Don’t Get Fooled: 17 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Company

seo

Pretty scary, right?

Hiring SEO help can make or break your company.

A good SEO will get you on the path to making tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, but a bad SEO could cripple any existing search traffic you get.

It’s important to choose carefully, and that’s what I want to show you how to do today.

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO company, I’ve put together 17 questions that can help you make the right choice.

You should ask these questions before hiring anyone so you know exactly what to expect.

Download this printable checklist of 17 questions to interview a SEO company/individual.

Finally, you don’t need to ask all of these questions, but I’ll explain why each is important so that you can decide if a question is relevant to your situation. 

Types of SEO help

Before we get into the questions, I want to go over the different types of SEOs:

  • individual SEO consultants – these are freelancers who offer their SEO services.
  • SEO companies/agencies – these companies have teams of SEOs and standardized SEO processes for the most part. They typically work with businesses of a decent size (with budgets of at least a few thousand dollars per month for SEO).
  • in-house SEOs – if your business is very large or is growing rapidly, it often makes sense to hire an in-house SEO team. You can set it up yourself or hire an SEO consultant to help put things into place and come up with an initial strategy.

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The questions in this post are primarily for the first two types of SEOs.

There is a lot of variation in freelancers and SEO agencies. Some are great, others are terrible.

Here’s what I can say: a great SEO will never charge low prices. If you’re hunting for a discount, chances are you’ll end up with an SEO who cuts corners and hurts your site in the long run.

That being said, a high price doesn’t guarantee quality work either. Many agencies will mark up prices of basic work by an obscene amount. Since most website owners don’t know how to evaluate SEO work, these SEO companies can get away with a lot.

Luckily, you’re not an average website owner.

At the very minimum, just by reading this article, you’ve shown that you’re taking initiative to carefully weed out bad SEOs.

As long as you ask the right questions and pay attention to the answers (I’ll show you how now), you should be able to find an SEO that makes a positive impact on your business.

Ready? Let’s start…

1. How will you improve our search engine rankings?

You don’t get any significant results without a serious SEO strategy.

If you decide to randomly target keywords or to build links, you might see some small sporadic results, but you’ll never see consistent traffic increases.

What this means is that all good SEOs have a process, whether they freelance or work for an agency.

They probably won’t be able to tell you: “We’re going to get links from X, Y, and Z websites.”

What they can tell you, however, is something along the lines of: “We’ll start with an on-site technical SEO audit to identify any areas for quick wins. Then, we’ll identify the best keywords to target.”

Ask about the links: Backlinks have been a big part of search engine algorithms for a long time and will continue to play a big role in the future. All SEOs will “build” links to your website in order to attempt to improve rankings.

As you might know, not all backlinks are created equal.

One good backlink is worth more than thousands of low-quality backlinks.

Low-quality backlinks are the ones that can be automated and are often used for spam link building. Think of the typical gigs you see on Fiverr where you can buy hundreds or thousands of good links for $5-10.

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A single good link will cost a minimum of $20, and that’s a best case scenario. Usually, a link from an agency will cost you more than $100 each.

If someone is promising you a large number of links, and it works out to $1 or less per link, run the other way.

2. How will you keep me informed of changes you make to our website?

A good SEO company will send you regular reports. The most common frequency is once per month (typically at the end), but some will send you quick weekly updates as well.

The first thing you’ll need to give an SEO company is access to your website (at least part of it). This is one of the main reasons it’s important to hire an SEO company that you can trust.

You can mitigate any risks, if you like, by having all website changes made by an in-house developer. The obvious consequence is that changes will be made slower, and you will have to make sure there is an open and constant line of communication between your developer and your SEO company.

Some SEO consultants won’t ask for any website changes to be made. If this happens, it’s another red flag. While off-site work is a large part of SEO, on-site work is often more important, especially at the start.

Changes need to be tracked: You need to make sure that your SEO company is diligent about any website changes they make.

If something goes wrong, you need to know exactly what caused it.

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If an SEO company says that they track changes internally, that’s not good enough.

Think about what would happen if your SEO freelancer or agency suddenly became non-responsive (yes, it does happen) and you were stuck with a broken or damaged site.

In order for you or an emergency consultant to fix the problem, you need to know what caused it.

Any good SEO company will be prepared to send you a detailed log of any website changes they make.

3. Can you share information on some of your past clients and their results?

Shopping for an SEO company is just like shopping for anything else. You want to see reviews, testimonials, case studies, and who their past clients were.image14

You shouldn’t expect an SEO company to hand over their entire address book, but most will be happy to give examples of 2-3 big name clients. In addition, they should be able to easily show their results (ideally over a long time period).

If they can’t give you any examples of clients who are legitimate businesses, that’s a pretty big warning sign. Either they weren’t able to deliver for big clients in the past, or they don’t have the experience for that level of SEO.

Then, follow up by asking who their longest active client is: I’ve already mentioned that one of the biggest problems with shady SEO firms is that they use short-term risky tactics.

They want to show clients quick results, not caring if they’re doing anything that jeopardizes the site in the future.

If you’re interviewing an SEO company that has been around for a while and their longest active client has been with them for under a year, that’s a red flag.

A good SEO consultant or team is worth their weight in gold. Good SEO alone can grow a business by 5-15% per month. And I’m talking about on a consistent basis, year after year.

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No sane client is going to give up an SEO firm that produces great results unless they decide to build an in-house SEO team or the SEO company decides to end things.

4. Do you always follow Google’s best practices?

Following Google’s (and to a lesser extent Bing’s and Yahoo’s) best practices is crucial to long-term traffic growth.

Google applies approximately 500 algorithm updates per year. All of these updates are for one purpose: to provide better results for searchers.

The guidelines are essentially the “golden rules” of user search, published by each respective search engine.

When you violate the rules, Google isn’t happy.

That’s why it has released certain algorithms that have penalized a large number of manipulative sites. On-page violations are penalized by algorithms such as Panda, while off-page violations are penalized by updates such as Penguin.

When you get hit by one of these, your traffic will be hit hard.

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The biggest problem is that it can take months or even years of recovery work (depending on the skill of your next SEO) to correct the penalty. You’ll miss out on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue during this time, which is why emphasizing the long-term results in SEO is typically best.

5. Which tools do you use?

While many people are under the impression that any SEOs that use tools are “blackhat” SEOs, that’s not the whole story.

The word “tool” typically describes a wide variety of applications when talking about SEO.

Tools allow you to process lots of information in a short amount of time. This can save a ton of time and money, which is good for everybody.

But there are different tools:

  • Reporting tools – While reports could be created manually, it’s a lot easier to create a custom report that combines analytics, keyword rankings, and other SEO metrics. Most of the report can be automated, which saves time, plus you know exactly what to expect as a client.

