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Old 06-22-2006   #1
BuckfastMonk
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Some questions to ask when souring an SEO/SEM company

Hi all,

I have composed the following questions which I will be asking a selection of seo/sem companies that may be working with myself and my company.

Please, have a look through them an add your comments. Alternatively if you can think of any others please let me know.

Also if any one here can point me in the right direction of the services I require it would be much appreciated.

I look forward to your comments

Regards,

Ryan

QUESTIONS

How long have you been providing search engine optimization and search engine marketing services and what is your experience in search engine optimisation?
How many search engine marketing campaigns have you been involved with?

What was your role for those projects? How many are still active? How many are inactive? If inactive, why?

Do you participate in or, are you a moderator for any of the SEO/SEM Forums? If so, what is your username and can you provide links to your most recent or notable discussions?

What changes can we expect you to make to our website to improve our positioning in the search engines? Will these changes be visible? Will there be changes in the coding of our website?

What are your opinions in regards to Best Practices for the SEO and SEM industry? How does a company effectively compete online using traditional optimization strategies?

Can you assure us that the marketing strategies and methods that you are utilizing fall under the criteria of Best Practices for the SEO/SEM Industry? Can we assume that this means no penalties for our website?

Do you have website design experience? What types of programming environments are you experienced with?

Can you describe and/or provide recent successful campaign results? If so, can I use those clients for references?

What is the relationship with your previous clients?

Do you guarantee that you won't work with my biggest competitors while you are working with me?

Do you use link building as part of your SEO?

Research on the Internet shows link farms to be just as effective as quality inbound links. Do you use link farms?

Would you create pages, optimized for any of my key phrases, which aren't built in to the navigation of my site?

Does your technique involve showing a different page to the search engine than to my visitors?

Do you respect ethical search engine standards?

What exactly will you do for my website and what is your methodology?

Does your approach to SEO resemble a template type of plan?

Who is the copyright holder of the work?

What time scale is reasonable to expect visible results for us?

What sort of monitoring system/reporting can you provide to us? How often will you provide those reports? Do you provide live statistics? Will you provide consultation on how to interpret the reports so that we have a basic understanding of the statistics?

Do you focus on website conversion enhancement?

Do you help all your clients to calculate their return on investments?
Do you offer a ROI analysis prior to making a commitment? Is this in addition to your contract pricing? How will the process of ROI be determined?
What are the most effective spam and black hat methods you use?

Does you company put a limit on the number of search phrases?

Can you guarantee top search engine positions for us?
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Old 06-23-2006   #2
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Patience ryanmcmaster,

The talented search marketers that contribute to this forum are also very busy working with clients.

Toss your last question - it's a waste of time and no good SEO will offer placement guarantees. Be upfront about what you're looking for and you won't need so many questions.

Stuntdubl has good advice on this topic and this previous SEW post is helpful as well.
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Old 06-23-2006   #3
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Ya it's fine to ask all those questions BUT from my experience people that give you that many questions are called competitors. Especially when there are bait questions like this...

Quote:
Research on the Internet shows link farms to be just as effective as quality inbound links. Do you use link farms?
A good SEO sales team is going to ask you for you url first, If your site has issues or your budget isn't even close to the industry you're going to go compete in. Don't expect to get past question 1 unless you're ready to get out your wallet. They'll be more than happy to let you go be someone elses nightmare
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Old 06-24-2006   #4
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Ya it's fine to ask all those questions BUT from my experience people that give you that many questions are called competitors.
I've heard someone refer to people who ask a million questions up front as "brain-sucks." Oftentimes the motivation for giving what's literally a "questionnaire" is being on a fact-finding mission to do it inhouse and not outsource a contract anyway.

Quote:
A good SEO sales team is going to ask you for you url first, If your site has issues or your budget isn't even close to the industry you're going to go compete in. Don't expect to get past question 1 unless you're ready to get out your wallet.
In sales the first step (after establishing a basic rapport) is qualification to see whether or not to pursue a deal with the party. Zig Ziglar calls it separating the prospects from the suspects.


Quote:
I have composed the following questions which I will be asking a selection of seo/sem companies that may be working with myself and my company.

