5 Questions to Ask a Search Marketing Agency

I began a mock “search” for a search marketing agency as everyone begins their important searches: I googled “search marketing agency.” Giving search agencies the benefit of the doubt, I assumed that if they’re selling their capabilities of improving a company’s search results, they themselves should be properly positioning their search marketing. And, lucky for me, my instinct was correct. At the top of my search sat 4 ads all for SEM agencies highlighting their unique attributes. 

“Clients See 7-% Growth in the 1st Year,”

“Expert Insight & Execution for Profitable Growth.”

“Connecting Brands & People in the DIgital Space Through SEM”

Although compelling, none of these ads really told me what the agency specialized in or what tactics they used. So I kept looking. Overwhelmed with the nearly 700 million search results that I could possibly go look at, I quickly realized that there is no shortage of search marketing agencies, however, what their websites tell you and how to differentiate between them is a difficult and time-consuming task.

This means it’s going to take more than just searching and picking. You are going to have to dive deep into conversation with these agencies, pick their brains and find the perfect partner for you. When you think you’ve found the right fit, you have to crack-down and ask the tough questions. This will allow you to weed out the “too good to be true” agencies from the ones who will really help get the job done and improve those search marketing results. Below are five questions to help you get started when having those important conversations:

  1. What kind of experience do you have? If you ask the agency about prior work they have done, and it is all for pet stores and you offer freelance photography, take note of this. That’s not to say the agency won’t be able to help your company, but it is important that they are familiar with your industry, the ins and out and how to ensure that your search marketing succeeds. It is also worthwhile to find an agency that has a variety of experience, this is indicative that they have varying skill sets and vast knowledge of how to successfully complete search marketing campaigns.
  2. What are the core capabilities of your agency? If the answer is “we do it all,” you might as well keep looking. Although this would be ideal, its to better understand exactly which areas they have the best skillset. And, no matter what their best practices are, there are three main areas that your search agency should always be skilled in: 
    • Technical: This is the core background of search marketing, it involves making sure your website’s build-up is up to par – no 404 pages, redirect problems and having good basic site navigation (more on this below).
    • Off-Page: These skills focus on inbound links coming to your website from other sites
    • On-page: Opposite of off-page, this aspect is concerned with the content on your site and if it is optimized for relevant keywords. This also focuses on if your website presents an ideal user experience. 
  1. How will you improve our search engine rankings? It is important that you discuss the agency’s process. If the agency avoids discussing how they will improve your ranking, you may want to steer clear; prior to working with the agency, they should walk you through their plan and set realistic goals for how long it will take to get there. 
    • They should: include an initial technical review of your website to make sure there are no broken landing pages or links and offer to do an “on-page optimization” which entails improving your website’s URL linking structure and developing web page titles, headings, and tags. 
    • They should not use any “black hat techniques” or promise that they can get your page to rank number one for certain words, only search engines can control exactly where you rank on their result pages.

4. Do you adhere to Google’s webmaster guidelines? Google outlines 13 techniques that one should avoid when working on search marketing along with basic principles such as not deceiving users and making a website that is unique, valuable and engaging. In this outline, Google states that working to find loopholes or trying to deceive search engines, will negatively impact results. You should ensure the search marketing agency you work with, works to follow Google’s suggestions because as google states “webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit?


  1. How will you track the success of my campaigns? Your agency should be well versed in Google Analytics so they can track the improvement to your site. They should keep track of search engine rankings, the keywords searchers are using to get to your site, which links are driving the most traffic to your site and where that traffic is coming from. All of this needs to be carefully tracked by the agency so that they can continue to optimize what is working well for your company and what needs to be changed so it is better optimized. 

When first meeting with and learning more about search agency, don’t hold back. If an answer seems too good to be true, it probably is. No matter how experienced an agency is, they aren’t going to get make your site the first search result overnight. It takes time, hard work and attention to detail and most importantly, communication from the agency back to you on what is succeeding and what isn’t. 

So, when you’re ready to make the investment to improve your search marketing agency, ask the tough questions and really dig to make sure you’ve found the best agency for you

Interested in learning more about search marketing efforts and improving your SEO in 2020? Reach out to us here

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