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  • Link building tools – These allow you to create hundreds or thousands of links with the click of a button and a few proxies (more on these below).
  • Technical SEO tools – Tools such as Screaming Frog allow SEOs to crawl large sites quickly for a variety of technical issues. This would take a long time to do manually, and you can often find important problems that need to be fixed.
  • Research tools – There are now tools such as BuzzStream that allow you to gather contact information of a large number of people in minutes. These tools in general help you gather prospects and conduct keyword research.

Most of these tools are good. They help you comply with Google’s guidelines for good SEO. However, pure link building tools are bad…very, very bad. (Did I mention that they’re bad?)

These tools are designed to comment on hundreds or thousands of blogs, forums, or web 2.0 websites (think Blogger, Weebly, etc.). These are the lowest quality links you can build, which can easily lead to penalties.

If your SEO company mentions tools such as Xrumer, SE Nuke, or Bookmarking Demon, stay away.

One more tool I want to mention is Scrapebox. Scrapebox can be used for spam blog comments, but it can also be used for legitimate research and reporting activities. If your SEO company specifically mentions Scrapebox, ask for more details on how they use it.

6. What types of SEO work will you do?

This may come up when you ask other questions on this list, but if it hasn’t yet, make sure to ask this question at some point.

There should be at least a basic technical SEO audit done once you hire a company. If this isn’t part of their process, they likely aren’t very good SEOs.

Technical SEO involves all of the background aspects of SEO that search engines still care about. Finding and addressing web crawler errors, 404 pages, redirect problems, and evaluating site navigation are all part of basic technical SEO.

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7. Can you guarantee that our site will rank #1 for a major search term?

This is the easiest way to weed out the SEO salesmen from legitimate SEOs.

If an SEO freelancer or company is simply trying to make a sale, they’ll typically be happy to say that they guarantee #1 rankings (in Google).

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Here’s the thing though: no one can guarantee #1 rankings every single time—especially not in any specific time period. Here are a few reasons why:

  • No SEO knows the exact Google algorithm – Google had a revenue of $17.3 billion in the first three months of 2015. Most of this revenue is only possible because of Google’s search engine. Suffice to say, they protect the exact algorithm closely. If anyone claims to know the exact algorithm, they’re lying. (If you knew the algorithm, you could make way more than you could as an average SEO consultant).
  • No one knows how Google’s algorithm will change – Google pushes out more than one algorithm change per day on average. Unless you’re working at Google, you can’t know when or how Google will change in the future. You can certainly guess, but be prepared to be wrong quite often.
  • Penalties can come out of nowhere – Penalties can be algorithmic (like from Panda or Penguin) or manual. Google doesn’t often say when certain algorithms will be run. The next Penguin could be run in a week, a month, or a year. In addition, manual reviews and penalties can be triggered at any time.

What all of this means is that while SEOs should be able to increase your search traffic consistently over time, they can’t guarantee specific keyword rankings. If that’s their main promise: run the other way.

There’s one important caveat though: Some SEOs might ask you which keyword you’re targeting or might suggest one. If you’re targeting a very easy keyword, they might offer a guarantee.

Note that offering a guarantee and guaranteeing a #1 ranking are two different things. Offering a guarantee typically means that they expect that you will rank #1 for an easy term, but if they can’t help you do that, they’ll give you some sort of refund.

This type of guarantee is okay although you need to be careful because it might lead to them being overly aggressive to get short term results, which could be dangerous.

8. How often will you report on your work, and what will it look like?

We talked about SEO companies reporting on any website changes they make, but they should also report on their activity and results.

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I’d say that you should look for a monthly report—that’s pretty standard. If you prefer a different reporting frequency, most SEOs will try to accommodate you.

All SEO reports should include a few things:

  • summary of activities – this should include things such as details about email outreach campaigns, content creating, and how many new links came into the site.
  • search traffic – one of the most important markers of progress is an increase in search traffic. A report should show your search traffic for the month as well as the percentage change from last month and last year (the same month).
  • search rankings – if you’re targeting any main keywords, you should get a quick update in each report.
  • conversions – The most important of all: how many search visitors are converting to the next step(s) in your sales funnel? Without conversion, there is no return on investment, regardless of search traffic quantity.

This question won’t typically help you tell a good SEO from a bad one, but it will tell you what to expect from the company if you hire them. Having clear expectations from the start will minimize frustrations on both sides in the future.

9. What is your payment structure?

Different SEO companies use different payment structures.

It’s important to know how much and when exactly you will need to pay so that you can factor it into your budget.

Because SEO can be done in so many different ways, many consultancies will charge by the project. In fact, according to a Moz survey, 70.1% of SEOs offer project-based pricing. If this is something you’re interested in, you can find someone who offers it. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $7,500.

The survey also revealed that retainers range anywhere from under $500 to $2,501-$5,000. A retainer is a monthly payment that essentially reserves time of an SEO to work on your site.

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Another option is to pay by hour, which is a popular option if you’re dealing with freelancers (although agencies also offer it). Expect to pay $76-$200 per hour for a good SEO.

Finally, find out when you’ll have to make your payments. Freelancers typically like to be paid as soon as possible, but paying 30, 60, or even 90 days after an invoice isn’t unheard of. Find out if there is an interest fee for late payments.

10. How will we contact you?

SEO is different from other services in that you don’t typically need to contact your SEO company more than a few times a month.

However, if something does go wrong, or you have an important issue to discuss, you want to be able to get a hold of them as soon as possible.

Find out which methods of communication they prefer, and also tell them yours (they should ask you at some point anyway). Also ask how to contact them in case of emergencies (if the site went down or if search traffic dramatically declined).

11. How will your work tie into our other marketing efforts?

SEO is no longer separate from marketing—it should be one seamless system. It doesn’t always work like that, of course, but that’s the goal.

Because of this, many SEO agencies or consultants have rebranded themselves as digital marketing or inbound marketing specialists.

While they are similar, here’s a quick definition of each:

  • inbound marketing focuses on creating content of all kinds that attracts links, which can then improve search traffic.
  • digital marketing essentially covers all parts of marketing online, including inbound marketing. They will typically have experience in PPC, email marketing, SEO, and other branches of marketing.

So, when you’re looking for an SEO company, don’t automatically rule out agencies that primarily brand themselves as marketing consultancies. They often still have SEO specialists on board but can provide other highly valuable services.

12. What happens if we terminate the contract?

This is for your own protection. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Understandably, most SEOs want you to sign on for at least a minimum period (usually at least a few months). It takes time for SEOs to make changes, and it takes even longer for those changes to produce significant results.

At the same time, if your company has a crisis and suddenly can’t afford to pay for SEO services, you need to know your options. (It’s rare but it does happen.)

There are other scenarios in which you would want to break the contract. Maybe you’re disappointed with the work the SEO has produced, or maybe your marketing department wants to focus resources on a different traffic source.

Regardless, find out if there are any fees written into the contract for early termination. Have them changed if you need to.

13. Have you worked with penalized sites? If so, how did you fix them?

Penalties weren’t really part of the SEO landscape until a few years ago.

