If you're thinking about hiring an SEO agency, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you're considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

  1. Be committed to implementing the recommended changes. Making the changes recommended by an SEO takes time and effort; if you aren't going to take the time to make these changes, it's not worthwhile hiring a professional.
  2. Interview your potential SEO. Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:
    • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
    • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
    • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
    • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
    • What's your experience in my industry?
    • What's your experience in my country/city?
    • What's your experience developing international sites?
    • What are your most important SEO techniques?
    • How long have you been in business?
    • How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
    • See if the SEO is interested in you and your business. If they're not interested, find someone who is. Your SEO should ask questions such as:
      • What makes your business or service unique and valuable to customers?
      • Who are your customers?
      • How does your business make money, and how can search results help?
      • What other advertising channels are you using?
      • Who are your competitors?
  3. Check your SEO's business references. Ask past clients if they felt that this SEO provided useful service, was easy to work with, and produced positive results.
  4. Ask for a technical and search audit for your site to learn what they think needs to be done, why, and what the expected outcome should be. You'll probably have to pay for this. You will probably have to give them read-only access to your site on Search Console. (At this stage, don't grant them write access.) Your prospective SEO should be able to give you realistic estimates of improvement, and an estimate of the work involved. If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.
  5. Decide if you want to hire.

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye by using overly aggressive marketing efforts and attempting to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site's presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.

When your SEO comes up with a set of recommendations for your site, ask her to corroborate these recommendations with a trusted source, such as a Search Console help page, Google Search Central blog entry, or Google-sanctioned response in the forum.

Here are some things to consider:

  • One common scam is the creation of "shadow" domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client's behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor's domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.
  • Another illicit practise is to place "doorway" pages loaded with keywords on the client's site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO's other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away from the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavoury or illegal content.
  • Finally, avoid getting involved in link schemes, such as buying links from other sites to increase your ranking. This is against Google's quality guidelines and can result in a manual action against some or all of your site, which will negatively affect your site ranking.

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

 

In Singapore, you may consider reporting to CaseTrust.

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