Search Engine Optimization February 2nd, 2015
Before we begin, I’d just like to take a minute to apologize about all the frustration this information will cause some SEOs 🙂
Like any smart business owner, you do your due diligence, but what happens when you’ve got to make a decision on something you know very little about? Lucky, you’ve found this blog, because I’m going to share with you 67 tips that ANYONE can use to compare and evaluate SEO companies.
Are you going to choose an SEO agency in your city or area? If you’re near a reasonably big city, chances are there are SEO companies in your area.
Dealing locally offers several advantages:
If you’re in a remote area and doing business locally isn’t an option, not all of these tips will apply to you. I still encourage you to read this post, though!
A sincere word of note, this blog is not an accumulation of tips I’ve read elsewhere. I’ve worked at TechWyse Internet Marketing since March 2011 and I am writing from experience. There is, however, one webpage that I used for my research and it’s Google’s very own post titled “Do you need an SEO?”
Here are just a some of the questions you can equip yourself with:
Without any further ado:
1. Are you in my area? If you’re in a major city, it will make your life easier and you get more out of in-person meetings and they’ll also know more about your market.
2. Do they do regular meetings? Preferably in-person.
3. Is their office on on Google Maps. Is it legit or is it just a PO box?
4. Is their office respectable? More importantly, is it filled with people?
5. Ask your sales rep: how long have you been with the company? Then verify it on LinkedIn.
6. Ask them: how many people work there? To verify, try and ballpark it on LinkedIn.
7. Before signing, ask them for a meeting with at least one in-person from operations.
8. Ask them what keywords they rank for online – if they can’t point you to any relevant keywords, pay a bit money more for a company who can!
9. Do they post regularly on social media? Do they have engagement?
10. Check out their blog. Do their posts have social shares, comments, and are they interesting? Most good agencies will tell you to write blogs, so they should practice what they preach.
11. When was last time they updated their blog?
12. Ask them how long they’ve been in business. Choose an experienced agency. Go to is and check out when they registered their domain. This should give you an idea of how long they’ve been in business.
13. Just for kicks, go to org. This will give you an idea of their history. Have they always been ahead of design trends?
14. Do they have Google reviews? Any agency knows the importance of great reviews. If an SEO agency doesn’t have any reviews, it’s definitely a bad sign. Go here and search for their name. Take this a step further and click on the people who’ve left reviews, do their profiles seem legit, have they left other reviews?
15. Google them! Go a few pages deep. Do you see anything that seems legitimately negative or shady?
16. Check out related searches at the bottom of the search engine results page. Is there the word scam or something similar?
17. Definitely go in for an in-person meeting before you sign on the dotted line.
18. Ask them for examples of clients they have had success with.
19. Ask them how they measure success. Ask for examples of monthly reporting. Make sure it’s something that demonstrates value.
21. Did someone email you from out of the blue? Perhaps you should opt to find an SEO vendor on your own.
22. If you contacted them. How quickly did they respond to you? It reflects on the company’s customer service.
23. Visit the their LinkedIn page and read the bios of their staff. Have they been there long? Do they have experience?
24. What about their ads that you see everywhere? Do you like them? Would you like ads like that for you? (yes, this has to do more with paid media than SEO).
25. What about the tone-of-voice on their website? Would you be comfortable having that quality of writing on your website?
26. Do they offer services beyond SEO? This is a good thing, you want to be able to take advantage of new opportunities out there!
27. Do you have a personal connection to the SEO agency? I.e. do you know someone there? Don’t let that be the ONLY reason you decide to go with them.
28. Ask them what industry websites they’ve been published on?
29. Ask how many clients they have that are in your industry. A few is good, it means they have experience, too many it means they are competing with themselves.
30. Google the text from their footer links to get a sneak peek at their clients.
31. See if they have a profile on Glassdoor. Do their employees have good things to say about the company?
32. Does your correspondence with the salesperson seem organized? It’s probably a reflection of how they’ll be to work with.
