6 Questions to Ask a SEO Company Before Hiring Them?

video-44MARK: Hi, I’m Mark Steinbrueck, and this is Kurt Steinbrueck. He’s our Director of Marketing Services at OurChurch.Com, and I’ve asked him to be a part of this video where we’re going to talk about six questions to ask an SEO company before hiring them.

The first question to ask an SEO company is:

What is their mission or vision, and does it line up with yours as an organization?

Very simply put, just ask them, “What is your mission?” or “What is your vision? What is your goal as a company?” and see what the response is. You’d be surprised to find out how many organizations don’t know this, or haven’t defined it. If that’s the case, most likely their mission is probably just to make money. So it’s good to ask that question and find out if their mission or if their goals are aligned with what your goals are as an organization.

The second question to ask is:

How long have they been doing business or SEO professionally, and how many clients have they served?

If they’ve only been in business a few months, or even a few years, that may not be enough time to really understand SEO and really bea ble to provide a good SEO service.

KURT: I would also add to that that there really isn’t any standard for SEO in a sense. There’s no license, like with a realtor, you have to have a realtor’s license. There’s nothing like that in SEO. There’s no certificates, there’s no graduate programs. All you really have to do to become an SEO is put up a website and say you’re an SEO. So that happens a lot. There’s people that are just these fly by night companies; they just pop up out of nowhere and they claim to be experts in search engine optimization, but they haven’t ever done it.

MARK: Right. Yeah, and it’s also helpful to go with an established business simply because you want to make sure that they’re going to be with you, by your side, and partnering with you for a long time. Number three is:

What will they be doing for you?

This is incredibly important, because SEO varies. One person’s definition of SEO is probably quite a bit different than what another person’s is. So why don’t you share a little bit about that?

KURT: Yeah, SEO is a very nebulous term. Thre’s really no distinct definition of it. I’ve seen webhosting companies that say that they do SEO, and all they really mean is that search engines can crawl your site, they can read your site, and maybe there’s some automatically generated meta tags. They’re not really doing anything for you. This isn’t really SEO, but they claim it. Then you can go from there to the broad spectrum, where people are doing link building and content creation and social marketing and all kinds of other elements to it. There’s a broad range of what can be included in SEO, so you really need to make sure that you know what exactly are you going to be doing.

MARK: Yeah, and I’d recommend even asking for that in writing. Get it down so you know exactly what they’re going to be doing, and that way it’s not a “he said, she said” situation.

Fourth question to ask is:

Do they have any client references who are ranking well?

Simply ask them for references. Granted, this will probably be a list of their best customers that will say the best things about them, but even that being the case, oftentimes when you have a customer that’s talking to another customer and you don’t have the SEO company there to listen in, they’ll let you inside and give you a little bit of an insider tip. There might be some things that will help you make your decision, possibly some positive things or some negative things that would help you in your decision as far as which SEO company to choose.

Number five is:

What are their ethics?

How do you ask this question? It’s something that if I just came up to you and I said, “What are your ethics?”, you’re going to tell me what you think I want to hear. So how do you go about that?

KURT: This is a little tricky. And yes, there are ethics in search engine optimization. Asking them is probably not going to get you the best answer. Like you said, they’ll probably just tell you what they think you want to hear. But you can ask questions that are a little more subtle. Maybe you say, “I’ve heard that SEO takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of time, but I don’t really want to wait that long. Are there things that we can do to speed up the process?” or “Are there things where we can get around some of this hard work?”

If they say that there are, and “Yeah, we can do some things that are going to get past this,” that should be a red flag to you, that they’re willing to step over certain boundaries that the search engines may have said, “Don’t do this,” and they’re willing to then risk your website, your organization, to do this. This is a very dangerous thing, because you can literally be penalized or even kicked out of the search engines altogether. So it’s important to be able to ask that.

Another way to do this, just be aware of the some of the black hat things. We say black hat; that really just means things that the search engines have said, “Don’t do this to try to game our system.” Just be aware of some of those things, so as they describe what they’re going to do, you can know, “Oh, that’s one of those things that the search engines say don’t do. That’s going to risk my site.”

Some of those things might be buying links; it might be getting spammy links which are just low-quality, no value type of links; maybe some on page, things like that. Stuffing keywords, or hiding text. Things like that. Just make yourself familiar with that. There’s a lot that I could go into. I actually go into more of this in a video that hopefully we’ll be able to make available to you. I’m sure Mark would be willing to send you a link to that, if you’d be interested. But just some of those things that you can be aware of and look out for.

MARK: Sure, yeah. Then the sixth question is:

Do they have a history and understanding of your type of organization and your niche?

How does this differ from the question of how long have you been in business, and is your mission and vision lined up with that of ours?

KURT: Well, just being in SEO doesn’t necessarily mean that you know all the different aspects of SEO. There’s actually several niches within SEO. One of the most obvious ones that you’ll see is national SEO versus local SEO. They’re very different animals, so you may have been doing national SEO for a long time, but if you’re a local organization, a company who hasn’t been doing local SEO may not know what to do. They may try to apply national SEO to your site, which is not going to cover all the bases.

You can get even deeper, to where it’s your organization. If you’re a church, it can be a little tricky. Obviously, I deal with churches a lot, and when you’re trying to create content for a church, you have to be very careful because churches have specific beliefs. Unlike with a pizza shop, where I can just write anything about pizza and they’re probably not going to be bohtered by it, with a church, if you have someone who’s writing things that are contrary to your beliefs, you’ve got a big problem. There are things like that where if an organization hasn’t been dealing with churches, they may not recognize that. They may not know that that’s an issue.

MARK: Yeah, so it’s very important to make sure that the organization that you choose, the SEO company, has a history and has a good understanding of your particular type of organization, or they might either do things that aren’t going to help you that much or, quite honestly, they could do things that would hurt your reputation. It is very important.

KURT: Yeah, and there’s also language. Christians tend to have their own take on certain words, and not knowing that, if you’re dealing with a non-Christian company, they may not understand some of the terms that we use. So that’s another way that it can affect us.

MARK: As a summary, the six questions to ask an SEO company before hiring them:

  1. What is their mission or vision, and does it line up with yours?
  2. How long have they been in business, how long have they been doing SEO professionally, and how many clients have they served?
  3. What will they be doing for you? Get that in writing.
  4. Do they have any client references who are ranking well?
  5. What are their ethics? We talked about how you probably need to ask that in a more subtle way.
  6. Lastly, do they have an understanding of your type of organization?

Thank you, Kurt. I appreciate you taking the time to explain this to us. And also I appreciate you taking the time to watch this video. I hope that it has been informative. If there’s anything that we can do here at OurChurch.Com, we would love to hear from you. You can fill out the form below to request a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as .

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