Instead of penalizing sites for violating certain guidelines, like building backlinks, Google used to devalue the backlinks. Once Google was able to accurately determine which sites were using spam tactics, it started penalizing sites (like with Penguin).

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Since 2011 or so, both manual and algorithmic penalties have skyrocketed. If your SEO has been working for at least a few years, they’ve no doubt been involved in working with a penalized site.

Once a site has been hit with a penalty, it’s not easy to recover it. However, good SEOs can still achieve a pretty high success rate.

Find out how successful your potential SEO has been at bringing sites back from the brink as well as how they will prevent those penalties from occurring in the future (to your site).

14. Are you up to date with the latest algorithm changes?

While I told you earlier that Google releases about 500 algorithm changes per year, they aren’t all significant.

Most of them have a very minor impact on any one site.

There are, however, a select group of algorithm updates that were significant enough to deserve being named. All SEOs should be familiar with all of these.

You can see an updated list of algorithms at Search Engine Land:

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Ask your SEO to describe a few of them, and then confirm that they know what they’re talking about by reading through those links.

All you’re trying to do here is filter out incredibly inexperienced SEOs or the ones that are just trying to make a quick buck without having much expertise in the field.

I don’t know if it needs to be said, but ask these over Skype/phone or in person so that they can’t just Google an explanation and email it back.

In addition, you want an SEO that stays up to date with SEO news. Ideally, they should be active in forums and other SEO communities.

One way to quickly test this is to ask them to name a few of the most recent major algorithm updates.

Moz keeps an updated list of all major algorithm updates that you can use to check if they’re correct:

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It’s not important that they know the exact date of an update, but if they can say: “There was a Panda update in July and a Quality update a few months before that,” they obviously know their stuff.

15. How will your team adapt your strategy to my industry?

In my experience, most small to medium sized business owners are hesitant to invest in SEO because they’re not sure that it will work for their industry.

If that’s you, you’re not necessarily wrong; some SEO strategies and tactics will not work in your industry.

That being said, a good SEO/marketer knows how to adapt an SEO strategy to work for virtually any industry. If you ask them this question, they should be able to address your concerns.

16. How do you determine if you’re successful?

If your expectations are not met, you’ll feel frustrated.

The clearer you are on what to expect from your SEO, and the better they understand what you need from them, the less frustration both of you will experience.

This question is designed to shed some light on how your potential SEOs determine if their work has been successful.

  • Do they aim to increase traffic by %X in Y months?
  • Do they want to see a %X increase in a specific metric?
  • Do they consider themselves successful if they can get a main keyword onto the first page? top 3 rankings? number 1?

Whatever their answer is, it will help you determine if you think a successful result on their end would justify the investment you’re about to make on yours.

Also, ask: “Which metrics do you track?” If this didn’t come up when you asked them about reporting, ask it now.

This is a really easy way to differentiate between experienced, successful SEOs/marketers and the rest.

Pretty much any SEO will include the following:

  • keyword rankings
  • search traffic
  • on-page metrics (bounce rate, time on page, etc.)

But for the most part, only solid firms and freelancers will mention one of two things: either return on investment (ROI) or conversions, possibly both.

Although keyword rankings and traffic increases are nice, they don’t really mean anything. You want traffic that actually builds your business.

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Yes, those metrics all go hand-in-hand most of the time, but experienced SEOs and marketers know that they don’t always, which is why more attention needs to go to ROI and/or conversions.

17. Why should we hire you over other SEOs?

This is obviously a very open-ended question. It doesn’t have a right answer.

What you’re really looking for are a few red flag answers. If they respond with anything involving:

  • we’re cheaper than other options
  • we can build you more backlinks (instead of better quality)
  • we don’t know
  • we can get you faster results,

then you need to proceed cautiously.

Good SEO will not come cheap. Why? Because as I said, good SEO work can add tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to your bottom line. It is an investment that takes at least a few months to see significant results.

If the SEO you’re interviewing is advising you to cut corners or be extremely aggressive with link building, it’s best to move on to the next candidate.

Ideally, when you ask this question, they will respond by pointing to their track record that should include their past successes, current and past happy clients, and the respect their name and brand have in the industry.

Conclusion

Remember that SEO is a long-term investment.

It’s going to take months before results, or a lack of results, become apparent. One of the biggest reasons why shady SEO firms continue to stay in business is because they aren’t found out for many months.

Many of the 17 questions I’ve laid out for you in this post are designed to help you weed out those shady SEO companies and individuals.

The other questions will help you decide if a particular company offering SEO help is worth hiring for your business.

Use as many or as few of these questions as you need to ensure you find SEO help you can trust.

It may be a pain, but trust me, a good SEO team can be essential to building a business to 7 figures or more.

If you have any questions about these points, or if you think I forgot to mention something important on the topic, leave me a comment below.

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Comments

  1. Lewis - TweetPilot :

    I think something people need to avoid are the ‘guaranteed page 1 rankings’ which a lot of people are offering especially on some of the internet marketing forums (although most of those should be avoided regardless).

    They claim to be able to guarantee you a page 1 ranking but can anyone REALLY guarantee that? The only way that could be possible is if they knew the Google ranking algorithm and well… How likely is that?

    A little common sense and appreciating that SEO is a long term traffic source will go a long way in finding a reliable firm.

    • Christopher Pontine :

      Lewis,

      Your dead on when you state “guaranteed page 1 rankings”.

      Quick Story:

      A While back a company claimed this and I just about pulled the trigger on it before scanning some useful comments on Warrior Forum.

      I thought:

      Rock on I can rank here and just pay a bit. Never the case and never will be from a successful long term method.

      Thanks,

      Christopher Pontine

      • Lewis & Christopher, great points.

        Any strategy worth investing in will take some time and will be very intuitive. A one size fits all cookie cutter approach never yields great results.

        Sounds like both of you know how to avoid scams.

        • Lewis - TweetPilot :

          Just a shame that there are people who do and will continue to fall for these scams. We can only try to inform and you’re doing a great job as always Neil 😀

        • Julie Syl Kalungi :

          I agree with you Neil and kudos for this super value packed Post.
          Anything worth having takes time and effort to achieve. Cookie cutter solutions have lead many to the Google slap!

          Erring on the side of caution and following your guideline is going to save many of us from scam companies.

          Quick question – If one is an IT graduate and would like to get in on the SEO market, how would they go about building that trust and presence if everybody is looking for companies with big names as clients. someone has to start somewhere right! We all crawl before we walk!

          Julie Syl

          • Julie, start off with smaller clients and build up your roster so that when the time comes you can have the resources and case studies to support your work.

      • We were just looking for a agency for our new start up.This clarified a lot of things and pointed us in the right direction.

