If you are looking to hire an SEO firm for your next search engine optimization campaign, you’ll want to conduct extensive interviews. Don’t just interview one SEO firm. Interview several. And ask them all the same questions so you have a basis for comparison. But what questions?
At a minimum you should ask any potential SEO firm you are planning to work with the following questions:
- What new SEO tactics have you added to your portfolio of skills within the last three months? – Search engine algorithms are ever evolving and you want your SEO to be as well. That doesn’t mean they should take unnecessary risks, but they should constantly be testing new tactics and strategies. This question is designed to uncover an SEOs current knowledge of those.
- Where do you think the SEO industry will be in 5 years? in 10 years? – A good SEO has a handle on where things may be headed in the future. If an SEO can answer the previous question with ease then he should be able to answer this question too.
- Have potential SEOs critique your website for strengths and weaknesses and provide you with a report for improving your site’s SEO. – This will give you a chance to see the SEO in action. Is he methodical? Does he approach the site with a plan or does he just pick random sections out one at a time?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? – Everyone has weaknesses. If an SEO won’t acknowledge any weaknesses then she is probably hiding something. Besides, if an SEO can’t think critically about his or her own skills then they probably can’t think critically about your website either.
- Name three link building strategies you recommend and why. – Link building is very important in SEO. You want to know how an SEO firm you are about to hire handles its link building processes. Plus, this is a good way to open the door on the white hat-black hat discussion without being too direct.
- What is your philosophy on link buying? - Has the SEO firm done any link buying? Was it successful? What did they learn from the experience? Would they do it again? Again, this is to test the knowledge and moral nature of your SEO before you get too embedded in your relationship.
- Give three examples of link bait that you have created that proved to be successful. – Can your SEO develop link bait? Does she know what it is? This question is designed to give you further insight into an SEOs link building philosophy.
- Which reporting and analytics packages do you use? - You’ll want to know how an SEO plans to report to you.
- How do you conduct competitor analysis? – Knowing what your competitors are up to is very important and you’ll want to know if your SEO firm has any experience with this and how they approach it.
- How long do you spend on keyword research? – A very basic question, but it is designed to tell you how an SEO begins a project. Do they go slow or jump right in? Are they guessing at the right keywords or are they methodical about how they approach finding profitable keywords for you?
- What is your average conversion rate as an SEO? - Many SEOs won’t know this, but if an SEO can tell you his conversion rate on traffic then it’s probably good. This is the ultimate question for determining the experience and skill level of an SEO firm.
Hat tip to Rebecca Appleton for a good post on hiring an inside SEO professional for you firm. But if you want to hire an outside agency to run your SEO, you should get a little more deep in the questioning. These are the basic questions to start with. From there, you’ll want to know how often your SEO firm will communicate with you, how they will report to you, and what kind of results you’ll expect to get from them.