There are THOUSANDS of SEO Agencies out there. Their ads pop up on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google. It’s fair to say that there are more than enough companies to choose from.
The question is – how do you choose the right one?
Today, we are going to discuss 10 key things that you should consider when hiring an SEO agency for your projects.
Before rushing to invest thousands of dollars, you may want to bookmark this page!
Table of Contents
- The 10-Step Checklist
- 1 Do you even need to hire an SEO agency at all? If yes, what’s your goal?
- 2 Do they offer all the services that you need?
- 3 Does their reputation match their promises?
- 4 Do they use legit, “white hat” methods?
- 5 Do they know what they’re talking about?
- 6 Does customer support live up to high standards?
- 7 Does this SEO agency provide explicit, measurable guarantees?
- 8 What’s the cost of quitting early (lock-in)?
- 9 How does their budgeting work?
- 10 Where are they based, and what kind of experience do they have with international markets?
The 10-Step Checklist
1 Do you even need to hire an SEO agency at all? If yes, what’s your goal?
That’s the first question you should ask yourself.
Some agencies make people believe that they desperately need them, while they can perform some of the activities in-house or simply search for a freelancer.
For example, there are some basic things that everyone can do themselves (like installing an SEO plugin for WordPress).
Similarly, if you have a content marketer in your team – why would you pay an agency to write content for you?
You should only hire an agency for a project that’s actually worth outsourcing.
For example, link building can be tedious and require a lot of resources, so companies usually just search for partners to outsource this task to.
The key takeaway – only hire an agency to execute projects that can’t be done in-house. Also, outline your goals and strategic priorities to know exactly what you’re after.
2 Do they offer all the services that you need?
See what kind of services the agency offers. Do they provide link building packages? Or, perhaps, they can perform technical optimization of your website?
As you know, SEO involves a lot of work, and it’s always better to dedicate the entire process to a single professional team.
If you outsource your search optimization tasks to multiple parties – their work might overlap, and you can end up with inconsistent results.
Not to mention that you’ll likely spend more time and money.
The key takeaway – try to find a full-stack SEO agency.
3 Does their reputation match their promises?
“Top notch,” “premium quality,” “results guaranteed” – these and a lot of other positive expressions can be found in any agency’s value proposition.
There’s nothing wrong with these phrases per se.
Yet, all of these strong words and promises should be backed up by results.
Pretty much any serious SEO company has testimonials on its website.
It might also be tempting to check out the agency’s reviews on Facebook, TrustPilot, Google My Business, or similar platforms.
However, that’s not the full story. Having positive reviews is good, but what about case studies?
The ones where they discuss the process, report on the results, and show screenshots.
Reviews and testimonials are usually written in vague terms and convey an emotional message (recommend/ don’t recommend).
Case studies, on the other hand, are more informative and harder to make up.
The key takeaway – pay more attention to case studies rather than to positive reviews.
4 Do they use legit, “white hat” methods?
The last thing you want is to find yourself searching for ways to recover from the Google penalty.
Here are a few examples of nasty black hat tricks that many suspiciously cheap SEO services are doing:
- Using software to build links
- Using automatically generated content
- Using link networks (PBN)
Don’t fall for these quick solutions (despite all the claims) because they will hurt your website in the long run.
The key takeaway – if the agency uses black hat SEO strategies, stay away from it.
5 Do they know what they’re talking about?
Let’s be honest – we all like to show off our knowledge. Companies aren’t any different.
Reputable companies like Ahrefs have gotten this far because they demonstrated thought leadership through:
- Having a corporate blog that is updated regularly
- Participating in various conferences
- Building relationships with influencers and industry leaders
Believe it or not, these efforts never go unnoticed.
Thus, if an agency makes bold claims about how good they are, there should be a way to take some of their knowledge.
The key takeaway – check if the company (or its members) can demonstrate their expertise.
6 Does customer support live up to high standards?
We all hate it when we see the “your question has been recorded and we aim to reply within 5 business days” message.
