There’s a lot of information about questions to ask prospective SEO providers to ensure that they’re an ethical and capable provider, but I’ve only recently noticed how little information there is regarding people that are currently engaged in business with providers.

With each increasingly intelligent algorithm update, Google is able to steadily “shake off” more and more of the poor quality work that many SEO agencies employ. Unfortunately the average business owner has no clue of knowing if their site may be on the chopping block, or that such a problem could even exist. With this in mind, if you are a business owner that uses an SEO company to help promote your business, these are questions that you need to ask your provider…ASAP.

#1. What Has Been Your Strategy For Increasing [insert KPIs here] Over The Past 6 Months?

This will stop an agency in their tracks. If they’re not familiar enough with your campaign to tell you this answer off the top of their head, something’s wrong. Anyone can tell you what they’re going to do, but not everyone can tell you the extent of what they’ve already done and why. A good answer would sound something like this:

[quote style=”boxed”]”Since the main KPI for this campaign was newsletter subscriptions, we used content marketing to get this accomplished. We made relationships with community bloggers and popular websites that are closely related to your niche to help get our content out to the target demographic.”[/quote]

An answer like this shows the provider is well prepared and has an actionable plan to help you accomplish your goals.

#2. How Has Your Work Increased My [insert KPIs here] Over The Past 6 Months?

The answer to this question will say a lot about a provider. A good answer would be something like this:

[quote style=”boxed”]”Because you’re wanting an increase in online exposure, Key Performance Indicators for your campaign are organic traffic, referral traffic, and newsletter sign ups. Over the past 6 months we have increased organic traffic by 20%, referral traffic by 15%, and earned 3,000 extra subscribers to the newsletter – an increase of 25%.”[/quote]

This type of answer shows competence, plain and simple. It’s ok to not have stellar results after only 6 months, but if a campaign is producing stagnant results, or none at all, it may be time for a change in providers.

#3. Explain How Your Methods Impact The KPIs For My Campaign?

Don’t get this confused with #1 or #2. This question asks the provider to explain how the methods that they are using directly impact the goals that the client wants to see accomplished. This is where the provider will show their “customer support” abilities, and understanding of their own actions. It essentially represents the ability to explain the point A to point B concept as it relates to the particular campaign.

[quote style=”boxed”]”Since a KPI for your campaign was sales, our team used CRO, or conversion rate optimization, to help understand how we can get more sales out of current traffic. We test different versions of landing pages, and change certain layouts in the shopping cart to test the differences and see which will have the best results. Testing things like this has a direct impact to increasing sales.”[/quote]

While not every SEO provider will be doing CRO, the idea is no different than explaining to a client that building backlinks to a site will increase rank in the search engines, and in turn, should increase organic traffic.

#4. What Link Building Practices/Strategies Do You Use For My Site?

The key here is to look out for anything resembled to be automated. Methods like this will not only have little effect, but could lead to the website getting penalized down the road. More blatantly poor work could include strategies revolving around article submissions, press releases, social bookmarking, blog commenting, and low quality guest blogging.

An example of a good answer would be something along these lines:

[quote style=”boxed”]“The main focus of our link building strategy revolves around content creation and outreach. Strategies like regular blog publishing and developing content assets (whitepapers, videos, etc) while reaching out to people to gain exposure around these assets, are part of our strategy for improving the backlink profile of your website.”[/quote]

This answer promotes the “build relationships, not links” kind of link building. This is a very organic, quality, sustainable method of link building that will stand up to any change in search engine algorithms. What you typically don’t want to hear is anything with the words blast, automate, scraper, and dofollow.

#5. What Is The Content Strategy For My Campaign?

Not every campaign will need a hardcore content strategy, but most providers I’ve found will insist on creating content, even if they don’t leverage it for any other purpose other than publishing a piece of content. This is far from a strategy. A solid answer about content strategy will sound something like:

[quote style=”boxed”]“The core of the content strategy lies within the company blog. We’ve developed a blog publishing schedule that allows company employees and influential guest bloggers in related niches to be actively involved. This will help us on two fronts, 1) helping to establish a community and following through trust, knowledge, and transparency 2) curating the best blog posts and using them to get more traffic from current newsletter subscribers.”[/quote]

The answers here will vary quite a bit, but they should all have a common theme – relying on genuine content to help grow metrics that will help the company as a whole. If you hear generic statements like “we submit a press release once a quarter”, rest assured, there is no strategy.