Expert Guide: #13 Questions You Should Ask SEOs Before Hiring Them

Expert Guide: #13 Questions You Should Ask SEOs Before Hiring Them - Semola Digital SEO Nigeria (

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You've got a great website—one that suits your business needs and everything on it looks beautiful...

You're quite aware that SEO can help you to attract the right customers—to start visiting your business website.

But you have no idea on how to hire a good SEO; one that would deliver to make your site search engines friendly.

Finding and hiring an SEO can be challenging. Because SEO can make or break—not only your website but your company's reputation.

Here in this post, I will guide you on how to carefully choose between SEOs for your business website, whether you're looking to hire -

  • a freelancer, 
  • an agency or, 
  • employ one to join your in-house team.

Here are the #13 questions you can ask to help you make the right choice.

...but before we get to this, let's look at what makes a good SEO.

What makes a good SEO?

A good SEO is one who understands the best practices and can apply them to help improve your rankings on search engines with the aim of generating relevant traffic that'll convert—to bring revenues to your business.

Some of the best practices in SEO include white hat techniques for link building, on-page optimization keyword research and usage.

Types of SEOs you can go for

Freelancers - freelancers are individual SEO consultants who work and offer SEO services on a freelance basis.

Most freelancers choose this lifestyle because they love it. And not that they couldn't get a job after hunting as most business owners think.

"If they're that good, why aren't they employed?"

The truth is, most of them prefer this type of lifestyle and never have to bother themselves crafting a resume or CV and preparing for an interview. They're as good as the SEOs working with agencies … and sometimes, make more money than in-house SEOs.

One of the great benefits freelancers can bring on board is the fact that they have experience in many different niches, and worked with many types of clients and websites—positioning them as one of the best fits for your website.

SEO Companies or Agencies - these are SEOs companies ranging from small to large enterprises.

They typically have teams of SEOs as well as some other digital marketing specialists and usually follow a standardized process in line with the company's culture.

While SEO agencies are a go-to for some businesses, for some, budget is a limiting factor as they often charge more than a freelancer would.

One of the benefits of working with an agency is diversified skills - working as a team - to help improve your organic search rankings.

Plus, you'll get value for your money.

In-House SEOs – Hiring an SEO to look after your online presence on search engines comes with its own advantages... but, not for the small businesses. 

However, If you run a large enterprise or rapidly-growing medium-sized business, you can consider adding an SEO specialist to join your in-house team.

In-house SEO will get used to your company's culture and values, products and services.

And not only that…

He or she understands the nature of your business so well. And understand what makes up the company - the people - the customers or clients.

Now, having understood the types of SEOs and what makes one a good SEO, here are some questions to examine to whoever you'll be committing your website to.

#13 Questions You Should Ask SEOs Before Hiring Them

Below are questions you should consider asking when hiring an SEO to improve your website rankings

#1. What strategy will you use to improve our ranking on search engines?

Starting your questions with a strategy is a good way to rid of the amateurs. Every SEOs must have a process that they use to achieve greater results with clients whether they work as a freelancer or in an agency.

And they should give a detailed strategy - including tactics they'd put in place to ensure that your investment yields a profitable return. 

This should also include an estimate of how long it would take to achieve whatever SEO campaign goals you set.

If you decide on hiring an SEO to carry out full optimization, ask them to do a full audit of your website; analyzing the current situation and prioritizing the list of what should be improved to make a site more search-friendly.

When it comes to improving a site's search engine rankings, link building is one aspect of SEO that is crucial.

Beware of SEO that will acquire low-quality backlinks to your site. Ask about the links; where they intend to get them.

A hundred good backlinks from authority sites are worth more than thousands of low-quality backlinks - usually from low authority sites.

#2. What's your approach to search engine optimization?

This question may sound technical to some SEO. But those who know and have been in the game for long would instantly guess what you mean.

Asking a question this way… can help you weed out the bad guys. You could ask a more direct question like - 

Do you adhere to Google webmasters guidelines?

And the answer you'll get is strict adherence.

Of course… you wouldn't expect anything less.

Every good guy out there should approach SEO with the best practices while keeping to webmasters guidelines.

There are white hat techniques and black hat techniques. Do not say they're agencies and can't use black hat techniques for your website. The difference is; while the white hat techniques follow SEO best practices, the back hat techniques are what...

Google frowns at and could get your site penalized.

Google's aim is to provide better search results for its users and anything to circumvent that may attract a penalty. And recovery can take years of work.

So, whoever you're hiring, make sure they get it right with your website. Make your purpose known - you are in for a business, not spam!

