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We recently published an article on the most important questions to ask before hiring a social media marketing company. What to look for when choosing a digital marketing or SEO company requires even more consideration before making a decision. That's because search engine optimization (SEO) spans many areas of digital marketing including technical and on-site SEO, keyword research, content marketing, social media marketing and link building. Finding an SEO company well-versed in each of these areas can be challenging.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask before hiring an SEO company.


How much do they charge and do they charge for an SEO audit?

The initial website audit will always be the first step in the process and will be where your website’s current SEO campaign is assessed. Many SEO companies will charge inquiring clients money just to conduct an audit of their website. That’s like a mechanic charging a person to assess what's wrong with their vehicle. However, that could also depend on how complex the audit is. For a huge ecommerce website or a news website with a ton of content, an SEO audit could take hours to complete. Most SEO companies and consultants, however, should be able to sniff out problem areas for regular business websites within 30 minutes.

The going rate for an hour of work by an SEO professional is often between $70-$150. At that rate, completing large projects can become very pricey. Instead, you might inquire about agreeing upon a flat rate between both parties after a clear list of objectives are established following the audit.


Can they provide a list of successful SEO campaigns they’ve completed in the past?

An SEO company’s Google Business, Yelp and Facebook reviews will often provide the best insight into their abilities and quality of work. Especially if there are a high volume of reviews. If the reviews aren’t convincing enough, you may ask to see links to some of the social media channels, pay-per-click landing pages and blog content they’ve completed. Don’t be hesitant about reaching out to those brands directly and inquiring about their satisfaction with the SEO company’s work. Some SEO companies will also feature testimonial pages on their website.


What does your typical keyword strategy look like?

Tools such as Moz, SEMRush, Google Search Console, Adwords Keyword Planner and SpyFu are all popular tools for keyword research. However, most brands will already know what keywords they want to rank for and which ones will generate the most conversions. Keyword research and planning is often more complex than that. Internal page titles, blog article titles and their metadata information should all be tailored towards your brand’s keyword strategy. Blog content should published implementing those keywords as well. An SEO professional should be able to quickly disclose which keywords your website is already ranking for by logging into your Google Search Console and Google Analytics. They should also be able to provide ways to build and improve upon those rankings.


What is their philosophy on content marketing and development?

Content is king as they say. Think about it. Without regularly publishing new content to your website, are visitors just supposed to keep visiting your website’s 'contact us' and FAQ page over and over again? Without quality content, a brand’s social media channels will remain dormant and will lack the ability to drive audiences to the website. A brand’s content strategy should be centered around solving problems and answering questions that are important to it's customers.


What are the most important key performance indicators (KPI) for a successful SEO campaign?

On the surface, steady increases in traffic would seem like the most important KPI for a website. However, if that traffic isn’t converting or interacting with the website in a meaningful way, then your traffic might as well have stayed at it's previous levels. The most important KPI’s for an SEO campaign are increases in purchases for the products (or services) your brand offers, increases in business inquiries via phone or contact form, and longer durations of time spent on a business website. Generating more traffic does often equal more sales for a business. If not, close attention needs to be paid to how you’re targeting customers as well as how they interact with the website after arriving.

Other key performance indicators include an increase in search engine rankings for desired keywords. This progress will come with time and is not something an SEO professional can quickly deliver. Google Search Console’s search analytics is the easiest keyword tool to use to track your website’s progress in the search engine rankings. If your brand runs a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign through Google Adwords, then calculating KPI's are a little more complex and analysis would need to be conducted by a consultant familiar with Google Adwords.


SEO is always changing and evolving. How do they stay up to date with these changes?

Dramatic changes in the SEO world come from one place and one place only; Silicon Valley. It’s impossible for anyone to know what the search engines are up to next. SEO professionals must stay up to date with best practices and the changes to the search engine algorithms. In our opinion, the most important authority in SEO is Matt Cutts, an engineer at Google. When he speaks, SEO professionals hang on to every word. Other important sources that SEO professionals should stay up to date on include Search Engine Land, Backlinko, Neil Patel and There are additional questions you could ask to test their knowledge about search engine optimization. You might ask additional questions such as when was the last major algorithm update? Or something like what is Google Panda?


What changes will be made to the brand’s website?

A brand’s website is the face of their business. It creates trust with their customers and is often a main point of reference for them. SEO professionals should be up front about the changes they plan to make to a brand’s website. Boundaries should be set before a partnership begins with a clear list of laid out objectives and expectations. If changes to a website’s design are needed, the SEO company should have a web designer on staff. Make sure that the SEO professional you’re hiring has experience with the content management system you’re currently using such as Wordpress, Squarespace, Joomla or Drupal.


Do they guarantee results?

This is a trick question. When it comes to search engine optimization, results can never be guaranteed. Every website is one Google algorithm update from losing their rankings in the search results and landing back at square one. Instead, there are best practices that should be followed; also called “white hat SEO techniques”. Any SEO company that makes statements like they can “guarantee the first search result for every keyword” is being disingenuous. In fact, where your website ranks in the search results also relies on the SEO strategies of other websites. Search engine optimization is a project that is never-ending and a website’s search engine rankings will always fluctuate.


How often will they report to you regarding progress? Are they effective at communicating progress in ways that your entire team can understand?

Most business owners and their employees may not fully understand SEO lingo. It’s important that an SEO professional explains the changes that need to be made to an SEO campaign in a way that business owners can understand. Business owners should be able to pick up on how effective they are at communication during the initial consultation or when inquiring about their services.

Progress reports should be submitted weekly with a list of tasks that were completed as well as key performance indicators pulled from Google Analytics and Google Search Console. A plan of action for the upcoming week should also be disclosed. Monthly performance reports will provide the best snapshot of progress for the overall SEO campaign. Communication between SEO companies and their clients are crucial since the two parties are often working remotely and separate from one another. As a rule of thumb, SEO professionals should always under promise and over deliver for their clients rather than vice versa.

Are you a small business or entrepreneur that aren’t able to employ the services of a full-time SEO professional? John Mann SEO Consulting can help. We are an experienced SEO company in Nashville, Tennessee and are passionate about helping small businesses build a stronger digital presence and experiencing growth.

To schedule your free SEO consultation, give us a call at 615-491-9819 or complete our contact form.