Questions To Ask Your Potential SEO Company’s References

Two people going over an SEO project on a laptop

What are the best questions to ask SEO references? How should you best approach them to get a good understanding of a potential SEO partner?  

SEO has come a long way. Back in the day, brands could rank well on search engines by simply stuffing keywords into their content. Modern SEO is much more complex. Succeeding at it requires a sophisticated blend of user experience, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. What previously seemed like a job easily completed in-house now often requires brands to outsource to experts.

Part of this growth has been fueled by the consumer. 87% of consumers start their product research online, which means that search engines have to keep up with this demand. Google has constantly been refining its search algorithm to further provide users with relevant and reliable information. Couple this situation with the large number of brands aiming for the top page of the search engine, and the pressure to put your best foot forward increases. Knowing what questions to ask references is a step in the right direction.

With the right SEO agency by your side, you can see substantial improvement in your rankings. You could reap the benefits of this relationship for years to come. Partner with the wrong company, and Google could penalize you for using black-hat SEO practices. These practices can affect your ranking and site user experience. These penalties can take a long time to recover from. 

It is easy to find the right agency as long as you know the kind of questions to ask references about what it’s like working with a potential SEO partner. Here are some of our best suggestions for what you should ask SEO references when vetting potential partners:

Start With Finding the Right References

The fact that your potential SEO partner has offered you their references means that you are on the right track. However, not all references will give you the information you need to assess the capabilities of the SEO agency. You must be careful to avoid comparing apples and oranges. What this means is that you need to look for references that have similar goals with your brand when starting out with the SEO company. 

They don’t have to be in the same niche as you. Consider the reference’s history when drafting questions to ask references what they like about the agency. It generally takes six to twelve months to observe the first SEO results. The longer timeframe makes it especially important to talk to references who have had a long-term working relationship with the partners. Such brands have enough data to accurately discuss the reliability of your potential SEO partner. 

Most importantly, talk to the right person. The individual you reach out to should have been personally involved in their campaign and should be able to discuss the results in detail. Reputable SEO companies will be more than willing to put you in touch with such individuals.

What Did You Like About Your Relationship With the Agency?

This is among the most important questions to ask references about what it is like to work with a potential partner. You can make it open-ended or guide the SEO references with specific answers. For instance, you could ask them to rank working with the agency as bad, good, great, and outstanding. 

Essentially, what you are looking for with this question is an idea of whether the company is the right fit for you. You want to know how they communicate and their level of transparency. Do they own up to mistakes, or do they flood you with excuses? How much of a priority did they give the reference’s brand?

What is Their Typical Process?

In your list of questions to ask references, you need to include one about the company’s process. The process any SEO agency follows is as important as the results they deliver. In a world where black-hat SEO practices could get you penalized by search engines, understanding what your agency is doing behind the scenes is essential. 

Black-hat strategies deliver fast results, but they are unsustainable, as Google almost always catches brands that are trying to cheat their way into higher rankings. The reference you are speaking with will offer insights into this process. Pay attention to the kind of tools the company uses, as well as how transparent they are with their process. 

Competent companies will be transparent enough, and this doesn’t have to result in them giving away trade secrets. Be wary of companies that use the ‘trade-secret’ excuse to get out of answering this question.

Was the Relationship with the Agency Successful?

Among the most vital questions to ask references is what they perceived as success and how your potential SEO partner achieved that goal. If the reference was satisfied with the results, you might be on the right track. Bear in mind that situations and results vary. For instance, it might take longer to notice changes in your rank depending on the status of your website.

Case in point, a site that needs major technical tweaks might rank faster than one that already has a strong technical structure from the onset of the relationship. This question also helps you understand the company’s process of setting KPIs and tracking them. 

SEO references should inform you how these KPIs were set and the regularity at which the company updated them on progress. You’ll want to work with a company that provides frequent updates.

How Serious Are They About Mobile-Friendliness and Other Trends?

Person looking at a website’s SEO analytics

Three of every four smartphone users rely on mobile search to fulfill their immediate needs, from getting a plumber to shopping online. This means that if a site they are visiting isn’t mobile-friendly, the chances are that they will leave it. Most will never return to a site that performs poorly on mobile devices. That’s why this issue is an essential addition to the questions to ask references about what their experience working with the agency was like.

The references’ brands can easily tap into their ever-growing mobile customer base if their sites are mobile-friendly enough. It also increases their chances of ranking higher in SERPs, since Google uses mobile-first indexing to rank websites. If a reference can vouch for your potential partner’s mobile-friendliness practices, then you are in the right hands. 

Not only will this ensure your site’s rankings can improve, but it will also enhance the overall user experience of your site. A site with stellar UX results in a happier customer base. 

Most importantly, your list of questions to ask references should include inquiries on what the reference thinks about the agency’s commitment to recent SEO trends. Staying abreast of trends will not only help improve your rankings but also set you apart from the competition. If references agree that the agency is keen at adapting to market trends, you can rest assured you are in the right hands.

Cover All the Bases

You wouldn’t want to work with a company that promises gold but under-delivers. Remember, the choices you make could impact how well your site ranks years into the future. Draft several relevant questions to ask SEO references on what it’s like to work with the agency — your business’ future depends on it. Follow the Best SEO Service Companies blog to learn everything you need to know about SEO.