How to Pick a Local SEO Agency: 11 Questions To Ask

Choosing a local SEO agency to work with can be an intimidating task. A business looking to optimize their site needs to know what to ask and look for in an SEO agency. Here are 11 key questions that you should ask when choosing a local SEO agency.

SEO practices keep changing as search engines update their algorithms over time. What worked a few years ago might not be an effective SEO strategy today. The evolving dynamics of SEO have resulted in many businesses struggling to keep pace with their need for effective SEO strategies.

Local SEO helps a business attract more local searches on online platforms to increase conversions and sales.

As with any product or service that a business offers, the aim is to pick the best local SEO agency. With many SEO agencies claiming to be the best, going online and typing in “SEO agency near me” isn’t a guarantee to choose the best one.

In many areas, local help sites rank agencies to assist businesses in selecting the best SEO agency. In the San Diego area, where Nimbletoad’s offices are located, Clutch and Upcity are two of the top sites for SEO rankings.

1. How do you approach SEO?

Asking this question allows you to gauge a prospective SEO agency’s knowledge and experience. An agency should explain its approach using simple terms and with ease. It is also essential to research what type of SEO your business needs. You don’t need to know all the nitty-gritty details, but a general knowledge of what is required for an SEO strategy is crucial when evaluating a proposal.

Previously, optimizing your website for a specific term was enough. However, today it takes more than just keywords to rank highly on Google. Every local business knows the key terms that the target audience is searching for, so what gives you an edge over your competitors?

A good SEO strategy should be holistic. The strategy should account for user experience, off-page, and technical SEO. The agency should also highlight mobile optimization as many local customers will most likely look up local services on their mobile phones. The SEO approach should factor in such elements.

By answering this question, the agency will demonstrate its authority in the SEO industry and its understanding of how your target customers behave. This is essential for crafting the right SEO strategy for your business.

SEO agency tools

2. What SEO tools does your agency use?

Neil Patel, a leading expert in the SEO industry, explains some of the tools that can be used to optimize a site for SEO. In addition to asking about the SEO approach, a site owner should ask about the tools that an agency uses. The answers to this question indicate not only whether an agency is up to date with trends and changes in the industry but show the transparency of their SEO process.

3. How do you measure success?

Many SEO agencies will oversell themselves by stating that they’ll get your site to rank top on Google. If an agency makes such a claim, then they are possibly using black-hat tricks. This is a red flag. Different brands have different website goals. Some are looking to increase traffic to their site while others are looking to increase visibility on a certain product or content niche in their locality. 

A genuine agency will measure success according to the client’s goals. Avoid agencies that use black-hat methods to elevate Google rankings. Such practices only work for a short while at the detriment of the site over the long term. The answer to this question will inform you on the longevity of an SEO strategy.

If an SEO agency claims to be one of the best agencies in the area, which in Nimbletoad’s case is Carlsbad, it should have positive customer reviews to serve as social proof of expertise. Positive reviews of past SEO efforts are proof of how effective an agency’s SEO strategy can be.

“They know which tool to use when and which tactics are appropriate at each stage of our customers’ journey.”

Jeffrey Toth, Carlsbad, CA

The future of your online success with an agency can be seen through past results. Ask for details on what services the agency has provided in the past. 

4. How will your SEO expertise help meet my business needs?

An SEO agency needs to understand your business’s unique position. Regardless of how good an agency’s SEO strategy is, it only matters to you if it can serve your business’s needs. Additionally, one SEO strategy template doesn’t work for all businesses. This question helps assess an agency’s ability to improvise to meet your needs.

Have the agency explain in detail how their strategy fits into the needs of your site. Depending on how they answer this question, you will also be able to evaluate how well the agency understands your business. 

SEO Agency Results

5. How long will it take to see results?

Generally, it takes 4 to 6 months to start to see the effects of a good SEO strategy. However, it is also possible to see results earlier, depending on your site’s weaknesses and strengths. For some sites, the challenge could be technical. Often times, a couple of technical changes will generate quick results.

The period that an agency hints at should give you an idea of how they operate. If an agency oversells the speed at which the strategy pays off, it could indicate that they use black-hat techniques. If the agency tells you you’ll see progress within a short time, then you should ask why. 

