10 Tips How To Qualify an SEO Agency


Have you ever been ripped off by Internet Marketing companies that claim they can “get your business onto the 1st page in Google” and then don’t deliver any results? Do you receive calls every day from companies that claim they can get you a lot more business than you already are?

Well, you are not alone. Every year, thousands of UK businesses buy into rogue services that fail to deliver results of any kind. The most popular type of service that Internet Marketing companies push is called Search Engine Optimisation, otherwise known as SEO.

Amo Sokhi, a search specialist for B2B SEO agency Polaris, looks at what you need to look at when choosing an SEO supplier.

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of increasing a website’s position in the search engines so that the website receives more visitors. If carried out correctly, an SEO campaign can deliver a measurable increase in targeted traffic: visitors looking for a particular service or product.

By focusing on specific keywords, a website can be optimised to appear in the search engines for relevant searches. The more exposure a website gets in the search engines and the higher up in the results the website appears, the more visitors the website will get from its target market.

How do businesses get stung?

SEO is a specialist service that requires technical knowledge of how the internet and search engines like Google operate. There are a variety of scenarios that lead to a business feeling cheated by an SEO company. Typical scenarios are rogue SEO companies:

  • Pretending that guarantees can be given for what ranking position a site will attain and how long it will stay there for
  • Not analysing the individual requirements of a client’s business and then applying inappropriate or ineffective strategies that don’t deliver results
  • Charging monthly fees on a rolling contract so that business owners see the campaigns as low risk (and essentially “worth a gamble”) but end up paying more than the value of the work done
  • Taking on clients that operate in extremely competitive environments where there may be no room for successful optimization.

10 tips to qualify an SEO Agency

1.    Does the agency consider mobile SEO as a part of their approach?

Mobile SEO is growing as its own independent marketing channel. For many businesses, mobile accounts for approximately 25-40% of all traffic received to a destination website. Therefore, mobile needs to be considered as a standalone channel within SEO for your business’s organic marketing to be managed efficiently. Ask the agency how they treat mobile within their approach, and look out for tracking mobile rankings separately, conducting onsite analysis specifically for mobile users, and mention Google’s Mobile algorithm. These are critical elements of mobile which a good agency will consider and include within your campaign approach.

2.    What KPIs do they measure their campaign performance with?

Gone are the days of just looking at rankings and traffic. At a minimum, the agency should request some kind of data from you regarding sales or leads. This data can then be plugged into the agency’s statistics and reports which you can use internally to present to key stakeholders regarding the value of SEO to the business. Whilst rankings and traffic are still important metrics, marketing managers cannot calculate a true RoI without the agency having sales data.

3.    How do they keep up to date with the industry and Google’s algorithm changes?

Whilst there’s lot of information available regarding updates, there’s lots of “reading in between the lines” that agencies have to do in order to forward plan and understand where search engines are headed with regards to compliance. Ask what resources the agency looks into in order to keep abreast of changes in the market, and look for some kind of physical learning such as attending expos or seminars to do with Search.

4.    Have any of the agency’s clients suffered a Google penalty?

With link building being an ongoing hot topic within SEO, it’s good to know what kind of reputation the agency has for carrying out off page optimisation or outreach. Ask the agency what their track record is and if they report that they have had clients that have received penalties during their tenure with the agency, be sure to delve deeper and find out why. Whilst penalties can be served for many reasons (not necessarily down to the contracted agency at the time), what is important is how the agency goes about servicing a client that’s suffered a penalty. A good approach would be for the agency to audit previous SEO activity before entering into an agreement so that they are aware of potential concerns and also can be accountable for any work once campaigns are initiated. If a penalty is suffered, the cause can be identified and if the agency were to be at fault, then an understanding of their process of remedying would be key. Ensure you thoroughly understand the agency’s views and approach to penalties as this could be critical to your overall campaign.

5.    What principles does the agency follow with regards to link building?

Tied in somewhat with penalties above, ask the agency what principles they follow when conducing off page optimisation or outreach. Generally speaking, paid links are a huge alarm bell and if you are told this is a practice carried out by the agency, run a mile. Link building conversations should have reference to Google Panda, and penalties, and the fact that link building is very much about brand awareness and positive signals, rather than just gaining anchor text links. Link building is all about ethics, and you want to ensure the agency are thinking long term and understand the implications of undesired link building tactics within an SEO campaign.

6.    What have been their worst SEO fails?

It’s fine to ask for testimonials and references for campaigns that have done superbly well, but what have the agency’s worst campaigns been and why? This will give you a good indication of failures that the agency has had to come through and the lessons they have learnt from those failures. Understand what these are and you will be able to see if the agency has overcome hurdles for the better or if they are still potentially finding their way and may not be the best fit for your business.

7.    What is the agency’s setup process for an SEO campaign

The setup process should cover basics such as keywords to target and competitors, however a strategy focused on KPIs to aim for within 3, 6, and 12 months is a very good structure to keep an SEO campaign on track and to manage expectations both client and agency side. Ask the agency what their setup process is and how they manage campaigns on an ongoing basis.

8.    How does the agency organise campaigns internally?

Project management is quite important given the number of elements that have to be considered within an SEO campaign. Asking the agency how they manage campaigns internally will give you a good idea of how organised they are in their understanding of SEO elements and how to achieve rankings / traffic / sales overall. Look out for the use of project management systems such as Base Camp, Google Drive or Office 365 for collaboration. These are good signals that the agency understands the need to organise their approach and collaborate with you, the client.

9.    Who will be working on your campaign and what are their specialties?

Whilst not a must have requirement, it’s good to know who your account manager will be and why. Understanding their individual approach to SEO and your campaign is also good so that you can ensure you are assigned an account manager that you can collaborate with well over a period of time.

10.    What sectors has the agency got good experience within?

As a final measure of due diligence on your part, find out what sectors the agency has strengths in. Different sectors require a different approach, and you’ll be able to identify sectors that relate to your business and will allow you to understand where the agency will be able to excel for you within your SEO campaign.


Just a few simple checks could mean the difference between a cost-effective campaign that delivers traffic, leads and clients, and an expensive failure that could even leave you worse off in the search engine rankings than before.

Remember to keep asking those questions!

Amo Sokhi is a Search Specialist for Polaris. You can contact him at: amo@polarisagency.co.uk