10 questions to ask your SEO

by alx332
27 replies
  • SEO
  • |
Hi,

I'm new here and am looking for advice if that's okay? We're looking to hire an SEO agency/partner/individual and I've reached out to a few medium sized agencies in the UK so far. My dilemma is this - they all have proposed exactly the same thing, with the same techniques but at massively different price points. As a relative newcomer to the world of SEO (predominately offline background), what questions should I be asking to differentiate the agencies?

ps: If there are any SEOs here who have experience of sub prime lending, please get in touch (if that's allowed on here). My (company) website is in signature if it helps..

Thanks v much
#questions #seo
  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    Sub prime lending... those were the day.

    "Hey, you just came out of bankruptcy yesterday? Great. Well let's get your 100% financing for that $400,000 house you cannot afford. Paystubs? Tax Returns? Don't be silly. We don't need to see any of that."

    I worked for one of the large banks here in the U.S. when sub prime lending was really just lending.

    Anyhow, as for your questions to ask an SEO... I would probably need to see a little more of what they are proposing to you.

    You can ask what kind of reports you will receive from them?

    How many keywords they are going to target?

    Will they work to identify new appropriate keywords?

    Are they going to do SEO for just your main website or will they also work on other associated sites as well (Facebook, YouTube Channel, a blog, etc)?

    A time frame in which they expect to achieve top rankings? Few SEO's will guarantee any time frame, and frankly I am a little suspicious of any that do, but they should be able to give you a ballpark of what they expect. Search engines are finnicky though, so it is tough to guarantee anything by a certain date.

    Is this a year long contract? Month-to-month? Any penalties for cancelling services?

    Those are a couple of questions off the top of my head.
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    • Profile picture of the author alx332
      Thanks Mike, really appreciate your quick response

      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

      Sub prime lending... those were the day.

      "Hey, you just came out of bankruptcy yesterday? Great. Well let's get your 100% financing for that $400,000 house you cannot afford. Paystubs? Tax Returns? Don't be silly. We don't need to see any of that." It's not quite that bad...in fact we're about as ethical as you can get - but I know where you're coming from!

      I worked for one of the large banks here in the U.S. when sub prime lending was really just lending.

      Anyhow, as for your questions to ask an SEO... I would probably need to see a little more of what they are proposing to you.

      You can ask what kind of reports you will receive from them? Monthly reports on the links they've generated and our performance for selected search terms.

      How many keywords they are going to target?
      3 volume phrases (ie guaranteed car finance) and 12 or so secondary terms

      Will they work to identify new appropriate keywords? Not beyond the work I've done via Google Keyword Tool and Instant Search to identify long tail searches.

      Are they going to do SEO for just your main website or will they also work on other associated sites as well (Facebook, YouTube Channel, a blog, etc)? Just main site

      A time frame in which they expect to achieve top rankings? Few SEO's will guarantee any time frame, and frankly I am a little suspicious of any that do, but they should be able to give you a ballpark of what they expect. Search engines are finnicky though, so it is tough to guarantee anything by a certain date. They have all said Page 1 rankings within 6 months for main 3 search terms..

      Is this a year long contract? Month-to-month? Any penalties for cancelling services? Some are 12 month contracts, some are month to month..pricing ranging from around $400 per month to $5,000...

      Those are a couple of questions off the top of my head.
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      • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
        Originally Posted by alx332 View Post

        It's not quite that bad...in fact we're about as ethical as you can get - but I know where you're coming from!
        No i didn't mean to imply anything unethical was going on. It was just an interesting industry back then. Amazes me we didn't have problems a lot sooner than we did.

        Everyone does their contracts differently I guess, but I probably would be hesitant to sign anything that is for 12 months and carries a penalty for terminating them.

        I do 12 month contracts, but either party can exit the contract with 30 days written notice. I actually do that more for myself than my clients though. I don't want to be stuck with anyone that turns out to be a complete nightmare to work with. Really the 12 month thing just locks in the price for 12 months and guarantees that I will not raise the rate in that period of time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Nguyen
    Avoid the company that says they won't buy links.
    Go with the company that says they will buy links.