6. How do you keep your clients updated?

The terms of engagement should be very clear from the get-go. One does not want a situation where you need to follow up with the agency to know what is happening with your site. Clear communication is especially crucial if you are not tech-savvy.

Ask the agency how they communicate with their clients. The SEO agency should give you a schedule of how often they inform their clients of the progress and in which form. Do they send reports? Do they explain in detail what is going on, and how do you follow up?

7. How do you approach link-building?

Link-building is an essential part of SEO. The quality of links matters more than an extremely high number of links. An SEO agency that promises numerous links over a short time might value quantity over quality. While link numbers are important, one should aim to get quality links.

Before hiring an SEO agency, the agency should elaborate their strategy around link-building. The SEO plan should show that they understand the importance of link-building. 

An agency’s approach to link-building could affect already existing strategies. For example, a business could have reservations about using influencer marketing, but the agency recommends it. This kind of marketing comes with significant financial and image implications for the business. It is important to know such details before engaging an agency.

An SEO agency might also recommend guest blogging as a way to build links. Such decisions are significant because the agency needs to decide what kind of guest bloggers would be most effective and how to build relationships with these writers.

The answer to this question shows how well the agency understands the business’s needs and its problem-solving capacity.

8. How does your SEO strategy fit in with my overall marketing strategy?

SEO is only part of marketing a brand or business. Besides a company’s online presence, most businesses have off-line marketing strategies. An effective business marketing strategy interlinks all facets of the business. It is crucial to choose an SEO agency that knows that digital marketing doesn’t work in isolation.

Ask for specific details on how the agency plans to incorporate the SEO strategy into the overall marketing strategy. A credible SEO agency should be willing to work with other teams in your company to attain the set marketing goals.

9. What do you need from us?

Everyone must understand their roles from the very beginning. This ensures that there are no hiccups in the course of the working relationship with the agency. 

A local SEO agency might present a strategy that requires deliverables that your business cannot immediately provide, such as videos or location-specific reviews. In this case, the agency would have to adjust that strategy, or you might have to choose another agency thats better aligned with your capability to assist in the plan. Know beforehand how involved the players in the business will be for the SEO measures to work.

10. What is your pricing model?

With SEO marketing, there are plenty of payment models. It is essential to know what you are paying for and how it is measured. Knowing the pricing models helps the business make an informed decision on what is agreeable and vice versa.

Various factors impact the cost of local SEO services. Make sure you know what these factors are before committing to work with any SEO agency.

Fortunately, popular sites like Clutch and Upcity offer recommendations of the best SEO agencies that operate in Carlsbad. Without the help of such sites, it is easy to fall victim to illegitimate SEO agencies charging you for things that do not add value to your website and brand. When comparing pricing packages from different agencies, don’t look at the total amount you’re required to pay – focus on the value you’ll get from each package.

Reputable local SEO agencies don’t shy away from letting you know how much they’ll charge you beforehand. This way, there won’t be any surprises when it is time to settle your bill.

11. What happens after our contract expires?

As with other aspects of running a website such as hosting, it is important to have clear terms on what happens after the contract expires. In the course of search engine optimization through an agency, the business learns much, including methodology.

Ask the agency whether you can use the methodology for future strategies and campaigns without them. The site owner also needs to ensure that the terms of the contract do not imply a permanent link to the agency.

There is also the possibility of terminating the contract before the agreed upon time-frame. It is essential to know what happens and what liabilities exist in such a situation. 

Extensive interviewing is important when choosing an SEO partner

Google aims to give users a rich experience when they’re conducting searches online. As such, SEO has become very intricate and dynamic. The algorithm keeps evolving and improving. Sites have to keep up with the changes to rank highly on Google.

Ranking highly requires the site to have quality links. A credible SEO agency will strategize on how to have long-term success. It’s not enough that a site registers short term progress. Longevity is the ultimate goal. If an agency oversells and overpromises, it’s most likely using black-hat methodology to show results. Quick, too-good-to-be-true promises are a clear way to distinguish between a legitimate and illegitimate SEO agency.

SEO is a critical element to the success of digital marketing and so choosing the best SEO agency to reach your local talent is important. With so much content online, standing out as an authority figure in your industry is critical to success.