        Thanks

  2. Well said bro 🙂 We should ask them these questions 😛 & Doesn’t matter how Big an SEO company is, ranking at the 1st google first page cannot be determined especially in crowded niches 🙂 I would like to ask them whether they could help me to build some good links naturally 😛

  3. With the massive amount of free information available, is it even worth hiring a company? My opinion is no. They are often expensive, may or may not do the actual work they state and often reply on software that is readily available.

    Just my opinion.

  4. SEO is a tough position to fill but using tools to determine their success on SEO and being knowledgeable of some SEO practices will help you make the right choice.

    • Christopher Pontine :

      Hey Xavier,

      Your right on it being a tough position to fill. I feel searching my competitors and scanning them through Open Site Explorer seems to work well.

      Then:

      I go out and try to beat out what they did to deserve these links.

      Thanks,

      Christopher Pontine

      • Xavier, it’s always best to some research on your own before hiring anyone — great points. Let me know if you need help with anything specifically.

  5. Hi Neil,

    Your website is full of quality information am glad that I found it. Every Internet should leverage your website to see maximum results.

    Am working on this site here…onlinedesignersincome.com

    I am using some of the SEO techniques that you provide.

    The Sky is the Limit.
    Tony

  6. Alex Chaidaroglou :

    Very solid post and great questions to ask. Every SMB owner and startup founder should bookmark this post for future reference.

    One point of concern though, is that I believe it will be hard to find a solid agency for $100 or less per valuable link (of course it also depends *how much* valuable it is).

    What’s your thoughts on the cost Neil? Have you found agencies with solid link building for under $100 per link?

    • Alex, that’s a pretty low price. Also, I wouldn’t suggest buying links like that — go with a natural approach that has good contextual links.

  7. Very Informative not only when hiring seo company but this post also helps

    1. Who plans to start a new seo Company.

    2. Who goes for an SEO interview.

    Few days back my friend attended interview for SEO and out of 17 points you mentioned 8 points have been asked by the company.

    Your post always creates a new dimension , Neil

    Thanks

    Mohanraj S

  8. Carrie Fortin :

    Amazing article! I will be sharing this with all current and potential clients!

  9. Sanjeev Arora :

    Awesome article again. very helpful as i was researching on hiring an agency for SEO. I had a good idea on what to ask from reading previous articles from Neil, but this one is a great summary of all the aspects. Thank you
    Sanjeev

  10. Hi Neil,

    Just a quick, what if you are just starting in SEO and you want to offer your services. And your point is to ask for some reviews, testimonials and case studies to prove they can do the job. Everybody needs to start at one point.

    Enlighten me pls.

  11. well said Neil bro you have encouraged me to starty own SEO services 🙂
    thank you
    PS:LOT OF WORK TO DO 🙁 … BUT HAPPY I THINK MY HARDWORK WILL PAY ME SOMEDAY 🙂

  12. Hi Neil,

    Great article as always! I love how your articles are to the point and yet, very informative! This article is perfectly timed for me, as we are just looking for a company to help us with SEO for our website. We are developing a mobile phone app and would love it of you could point us in the right direction for selecting a social media marketing company.

    Thanks,
    Beena.

  13. Hi Neil,
    Can you tell this:
    #3: If a SEO guy or company replies with some big names as his/her client. How to validate that?

    #4: If i ask this question, whether he/she always follows google best practices? Here, what should be an ideal answer?

  14. Zing Marketing :

    great post Neil! I completely agree with you.

    Our company has run across a lot of potential clients who ask us if we can guarantee they they’ll be at the top of Google. We always tell them no, but they usually seem disappointed…

  15. 10 of these questions would be enough. 😉

  16. Neil, great tips.

    I am very grateful to read your awesome content.

    Thank you for clearing things up. SEO is one thing that keeps on confusing me in internet marketing, simply because most advices on it keeps changing as Google injects algos that penalize shady websites.

    With my website, modeltherich.com, I prioritized SEO as a long term strategy as you advice. I have also experience that my posts don’t just rank high immediately because i believe that i have done a good job on SEO optimization.

    I have also seen some companies who claim to do a great job on SEO optimization for small businesses, but they just don’t deliver. Clients move from one company to another, and they experience the same thing. And sadly, they get away with this. I think is fraud really, i won’t be proud to take someone’s hard earned cash, but not deliver what i promised, pretending that all is well.

    There are very few SEO companies who truly know what they are doing.

    Thanks for a brilliant post.

    I always learn a lot; a lot!

    Best,

    Magz

  17. Good timing as I’m interviewing an Seo company today, if your company does this please reach out to me

  18. It is pretty hard for someone who has really limited knowledge about SEO like me to find/judge whether a SEO service is good or bad. Thanks for the great advice. It makes things much more clear.

  19. I am interested in the answer to John’s question as well – I am looking to start a company that offers certain internet marketing services (including local SEO), and do not have clients (yet) or testimonials over long periods of time. Advice for newcomers would be welcome. Thanks!

    • Joan, just show them past clients you have worked on when you were working with another agency — it’s still your work.

    • Joan you know I tried and hired many agencies for my website and there were too meny promisses but no real result. The only company I liked the best which showe me how they work and the customers began to call me was Askanny. Don’t know if you still need help, but those guys I trust more than others.

  20. Hi Neil,

    I’m rather disappinted with certain parts of this article. Once again conflicting info and outright crap.

    “Either they weren’t able to deliver for big clients in the past, or they don’t have the experience for that level of SEO”

    Not every digital agency needs to have huge fortune 500 clients to have “that level of seo” I’ve worked as head of head of seo for some large brands. I recently started my own digital agency and a lot of our clients are small-medium local businesses.

    Does that mean that because my current client base aren’t huge brands I can’t be trusted?

    When you first started your business, did you land fortune 500 clients right away? I don’t think so.

    “Do you always follow Google’s best practices?”

    DO You?!! I’ve already pointed out your use of shady seo practices before with your poor quality pbn links. You preach quality seo yet you don’t always practice this yourself.

    • Robert, I am not sure what you are saying here. I am trying to help people vet SEO agencies… We can agree to disagree on what we think is a good strategy but the track records for my clients always speak for themselves.

      • “You shouldn’t expect an SEO company to hand over their entire address book, but most will be happy to give examples of 2-3 big name clients. In addition, they should be able to easily show their results (ideally over a long time period).

        If they can’t give you any examples of clients who are legitimate businesses, that’s a pretty big warning sign. Either they weren’t able to deliver for big clients in the past, or they don’t have the experience for that level of SEO.”

        What you’re saying here is that an seo company or seo freelancer should be able to give examples of big companies and if you don’t have big companies as clients then you aren’t a quality experienced seo.

        Like I said I’m more than experienced when it comes to seo having worked in house at some pretty big brands and provided freelance seo services for some of the UK’s largest digital agencies.

        But my own small agency doesn’t have fortune 500 or “big name clients”. We have a lot of medium local companies who we do a great job for. Does that mean we can’t be trusted or we’re not “at that level”? No of course not we just happen to work with medium sized businesses who happen to operate in very competitive markets i.e trust deeds, bad credit car finance etc.

