When outsourcing your SEO, know what questions to ask–before you sign.

I recently wrote up a seven-page SEO official hiring guide for the OPEN forum. (It has a lot of other useful info, too.) The pages talk about the challenges of hiring a search engine optimization firm, and what you should ask before committing. I recap the highlights below, and you can reference the Hiring an SEM firm site here.

Knowing where to turn once you’ve decided to outsource your search engine marketing campaign can be daunting. While it’s not necessary to be an expert, it’s important to know what to look for in a quality search engine marketing firm. Just as with any other vendor, knowledge base, cost efficiency and results are among the most important factors when selecting a company to trust with this piece of your business. And as the search engines are continuously updating their own methods of providing accurate search results, it’s even more important to find a search marketing agency that’s up-to-date on the latest strategies.

What does an ‘SEO’ do?
SEO consists of ongoing changes to websites with keyword rich, user-centric, quality content and links, both on your site and off. Therefore, this list provides questions you should ask any search firm you are considering and some of the answers to look for related to this model and other business issues.

Top list of questions to ask your potential SEO company: (see the answers here)

  1. Do you guarantee top search engine rankings?
  2. Will my website need to change?
  3. What is your process for keyword research?
  4. What is your pricing, and when can I expect (ranking) results?
  5. How will I be able to gauge progress, and what level of communication should I expect?
  6. Are you visible in the industry? Where can I find you?
  7. Describe your firm’s general SEO experience and a few client references.
  8. How long will our agreement (contract) last?
  9. What should my SEO agreement include?
  10. Who are your competitors, and why are you better for us?
  11. How long do clients typically stay with you?
  12. How does my team work with yours?
  13. I have a CMS (Content Management System) . How does that affect the SEO work?
  14. Will you make recommendations on my site’s copy/content?
  15. What do you need from me during the engagement?
  16. What are my options if I’m not satisfied with the results?
  17. What things do you look for in a search-engine-friendly site?
  18. What steps do you take in optimizing a website?
  19. What is your overall approach to back linking?
  20. How can I ensure that you will operate ethically?

These questions should cover you pretty well. Read the angles/answers and understand them too; there are many moving parts here.

Make sure the firm you choose understands your business, and is well versed in the online space–not just the technical or programming parts. Also, remember that there are some really creative salespeople out there, genuine enough but not always well trained in the online or, especially, the SEO space. We buy on emotion, and we buy from people we like. Make sure that it’s more than just the salesperson you like! 🙂

Training is an important aspect, and it includes you. You should consider taking an SEO class through Sempo Institute or MarketMotive. (I took a class at BruceClay.com–he’s great, too). Make some time to participate in the process and you’ll have a partnership for success.

Where to start?
Of course, if you’d like to see how you stand from a technical/marketplace standpoint, there are complimentary website reviews that have no commitment other than revealing potentially problematic issues with your site and space.

Good luck!


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Entrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after Digital Marketing Experts. His clients extend from high-end brands and middle-tier businesses in both B2B and B2C. His SEO website optimization book, "The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website" from Entrepreneur Press is in bookstores now.