#3. Can You Guarantee #1 Ranking Position For My Website On Search Engines

Here comes a tricky Yes or No type of question that'll help you figure out quickly whether the SEO is really worth hiring.

Many SEOs, in an attempt to make you hire them, do make bogus promises - guaranteeing you of no.1 spot on Google.

If you come across an SEO that answers Yes, turn and run as fast as you can.

It's a red flag!

Here's why…

No one can promise such… no one can tweak Google - to position your website anywhere on search engines. We all are at Google's mercy.

And anyone claiming to have a relationship with some of the search engines to help by giving your site a priority in the SERP is not being truthful with you. Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines are out of control of any SEOs.

Steer clear!

#4. Can you share some of your previous works and their results?

At this stage, you want to know whether you can link the successful projects to the brilliant answers the candidate has provided so far.

According to Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google (Wiley, 2012) said;

"A reputable SEO consultant should be open to sharing a brief list of current and former clients and his or her contact information"

Ask for: 

  • reviews, 
  • testimonials, 
  • case studies, and 
  • who their past clients were.

Companies or individual SEO consultants with no proof of any of this with a legitimate business is a warning sign that either:

  • Somehow they weren't able to deliver quality work to clients in the past or
  • They don't have the experience.

In the case of a newbie, do not expect much in terms of experience with clients. 

There's always a first time in any business.

But even at that, a newbie should be able to show that he or she quite understands the best practices and convince you to deliver in line with Google's guidelines.

#5. Which tools do you use?

You might need to ask this question to be sure that the candidate uses one of the best tools to accomplish the SEO task.

Although, SEOs use a combination of tools to achieve the desired result.

While there are free SEO tools out there, the majority of them lack some certain functionality and are, most importantly, not regularly updated to recent changes with search algorithms updates.

A good SEO agency or consultant should have a premium (paid) toolset- whether hosted in the cloud as in the case of SEMrush and Ahrefs or desktop app such as SEOpowersuite

There are many paid tools out there but if you check the list of SEO tools, you might probably not see the one the candidate will mention. But what you would want to ensure is that the tool has:

1 Site Audit - A successful technical SEO begins with a full technical site audit.

Site audit tools such as Screaming Frog or Website Auditor, which allow SEOs to crawl large sites can be a useful tool to solving site's technical issues. 

Note, not all tools can reveal your site's overall inner skeletons.

2. Keyword Research Tool - the way people search and what they search for is not fixed; it changes. You'll need an always up-to-date keyword research tool to be able to mine golden keywords to target for your business website. So, if you're hiring an SEO, ensure he or she has a plan to use the best tool in the market for you.

3. Link Building And Assessment Tool - link building is an important part of any SEO; one that is critical to success.

But unfortunately, it's one of the hardest things to do in SEO. So using a tool that assists in some ways, will make the work a lot easier for the SEO and for your website - because a bad link from a low-quality site can affect your business reputation and credibility. 

But a tool that can quickly assess that can help you get rid of it before search engines perceive your site as a low-quality one.

4. Rank Tracking Tool - great tools come with a feature that allows you to track changes in search engines. Very important because there are constant changes happening in the search engines weekly if not daily.

And you would want to monitor and get a report for it.

5. Competitors Analysis Tool - a good tool should be able to track and extract data from your competitors.

This is essential so as to know what's working for them and possibly develop a strategy to over-rank them.

6. Reporting Features - Hardly can you find a free tool with good reporting features. Although this can be created manually, it does require lots of time.

What if you want a report every week, it means most of the time that the SEO practitioner should have spent on strategizing, would be on creating reports manually.

But imagine a tool that can give you a custom report on keyword ranking, competitors analytics, website analytics, plus being able to fetch data from your search console and give you reports - and including other SEO metrics.

Which one would you go for?

The automatic reporting system saves time for your SEO - letting him or her focus on improving your site on search engines.

And not only that, you know exactly what to expect as a client from the SEO specialist.

#6. How often will you report on your progress, and what'll be included?

This type of question is to prepare your mind on what to expect from the candidate if hired.

Monthly reporting is a standard in SEO.

3-month scheduling is way too long for you to track how well your investment is paying off. And at first, a weekly report might not show any real and useful information. 

But you're the client and you decide on how frequent you want a report on how your website is performing. 

A good report in SEO must contain:

  1. Summary of activities - changes, links acquired and links removed/disavowed.
  2. Organic ranking of keywords.
  3. Detailed analytical report on search traffic and conversion metric.

A good SEO should be flexible; if you want it weekly, 14 days or 21 days period, it shouldn't be a challenge given that... reporting would be automated.

#7. What's your payment structure?

If up to this point, you flow well with your candidate, it's not too early to ask about price - you want to start looking at your budgets.