Please, have a look through them an add your comments.
I'm afraid my contribution to comments is that if I started to get hit with all those questions I'd stop it right there. I'd explain to the person that I do an initial site analysis to see what the site needs for being optimized, along with a consultation and recommendations for what the site needs, and that the cost depends on the site (some are small and static and simple, others aren't). I'd ask for the URL so I could take a quick look and give a price for this "site checkup." And I'd ask what their budget is.

In many cases, rather than give lengthy complimentary consultations (aka free consulting services), it seems to work out much better to answer all the questions during the consultation, at which time both parties can decide if it's a good fit (it isn't always), and are free to choose to move ahead or not.

So the person or company gets a good idea of what their particular site needs to have done, and it means getting paid for answering lots of questions and putting in the several hours it takes to really check out a site to know what's needed, including hunting around to see if there's possible despamming needed and/or violations of search engine quality guidelines already in place.

It's silly to spend a lot of time without even giving a site a good look-over and really isn't good business sense.

Added:

I've worked in market research; I know how much time a list of questions like that takes.

Last edited by Marcia : 06-24-2006 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 06-24-2006   #5
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Seriously: if you ask too many questions, and especially annoying and repetetive ones, you may get yourself in a position where they will start telling you anything and you won't even know it. Give them a chance to explain their services and a chance to give you a warm fuzzy feeling, or maybe even contradict themselves in their own presentation. Just keep your instincts up. If you don't feel right about a company ... don't hire them!


- Mike
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Old 06-24-2006   #6
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Thanks guys

Thanks for your comments guys. I can see how those questions will be of putting and really annoying

Ill try all your suggestions.

Regards,

Ryan
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Old 06-25-2006   #7
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*What changes can we expect you to make to our website to improve our positioning in the search engines?*

Key question IMO, the answer to which would give a pretty good indication of their MO...
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Old 06-25-2006   #8
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Also: take your time making the decision. Sales reps want to you jump on quickly. When they end with "OK, so let's do it!", why not reply with "I'll think about it and give you a call tomorrow in the AM".
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Old 06-25-2006   #9
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I think the most important quesiton is; where are you based?

If you are in London then you should pick a SEO agency which is also in London.
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Old 06-26-2006   #10
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I don't think restricting your choices to local companies is the way to go - SEO doesn't require that level of contact 99% of the time.

Personally I think the key is defining what you want to achieve and trying to match that with an agency or freelancer.

Are you launching a brand new project and want someone to be "part of the team" or do you have an existing business and want a company to simply take over your online marketing function?

"SEO" is rather bland and non generic - a simple set of rules can be applied to a wide range of sites and this is the service that a lot of people provide. Many cases this will be enough - is it for you though?

Do you want to expand into PPC, email marketing, banner advertising, viral marketing, etc?

First port of call IMO is to check results - the bare minimum any SEO should be able to provide you with is evidence of their results. This isn't hard.

Then I would discuss what you want to achieve with them - are you simply being "sold" a SEO package or are they approaching your business as an unique entity and offering you some objective information and ideas?

Having worked with loads of clients in the past, I've found the best / strongest relationships end up having started on the basis that I work *with* the clients to help them to maximise their efforts and budgets - indeed the few clients I work with just now, I've known for years and consider them to be colleagues and friends.

At the end of the day you want an individual (be it a freelance SEO or your account manager within an agency) to be working with you for a long time to come - that's the relationship you are paying for and as others have said, you need to go with your gut feeling / instincts when starting up this relationship.

MG
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Old 06-26-2006   #11
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I would advise you base your decision on the questions a prospective SEO/SEM company asks you.

That of course would be another thread.
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Old 06-26-2006   #12
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Good Post Jonathan Mendez.

Looking at your questions I'd feel like you'll be looking down the barrell already at the potential SEO company. Personally I'd expect some sort of knowledge of the area from the customer, but looking at your questions you are coming across slightly over-cooked approach.

Its impossible to explain every strategy in our industry, we are a results based industry and judged on that 100% IMO.
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Old 06-27-2006   #13
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Ryan,

I look at your list of questions and wonder why you're outsourcing SEO. It seems you've got a decent handle on the issues. Why not do it yourself?


Brian
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Old 06-29-2006   #14
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Thanks for the comments

Thanks all for the comments. They have certainly helped!
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