    Anyone who knows seo will know that for competitive niches, you definitely need to buy links. Many will disagree with this but its what real seo's do.

    Theres always some form of payment whether paying to guest post etc.

    Straight up ask, will you buy links with the budget?
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Nguyen
    I've seen you competition for the keyword "guaranteed car finance"
    You've got tough competition , 6 months is probably minimum. $400 per month is not gonna do it, probably $2000+ per month.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
      alx332,

      Here at warriors the number one questions would be

      How do you build backlinks?

      On page is not that difficult .Someone with a good book should be able to get that down in a day or two but how they build backlinks is CRITICAL for you as a real business owner.

      IF they do ANYTHING that gives your company's name a reputation as a spammer then you will hurt your business badly. Spam links are fine for alot of people here who run adsense sites and do affiliate marketing but for a real company looking to build real rep nothing could be worse for your business. Just consider the fallout if Facebook was caught spamming as big as they are. it would be against their rep for years. They would get over it but you wouldn't

      So if they answer back with Blog comments, article directory blasts, Forum profiles, SenukeX, Xrummer, Scrapebox - RUN AWAY.

      If your niche is very competitive with other real businesses its even more important because if you do rank you need to be able to withstand someone looking at your site and manually reviewing it. If they see that you have used spam techniques, report it to Google and Google agrees then you will be for all effect out of business for some time as they can slap you with a penalty or even deindex your website.

      I give you that heads up because this board is filled with people who don't do real business like you are trying to do. They run adsense sites and Affiliate marketing blogs where if they lose them they just start another one. I'd say at least 80% of the people here do not know how to do SEO for real businesses and therefore the links above that you do NOT want are all they know how to do.
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      • Profile picture of the author onepace
        @Mike

        I don't mean to take any of this off topic, but I stumbled upon this thread and had a question.

        Why do you consider "spam links" acceptable for niche sites but not for "real company" sites?

        I understand the reputation comment, but if spam links can hurt one, can't they hurt the other equally?
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        • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
          Originally Posted by onepace View Post

          @Mike
          I understand the reputation comment, but if spam links can hurt one, can't they hurt the other equally?
          Sure onespace I'll try to explain quickly.

          If you run a real business then you are looking for return customers and building your reputation etc. You are putting much more into one site than you are with an adsense or Affiliate marketing site where you just want traffic so you can get clicks.

          Spammy links can hurt any site especially if it is ever reported to Google for spam but with a business owner there is A LOT more on the line with losing one site( most adsense and affiliat people have multiple sites) . Thats the first part.

          The other part is that real business owners tend to be in niches where there are professional SEOs either in house or freelance. Since their income and livelihood is at stake should you jump over them in the serps they are not going to say "ah well shucks I lose". They are TEN times more likely to look your site over and if they detect spam they WILL report you because the stakes are higher.

          In less competitive niches like the ones that many adsense people and especially affiliate marketers go after there are more people playing the link spam game and they are less likely to report you
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          • Profile picture of the author onepace
            Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

            Sure onespace I'll try to explain quickly.

            If you run a real business then you are looking for return customers and building your reputation etc. You are putting much more into one site than you are with an adsense or Affiliate marketing site where you just want traffic so you can get clicks.

            Spammy links can hurt any site especially if it is ever reported to Google for spam but with a business owner there is A LOT more on the line with losing one site( most adsense and affiliat people have multiple sites) . Thats the first part.

            The other part is that real business owners tend to be in niches where there are professional SEOs either in house or freelance. Since their income and livelihood is at stake should you jump over them in the serps they are not going to say "ah well shucks I lose". They are TEN times more likely to look your site over and if they detect spam they WILL report you because the stakes are higher.

            In less competitive niches like the ones that many adsense people and especially affiliate marketers go after there are more people playing the link spam game and they are less likely to report you
            If this were the case couldn't I just report all my niche competition a few weeks before entering each niche since I'm almost certain they all have spammy links?