Basically, there are 3 different payment models and each depends on the type of SEOs you're going for.

Hourly Rate - This type of payment option is most common among SEO freelancers. And they could charge anything between $65-$150/hr. 

Monthly Retainer Rate - 74.7% of SEOs use the monthly retainer payment model - for some or all of their services. Pricing varies significantly from country-to-country, and ranges between $500-$3,000; but, rarely exceed $3k per month.

Project-based pricing - Ahrefs reported that 25.17% of all projects - for per-project pricing falls within $501-$1,000. While 52.32% charges a one-off fee of $1k+.

If you're working with a firm or consultant, ask about payment terms and conditions.

Most SEO companies will ask you to make an upfront payment of 30%-50% and send invoices early for subsequent payment/balance to allow you to prepare and respond by paying as agreed upon. 

Also, ask if there's an interest fee attached with late payments.

#8. How up-to-date are you with the latest algorithms updates?

Search engines are constantly making changes and updating their algorithms to deliver better search results to users. 

A good SEO knows this and keeps himself or herself informed of those changes. 

Sometimes, a change may cause some rankings to nose-dive - in most cases of core-algorithm updates. And sometimes, it may have little to no impact.

That's why you need an SEO that stays up to date with what's happening in the search engine world.

A quick way to test your candidate is to ask him or her to name some of the most recent major algorithm updates on Google and Bing.

Sometimes, Google usually announces a major update early enough and a good SEO should be aware of such.


You don't necessarily need to be familiar with this but you can be sure that the SEO guy is saying the right thing by keeping a check note of recent major algorithms updates by your side.

#9. How will your work ties into our other marketing efforts?

"Being focused too much on rankings and where a site appears in search results is a red flag" 

Google says.

SEO no longer works in a silo. There's an overlap with social media and other inbound marketing, which together makes a marketing mix.

The goal here is to improve the overall business. 

So, whatever SEO is bringing on board should complement other marketing channels.

For example,

Your content marketing effort should receive a boost by making the work of your content marketing team a lot easier and more productive.

Likewise, your social media account should receive an increase in an online presence with keyword research which you can turn to #hashtags.

#10. How do you measure success?

Consider it a red flag for SEOs who can't provide a detailed analysis of how they'll determine and measure success.

Measuring success begins by defining what success is.

And that starts by defining:

  • the campaign
  • Setting the goal
  • Setting micro-goals and 
  • Tactics.

#11. What experience do you have with a penalized site?

I reserved this question close to the end. And you should. 

The reason being that…

Not all SEOs have worked on a penalized website. It isn't an everyday issue! But, if the candidate answers Yes, ask how he was able to fix it.

Whether a No or Yes, ask…

How do you avoid penalties?

Keeping to search engines webmasters guidelines is the best way to avoid penalties - including disavowing links that could harm your website.

#12. What if I decide to terminate the contract?

This should be stated clearly in the project agreement anyways. So, make sure you understand the terms and conditions before you sign. 

There are many reasons why you might want to terminate a contract:

  • You might no longer enjoy the relationship of the SEO specialist.
  • You and your company could decide to terminate SEO to focus budgets on other marketing channels such as PPC.
  • Or could be as a result of an internal crisis within the organization.

Ideally, every effort that goes into your website in the form of content writing and optimization, and inbound links acquired before termination, belong to you.

So, That shouldn't be a problem!

What you would want to ask is…

If there are charges for early termination of a contract, and if so… the agency or the consultant should specify them in the contract agreement.

#13. Tell us why you think you're the best fit for this work?

This is an open-ended question with no direct answers.

But first…

Steer clear of SEOs promising you the #1 ranking for your keywords. Everyone wants to rank no.1

...It's sweet!

But, it doesn't come as easy as some SEOs claim - in a bid to make you hire them.


If the SEO positions himself or herself to offer a cheaper price… weigh the differences.

Good SEO - though affordable, doesn't come cheap!

Another thing you should watch out…

In SEO, whether creating content or acquiring inbound links (backlinks), quantity does not stand anywhere near quality.

If the candidate's approach is on an aggressive link building - not minding where it's coming from, I'll advise you to appreciate his or her time and move on to the next candidate.

So, what should you expect?

A good SEO would claim to offer the best quality service and tie that with previous works and clients with a legitimate business - you can always check by yourself.

I believe the portfolio should do the boasting and not the name "SEO".

Wrapping it up...

SEO is a long-term investment and you'll need a lot of patience because results won't come overnight. You may have to wait 4-7 weeks before you start seeing results. And this could even be more if your website is new to Google.

However, once it starts paying off…

You'd be the one to arrange for a launch with the SEO.

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