Tips for Hiring an SEO Agency in 2020


This is an update of our article Tips for Hiring an SEO Agency.

Now that we’ve reached 2020, SEO is turning its attention more and more towards voice search, local Google My Business presence and semantic search.

Let’s look at what skills and experience your SEO should have before you sign on the dotted line.

Here are our top 10 tips for finding and hiring an SEO agency in 2020.

1. Do they promise to get you to #1 in Google?

We’ve warned about this before, but we continue to see this kind of shady promise being made.

It sounds too good to be true and of course, it is. Nobody can guarantee the #1 position in Google except Google themselves.

If you hear this promise, pass.

Google’s algorithms change weekly. And with your competitors continuously striving to beat you, it’s impossible to guarantee any specific positions in search.

What you are looking for instead is evidence that the agency has delivered solid, long-term results for their customers and a good, realistic appraisal of your site and it’s potential.

2. How do they charge?

Some SEO agencies charge by results (e.g., they charge according to how high they raise your website in search results).Others simply charge by the hour (like we do at Dotwise). Yet others charge by conversions – leads delivered to your business through organic search. Yet others charge some kind of hybrid of these methods.

There is no right or wrong approach to charging, so our best advice is to always look for a clear and predictable charging structure.

You don’t want to be hit with an unexpected bill!

3. What kind of reports will you get?

Reporting on results is a key part of SEO. If you don’t know what your results are, you don’t know the value your SEO company is adding.

You need reports that are:

  • Clear
  • Easy to read
  • Focussed on bottom-line results

For example, a report which only shows your positions in search for your keywords is of little value. You need to also look at the results that actually impact your company’s bottom line – i.e., sales, leads or contacts.

Make sure your agency is willing to listen to your business priorities. Every business is different and will need to measure different things. For example, an e-commerce business selling jewellery will want to measure sales. But a firm of accountants will want to measure form-fills and phone calls.

Your agency should be able to report on your chosen metrics and not force arbitrary ways of measuring success upon you.

You should expect a digital marketing dashboard showing your metrics and outcomes clearly.

4. Jargon

Does your contact at the agency speak in pure web jargon, or do they prefer plain English? One of the key skills of a good SEO is the ability to communicate sometimes complex technical subjects clearly and in plain language. If you feel bamboozled or blinded by science, you’ll want to avoid that agency as there are plenty who are polite enough to ensure you understand everything they say.

5. SEO insurance

In the wrong hands, SEO can actually damage your search rankings. The effects of having your website wiped off the search engines can be devastating to a business. To mitigate the risk, all SEO companies should carry adequate insurance and be able to show you written evidence of their cover.

Does your SEO agency carry the necessary insurance? Always ask to see the insurance documents and make sure they are bona fide!

6. Timesheets and workflows

There are many ways to work with an SEO agency. You can leave the whole thing up to them, or you can be very involved.

For example, at Dotwise we have two main ways of working with customers:

  • Pre-auth. This method means that each and every change we make to a customer’s website must be pre-authorised by the customer, no matter how small. The advantage of this method for the customer is that they have full and total control over changes to their website. The disadvantage is that the whole process can be delayed, often quite severely, if the customer does not have time to consider and respond to every change request. This method is slow and requires a lot of customer interaction.
  • Post-auth. For customers who want faster results and are willing to trust their SEO a bit more, post-auth may work better. With this method, we make the changes we need to make and report them back to the customer. The customer always has the choice to reverse out or alter whatever changes we have made. The advantage of this method is that it is fast and does not require as much customer interaction, but relies on total trust between the customer and ourselves.

Whatever your preferred method of working, you’ll want to be sure that you can get a list of timesheets detailing what the agency has done within any given time frame.

Research shows that about a 1 in 3 SEO agencies provides timelogs as standard. Others provide timelogs on request. At Dotwise we usually provide timelogs on request.

You might want to consider the motives of any agency which refuses to produce timelogs.

7. Experience

How many years of experience does the company have in the SEO business? Ask for evidence of long-term SEO practice. Ask for references and reviews. SEO, if done by an amateur, can be devastating to your business. On the flip-side, professional SEO is perfectly safe and risk-free. You need to ensure you are working with seasoned professionals, not amateurs or inexperienced practitioners.

If your website is built on a specific platform, such as WordPress, make sure you hire a specialist WordPress SEO company.

8. Meetings and conference calls

With SEO, it’s vital to agree and stick to a strategy. Nevertheless, the day-to-day tactics on how to achieve your SEO ambitions can change quite quickly.

As such, you need an agency that is prepared to speak to you at any time on the phone, via email or Skype or face-to-face.

Your SEO company is a partner of your business and you be able to foster a personal relationship with your team.

It’s vital that you have a nominated contact/account manager and they should be continuously reviewing your account and making sure your success goals are being met.

White hat, grey hat and black hat SEO

White hat, grey hat and black hat SEO

9. Ethics and policies

Just like in almost all businesses, there are good and bad SEO practices. We call good practices “white hat” and bad ones “black hat”. There’s a grey area in between often referred to as “grey hat”.

  • White hat: good, ethical SEO techniques approved by official Google channels
  • Black hat: unofficial, unethical attempts to fool search engines into ranking websites
  • Grey hat: techniques that are a little bit shady, but not necessarily black-hat

Unethical practices (black hat SEO) unfortunately are not uncommon in our industry.

Make sure your agency adheres to a high standard of ethics. Be familiar with the terms “white-hat” (good) and “black-hat” (bad) SEO. Ask whether they understand Google’s policies on SEO and SEO spam. If they don’t, walk on by!

10. How good is their SEO?

Take a look at how they rank for your local area or your business vertical.

If they are nowhere to be found, then consider whether they are the right company for you.

If you like the sound of our tips, why not contact us for more information?

 
Member of Kingston Chamber of Commerce
Winner, Kingston Business Excellence Awards 2018, Customer Service category
Finalist, Kingston Business Excellence Awards 2019