            This seems similar to the idea that link bombing competitors will kill their sites.
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            • Profile picture of the author markowe
              Originally Posted by onepace View Post

              If this were the case couldn't I just report all my niche competition a few weeks before entering each niche since I'm almost certain they all have spammy links?

              This seems similar to the idea that link bombing competitors will kill their sites.
              That's just the point, no-one cares about your BrassBathroomTaps.com niche site (though iwhat you describe may well happen sometimes). The way you describe "entering a niche" is exactly what Mike was talking about - most SEOs round here are opportunists, grabbing niches, seeing if they can make them work, if they get deindexed, it's a bummer, move onto the next niche.

              You just can't do that with a serious business - you only get one chance at the SERPS! And Google ARE making an example of major sites to prove their point. Sure they MIGHT miss you (for now) but are you really going to risk it? What do you do when they slap you? Go out and register another company, with a new name and new customers?
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              • Profile picture of the author paulgl
                How about, "What is your biggest SEO failure?"

                I like the questions I saw seomoz a while back.
                Everyone should know the answers to these:

                If content matters, why does adobe rank for click here?

                How can a page rank for a term not even found on the page?

                Paul
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      • Profile picture of the author alx332
        Thanks Mike(s) - main methods they all cite include article submissions, social bookmarking and themed links from high pr sites..what they would actually do is up for debate!
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        • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
          Originally Posted by alx332 View Post

          themed links from high pr sites..what they would actually do is up for debate!
          Do you know what they mean by themed links for high PR sites? That could mean site wide links on some properties or it could mean they get links with other webmasters in your niche. The rest is pretty standard potentially link spam stuff. Could even mean they get links from certain footprints which is also link spam.
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          • Profile picture of the author alx332
            I dont, but i'll be asking for sure tomorrow! Have to say I'm panicking about the methods being spam (or seen as spam). Are there any members on here who fall into the 20% category you mention in the uK that you know of?
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            • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
              Originally Posted by alx332 View Post

              I dont, but i'll be asking for sure tomorrow! Have to say I'm panicking about the methods being spam (or seen as spam). Are there any members on here who fall into the 20% category you mention in the uK that you know of?
              Actually in fairness to the other Mikes in this thread we all do. Come to think of it its really bizarre now that I am going through my mind. I know one Andy a Troy and almost all the rest are Mikes!-

              no need to panic. I can teach you in a few minutes how to check backlinks and then you will know what you are getting. I know you can't PM but I think none of us are in the habit of PMing someone who has not requested it.

              thats how spam begins
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              • Profile picture of the author larkykid
                Okay, so what should not be used are link blasts, forum profiles, xrumer, scrapebox and other spammy links you can think of as stated in posts above. Therefore, what should be the main focus in promoting real business websites? What criteria should the op be looking for to put his mind at ease?
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                • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
                  Originally Posted by larkykid View Post

                  Okay, so what should not be used are link blasts, forum profiles, xrumer, scrapebox and other spammy links you can think of as stated in posts above. Therefore, what should be the main focus in promoting real business websites? What criteria should the op be looking for to put his mind at ease?
                  In no particular order

                  someone who knows how to negotiate Authority/PR links with other webmasters on content pages that do not look spun and cobbled together with various links and subjects.
                  Someone who has access to link resources that are Low OBL (outbound links) but sufficiently high authority.
                  Someone who knows how to mix that with social, press releases and SOME article and blogs. He can utilize some of the other links for variety but it should not be the main building technique.

                  The end result being when somone looks at the link profile it does not SCREAM link Manipulation
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                  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
                    Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

                    In no particular order

                    someone who knows how to negotiate Authority/PR links with other webmasters on content pages that do not look spun and cobbled together with various links and subjects.
                    Someone who has access to link resources that are Low OBL (outbound links) but sufficiently high authority.
                    Someone who knows how to mix that with social, press releases and SOME article and blogs. He can utilize some of the other links for variety but it should not be the main building technique.

