Questions To Ask An SEO Agency

Out of sheer frustration at the dire state of our industry, Go Up have created the “Questions to ask SEOs” sheet to help your company tell the good agencies from the bad, and secure success with your search engine marketing.
  • When we are asked if we can get rid of Google’s link penalties, we answer: yes, we can, but it is a long process.
  • Go Up prides itself on being one of the best priced SEO agencies who does this work properly.
  • Any agency that is unwilling to fill in this questionnaire is an agency to avoid.

Questions to ask SEOs (PDF)
Questions to ask SEOs (text version)

Questions to ask SEOs – answer sheet

Every day at Go Up, we get calls and emails from people that have either found us through Google or been referred to us by existing clients. Roughly half of these calls come from businesses that have had spammy SEO work done in the past, and have consequently been hit with penalties by Google, leading them to disappearing from the first two search engine results pages altogether.
When we are asked if we can get rid of Google’s link penalties, we answer: yes, we can, but it is a long process.

Undoing black hat SEO work

In essence a company who has incurred Google’s wrath has done so after paying a poor SEO agency a large amount of money, and quite possibly received some good short term success via black hat SEO: spammy link building and perhaps a bit of content creation and onsite optimisation. But a little while later, they have been caught by Google, and dealt with accordingly.

Often, this is not the fault of the business owner, but of the SEO agency. SEO is a completely unregulated industry. There are moves in the works to correct this and, indeed, Go Up was contacted last year by a company that is trying to bring this badly-needed regulation to the industry. Because of this lack of regulation, SEOs have previously relatively free reign to lie, deceive, confuse and abuse in order to win the sale.

Don’t mistake us. It is possible to find a great SEO agency. However it is much, much easier to find a very poor one. The reason for this is simple: there are many more agencies out there doing it badly than there are agencies doing it properly.

SEO is not a murky business

The truth is very simple: the vast majority of SEO agencies out there utilise highly spammy tactics in order to gain rankings for their clients. But very few of these agencies will ever admit this during the pitching process: ‘We use completely white hat, non-spammy, Google Penguin and Panda update-proof’ is the common line, even when they do not. They can get away with it, quite simply, because they know that the person that they are speaking with has limited knowledge on Google Webmaster Guidelines, and doesn’t necessarily understand the difference between good and bad SEO, let alone how to tell the two apart.

This is very frustrating for the good agencies out there. Go Up prides itself on being one of the best priced SEO agencies who does this work properly. We try to make our rates as practical and affordable as possible. And yet when we quote, we are almost always undercut by the bad agencies (in spite of being slightly cheaper than other agencies of our standard). However, we also know that unless the agency is in the habit of working at a loss, they will not be able to do a good job for that amount of money.

To give these agencies the benefit of the doubt would be to assume that they are going to do SEO properly, which essentially consists of online PR, conversion rate optimisation, content creation and user experience optimisation. However, a bad SEO agency will not be doing enough hours of this work to gain any real success for the client; realistically, it is almost always the case that they intend to spam which is, of course, easy to do, and requires very little work. Indeed, often this work is outsourced.

It’s maddening that people still accuse SEO of being a “murky business”, because it’s not. Only bad SEO is murky; when done properly, SEO and inbound marketing can only be a good thing.

About the questionnaire

Out of sheer frustration at the dire state of our industry, the knights-in-shining-armour at Go Up have created the ‘Questions to ask SEOs’ sheet. We have it in downloadable PDF format, or in written format, both which you can find at the top of the page.

This is a very straightforward sheet. It begins by outlining Google’s stance on hot-button topics such as link building, and what it considers to be link spam. It also includes links to the guidelines themselves, as well as a link to the blog of the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts.

Thereafter, it makes a number of ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree’ statements. The agency will then have to tick the applicable answer, and then have to provide samples of links that they have built for previous clients. Finally, there is space for the agency to sign their name to an affirmation that they stand by their answers and hold themselves legally obliged by the contract.

The second PDF is a score sheet, essentially explaining which answers are right and which are wrong. This is for the client, and is not to be shown to the agency. The completed form should be cross referenced against the score sheet.

If the agency scores well, then they are probably worth pursuing a quote from. If the client then signs with them, only to find at a later date that they have reneged on their commitments, then there is a contract there that will enable the client to take the agency to court and sue for misconduct and potential losses. So it’s a win-win for the client and good SEO agencies, and a lose for bad SEO agencies. Any agency that is unwilling to fill it in is an agency to avoid.

A further note is this: if any agency debates or trivialises any of the points made in the document, we would like to invite the client to review Google Webmaster Tools to call to question the validity of the agencies objections.

SEO doesn’t have to be murky. Happy hunting, and we at Go Up wish you every success with your search engine marketing.