Ask These 5 SEO Questions Before You Hire One
Remember making your first hire for your company? You were probably a bit nervous and lost about what questions to ask.
More than a little if you were hiring for a task that you’ve never done yourself.
We’ve all been there, and it shouldn’t paralyze your effort.
While I can’t help you hire your next CFO, I can help you hire an SEO agency or employee by asking the right SEO questions.
To help you out I’m going to arm you with 5 questions and their answers:
- What is your SEO philosophy?
- How will the SEO and Content Marketing Strategy Integrate Your Brand?
- What are your SEO goals?
- How long should it take to get results?
- How will your SEO keep you up to date on your campaign?
- Plus one bonus question
As much as it seems SEO is black magic, it really is a science with a hint of art.
Let’s dive into it.
1: What Is Your SEO Philosophy?
The first question is pretty straight forward; What is their SEO philosophy.
There are three types of approaches to SEO:
- Technical – Handling the smaller details on your website like organizing pages titles, interlinking pages, handling backend code like schemas, and more.
- Offsite SEO – Acquiring backlinks (citations to your website), distributing your content off of your website, and listing your business various directories if you’re a local business.
- User Experience (UX) – Focusing on how delightful it is to be on your website and ensuring that your content is engaging.
Any of these approaches will certainly help improve your success with Google, but alone they won’t help you compete against strong competitors.
What you are looking to hear is someone that includes all three of these approaches when they propose working on their website.
Think of it like a football team, it’s not the team with the best offense, defense, or special teams that win the SuperBowl. It’s the team that does all three good.
Not a sports fan? Then think of it like this…
Your website is your storefront. Technical SEO will make sure that your storefront (website) is maintained and running well so that it’s efficient for Google to navigate it.
The offsite SEO is your marketing team that’s telling the world about your website. The offsite SEO is getting backlinks, citations, and promoting your content off your website to create authority in Google’s eyes.
The User Experience is delighting your new visitors, making them stay on your website or what an SEO would call dwell time.
A user experience approach will reduce the number of people leaving your site quickly (bounce rate) by improving your site’s speed, design, mobile appearance, and relevance to the search.
About relevance to searches, imagine a building labeled as a grocery store, and you walk in to only realize it’s actually a shoe store?
You’d walk out right away because it’s not what you were expecting. That’s why it’s essential to have content your ideal client is looking for.
If you hit all three of these marks well, then you’re going to be in excellent shape.
If you want to see how these three pillars of SEO impact your local business? Moz interviewed several SEOs to what were the most important factors for rankings.
2: How Will The SEO Strategy Integrate My Brand
Picture this, you see a burger king commercial while watching your favorite show, and at the end of the commercial you hear “ba da ba ba ba I’m loving it.”
You’re going to instantly know that something is very off because that’s McDonald’s jingle.
Well, a good SEO should have a plan in place to make sure the content they produce for your website (they are creating content, right) is congruent with your brand.
Aligning with your brand will be a challenge, especially in the beginning, and they should have a plan in place to minimize the growing pains.
According to Bop Design, 45% of a brand’s image is created by what you say and how you say it.
This isn’t a part of the strategy you want to gloss over.
Don’t have a brand? A good SEO should be able to iron out with you on the tone and feel of your content.
There’s no one right answer for a question like this. The important part is there’s a process to avoid going off-brand.
Our process is to generate topics based on Keyword research, propose the topics for approval, and finally request a call or voice recording of your perspective on the topics.
We then expand on our short conversation or recording to turn into a blog post. It later gets submitted to you for final approval before we let it fly.
3: What Are Your Success Metrics (Your SEO Should Be Asking)
If you’ve ever talked to an SEO and had a nickel for every time they mentioned “increased traffic,” then you’d be rich enough to retire.
Unless you’re running display ads, traffic is a vanity metric just like getting a bunch of young professionals visiting your website that’s meant for farmers only. That won’t do you any good.
That’s why your potential SEO should ASK YOU what your goals are.
SEO’s are borderline fortune tellers when it comes to keyword research, but your business is unique and has its own unique goals.
To drive the point home, let’s dive into two examples.
If we’re doing SEO for mortgage brokers, then your success lives and dies on the number of qualified leads you can get. To do that, you’re going to have to get a lot of the right traffic.
By right traffic, we mean you want people who are looking for mortgage services finding you. Having people contacting you looking to rent somewhere to live won’t do a Mortgage broker much good.
Another example is if you’re an author preparing to release a book about sales.