        You are helping people vet seo agencies by saying if they don’t have big clients then you should stay clear.

        My point is you yourslef must have had to start somewhere and it takes time to attract those “big clients” but that does not mean you can’t do a great job regardless of your current client base.

        Ever hear of practice what you preach? Why didn’t you do that with the health website? I found the very poorly built pbn links and it wasn’t difficult.

        I have no doubt you have a great track record but you must have started out somewhere. Most likely someone with a lot of great skills and plenty to offer “big name clients” but with no current big name clients behind you did that stop them from hiring you?

  21. Nice article as always.

    This helps not only for client but also for SEO companies of What not to answer to a Client 🙂

  22. Hi neil I am search engine marketing professional

    • Hi neil . Am search engine marketing professional with 5 year experience . One of the best topic it is.I used to go through your blog in daily basics. My questions is if the agencies will set low prices and it’s really tough to get search engine visibility and the keyword ranking as well.but as an employee/assosiate/team leader it’s really hard to get client expectations.sometimes clients does not go for the upper package.how shall we manage those clients

      • Subhajit, you have to convey that to your client. Let them know that the best results come from utilizing your top tier approach.

  23. Neil,
    Great Questioner, It will not help only business or company, SEO’s will get the benefit as well. They need to prepare answers for these questions and for the preparation seo’s need to really have to do quality work. Those have the answers they really work like gold for the company.

    Appreciated Neil.

  24. Such a timely article for me! I just signed an intent contract with an SEO agency for work on my site. I am still at a place where I could back out… but fortunately I don’t need to!

    I went through this checklist and I don’t see any red flags… and part of the reason is that this regional SEO agency has a fairly lengthy list of local businesses in my area that they have moved to the #1 spot in Google for their businesses in our area (garage door companies, carpet cleaners, lawyers, marketing firms, etc.)

    Still, this knowledge will help increase the intelligence in which I can interact with my team of workers at the agency.

    Thank you!

    • Great Daniel.
      As we all now before working for any client or company educate them. Neil have done great job for you and might be for your SEO agency as well. Now you have the right choice.
      Congrats.

      • Daniel, glad you found the article helpful. If there are any specifics you would like to go over I can take some time to help as well.

  25. Rajkaran Singh :

    Hi Neil
    This is really great stuff. I am yet not planning to hire SEO at present but these tips will help me to make better decision in near future. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Greetings Neil, I appreciate your insightful posts. Your approach is straightforward and informative on specific topics, and well worth the read. Great job!

  27. Yeah this is good stuff all around Niel knows his shit and it would make sense to listen to him. Yeah not everything he says is going to resonate with everyone, but take it for what it is.

    I would say – as he links to another post on here – about talking about ROI and conversions with your clients.

    Getting page 1 rankings for a specific keyword are 25% of the puzzle – the rest being conversions and getting more money.

    So you need to sell the click – meaning work on your site’s on-page SEO so that once your listing shows up in the SERPS, then your title, description have good copywriting in them.

    And when they finally do click over to your site, now you have to convert that visitor.

    So while knowing SEO is good, really doesn’t matter if the rest of your sales process on your site is crap.

    The client doesn’t know what they don’t know. So even if they ask all these questions, yeah it will weed out the bullshit SEO guys, but still won’t help their bottom line – which is the only thing business owners care about!

    • Rich, great points. The bottom line is all that matters at the end of the day. That’s the main focus for every business person. Fluffy metrics mean nothing.

  28. Himanshu Tyagi :

    Hi Neil, really nice article.

    I was a part of a startup team that was helping a client build up traffic on its website. The first thing that we suggested the client was to work on the content along with setting up a blog for informative, content rich articles pertaining to their industry.

    We had told the client that a minimum of 6 months would be required before any kind of serious traffic could be built on the site (read organic). The existing website had a good amount of traffic but with a very high bounce rate and low avg time on site. Pages per session too were very low.

    We started cross linking pages, update the content and some cosmetic changes on the site to increase customer interaction ( We were strictly told to keep on-page optimization low since the client was planning to come up with a new website and did not want to fix anything which, according to him, was not broke since it was getting traffic).

    After about 2 months the client told us that he would be stopping SEO as he was not happy with the traffic build up on the blog and website (we were receiving 80-100 unique visitors per day). We asked him to wait it out a bit longer but in vain. It’s been 3 months since we stopped working for them.

    The CTO of the company called us for a discussion last week. He said the traffic on the blog has now reached 250-300 visitors per day without any updation at all on the blog (read no new content). He told that 75% of the traffic is through search and they are also getting sales leads from the blog. (We focused on creating evergreen content for the site since those are most valuable.). Apparently no such traffic upsurge has been observed on the main website.

    The point that am trying to make (and which you have stated very clearly in your post) is that SEO takes time. Before hiring an SEO company/freelancer/agency, one should make sure that they have the means to carry on with the SEO else it’s a loss for everyone.

    Meanwhile, our team is divided whether we should take this assignment once again or not since the company might stop work, unceremoniously, again 🙂

    One more point. I think SEO guys mis-sell their services because clients are not aware of what to expect. They think of SEO as a panacea to all their miseries.

    One question that they need to ask themselves (or maybe even the agency that they want to hire) is whether they are ready for SEO or not. Whether they have processes and people in place to handle the surge in queries/leads that will (hopefully) happen due to SEO efforts. Only when the house is in order, should they looking for SEO.

    An honest agency, which is eyeing long term relationship, will always give true feedback lest it may lose the assignment (or worse may even earn bad name for itself) once its efforts won’t result in new business.

    Once again great stuff from you. And a big thanks for sharing it!

    • Himanshu, that’s unfortunate and I am sorry you had to go through that. I think lack of transparency is highly unprofessional and unacceptable. People should focus on the bottom line and not fluff up metrics just to make a buck or two — reputation matters. I wish more people focused on reputation.

    • yeah this is a good topic. Too often business owners are impatient and don’t understand that SEO takes time – good SEO anyway. They might say they get it – but really just are nodding to keep up.

      Again like Neil says, if you would have started off with adwords, and get them traffic fast and then see what converts – the biz owner might get the picture.

      Then as the SEO starts to kick in – you can then have another discussion with them.

      This is all good stuff though and a good learning point.

      I remember a client of mine saying something along the lines of…” we don’t know what you’re doing (re: SEO) but when we ask people that find us or come into the shop how they found us – they say – found you online”.

      There ya go. What good SEO guys will do when discussing their fee, is to ask the client….”if I was to bring in 1 extra client a month through my SEO efforts ..how much would that mean to your business?

      If they are a surgeon and they get like $8000 for 1 client, then they would be happy to pay you $2k per month.

      It’s all about the ROI my friends.

  29. Jaap Schuddeboom :

    Hi Neil,

    Good article!

