Vetting your SEO Agency: 7 Questions to Ask Before Paying for SEO Services

Hiring a reliable, cost-effective SEO agency with a proven track record is easier said than done.

Are you on the hunt for SEO services? 

Then, you’ve likely already found out that hiring a reliable, cost-effective digital marketing agency with a proven track record in SEO is easier said than done. There are plenty of people claiming ‘guru’ status when they barely possess the skill set of a novice – and yes, we have met a few of them!

So you remain on your hunt for the ideal SEO agency that’ll generate a size-able return on your investment. 

But fret not, because we’re here to help with a list of questions you must ask any SEO agency, before making any decisions:

Get a holistic strategy

An ideal agency puts equal weight into the following three components of SEO:

  1. Technical SEO: Pertains to the speed, structure, and code on websites. For example, are 404 errors and redirects done properly?
  2. User Experience (UX): Focuses on enhancing the experience that users have when they land on your website. UX also accounts for navigation, keyword optimization, and several other user-centric facets of your website.
  3. Off-page SEO: Centered around earning links, online brand strength, and extending your website’s reach. Your SEO agency should source for opportunities to increase your website’s Domain Authority (DA), via inbound links from other viable web properties that already have good DA.

Always ensure that the digital marketing agency you hire is well-versed in both the strategy and execution of technical SEO, UX, and off-page SEO.

Avoid empty promises

It’s worth noting that a reliable SEO-based agency won’t guarantee top rankings.


  1. No SEO agency can say that they know the specifics of Google’s algorithm 
  2. Neither can any SEO agency accurately predict how Google’s algorithm is going to change
  3. Penalties issued by Google come without any warning

So, what you should do instead is to look for an agency with a defined process, who’ll tell you (in layman’s terms), they’ll first perform an on-site technical audit to look for immediate changes that generate results.  

From there, they should discuss how identifying and targeting the most optimal keywords is the next part of the plan.

Remember, ‘special relationships’ that guarantee excellent results with Google don’t exist. If you need further convincing, just take a look at these guidelines that come directly from Google Webmasters Help Center:

“No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.”
“Ask for a technical and search audit for your site to learn what they think needs to be done, why, and what the expected outcome should be. You’ll probably have to pay for this. You will probably have to give them read-only access to your site on Search Console. (At this stage, don’t grant them write access.) Your prospective SEO should be able to give you realistic estimates of improvement, and an estimate of the work involved. If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.

Source: Google Webmasters Help Center

While we don’t offer any ranking guarantees at Appiloque, we want you to feel assured that your investment is going to garner results. 

Our proprietary formula calculates, upfront, the amount of organic traffic you can expect for your website through our SEO efforts. And we’ll be happy to make up for any difference with paid traffic from Facebook or Google Ads – so you get a peace of mind.

Test your SEO agency’s knowledge

An SEO agency with an expert understanding of Google’s best practices is integral to a website that generates results.

Google’s algorithms update many times a year to improve the users’ search experience. As such, Google favors websites abiding by their rules and penalizes those who don’t – no matter who you are. Algorithms, such as Panda, punish on-page violations – while off-site violations are subject to the swift justice of the Penguin update. 

Regardless of your SEO infringement, it’ll adversely hamper your overall website traffic.

Prepare for a mobile-first audience

Considering that it’s already a norm for people to use mobile devices to browse, research, and shop, it’s wise to source for an SEO agency that’s well-versed in mobile-responsive web design and development.

After all, with the world’s population leaning towards mobile browsing, Google is centering algorithms and indexes around the mobile experience.

Look for businesses with a proper process to conduct your site’s mobile audit, and make sure that your SEO agency can clearly tell you why mobile is a significant SEO factor.

Know what you’re paying for

Depending on the nature of your requirements, SEO agencies charge either a flat fee, partial flat fee, or on a retainer basis.

Flat fees are best for projects involving the following:

  • Technical audits for:
    • Finding duplicate content and broken links
    • Improving site architecture
  • An on-page component that identifies and targets popular search terms to enhance website content

Whereas, partial flat fees are fit for these scenarios:

  • A custom SEO checklist after a consultation
  • Regular check-ins but no mandatory reporting or deliverables that are set in stone

Lastly, here are some services that comprise a monthly retainer fee project:

  • A website requiring a defined number of hours per month
  • A list of fixes, improvements, or link building to work on every month
  • Results-based reports

Set realistic expectations

Don’t get sucked in by the unrealistic promises of an SEO snake-oil salesman. 

Anybody offering immediate results doesn’t deserve your business, because they’re not honest—unless they’ve caught, and fixed, an issue that disrupted website traffic and conversions.

With an experienced digital marketing agency using the full power of SEO best practices, two to three months is when you first start to see results. Six months would be a reasonable grace period for more stable rankings.

Of course, websites with glaring errors that need quick technical fixes will see an initial spike over a smaller time frame. Conversely, well-structured websites take longer to offer any measurable ROI.

Be in the know

Choose an SEO company that communicates your website’s results in a way that’s relevant and decipherable.  

A top-notch agency should be willing to provide samples of their progress reports. That way, you’ll see first-hand if their method of reporting is valid and fits with your needs.

As for the frequency of SEO reports, these are typically impacted by the size of your project. Companies usually receive monthly or quarterly updates, but with short-term flat-rate projects, updates tend to be more constant. 

Always keep in mind that search results tend to fluctuate – especially when Google tests its algorithm changes, or when competitors revamp their content strategies, for instance.

SEO is about the future – not the present, so knee-jerk reactions to short-term results usually hurt you in the long run.

Give your company the visibility it deserves with professional SEO services

With this extensive list of questions to ask an SEO agency, you now know what to look for on your hunt.

Read more related articles below and become an expert at screening your potential vendor, or if you’re a marketing professional looking to take your website to the next level, we’ll be happy to address any questions you may have about SEO. Contact us to start growing your business digitally 🙂

Joey Wang

Joey Wang

Joey is captain of Appiloque's spaceship. He spends his time charting the company's future and spearheading innovation projects that make business sense. Occasionally, he gets mistaken for a computer since he doesn't need a calculator and overheats when running too many processes.

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