1 – Have they achieved their own Google rankings?
This is most important because if an agency has failed to achieve their own rankings within the Google search engine they are unlikely to be able to do it for you. Check all relevant keywords, at least regionally. They should be ranking high on the first page for SEO/Region and SEO Agency/Region. Even better if they have secured rankings for geographic areas outside of their physical location. This means that they know how to deliver results from a regional landing page strategy. Don’t accept any excuses that they are too busy to do it for themselves or they have a new website. If they have a new website and they have lost their previous positions it means they really don’t know what they are doing!
2 – Are they a Google Partner?
Google do not approve just any agency. Being a certified Google Partner is an annual process and means the staff have to hold current Google qualifications. On the Adwords PPC side it also means that they need to meet a minimum monthly advertising expenditure. Check out their Google Partner status via the Google Partner search facility online.
3 – Check Company Size and Capacity
The SEO industry is very low cost to entry and there are many individuals offering services that operate from home addresses and indeed low cost overseas facilities. Not that there is anything wrong with working from home but if you are looking for a full services company that can support you week in week out with multiple members of staff then do your research. Check their physical office location, company status, and years of trading. Visit their premises, people still buy people and it is important that are comfortable with them. Many low cost to entry organisations fade away after a short period of time. You don’t want the investment into your business to do the same.
4 – Check and verify their case studies & reviews
A reputable agency should publicise client case studies and service reviews on their website. Make your own enquiries with those companies and individuals; even better ask for a personal introduction to the existing client so you can have a one to one discussion. Always a good networking opportunity too. Check the organic ranking positions for those client reviews, do they rank as described? Are they utilising Adwords PPC and if so how do the ads look to you? Well written with good site links, call outs and calls to action? Lots of companies’ waste money on Adwords so if they are a dog boarding kennel whose ads show when you search ‘dog kennel for sale’ then the campaigns are poorly managed. Do make sure that the agency in question is responsible for their Adwords activity because they may not be.
5 – Use LinkedIn to Research Senior Staff Members
Digital Marketing going into 2018 is much more than getting to the top of Google for a bunch of key terms. There is social media to consider, display advertising and digital PR to name but a few. Check out the Directors and senior staff members on LinkedIn. Do they have formal marketing qualifications, is their experience broad and how many recommendations do they have and for what position? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, people are likely to respect you for it.
6 – What are they going to do and who is going to do it?
Although contemporary SEO is not rocket science it is easy to use a mixture of smoke and mirrors to disguise what they are actually going to do and how the process is going to work. Make sure they are prepared to outline in writing the process to you and make sure you know the in-house contacts that you will be dealing with. Most reputable UK agencies don’t outsource their work, especially to overseas individuals for whom English is not their first language.
It is critical that the SEO personnel understand your products and therefore how your target market are likely to search for these services. It is easy to rank for low competition keywords such as ‘large glass indoor garden with plants included Cambridge’ but it won’t drive you decent volumes of traffic. There are also a myriad of slang terms, colloquiums and abbreviations that someone may use to find you. An experienced, well rounded, English speaking member of staff will be able to manage this for you easily.
7 – Check Technical Competence
If your existing website is not technically sound then it will be impossible to rank it within the search engines. It is essential that a platform is hosted correctly, is fully mobile responsive and is well structured from an SEO perspective. The SEO Agency should request access to your existing site to check these parameters and should highlight any deficiencies to you before you waste money on trying to achieve the impossible. The best SEO results are built on a sound, keyword centric base so make sure your agency has these skills in house and can discuss it with you. Reputable agencies will run a free audit of your site before any contractual agreement is made.
8 – Will you get monthly reports and update meetings?
There are a host of stories out there of companies who committed to a contract, got very little contact and 6 months down the line realised the agency in question had not even accessed their website.
Your in house agency contact should keep you informed of progress and you should receive a monthly report which includes at least your tracked keyword ranking positions, website traffic breakdown, agreed conversion results and a word document that clearly explains what all the KPI’s mean. Don’t let them blind you with science.
9 – Can they guide you on Social Media Opportunities?
Irrespective of whether you are in a B2C or B2B environment there are a host of social media opportunities open to you. Correctly managed, awareness, interest and sales derived from popular social media channels can be realised much cheaper than organic and paid optimisation.
A good agency should be able to show examples of previous client campaigns providing exact statistics on cost, interaction and result. Ask for examples covering Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
10 – Check out their Domain Authority?
Domain authority is a third party metric created by Moz.com. It effectively measures the power of your domain by taking multiple factors into account including age, popularity and size of the platform. Domain Authority (DA) is a score out of 100 with a new website starting at 0/100. Facebook are 100/100 and the BBC 99/100. It is actually very hard to get over 30/100 so check out the agencies DA by using www.opensiteexplorer.org
Good luck and take care… It is a jungle out there!