33. Does their Facebook page or website demonstrate their company culture? Strong culture = great employee morale = better results!
34. Do they have a YouTube channel? This isn’t a must, but the more valuable industry-related content, the better.
35. Ask how many accounts each account manager has.
36. Do they invest in their employees? Training, conferences, company outings?
37. Do they have certifications? AdWords, Google Analytics, Hubspot?
38. Are they a Google Partner?
39. Do they ever speak at events?
40. Do they demonstrate involvement in their industry? Do they converse on Twitter? Do they do webinars in partnership with other companies?
41. Is their website a responsive design?
42. What is their Moz Domain Authority compared to other companies?
43. Do they have case studies that demonstrate their clients’ success?
44. Go to Open Site Explorer and see where they get their links from. First of all, look for English speak sites. Then, check the linked-from sites’ Domain Authority or just click on them. Use your common sense, do they look legit? Are they relevant to the SEO industry?
45. Do they offer guaranteed rankings? If they do, look the other way!
46. Is their website easy to use? If it isn’t, how is yours going to be?
47. Does their website have misspellings, broken links and images? This definitely reflects on their attention to detail!
48. Does their site consist of duplicate content? Go to their blog, copy a sentence or two and paste it into Google. Some companies will steal blogs and post it as their own to look like they have an active blog. People do this with our blog all the time.
49. Did they explain that SEO takes time? If they promise overnight rankings, look the other way, again!
50. Do they outsource their SEO? Some “SEO companies” are simply resellers for third-party services. That’s why dealing locally and meeting the people who are going work on your campaign is so important.
51. Does the company have more sales staff than operations staff? If they do, it’s a huge red flag! When you visit them, ask for the office tour.
52. Ask them if they can rank your website without content. If they say yes, walk the other way. You can’t rank for keywords that aren’t on your page! Don’t trust any SEO agency that won’t – at least – make recommendations on new content.
53. Ask them for an SEO audit. They should be able to give you a free diagnostic that’s worth something.
54. Does their website have a different page for every service? This helps them rank and if they don’t employ this strategy for themselves, they likely won’t for you.
55. Ask them what (in their opinion) are the most important ranking factors, then compare those answers with the other companies you talk to.
56. Will this company be working on YOUR domain and not a domain that is owned by the SEO company and held for ransom if you decide to quit.
57. Stay away from any agency that offers to create multiple websites for you. Creating websites for the same company, competing for the same keywords is against Google’s guidelines and is highly penalizable.
58. This is laughable, but there actually are companies who will tell you they have a special relationship with Google. Please don’t believe them, they are liars!
59. Any SEO company that offers to sell you links is one that can get you outright slapped and scolded by Google!
60. Make sure the keywords the company says they’ll rank you for actually have search volume that will bring you business!
61. Make sure the SEO company is going to be 100% upfront and honest about any changes they plan to make to your site.
62. Put them on the spot. Ask to see competitive keywords they’ve achieved rankings for.
63. Ask them who their longest-term clients are. They should be able to give you several names.
64. If the person who sold you the SEO is the same person who does the SEO, it generally means they won’t have the proper time to commit to your campaign. Especially during busy times like January and February.
65. Ask your salesperson to share a success story.
66. When you’re in an in-person meeting, ask the people you meet why they enjoy working there. People who are passionate and enjoy their work typically do a better job.
67. Make sure the agency’s site is indexed! Search for their name, make sure their website comes up #1. If it doesn’t, it means that they’ve been penalized by Google.
Well there you go. I’ve spent an entire Friday night wracking my brain for you. I hope this leads to a beneficial endeavour for your business!
I’d be remiss without saying that the company I work for, (the site you’re on right now) is an outstanding group that meets the VAST majority of these criteria. Please don’t hesitate to contact us! Just be sure to compare us with at least a few competitors!
A word to the wise: no SEO agency is going to pass every one of the 67 little tests, but they should pass most of them.
Lastly, if you can’t find an SEO firm locally, then try interviewing a few in your nearest city.