How to hire an SEO Agency in 2019

Google's Maile Ohye shares her advice for hiring a search agency

We understand that selecting an SEO company to work with is daunting; see the video below for tips from Maile Ohye of Google on how to hire the right SEM Agency for your business:

Video Summary


The following summarises the first points to bear in mind when thinking about hiring an SEO Agency:

  • Not black magic - SEO is not black magic, and if you want long term success there are no quick SEO magical tricks.
  • Best foot forward – an SEO will help to put your business’s best foot forward, so it ranks in Google appropriately.
  • Improve searcher experience - a good SEO will also look to improve the entire searcher experience, from search results, to someone clicking onto your website and then converting into a customer.
  • Search friendly site – an SEO expert will recommend best practices for a search friendly site, ensuring your online customers have a great experience, especially from the search engines, and your site is helpful, whether the visitor is using a desktop computer or mobile device.
  • 4 months to a year - An SEO agency will typically need 4 months to a year to implement improvements and then see benefit from the work they have done.
  • Corroborate recommendations – ask the SEO to corroborate all recommendations with a documented statement from Google (help centre article, video, or Googler response in a forum) that supports the issues raised and approach recommended.

    This will help prevent hiring a poor SEO marketer who may advise such useless things as

    • Add more words to the meta keyword tag
    • Buy links

    If you search for Google advice on these two topics, you will see blog posts and videos explaining the above tactics will not work, and could cause your site major problems.

  • Good for SEO also good for visitors - in most cases, doing what is good for SEO is also good for your online customers, such as

    • Mobile friendly website
    • Good navigation
    • Developing a great brand
  • Small local businesses do initial work themselves - small local businesses can probably do the initial work themselves, see Googles video series, build an online presence for your business:
2Process of hiring a good search agency

To ensure you maximise the chances of hiring a good SEO, carry out the following 4 steps:

  1. Conduct a 2-way interview with the potential SEO and check that they seem genuinely interested in you and your business.
  2. Check their references by contacting past clients.
  3. Ask for a technical search audit
  4. Decide if you want to hire
3Step 1: The 2-way interview

A good SEO does not only focus on good Search Engine Rankings, but how they can help your business, for example:

  1. What makes your business, content and services unique and therefore valuable to your customers?
  2. What is your customer profile and how do they currently find your website?
  3. How does your business make money and how can search help you?
  4. What other types of marketing are you using (offline advertising, social media)?
  5. Who are your main competitors and what do they do well online and offline?

If an SEO company is not interested in finding out this information, then look elsewhere.

We are very happy to meet with you and attend an interview, please contact Mike to arrange.

4Step 2: Check references

Ask for references from past clients to whom the SEO company provided useful help and guidance. Remember to check that they worked effectively with web developers, designers and marketers.

A good SEO should feel like someone who you can work with, learn from, experiment with, and who genuinely cares about you and your business, not just getting your site the highest rank, as ultimately those techniques rarely last long, if at all.

They will want to educate you and your staff on how search engines work, so that SEO becomes part of your general business operations.

We are very happy to provide you with references, please contact Mike so you can speak to relevant past clients.

5Step 3: Request a technical and search audit

A technical and search audit will help you to get to know you’re the prospective SEO agency better, and the expertise they may have.

Technical Audit

Get a prioritised list of what they think should be improved for SEO. If you are a larger business hire multiple SEO’s to run audits, see what all have to say, and determine who you could best work with. The audit should include:

  1. The issue
  2. Suggested improvement
  3. Estimate in the overall investment
  4. Estimated positive business impact
  5. How to experiment and fail fast should results not meet expectations

The detailed review of your site should also include:

  • Internal linking
  • Crawlability
  • URL parameters
  • Server connectivity
  • Response codes

If they raise duplicate content issues, make sure they provide specific URL’s that have the same content, and that the content needs to be updated for long term site health, not for initial growth.

Search Audit

In the search audit the search agency should look at:

  • Branded search query performance

    For your customers who already know your business, or website, how easily do they find what they need and potentially convert?

    They should make recommendations from what a searcher sees in the search results, to what a searcher sees when they click on your website.

  • Unbranded search query performance

    The SEO should help you better make sense of the landscape for search queries relating to your products or services. Identifying the types of queries that it makes sense for your business to rank for. Plus presenting what your competition has done, and why they think they rank where they do.

Their recommendations should include how to improve rankings for these queries and the entire searcher experience, and may include updates such as:

  • Update obsolete content

    Maybe a page has out of date content, poor navigation, useless page title, or is not mobile friendly. Let’s improve these pages and see if more website visitors convert and purchase? Or if they can micro convert, such as subscribing.

  • Improve internal linking

    They may say, your site is suffering because your best article’s too far from home page, and users have a hard time finding them. You could better internally link to this content to help it feature more prominently.

  • Generate buzz

    The SEO consultant may say that you have great content, but not enough people know, so need to create more user interaction and to generate this via social media and business relationships, and get more visitors to your site and earn natural links.

  • Learn from your competition

    The SEO may explain what your competitors are doing well, and recommend how to equal or surpass what they are doing, or better show your customers unique value.

6Final tip from Maile

One of the biggest hold ups for improvements to a website, is not the SEO’s recommendations, but the businesses making time to implement their ideas. So, before you hire an SEO, ensure you have put aside sufficient resources to ensure their recommendations can be implemented.

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