. Simply speaking any violation of the search engines webmaster guidelines can result in penalties. So to rightly identify the penalty the webmaster guidelines needs to be checked for each page of your website.
Penalties can result is loss of business and loss to your business brand and can have far reaching effects on your business. In such a scenario it is extremely important to clearly define the responsibilities of your SEO providers and the consequences of their actions.
Question 5: Will you share with us all the changes you make to the website?
Your website is the online representation of your business. Be it brick or mortar store, a professional office, online presence of your brand or anything else. Any representation made online is made for the business, so it is absolutely critical that any statements or claims are made properly and correctly represented align with your business.
Your customers trust you for all the representations made and expect you to deliver on those representations. In best cases all changes that are made online must be pre-approved by the business owners or responsible stake holders and must be clearly documented.
Question 6: Will you work with my direct competitors?
Each business can have its own set of online and offline competitors. In the best interest of the business it is very important to find a provider that does not work with the direct competitors for that business.
Imagine your SEO provider is trying to rank both you and your direct competitor at the same time for the same set of keywords, they cannot do justice to your business. To get the best possible results for your campaign, it is absolutely critical you find a provider that does not work with your direct competitors whilst working on your business. There is no way to fully ensure this and the best possible way is to ensure you take written undertakings.
Question 7: How do you plan to do link building?
Search engines like Google use links on other sites to find your website. They also use these links as a part of their ranking signals. Good quality websites with good quality content have links pointing to them. SEO providers often do link building to increase the reach of your website. Your website link building should not be measured in the number of links you have, instead it should be measured on the number of quality links that you receive. For example, if you supply to the government a single link as a supplier from the government website is of more value than 100s of low quality links. The same goes for news papers, industry associations, chambers of commerce etc.
Submitting to directories, blog commenting, etc are all examples of poor link building techniques and should be avoided at all costs. The other downside of poor link building is that your site can get penalised because of poor link building.
Question 8: Reporting – when & how often?
As with any campaign, it is necessary to have clear and easy to understand reports. The reports do not have to be fancy as long as they include important pieces of information. A basic report should absolutely include:
- Starting rankings
- Current rankings across major search engines
- All the work done including on page & off page optimisation with date & timestamps
- Proposed work for the following months
- Traffic reports
- Can include data from Google Search Console, Bing Webmasters, Google My Business, etc.
Any information that is ambiguous or general in nature, should be avoided. Along with the information that needs to be included, it is also important to know when will be reports be sent out, in what format they will be sent and how often they will be sent.
We recommend reporting at least monthly reports in PDF formats with information to be able to check the reports.
Question 9: How do you measure the success of a SEO campaign?
Before the start of the SEO campaign, as a business owner it is very important for you to identify what concludes a successful campaign. Is it rankings, leads, conversions or anything else.
At the same time it is also very important to align your businesses campaign success parameters to match with your providers success parameters. This way, you can be rest assured that your SEO provider is working in the right direction to achieve the objectives for you.
Question 10: Anything else you are concerned about?
Use this section to ask your SEO provider about any questions or concerns you may have now, during or after the campaign. Your SEO provider should be able to provide you answers to all your questions and concerns before, during & after the campaign. As a business owner, you have full right to ask as many questions as you may have and it is the duty of the SEO provider to answer them.
I hope you find this information helpful, should you have any questions related to this blog, please let us know and we will get back to you. This blog post is written by Pulkit Agrawal from UR Digital, a SEO marketing services company based in Australia.