                    The end result being when somone looks at the link profile it does not SCREAM link Manipulation
                    If it is a local business, I would add that you need someone who has a good grasp of Google Places and appropriate local directories.
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                    • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
                      Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

                      If it is a local business, I would add that you need someone who has a good grasp of Google Places and appropriate local directories.
                      True but I was referring to link building which is how I understood larkykid's question and local directories would be included in my first two but local niche directories was a pretty big deal with my last UK client so thats a good point.
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                      • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
                        Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

                        True but I was referring to link building which is how I understood larkykid's question and local directories would be included in my first two but local niche directories was a pretty big deal with my last UK client so thats a good point.
                        You're right. My bad. Read too fast.
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          • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
            In my mind, you have a fiduciary responsibility when you start doing work on other people's sites.

            For my own site, I don't worry too much about spammy links. If one of my sites bombs out of the rankings, oh well. I'll get it back or I'll drop it. Plus I'm not too concerned with what people see pointing at some little affiliate site.

            For somebody else's business that I am doing work for, that's not good enough. They are not paying me to throw spammy crap at their site that could get it flagged by a competitor. They could buy SEnuke X or one of the lower quality WSO's offered here and get that done.

            They are paying for a higher quality of work.
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        • Profile picture of the author mkl3377
          Originally Posted by alx332 View Post

          themed links from high pr sites..what they would actually do is up for debate!
          Be careful of this themed links - when I first read this it first thing that came to mind was profile links. Not that they are bad but they are also considered spam if that is all they do on the sites they create profiles for. Now if they actually became part of the community on those sites it is good PR and good links for your company.

          Also (I've seen this done by a guy doing SEO for the company my wife works at) The guy put up a bunch of junk blogs with 1-2 pages of info and a links page and linked to different customers from that link page. The SEO guy told my wife's boss those were high PR links because the blog itself rank very high for the blog domain name ( some long obscure word with no comp) and a link on that blog will help pull the business site up in the serps.

          Lots of SEO experts are really just SPAM experts. Be careful.
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  • Profile picture of the author Targeted Traffic
    There are different pricing models on SEO and this is mainly important to ask the company

    *Hourly Consulting
    *Project-Based Consulting
    *Contract Services
    *Standard Profit Sharing
    *Modified Profit Sharing
    *Monthly Retainer
    *Pay for Rankings
    *Pay for Traffic


    and then...the following can all affect the price you might pay for organic optimization consulting or hands-on services:

    *Size & Complexity of Website
    *Size of Brand/Organization
    *Difficulty of Project / Competitiveness of Rankings
    *Personality Issues (if you're a very controlling personality, expect a generally higher price)
    *Reputation, Notability & Demand for the SEO Firm

    You will see the incredibly wide discrepancy of prices for different services if you're a potential client thus be smart on your analysis.
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  • Profile picture of the author Clyde
    Quick suggestion, try doing PPC for keywords you're trying to SEO first.

    You may not need an SEO consultant after all.
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    • Profile picture of the author alx332
      Thanks Guys, really appreciate the feedback. It's a minefield out there for sure...have tested PPC and it's performed well - I'd prefer to also have organic search performance being built up in the background to replace/augment paid search in the long term...
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      • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
        Originally Posted by alx332 View Post

        Thanks Guys, really appreciate the feedback. It's a minefield out there for sure...have tested PPC and it's performed well - I'd prefer to also have organic search performance being built up in the background to replace/augment paid search in the long term...
        Wise move . It makes absolutely zero sense to skip SEO in favor of PPC. The only long term valid use for PPC is to combine it with organic if you or your SEO knows how to get a high ranking over time.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by Clyde View Post

      Quick suggestion, try doing PPC for keywords you're trying to SEO first.

      You may not need an SEO consultant after all.
      An even better plan is to combine the two.

      I've done some test marketing and I have seen other tests done. If you get the #1 ranking, plus have PPC ads running, you can blast through the normal 45% or so clicks that the #1 listing gets in Google. I have clients getting as high as 80% of the search clicks (assuming search numbers from Google's keyword tool are relatively accurate).
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