Unless you’re writing the book for a specific niche, you’re going to want to attract everyone interested in improving their sales.
On your site, you’re going to want to have a strong call-to-action to sign up for the newsletter so that you can email blast everyone who showed interest in sales that your book is released.
Notice how one person needed leads to contact right away while the other captured leads to contact when the time was right?
On the surface, they both need leads, but their use for the leads is very different.
Although your SEO should be asking questions relating to your goals, it is wise to come into the interview with goals in mind.
Here are some ideas from Moz:
- Getting E-commerce sales
- Getting as much traffic as possible
- Creating a brand
- Reputation management
- Become an authority or influencer
My goal is to capture leads of potential clients for my SEO agency.
4: How Long Does It Take For SEO To Work
Remember the first time you went to the gym, and you left with a cover model physique, neither do I.
The analogy may sound silly, but in reality, it has a lot of similarities with SEO. Content Marketing and SEO are a long term play that can pay off big if you stick to it.
There is a huge list of factors that go into how fast your website can rank. Ahrefs did a great job of breaking it down.
You’ll see based on their study of 2 million random pages from their database that only 5.7% of website rank in the top 10.
The more authoritative websites clearly show Google has a biased towards them, but…
When you look a bit deeper into the timing of their rankings, you’ll notice in the graph below that in the 180-day range (roughly 6 months), the lower authority websites managed to make it to the top 10.
Although there many factors that go into how fast your website will rank in Google, a good rule of thumb is to expect to wait at least six months.
The timing also varies with industries and competition, so it will be a good idea to get a second opinion.
A red flag to avoid is an SEO that won’t provide you with an estimate.
I can promise you the SEO won’t hit it right on the nose, but they shouldn’t be too far off.
Being wrong is ok as long as they can show the progress being made, which brings us to the next point…
5: How Will You Report My Results
When you’re interviewing your potential SEO, it’s important to understand how they’re going to deliver reports.
Just as important as delivering reports, it’s important to understand how they provide it.
You can give me a book written in Japanese, and I wouldn’t be able to gain any value from it because I don’t speak or read Japanese.
You’re not an SEO, and if an SEO report were to hit your inbox right now, you wouldn’t understand it.
Your SEO should interpret what the data means and what actions it will be driving the following month.
The first few months of these reports will be dense for you.
After month three, it will begin to be less dense, and the meetings will be more efficient.
The real value you’re trying to uncover here is transparency. Any SEO that is vague or cryptic is likely hiding something.
BONUS: What Do You Need From Me?
This is a bonus question for that isn’t intended to qualify your SEO but to ensure a smooth start.
Ask your SEO what they will need from you to get started. If their answer is your money, run for the hills.
Some items they’re likely to ask for, and you should be ok with is the following:
- Raw files of logos, designs, and brand books to ensure they’re creating graphics congruent with your brand.
- Access to Google analytics, search console, and Google My Business. Do not give them your password but provide them with access by following these instructions.
- Access to the backend of your website or contact information of your developer.
- Meetings dates to go over the Keyword research, content strategy, and topics.
- Access to social media accounts to integrate them with your website and Google assets.
It’s important to note that you should not be giving them any of your personal login information.
In the first month or two, your SEO will likely be borderline annoying because they will be asking a lot of you. It’s required to do their job well.
Bear with them because once it’s ironed out, a good SEO can be treated like a rotisserie chicken, set it, but don’t forget it.
From there, you should be hearing from them about once a week or every two weeks with updates or questions.
Hiring is hard, especially when you’ve never done the task yourself.
Knowing the right questions to ask is critical to cutting down the learning curve significantly.
You want to make sure you ask the following SEO questions and receive relative answers:
Q: What is your SEO philosophy
A: We handle the technical, offsite SEO, and user experience.
Q: How will your SEO strategy integrate my brand
A: Specific plan and process that handles this hurdle. Interviews and recordings is an example.
Q: Your SEO should ask what your goals are
A: You’re looking for them to ask you this question and help you establish them.
Q: How long does it take to see results from SEO
A: Generally, 6 months, but many factors could cause it to vary. It’s important to get a timeline, and it’s ok if they’re off as long as they can prove progress.
Q: How will you deliver my report
A: You’re looking for a regular schedule and willingness to walk you through the metrics. The report should also include the next steps to improve them.
Q: What do you need from me
A: They’re going to need details about your brand, access to your Google tools, social media, and lastly, a meeting date to review the strategy.
Are there any practical questions I may have missed that would be useful to ask an SEO? Let me know in the comments.