Nothing wrong with taking your time to solve an issue, but sometimes there are urgent things that you’d want to discuss right away.
Besides regular support via email, it’s nice to know the name and contact details of someone who’s managing your project.
Therefore, agencies with quick and proactive customer support will usually offer:
- Skype/Zoom calls if requested
- Phone number/ WhatsApp
- Live chat on their website
- Dedicated client panel that allows instant (or almost instant) communication
The key takeaway – make sure that the agency offers a quick way to get in touch for urgent matters.
7 Does this SEO agency provide explicit, measurable guarantees?
While working with 3rd party agencies, it’s important to set the expectations right.
However, if an agency promises too much from the get-go (like all of your keywords ranking in the top 3 or 10,000 organic traffic per month) – this might be more of a marketing hack rather than a deliverable promise.
That’s why the most reliable agencies offer a free analysis beforehand to approximate the achievable results. This analysis usually goes by the following names:
- Strategy proposal
- SEO audit
- Free quote
- Free plan
You get the idea. If you want to set the KPIs and benchmarks, someone needs to look into your case personally.
Otherwise, if the promised figures are universal to all clients and businesses, they are most likely meaningless.
Note: expectation management is not the same as service-specific guarantees. So, for example, if an agency builds links for you – they might offer a warranty in case of link deletion. It guarantees service delivery in full volume but doesn’t prescribe the achievable results per se.
The key takeaway – seek a personalized proposal and don’t fall for overly positive promises.
8 What’s the cost of quitting early (lock-in)?
All human plans have the exact same feature – they can change on short notice.
Maybe you’re in debt or face bankruptcy, or maybe SEO is simply not your priority anymore.
You’ve likely signed a contract that mentions all the deliverables, as well as the consequences of quitting in the middle of the project.
There are at least 3 possible scenarios:
- The work that has already been performed will be kept, and you’ll get a partial refund/ compensation for the work that hasn’t been started yet
- The work that has already been performed will be kept, but you won’t get any compensation for quitting the project
- There is no option to get a refund, and the project will be carried on until the end
Needless to say, that option 1 is the most client-friendly one.
The key takeaway – search for an agency with flexible terms and low costs of quitting (in case of force majeure).
9 How does their budgeting work?
Do they charge a monthly fee? A fixed fee for the entire project? An hourly rate?
It’s obvious that you need to know these details beforehand.
However, you should actually be more interested in how their pricing system works from the inside.
Agencies usually offer pre-made packages (with a certain number of links, articles, etc.) or tailor their prices specifically to each project.
If the latter is the case, you SHOULD ask an agency how this price was calculated and what benchmarks have been used (number of hours, activities, or amount of effort).
This is usually the part where an agency can try to rip you off by giving overly high time estimates. For example – if you see that they require 10 hours to write a 1000-word article, that’s probably far from the truth.
The key takeaway – understand what you’re paying for precisely and how much it deviates from the “average.”
10 Where are they based, and what kind of experience do they have with international markets?
Local doesn’t necessarily mean better.
You don’t have to search for an agency located in your neighborhood or even your country.
Yet, you might want to check the difference in time zones to make sure that there will be no big delays in communication.
Moreover, a partner company should have an international scope or experience in your market (performing SEO for Yandex in Russia is very much different from optimizing for Google in the US)
The key takeaway – the agency’s location is not the most important thing, but you should find out if they have the knowledge to perform the required work.
Finding an SEO agency that suits you perfectly is not something that can be done in 5 minutes.
Don’t rush and search for quick solutions. Instead, dedicate your time and do proper research before making any significant investments.
Always opt for a free trial/ free quote, if possible.
And never ever agree to pay for a consultation unless you’re 100% sure that the agency is trustworthy.
Keeping this in mind, the right SEO agency is actually right here!
At Crowdo we offer a full stack SEO service, and you can schedule a free SEO consultation with us at any time!