8 Questions to ask your SEO Provider

Selecting an SEO company can be a difficult process. How can you trust that the company you choose will effectively help you generate more qualified search traffic? A good place to start is by asking them the following 8 questions: 
1. Does a dollar go further in organic or paid search?  
Whether it be organic or paid searches your main goal is to generate as much qualified traffic to your website as possible. Only 25% of people go past the first page of Google’s search results, so make it your goal to get to the first page… or even better, get to one of the top 3 positions!
 
Investing in paid search is important for getting immediate, specific, highly targeted traffic to your site and can be a substitute, albeit an expensive one, for SEO in terms of bringing in search traffic to your site. Investing in SEO is important for improving your site’s search position and traffic in the long run. In truth, depending on what is lacking the most, a dollar in either one could go a lot further, but both are important for a solid digital marketing strategy.
Tables below show CTR% based on the position results for both organic and paid searches in 2013: 
 
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     *Actual CTR can vary widely based on the ad text and targeting* 
2. Are SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) competitive in my industry? 
Any SEO company worth its salt will be able to quickly tell you how competitive the landscape is for both paid and organic search in your industry. You can check this yourself ahead of time by using Google’s free keyword planning tool – Just open the following link using your Google email account and then you can explore keywords and how competitive the search results are: 
 
  • Step 1: Type in all key phrases that you think a consumer would search and then press the ‘get ideas’ button. For the purpose of this example we searched for: Lake of the Woods cottages, property for sale in Lake of the Woods, cottage design, etc. 
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  • Step 2: Click on a specific popular word search and beside each keyword in that category, there will be an average monthly search column and a competition column. This will help you determine how to structure the content in your website to match what people are searching for and the competitiveness in your industry. 
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3. What content and keywords are important? 
Broaching the subject of content and keywords with your SEO company is important. If they start talking about “keyword stuffing” or “keyword density ratios”, consider it an early warning sign. Look to have some open conversation about how you should go about identifying keywords and creating content.
Here’s a link to a blog post we wrote on “Identifying keywords and creating content to impact SEO in six easy steps”: 
http://blog.sherpamarketing.ca/post/Identifying-Keywords-and-Creating-Content-that-will-Impact-Your-SEO-in-Six-Easy-Steps.aspx
 
Tip: Find opportunities that are less competitive, but still have high search volume using Google’s Keyword Planner and focus on those first.
4. What is an example of how you have improved someone’s SEO? 
The benefit of asking an SEO provider a question like this is that you give the company the opportunity to explain their strategies to you. It sets a precedent for an honest discussion about how they may improve your SEO in the future. 
If a company discusses different SEO strategies such as blogging, having open forums, linking their website to social media and content marketing such as infographics and video, then you are on the right track. All of these strategies help to improve traffic on your website. 
If keywords are used in an ethical way it can create great success for your company by allowing many different word searches to link to your website. If a company mentions that they use link farming, excessive guest blogging or invisible ‘meta’ keywords it is in your best interest to not use this company. Unethical SEO practices end up causing more problems long term that you don’t want your business to be involved in. 
5. How will you track my website’s search position over time? 
This is the kind of question that shows an SEO company that you’re going to hold them accountable for having some tangible success on your SERP ranking. Look for the SEO company to mention some kind of SERP reporting process. You’ll want to find a company that uses a good tool that can track your website’s search position for a various set of keywords over time. It’s a bonus if they’ll help you track some of your competitors as well. 
If they say they will do this manually, watch out! Tracking SERP ranking manually over time requires extreme attention to detail and a great time investment. If they’re doing a good job at this, it will take hours to prepare these reports. You’re better partnering with an SEO company that has invested in some software to automate this process. 
Solid SERP reporting can be a good indicator of which SEO tactics are proving effective. SERP reporting can also help to identify opportunities to continue improving search position based on your own and your competitors’ SERP ranking changes.
6. How have your optimization techniques worked within your own company’s website? 
When asking an SEO provider a question along these lines it would be very interesting to see if their techniques and tactics match up with what strategies they have suggested for your company. Before the meeting, try a few different keyword combinations to see whether the SEO company shows up in search rankings or not. In the meeting, discuss this with them. Tell them what keyword phrases you typed in and see if they have any response as to why they might not be ranked highly for them. An SEO company that doesn’t perform well in SERP rankings isn’t necessarily a bad SEO company – it is possible that they spend more time on their clients’ websites than their own. It is certainly a valid question to ask though. Take note of their response and decide for yourself how important it is.
7. How sure are you that my company will receive highly ranked search ratings? 
First of all, this question is inherently flawed. First page based on what keywords? Based on what geo-targeted, and search history criteria? Sure, a company might be able to get you optimized for “ABC Fire Company John Smith Experts in your fire safety” (the company’s name, owner name and slogan). Achieving first page ranking for keyword phrases that have immaterial amounts of search traffic is of very little importance.
Second of all, Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms. If a company says that they can guarantee first page results, it is a warning sign. This question is mostly designed to weed out ‘high promisors’. Rather than banking on the promises an SEO company offers, look at their methodology, success and knowledge. Make sure they understand and are current with SEO best practices.
8. What is the best/fastest way to build links? 
 
 Look out for SEO companies saying anything to do with link exchanges, listing on directories, buying links, guest blogging, etc. Link building is all about creating great content and getting the content in front of people that it is interesting to. Sharing your content on social media, getting your company written about by a popular blogger, partnering with complimentary website owners / companies in your industry are all great ways of building links. Unfortunately, they take a lot of time and effort on your part. A great SEO company will tell you this and help you come up with content marketing and link building strategies. 
 
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- Elizabeth White  
 
Sources: 
http://www.searchenginejournal.com/24-eye-popping-seo-statistics/42665/
http://www.smartinsights.com/paid-search-marketing-ppc/paid-search-analytics/clickthrough-rate-per-advert-position-in-adwords/

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