It’s 2020 and many business owners are still falling prey to SEO scams simply because they don’t understand how it works. SEO is vital to growing your brand online; therefore, hiring an SEO agency or employee is often just unavoidable. Asking an SEO company the right questions before hiring would go a long way in determining the success of any brand online. How so? Perhaps an understanding of SEO would help answer that.
What is SEO?
Search is an integral part of human daily activities today. People are constantly on search engines looking for answers. This is especially true when it involves making a buying decision. According to a US eCommerce report, 88 percent of buyers carry out research online before making a purchase online or offline. And this research usually begins from the search engine.
SEO involves understanding what people are searching for on search engines, the words they use, and the types of contents that appeal to them. Knowing all of this help a business connect to people who are searching for the products or services they offer.
SEO can be seen as a coin with two sides. One side involves knowing the target audience’s intent and the other involves delivering it in a way search engine crawlers can see and understand. Each of these sides is as important as the other. None can be overlooked.
How has SEO evolved over the years?
SEO is believed to have come into existence in 1991. This was about the time when the first website was launched. Of course, several other websites were launched afterward and the internet started getting crowded, raising the need for accessibility and structure.
Excite started the revolution of information categorization and organization online in 1993, followed by the likes of Alta Vista, Yahoo, and others in 1994.
However, SEO is believed to officially take off in 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin started building what would become the most popular search engine – BackRub (now known as Google).
Google changed the game by introducing metrics and algorithms that would reward relevant and quality content over irrelevant and low-quality ones. Of course, relevance is relative and differs for a user from time to time.
To date, Search Engines continue to update their algorithms almost on a daily basis with the sole aim of ensuring that users get the best and most relevant results for their queries.
On-Page vs Off-Page SEO
Digital marketing companies approach SEO from two perspectives or point of view – on-page and off-page SEO. Here is a look at what each entails and how it works.
On-page SEO involves working on the HTML, content, and source code of a page in order to rank higher on search engine result pages (SERPs). Some key components of on-page SEO include:
- Title tags
- Alt tags
- Html code
- URL structure
- Internal linking
- Meta description
- User experience
- Content Quality
- Load speed
Unlike On-page SEO where the website owner has almost everything under control, off-page SEO mostly depends on external factors. In the words of Neil Patel, “off-page SEO simply tells Google what others think about your site”. They refer to factors that occur outside of the website such as:
- Domain Authority
- Social Promotion
7 Questions to Ask Your SEO Company
The quality of questions asked, in any situation, determines the quality of answers given. Some philosophers believe that the quality of a man’s life depends on the questions he asks. Asking the right questions would help know the right SEO company to work with.
So, the meaning of SEO has been explained and its importance is not in doubt, what then are the right questions to ask an SEO company before hiring? Considering the fact that there are many digital marketing agencies across different parts of Canada, how do other businesses filter through the many options and get the best fit for them?
For companies that already have an SEO company they work with, they can still work with these questions to help evaluate their current SEO company and decide whether it’s time for a change. Now, the questions:
How Long to Rank High on Search Engine?
This question is tricky and it’s intentionally so. If an SEO company tried to answer this by saying something like “we will get you to number one on Google within two months”, that’s exactly the SEO company to run from.
SEO is very competitive and it’s a long-term project. An SEO company promising the first page on Google on the spot without proper research, especially on competitors, clearly doesn’t understand how a search engine works. SEO should go on as long as a business exists online!
The kind of response to look out for would involve researching on competition and strategy, then provision of an estimate over a period of time. There is no guarantee of anything in SEO except you’re working with actual web crawlers. Still, there are strategies that if explored, can greatly improve your website ranking. On average it takes about 6 months to start gaining traction from SEO. However some businesses gain traction much later; a number of factors influence this including your business niche, competition, and budget
What is Your Strategy for Backlink Building?
Backlink building is up there as one of the most important SEO features. Google places so much emphasis on how others perceive a website and it judges this through backlinks to a website, page, or content. While the number of backlinks to the website is important, the quality of those backlinks is even more important.
This explains why this is one very important question to ask a potential SEO company about backlinks. They should have a proper backlink building strategy and not the usage of shady bots and software. These can give positive results at the initial stage, but would eventually be outsmarted by Google algorithms; might even earn your website a google ban.
The business should ask to see their (SEO company) backlink strategies to verify they are legitimate and would positively impact their ranking.
What is the Strategy for Local SEO?
One of the best hacks for SEO is localizing for the immediate community. This makes it easier to rank higher when queries are done within the location optimized for.
Businesses should ask to know if their businesses would be listed on local directories and title tags optimization for the local market. For instance, an SEO company in Mississauga, Canada should be registered as a business in the local directory of Mississauga. So whenever a user searches for “SEO companies” from Mississauga, the business stands a higher chance of ranking higher than other SEO companies from other parts of Canada.
How will SEO be integrated into the Overall Marketing Strategy?
SEO does not work in isolation, instead, it is an integral part of the company’s overall marketing strategy. SEO works with other marketing efforts such as content marketing, public relations, social media marketing, and sometimes, offline marketing.
Hence, the SEO company should be more than willing to work with the business’ marketing unit or the other agency handling marketing. They should also be ready to work with the web development and sales team with a basic plan for integration with existing marketing initiatives.
What Tools do You Use?
The emphasis here is not really on the tools, but on why they use the tools. Standard SEO companies will definitely have a number of tools with which they execute their projects and they should be able to explain why they chose these particular tools.
Businesses should ask about tools used for keyword research, crawler, backlinks, competitor analysis, ranking monitors with detailed explanations on why they use the tools.
What is Your Track Record with Other Brands?
Looking to get an SEO company is similar to trying to shop for anything online – reviews, case studies, and testimonials from past clients all play important roles here.
Therefore, businesses can ask about other clients the SEO company has worked with, especially the big ones, and see the results they recorded with them. An inability to provide any legitimate past client is often a bad sign. It could mean that they don’t have the experience working with real businesses or they did not deliver for the businesses they worked with in the past. Whichever way, it’s not a good sign.
Another question that should quickly follow this is asking who their longest active client is. One of the prevalent problems with some SEO companies is that they use some shady tools (black-hat) that brings quick results. These tactics bring good results for a while and fail afterward. And then they move on to another client. So, SEO companies with only collections of short-term contracts are possibly shady and should be avoided.
What is Your Approach to Mobile SEO?
What has mobile got to do with any of these? Everything! It’s almost impossible to talk about SEO without touching mobile. Google in 2016 revealed that it’s moving to a mobile-friendly index, making mobile optimization more crucial than ever.
Businesses should enquire of the SEO company the importance of mobile optimization and how they intend to carry out the mobile audit. Of course, the work doesn’t end at audit, they should have a well-articulated plan on how to fix whatever issues they find.
Since Google introduced its machine learning program, RankBrain, the search engine has continued to update and improve daily. This makes SEO really challenging and complex.
However, good SEO companies ensure they stay updated on the changes and adjust accordingly. The whole essence of a search engine is to give relevant and quality results to users. A good SEO company would always be more concerned about quality content for users above any other algorithm.
Another crucial question to ask is cost and we’ll discuss that in a whole new post.
Asking these questions and evaluating the answers would help you filter through SEO companies and select one that would deliver the best results.