    I miss one important question: question zero: ‘what is my ranking now ? ‘ In my experience is that one of the deadliest counter questions you can ask agencies that approach you with an offer to be ranked on page 1 of the Google search results.

    Knowing that makes it easier to judge progress made due to SEO activities. And makes it easier to ask’ How much time and money is involved in ranking to position x? ‘

    Kind Regards,
    Jaap

  30. Hi Neil,

    One of the SEO companies that Quicksprout refers charges $40/hr (per 2 keywords) and don’t guarantee first page results. I looked into them and they seem like a good company.

    But you mentioned to pay $76-200/hr for a “good” SEO.

    Would an SEO that charges $76 offer more keywords?

    Baig

    • Baig, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the price of the services. Look at their track record to see how legitimate the strategy is. I always stress looking at keywords from a contextual framework — it will give you a bigger picture.

  31. Thank You Neil for the insightful post. When we look out for SEO we expect that we would get lot of inexpensive backlinks and definitely #1 Rank but yes as you suggest Quality long term back links are expensive & does take time.

  32. Great post Neil,

    I think you’re right on with this… I’ve hired SEO firms in the past and CAN’T BEGIN TO DESCRIBE how hard it is to get them to show some actual proof of results over time. You would think it is a no brainer…

    1. This is their organic traffic
    2. This note, that’s when we started
    3. Look at it now
    4. SOLD

    Instead you will get tap dancing about confidentiality, non compete, etc. You can tell they get the question A LOT because they are pretty smooth.

    Hiring the wrong firm can be an expensive mistake! Anyone looking to do so should follow the above advice from Neil. I was going to write a blog post like this but am now realizing you are like that kid in class that answers the question before you can and possibly adds a few things you didn’t think of, lol. 🙂

    Nate

    • Nate, great points. I would ask as many questions as possible to get the right idea of how effective the agency is.

  33. Hi Neil,

    Would you guide me a little bit on how to do a perfect on-page for a website. Perfect On page means, Neil Patel types on-page. Practice that you preach.!!

    Also, Is the Woorank score of 65 is good to judge an on-page of a website.?
    Is there anything critically important to be addressed in the on-page of a website which shouldn’t be miss at any cost.?

    Looking forward to your response.

    Thanks in Advance
    AB

    • AB, glad you liked the post. When it comes on page it’s important to focus on content and where you are linking to.

  34. Hi Neil – Thanks for your insights. I am wondering – as a company I want to go in the direction of local (at least to the Mid-Atlantic area) marketing. I am small and don’t have 1,000’s to invest. So what would you recommend for a small business owner to reach their market, either using SEO or other strategies?

    • Barb, start writing your own content and go from there — it’s important to create a voice before you hire an agency anyway 😉

  35. neil can you suggest any companies that do SEO? i would like to hire one.

  36. The fly by night SEO charlatans who promise the moon, make managing client expectations an absolute priority for agencies. Fantastic advice as usual Neil!

  37. Hi Neil,

    My SEO says that backlinks are no longer very important when it comes to SEO strategy, is this true? They seem to want to focus on blogging and changing meta data on a frequent basis.

    I have been doing SEO with this company for 10 months and although traffic has moderately increased my conversion rate is low. My website is 12 months old. How do I know if the SEO isn’t working? They never promised page #1 rankings ect.. but I was hoping for better conversion/traffic rates by now. Was I being too optimistic? I find it hard to budget in SEO without getting the conversions, do you have any tips?

    PS. love your posts they are so informative, so much information to take in!

    • Jade, I would focus primarily on conversions. Traffic comes and goes but conversion data is a better indicator of success.

  38. Hi Neil,

    That was an eye opener. Great article.

    Thanks,
    Ranjeet

  39. These valuable points will help us to understand the seo services we going to hire….hope it works.

  40. Jeff Robinson :

    You forgot one very important question that goes to their knowledge of industry peers. You are without a doubt a top authority in the space and anybody who claims to know about SEO should know about you and read your blog to learn.

    ” Do you Neil Patel?”

    @contrariansmind

    http://www.contrariansmind.com

  41. Paul Anderson :

    very nice post neil. Fiveer has the worst seo gigs i have ever seen. This post will help us to weed out our negative working as well which are no longer supported by Community

  42. Hi Neil!

    Yes! the points mentioned by you are awesome as usual.

    All these In-Depth Research Questions are a SOLID GUIDE to all kind of business Owners & SEO Professionals.

    Thanks for Serving to the Digital Marketing Community by Sharing your Immense Experience.

    Waiting for your Next Interesting Stuff!! Good Day!

  43. Hello,
    Good Post on choosing an SEO company, I wanted to request for an information, If possibly please write on Alternate of google AdSense and Google Adsense process.Every blogger faces this problem in blogging career when they get rejected by Adsense or in case they get ban and go with their alternate of AdSense and end up with low-paying and please also include good affiliate programming ..Thanks..

    • Aryan, let me see what I can do in that regard — stay tuned.

    • Nice article. Will they provide full Keyword Research along with an analysis of this research before targeting any keywords? i must say this is the best question you can ask before hire seo company.

      Hello Aryan, i have bunch of AdSense alternative. As per my experience a best alternative is Revenuehits.com because it will pay you on advertise performance and no stick rules like adsence. I will suggest you some other alternative sites. i.e
      1. viglink.com
      2. chitika.com
      3. mgid.com
      4. yllix.com
      5. adprimary.com

      i hope it might be helpful for you.

  44. Awesome post Neil

    Great points and tips.

    Thanks

  45. Website Wizardry :

    As an SEO I’m going to direct all my prospetive clients at your article. Hopefully it’ll give them an much more of an idea of what’s really important, why I’m not the cheapest in my city and when to expect the results.

    A couple of points I’d like to comment on:

    I’d like to use ROI and conversion as a measure of success, but it can be misleading. How good a website is at converting clickthroughs into customers isn’t always a good measure of how well an SEO campaign is performing. As an SEO I rarely have (or want) to be responsible for the marketing messages of the site. The ongoing reporting should, however, give a good indicator of where the copywriter’s efforts need to focused.

    I’m never terribly happy to give out my client list, but as I’ve done a couple of my own sites, I’ll happily log into webmaster tools to do a live demo of the results I have achieved.

    I’ll also cheerfully give out a page 1 guarantee, so long as I get to choose the keyword and timescale. Good keyword research usually shows up a little low hanging fruit.

    Now off to write out my cheatsheet of Google Updates…

    • Keep me posted on progress. Also, moving forward can you please use your actual name to avoid your comments going into spam?

  46. It’s a nice post. Choosing an SEO company in recent days become very difficult. Really, These are the great tips for website owners to hiring an SEO company. Thanks for sharing such an awesome information with us.

    Neil, People from the Fiverr offering thousands of back-links at $5. Question: Is it good to buy the links from these resources?

  47. This is great information!

    What about specific industries? Could you write a bit on seo tips for personal injury attorneys, roofing contractors, or business networking groups. Traffic is up, but still falling short of your estimates of 12% per month, and some of my sites seem to hit a ceiling that I can’t seem to crack.

