Hiring an eCommerce SEO expert can be a nightmare. To help you out, we have compiled 10 questions to ask them before you decide to move forward with their SEO services.
1. What Do You Think About My Website?
You are about to hire an eCommerce SEO expert, getting to know how they think should be a priority. It’s critical that you can understand their thought process and see if it aligns with your own understanding of what needs to be done.
It is also important that you start to gauge the expertise of the team you will be working with. Unfortunately, many agencies will put the used-car salesman type on their front lines. This is dangerous for both you and them.
It’s dangerous for you because he can’t dive into all the technical aspects you should both be talking about. It’s dangerous for them because more often than not they will make unrealistic promises and set the wrong expectations.
It’s not that all agencies are bad, or that sales teams are schemers; instead, it comes down to experience. If the person you are initially speaking with cannot truly diagnose your website or provide real suggestions then it’s not a great start.
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2. Have you ever worked on our CMS?
There is a big difference between the technical SEO requirements of working on Magento compared to Shopify. For a very talented eCommerce SEO expert this is of little importance; however, for most, this can be a deal breaker.
Magento is going to require some development work a lot of the time. Furthermore, it can create all sorts of frustrating duplicate content at the product page level and snowball throughout every aspect of the CMS. Making sure that the SEO consultant you hire can maneuver and consult at a technical is going to be the difference between success or failure.
3. Would my dev team be responsible for changes or can you make them? If so, is that extra?
Development work is necessary on most technical SEO projects for almost every eCommerce SEO campaign. Most eCommerce shop owners are not exactly ready to hand over the keys to their shop…can you blame them?
If this is the case, you are going to want to make sure that your SEO team and development team meet before engaging so that both parties are aware of their roles as well as any additional costs.
The last thing that you want is to be 20 days into an SEO project to find out that the agency you just hired is only providing the consulting (which isn’t always a bad thing), but that the development company is going to need to charge you x amount as well to make the changes. Now you are over budget.
It is okay that your SEO firm doesn’t do development work. Most of the time, you actually might prefer that, but it is important that scope of work and cost is clear for all parties involved.
4. Would you like to take a look at our Google Analytics?
What an important question! How they respond is going to say a lot about their SEO consulting process.
Are they willing to invest time free of charge to learn more about your business and provide real recommendations?
If they say that they do not need to see your Google Analytics or that it isn’t that important, alarms should be going off in your head. How could they possibly provide recommendations or help you if they do not know the data?
Quick caveat, if they have an alternative process like running your site through an audit tool, that can lend itself to be quite valuable. But, at the end of the day, you want to see custom thoughts and consulting. You don’t need an agency to do a templated SEO audit.
Here some tools you can use to do it yourself if that’s all there offering in the dating stage:
5. Based on what you see, what are your biggest areas of improvement and what’s the timeline of these being implemented?
They have now asked to view your Google Analytics and have started to audit your website, competitors, historical campaigns, on-page SEO, content marketing, and link profile…or at least they should have!
What you need to know now is, how long will these changes take to be implemented? Don’t be the person asking about results quite yet…no matter how good your agency is they cannot realistically answer that yet.
Instead, we like to focus on what we call getting: “a little closer to perfect”. If the goal is to follow industry best standards for each element of your campaign and then to push the envelope after you have a solid foundation, you will be the industry standard.
6. Can you give me three scenarios of what would happen if we hire you or your agency: Best, Okay, and Worst?
Remember, only God knows future results. No agency can tell you what your ROI is going to be…in fact, this very question drives them crazy. If they were in your shoes they would be asking and wondering the same thing, but the future is unknown so what if’s should not be the priority.
No matter your expertise or experience, each site, and the market is unique. Instead of talking ROI pre-engagement, it is critical to determine what your prospective eCommerce SEO agency thinks can be achieved as best case, average case, and worst case scenario.
You already know the timeline for their work, now let’s see what they think will be the result of all that hard work and why. If you feel like they’re reasonable, but also, ambitious that’s a good sign.
7. Who will be specifically working on my account? Can I meet them?
Ohh…the good ol’e bait and switch. Agencies ‘round the globe are notorious for this. You are on the phone with their senior SEO manager and loving every word. Then, three months later your campaigns seem to have hit some serious sludge and he or she is nowhere to be found.
Not every campaign should be that way. Now it might be unrealistic to expect that their senior SEO manager is going to be doing the legwork on your account. But, it’s important that you meet their behind the scenes team that’s going to be actually implementing for your account on an ongoing basis.
What you are going to want to know is, “who are they?” Do they have the experience necessary to deliver, but more importantly, do they have the time? Far too often, eCommerce SEO managers are flooded with accounts and don’t have the time to truly deliver for you.
On average, a thorough eCommerce SEO project takes anywhere from 30-60 hours. That includes a lot of work:
100+ point technical SEO audit
Detailed keyword research
The point is that the person talking to you is not the one doing all this work, make sure that you are able to talk with the person actually implementing and that they have the time and expertise to truly deliver.
8. Can I see some of the latest content or thought leadership your team has created?
Reading the latest content that an agency has published is one of the best ways to understand and analyze the thought process and talent of your prospective eCommerce SEO company.
If they don’t ever publish content on their own site or for thought leaders, I’d argue that that is not a good sign. Ideally, you want to hire a SEO agency who is very involved in the industry, who is constantly learning, and who is a giver in the sense that they want to help others as well.
Agencies that help others free of charge often do the best work. Furthermore, how they market their own business can be a strong indicator of how they might market yours. Now that is not always the case, but it does give you insight.
9. Do you have recommendations from any clients you are currently working with?
Recommendations are the tell tale sign of an agency. Does the agency you are about to hire have people that can’t stop raving about their work? If the answer is yes, then you are most likely in good hands.
Now, there are plenty of ways to do your own research. You can take a look at their Yelp reviews, Google My Business Reviews, Clutch.co reviews, and even their Glassdoor reviews to see how they treat their employees.
What you ideally want to know is: does this SEO agency have character? Are they the kind of firm that will take an extra 3 hours to figure out an issue just because they want to do a good job?
Another great option is to ask for recent case studies. What you will want to be looking for is who was the client, what did they do for that customer, what results did they see, and what was the timeline?
10. What am I going to need to do to make sure that I am not the reason this doesn’t work?
When you hire an eCommerce SEO expert, you have a role to play as well. Being aware and prepared for that role is what holds this whole relationship together.
The number one reason most campaigns fail is not that the SEO agency does not have talent, but instead because they were not able to work with the account to correctly implement all of the changes.
This can stem from a plethora of reasons: poor communication, bad development team, poor CMS, etc. But, at the end of the day, if you are the one hiring the eCommerce agency then you are responsible to management for that hire.
You want to be crystal clear with the firm as to what they will need from you on an on-going basis and what is critical that you accomplish so that they will be successful.
You have a lot of choices when looking to hire an eCommerce SEO expert, but we hope to be a part of that decision-making process.