The SEO industry, unfortunately, is plagued by thieves, scoundrels, and obfuscators. Merriam-Webster defines ‘obfuscate’ as “to make something more difficult to understand.” They should have probably added “than it needs to be.” Obfuscate also has the sense of to conceal. As for thieves and scoundrels, that’s a bit more obvious: we’ve all gotten “those calls” from SEO companies that promise the world, and deliver little if anything. Common questions I get is “How do I know if my SEO company is doing a good job” or “What should I be asking my SEO company for?”
Here are some questions to ask of your current SEO company, consultant, firm, thief or scoundrel. Now, more seriously – not all SEO companies are terrible! There are many wonderful, honest SEO companies out there. The reality is that if you ask the questions below and you get evasion or hostility from your SEO company … then you have your answer as to what kind of SEO company you have.
People who have the facts on their side, and people who are doing a good job are not threatened by measurement. On the contrary, they should encourage it! An SEO company might quibble about the details below, but they should provide at least monthly measurements and they should be very willing to go over your performance in detail. If they aren’t, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Questions for Your SEO Company
- What are our target keywords? A good SEO company should have, on hand, an agreed-upon list of your keyword targets for Google or Bing. We build out a “keyword worksheet” with the core keyword patterns, as well as volumes / values and key competitors for our own SEO consulting clients. I also like to have the client identify “hot,” “warm,” and “cold” search queries. Your SEO company should have a robust and organized keyword list of target queries, and you should have mutually agreed upon these terms.
- What is our website rank on Google vs. our target keywords? The blogosphere is full of nonsense like “keywords don’t matter,” “rank doesn’t matter,” and “just write for humans.” Humbug! If you don’t rank, you won’t get traffic. If you don’t get traffic, you won’t get sales or sales inquiries. Now, rank is harder to measure than ever as there is personalization, Google+ personalization (not the same thing), and localization. Plus there’s the mobile phone vs. tablet vs. desktop. But you need to know your rank systematically, so your SEO company should produce at least on a monthly basis, a list of your target keyword queries and your rank on Google and Bing / Yahoo. If the phone is important to you, or local search as well, you should be receiving measurements of your rank on the phone vs. the desktop, and in key cities. Don’t forget that you might rank in the local “snackpack” as well as in the organic results: a good SEO company will chart both.
- Nota bene: because something is “difficult to measure” does not make it “unimportant.” Please tell your SEO company that the reason “they get paid the big bucks” is because they are doing something difficult, and do NOT take no for an answer when it comes to measuring your rank on Google searches!
- What is our organic traffic like? What are your monthly traffic figures from organic? What is their “best estimate” of your target keywords vs. traffic? Google doesn’t share this information easily, but you should get a rough ideas not only of which keywords you rank for, but also which ones are sending you good traffic. Ditto for Bing. You should also measure time on site, bounce rate, and other metrics in Google Analytics, at least on an “on demand” basis.
- What organic traffic is producing goals? Every website should have defined goals such as sales or sales inquiries, and the reporting you get from your SEO consultant, agency, or firm, should tie you organic SEO efforts to goals each month. Are your goals increasing or decreasing?
- What is our PageRank or domain authority? Links matter a great deal to SEO, and your SEO company should use a tool like AHREFs.com or the MOZ tools to guestimate your PageRank. Google no longer shares PageRank data, but domain authority is an approximation of your inbound link authority. I like to measure your inbound domains as well, again on a monthly basis. Is this improving over time?
- What is our Google indexing? Use the site:yourdomain.com search on Google, and measure the total number of pages in the Google index over time. As you blog and create new website content, this should be going UP and not down. More pages are better, as Google prefers larger sites to smaller sites, while staying on your target keyword themes.
- What is our Social Authority? How many reviews do you have on Google+? On Yelp? If local matters to you, reviews are critical! In addition, do you have a Google+ page, and a Twitter page (the two most important). How many followers do you have? Is it increasing? Social is the new link-building!
Those are just some of my favorite key metrics that any good SEO company should provide, on a monthly basis. I haven’t touched on AdWords or Social but if you are doing one or both of those, those metrics should be reported as well. For example, how much are you spending on AdWords, and is that spend not only generating traffic but leading to sales leads or inquiries?
Remember: a good SEO company should be providing monthly reporting data, and be friendly when asked to go over this data. The thieves and scoundrels hide from the facts; the good guys do not.