    Back to the drawing board.

  48. Moumita Ghosh :

    Hello Neil,

    Nice post indeed. It will be helpful to hire an SEO company/consultant for a business. Thanks for sharing this article.

    Thanks,

    Moumita Ghosh

  49. Preeti Chauhan :

    Hi Neil,

    Thank you for the valuable information!
    These questions help us a lot because we are planning to hire an SEO company.
    Could you please advise me some “Good SEO Companies”.

  50. Thank you — great article. What would be your key points when I want to hire a seo guy full time on my team?

  51. Hi.

    I think this is ok to post here.

    Try not to link out from your website to sites that have been known to have spam or penalties.

    Google don’t want you sending people to bad sites. Make sure the sites you link to have regular security updates and so on.

    Thank you.

    Marc.

    • Marc, those are helpful tips. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thank you.

        I think it would make a fab blog post or a nice cool 2 minute this tip.

        You could do a quick screen recording video Neil and leave it on YouTube. I think it would be good to see more of your videos on YouTube. Neil’s 60 Second tips.

        Have a good week dude.

  52. Pankaj Solanki :

    Hi Neil,
    This post is a real eye opener for me. Definitely I will keep in mind th points while working with SEOs.
    Thanks
    Pankaj

  53. Robinsh Kumar :

    Hey Neil, do you have any mind reading tool to know that what the readers is thinking and what should you write to help them ?

    I was about to interview some SEO firms and you gave these questions to ask, thanks.

  54. Theodore Nwangene :

    Good questions Neil,
    These are really the best questions to ask those guys claiming to be search engine optimization god and the answers they give will determine if you should go with them or not.

    But i bet you that most of them will not even be around to answer up to 4 questions here, they will kick the tire even before you get to the 4th question because the questions are really very technical and if you’re not careful, you might shoot yourself on the foot while trying to answer them :).

    I’ve heard some people saying that they got some awesome results from fiverr link building gig Neil, whats your own take on this?

    • Theodore, I think fiverr gigs are the worst — you get what you pay for .

      • SEO gigs are crap yes.

        But I think explainer videos are well worth the money when you look at the ROI on time and quality and results they can bring.

        Would you agree on this Neal ??? Please correct me if you have a better solution.

        Thank you.

      • Theodore Nwangene :

        Thanks Neil,
        I agree with you. I’ve never thought of buying links via Fiverr, i can hire a logo designer and all those little stuff from there but it comes to SEO, Fiverr is the last on my list.

        Thank you.

  55. Those are big but meaningful questions!

  56. Hi Neil, I recently discovered your website and videos on Youtube. I want to thank you for the knowledge and wealth of information you consistently bring to the table. In one of your interviews you mentioned how you play audiobooks in your home to constantly learn, and it inspired me to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Best wishes,

    Jorge

  57. Tahir Marfani :

    Nice questions Neil, Glad to read this article.

  58. Hi Neil,

    You are the best. Thanks for sharing these all important question with us.

    Cheers!

  59. Hi Neil !

    Are their any legitimate tools that can automatically build links ?

    As you have mentioned in the post, I don’t think there can be an automatic too to build links, also most of the big companies do not want to share their client information due to privacy.

    What should we do in that case?

    Regards

  60. Neil,
    Excellent post. Mind blowing. Keep it up sir, it really helps us.
    Thanks
    Satish

  61. Really helpful information. When evaluating SEO companies it can be hard to work out who the experts are and who the snake oil salesmen are. I find it helpful to learn as much about SEO as I can so that I’m in a better position to evaluate the competing providers. Your blog is a great help in this respect.

    I’m going to check out Screaming Frog. Sounds like a great tool for a basic SEO audit.

  62. These are great suggestions. I personally try to interact with visitors in the comments section because it adds a personal touch and opens up two way communication with your visitors.

  63. Thanks a lot Neil sharing about Good SEO services provider

    We also provide SEO services in USA and UK. We all thing cover regrading good SEO services like weekly reporting, all Google update, High authority back links, and website on page SEO.

    Our website ranking is Top 5 in USA for “SEO services USA” and “SEO company USA” see below our website for more information :

    http://www.webleonz.com/services/seo-company-usa.html

    Thanks a lot for sharing this post…

    Thanks
    Webleonz

  64. These are great suggestions and helpful when evaluating SEO companies.

  65. Why your newsletter become spam in my live account. I always found your mail in JUNK folder. Why?

  66. Thanks for the great advice, hiring SEO consultants is a mine field! These questions will help many business from falling in to the traps of the less scrupulous businesses out there. Anyone who cold calls offering me the no.1 spot in Google is instantly dismissed, as are the SEO ‘experts’ who spam me with emails from their Gmail account email addresses.

  67. @Neil Patel

    Great post Neil .
    But these questions are enough for hiring SEO companies?

    Regards
    Priyanka

  68. Impressive post! Liked it ! You can visit my website too to get some amazing local service.

    Thank you.

  69. Great and very detailed article, Neil.

    There are many people who guarantees “Page One Rankings” for your business. I would advice you to stay away from such businesses as it’s against FTC and Google Webmaster Guidelines to guarantee page one rankings. Whoever guarantees to rank your business on page one, he’s lying.

    Usman.

  70. Hariyaksh Mehta :

    Sweet. and i wonder where was your blog in search results when i typed tips for SEO haha

  71. Thank you posting this article. When selecting SEO service, people tend to make mistake, specially if they are new and don’t have much idea about what they are doing…. Some people offer so lucrative offer like you showed in the screen shot of your Email account, people actually fall for this offer and hurt their business as most of them use black hat SEO method. They fail to realize, no good thing comes cheap. I have also seen people trying out fiverr gigs for $5 and hoping for magic to happen!

  72. Adeniyi Oluwafemi :

    As always, Neil has provided very valuable insights for both seo providers and businesses considering hiring a seo service provider. Very educative and a must read for every businesses owner. This post deserves more than a read, it should be shared so more people can benefit.

  73. Been thinking of hiring an SEO agency for a while… This has definitely helped clear up somethings. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  74. Thanks Neil – very helpful. What sort of targets are reasonable? Is it ok to ask for a minimum amount backlinks (generated through white hat strategies of course) to specific landing pages? We are getting a lot of push back on this at the moment.

  75. Well said Neil, many SEO companies will give you false promises about what they will do for you. It is really great that you have written about the main questions you need to ask before you do business with them.

    I feel honesty and transparency is the most important quality any company must posses.

    Thanks for sharing

  76. John McDougall :

    Great insights Neil. We just had a call with a law firm SEO/PPC client yesterday and they shared with us the exact number of conversions they got since working with us.

    They revealed there were several conversions that did not register in analytics as attributed to us. So having heart to heart conversations where the customer of an SEO company honestly reveals as much as they can about how customers found them can be a huge help.

