While Search Engine Optimization is a rapidly growing part of the marketing process, we are finding more and more that it opens up the door for sub-par optimizers attempting to dabble in a very complex part of the online marketing world.  While there are definitely pure scam artists out there, more often than not what we see are other professionals such as web design and development companies simply adding “SEO Packages” to their offered services for a way to make some residual income upon completion of the site.

In any case, there are a few very critical questions that a great SEO company should be able to answer correctly and honestly every time.

1) How do you measure success?

This is absolutely the first question that you should ask any potential SEO, and there are only two acceptable answers to this question.

The first answer is: “enhancing search engine rankings for target keywords.”  If you are a lower budget client, then this is probably an acceptable answer because enhancing your search engine rankings for certain keywords should in turn create more profits.

The answer you are really looking for is: “Organic Search Traffic and Conversions.”  The entire idea behind SEO is to increase A) Organic Traffic to your site, and B) Conversions.  You as a client should show long-term profit increases as a result of effective SEO.  They may not be overnight, and that’s fine, but your SEO company should be of the mindset that their responsibility is to increase your profits.

2) Do you Guarantee Specific Results?

After the warm-up question, this is definitely the second question to ask and anyone that answers  “Yes” should definitely not be hired. While great SEO’s will have a proven track record of success, with lots of case studies to verify their results, every site is different which in turn means that the rate at which your rankings will improve will also be very different.  What you are looking for is something along the lines of:  “Well its not possible to guarantee results, but…” or something along those lines.

3) Ask a Site Specific Question such as:

“Are there are glaring weaknesses that stick out about my website?”

While a potential SEO company is not going to give you a detailed report of everything that they would do to optimize your website, if they have made it this far in the process then they should at least have viewed your site and done enough basic research to put a proposal together.

So you aren’t looking for a specific answer, as much as you don’t want to hear “mmm” followed by the quick typing of a keyboard.  Anything as simple as “well, I’m not entirely sure that you are currently targeting the proper keywords” is a fine answer.  What this shows more than anything is that you are talking to an actual optimizer and not just a great salesman that the company has sent in to “close the deal” with a list of standardized answers.

4) What specific optimization services do you provide?

If there initial answer contains a number of links that they plan to build, run as fast as you can in the other direction.  Its completely fine for them to start by saying “its complicated, but…” and continue by telling you that each client is different and has
completely different needs.  Then they should be able to give you a specific process that they will use to optimize your site that should include concepts like “page clusters” and should be willing to give you examples of some of the high quality content that they have built for other sites (including their own).

5) How long will it take to get results?

The only incorrect answer is a specific one.  If they say, “you will be ranked #1 in 60 days” they are likely bad SEO’s either lying or picking a bad target that won’t benefit you much.  What you are looking for are answers like, “It’s completely different for each client, but given that we’ve dealt with 3 similar clients recently, we would estimate 3-6 months” is a pretty solid answer.

Most of these questions can’t be answered very simply, and good companies will know that.  While you are looking for certain answers, what you are really doing is giving them the opportunity to produce hard data (case studies, reports, success metrics, etc.) that proves their track record far better than any answer ever could.  If you get through this conversation and the company didn’t at least end one of these questions with, “…and we’ll send over Document X to give you a better understanding of what we’re talking about” then it probably means that they don’t have a track record good enough to provide that data.

Author Bio:  Patrick King is a professional SEO for Londes Digital Marketing, specializing in Local Business SEO and marketing strategy.

5 Important Questions for your Potential SEO