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Buying SEO – A Guide to Employing an Agency (Part 2).

The author

Anthony Kenny

SEO Strategy Manager

Continuing from Part One of this guide, this half addresses what you should be looking for and the kind of questions you should be asking your shortlisted agencies. Once you've done the Prep Work and Leg Work, you can move on to the final step of the process... The Interrogation (also known as The Kojak Bit) This bit can come earlier on in the process or later (each process can be different) but ultimately you will eventually meet face to face with an agency and it is here where you will make a decision on which agency to employ and so come armed with questions (this can also be done on the phone but face to face is better). Below are some simple questions you should think about asking to separate and good agencies from the bad and the amazing agencies from the good. 1.       Ask About Experience & Successes Normally you won’t have to ask about this as agencies should come armed with some good case studies to back up what they do and how they do it. However, if they don’t then just ask, find out about which clients they have worked on and what they did for them. Above all, ask how they achieved success for them. Run for the hills if:

  • they fail to mention any past successes
  • past successes are explained in a woolly/unconvincing manner
  • success stories are based on keyword rankings alone
  • they are not able to draw upon more than one example
2.       Ask Questions On SEO Developments (if you’re not up on SEO, try and prepare something) A good SEO will not be flummoxed by a discussion around Penguin or Panda (be warned this may lead to a long-winded discussion, so ensure there is a good supply of coffee!). Ask how the current developments will impact your sector. To take your Kojak skills up a notch, question them on something which you have a general understanding to see if they talk sense. Run for the hills if:
  • if there is clearly no understanding of recent SEO issues
  • the issues are skirted around and not fully answered
  • explanations do not match what you already know
3.       Ask About How They Will Cater For You This is important, how will they cater for you? Will they be available for regular meetings? Will they update you regularly? Is there someone on the other end of the phone when you need them? Run for the hills if:
  • an agency fails to mention or discuss how they service clients
  • they offer no flexibility
4.       Ask How They Will Deliver Your Success This is probably THE most important. How are they going to deliver success for you? Do they work to a target ROI? Does it excite you? Does it excite them? It is here where you can see the difference between a good agency and a great agency. The ones with innovative ideas who work to achieve an ROI and are transparent about what they can do with your budget are the ones that you want to hear more from. Run for the hills if:
  • they mention anything to do with guaranteeing number one rankings
  • they fail to mention ways to generate ROI or any other return for your business
  • strategy focuses on a selection of keyword rankings alone
5.       Ask About Link Building Link building has always been an important part of SEO but the way it should be conducted is changing. Recent algorithm updates, like Penguin, simply mean you have to be careful about the way you build links now more than ever. Doing this incorrectly can easily result in a Google penalty, which needless to say can be very harmful. With this in mind, ask about how they build links, what they do, the processes, some examples of links they have achieved and above all, what they will do for you! Run for the hills if:
  • they say they have an external team that they use for link building
  • they offer no solid examples of links that they build
  • they offer no insight into the process they use
  • they fail to pinpoint what they can do for your business
6.       Get A Sense For Openness & Truthfulness This is something that has always been an issue with SEO and still continues to persist. SEO has always been a bit of a “black box” and due to this, some rogue agencies have used it to exploit businesses for money. An SEO agency should be upfront and knowledgeable about the current search landscape and industry, you should get a sense for transparency and openness. Run for the hills if:
  • they mention anything about working with and/or partnering with Google
  • they mention anything to do with submitting sites to search engines
  • they fail to be explicit about tactics they will use or what they report on
  • you get a feeling that they are trying to hide something or avoid talking about
So, that about wraps up this guide, as I mentioned before this is by no means definitive or comprehensive but rather some simple pointers to help you choose an SEO agency that will help deliver you results. I hope you've found it useful. Above all, you should go with your gut instinct and never feel rushed into a decision as when it boils down to it - it’s your money that you are investing and so you need to make sure you are happy! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. You can leave a comment below or catch me on twitter - @antkenny