    I would much rather ask the client up front if they think we are affecting their bottom line or not, even if they say no because then we can work harder to fix the problem. Nothing worse than the SEO team thinking they are rocking it and yet the client is feeling like the project stinks.

    Since analytics is not perfect and or there are issues with attribution tracking where some clients don’t have a full picture of what tactics are assisting conversions, making sure there will be a two way honest dialogue is key.

    • John — I am sorry that you had to go through that experience. I completely understand your pain. I think transparent and honest conversations are key if you want to provide the best results possible.

      Let me know if you need any help along the way.

  77. Well said Neil, numerous SEO organizations will give you false guarantees about what they will accomplish for you. It is truly awesome that you have expounded on the primary inquiries you have to ask before you work with them.

  78. Hmmm…This is a good SEO to implement. thank you Neil 🙂

  79. Thanks Neil great questions for me to ask the next SEO company we use.

  80. such a helpful Post…@Neil… your tips regarding SEO firms will definitely helps lots of startups as well as established organizations to understand every depth info of Digital Marketing, so that they can opt appropriate firms….!! keep updating us with your informative posts.. Thanks..!!

    • I hope so Marie. I’ve had my own firms over the years so I can understand how things go for both sides. Ultimately it should result in a situation where everyone gets to win.

  81. Much obliged to you posting this article. While selecting SEO administration, individuals tend to commit error, uniquely on the off chance that they are new and don’t have much thought regarding what they are doing… . A few individuals offer so lucrative offer like you appeared in the screen shot of your Email account, individuals really fall for this offer and hurt their business as a large portion of them use dark cap SEO technique. They neglect to understand, no good thing comes shabby. I have additionally seen individuals experimenting with fiverr gigs for $5 and seeking after enchantment to happen!

  82. In my opinion it is better to hire freelance seo expert rather than seo agency. The reason why is reasonable prices.

  83. Being an SEO Agency based in Saint Louis, MO ourselves, we understand we are competing with a lot of agencies that promise the world. Thank you Neil for taking the time to write this article and inform people wha to look out for.

    Often times we end up being the last straw for clients who have been passed from bad SEO agency to bad SEO agency, given un-realistic expectations, on un-realistic budgets. Thats why we are up-front on costs and expectations, even if it means not landing the client.

  84. David J Parker :

    Really It’s very important to have right one for SEO!! But price also matters. As posted by Neil – “Here’s what I can say: a great SEO will never charge low prices. If you’re hunting for a discount, chances are you’ll end up with an SEO who cuts corners and hurts your site in the long run”. So Neil is their any way cost effective way by which I can get someone to work for me with right compensation???

  85. Ellen Conover :

    I am new to the complexities of hiring an SEO consultant. I thought this information was thorough and extremely helpful in making me feel more confident that I will find someone that provides value to my business.

  86. Neil! Thank you so much for this. I have come across a number of dubious agencies who promise the whole world. This would definitely be of help to people seeking good SEO services

  87. Thank you Neil! How do you have so much knowledge?? I am new to SEO and this is definitely a great guide.

  88. Debkanya Dhar :

    Hello to everyone. I have few queries regarding SEO since I am new to this scene. Let’s start by this one. While doing keyword planning in google keyword planner how to search for particular targeted keywords related to my service area or a get a list of keywords from other tools or websites to put it there in the Google Planner page. For instance sometimes there are less numbers of Suggested Keywords with pretty low Competition which are no use as far as my search result is concerned. So, need all the help you could offer me on this. Thanks in advance.

  89. Yes all things are very important .

    1. May I have a list of current and past clients?
    2. Do you adhere to search engines’ webmaster guidelines?
    3.Can you guarantee my website will achieve a number-one ranking on Google, Bing and Yahoo?
    4.Will you share with me all changes you make to my site?
    5.How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns?
    6.Are you experienced at improving local search results?

  90. All the questions mentioned in this post are important.Thorough examination is required before finalizing the deal.Thanks for sharing quality information.

  91. Dele Ogunsanya :

    I wish i had read this months before. I had a bitter experience with a SEO Agency. Anyway i have learnt my lessons.

  92. Great tips Neil. Not only is this a great resource for businesses interested in SEO, it’s great for SEO’s to review this and be prepared to address these questions when asked by potential clients. Any consultant or SEO agency that is serious should not have a problem providing most if not all of these things.

  93. Nice post I usually don´t read a hole article but you kept me reading. very interesting topic. I have been working in a SEO company and we take care of all details that you describe and some others, we need to improve. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  94. Hi there!

    Thank-you so much for this article- it was very helpful!
    At what point do you invest in SEO?
    I have been on social media for a while and recently built a website (which is not the end goal) but as I progress- do I need to invest from the beginning or wait till my content and website are more established?
    In terms of my plan, I guess I’m asking- at the beginning what needs to be done, then at what point do I implement more etc.
    Also do I learn myself to begin with or completely outsource?

  95. This is one of the best articles on seo related questions. Your article will help me a lot in making SEO faq page for my website. These questions are asked by most of my clients, and you have made this very clear with detailed explanation. Thank you Neil Patel.

  96. I do have questions regarding Backlinks tho, “can I get an SEO Agency for sole purpose of Backlinks building? the other stuff are unimportant ATM…” Quiet frankly I’ve been at it for awhile now, and I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right..

  97. Great article Neil, I think the big issue with the SEO industry in general is the fact that virtually no business outside of the digital world has as clue about it, how it works, or what it should cost!

    We’ve worked with clients who have been scammed so many times by “agencies” promising the world and delivering nothing or very black hat techniques. It’s harmed the industry, so I think transparency is key and asking some or all of the above questions will soon help uncover if an agency is any good or not.

    It’s about ROI at the end of the day, and any good agency will explain that it’s a marathon and not a sprint to use a terrible cliche.

    You also mention to expect to pay for a good agency… if your a business and reading this response, do not pay for £200 etc per month services, you’d be better off spending that on FB ads or Google PPC, no agency can make a significant change or give your business the time it needs for such a low monthly fee!

  98. Great article Neil,

    Have to agree with Mark. I’d had so many frankly poor results and service from agencies I decided to undertake it myself working on the principle that SEO was too important and potentially too harmful to your company’s reputation or online existence to leave to third parties.

    Transparency is such a big issue for the industry but I think the blame lies largely agency side; most agencies seem to delight in trying to hide their activities. In saying this and speaking as someone who used to be an end client and now is an SEO consultant the client should be realistic about what you can expect from an SEO agency for the industry minimum rate.

    I also think that when you interview an SEO agency the client should try to be a transparent about their own previous efforts or agency usage since of course, any interview is a two-way process and any hidden skeletons in the closet may well hamper future SEO efforts! From this perspective, I undertake a free no-obligation review and consultation prior to conducting any SEO work since it’s a useful sales tool but it’s also a really handy sanity checker for any undisclosed issues!

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