1. Do You Care About Content?
Link-building by simply dropping irrelevant links in content just isn’t okay anymore. Ask the company if they simply put links first, or if they care about the content. High-quality contributed content will work better in the long run.
2. What Do You Think of Google’s SEO Initiative?
Google has recently launched a new initiative to send link-building back to the stone age. They’re penalizing companies that pay for links and are overly SEO-optimized. The most important question to ask is “How do you combat Google’s new initiative to stop the SEO benefits that link-building businesses bring?”
We are entering into a new Internet age, and the best way to build your page rank is by writing quality content that organically gets read and distributed. A more effective and faster alternative is to pay for sponsored content. This will bring traffic to your site and increase awareness and page rank. Work only with respected content agencies because Google will penalize and remove any publisher that does not disclose sponsored content correctly on Google News.
3. What’s the Fastest Way to Generate Links?
This will catch them in a trap. The poor vendors will be eager to boast ways of building artificial links through methods you’ll soon realize are illegitimate. The better vendors will explain that there’s no easy or fast way to build links. Play dumb, and listen to their logic to make sure it’s solid. Then you’ll finally discover who the honest vendors are.
4. What Do You Consider Quality Content?
It’s important to be very clear with a link-building firm on the type of links they are getting. Right now, search engines are rewarding companies for getting quality content coming from them. All the old link-building tactics are going away, and search engines want to reward the trusted sources for information.
5. Do You Sell Link-Building Services?
You need to hire a marketing firm that does robust marketing. Anyone selling link-building services should have gone out of business a couple of years ago. If they believe they sell link-building services and you hire them, you might find yourself out of business very fast as well.
6. Do You Know Any Quick Fixes?
There are a lot of people selling links and Twitter followers in social media. If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. The best way to get links is organically (e.g., I was published for my commentary here with a link to my website). Content is a big driver for SEO and very important for link-building. A good piece of content will be shared on social media and possibly picked up by other sites, which will add organic links back to your websites. If you find somebody who has strong and organic relationships with bloggers or PR sites, then it might make more sense to work with them. Like anything in life, there is no quick fix, and anybody selling a quick fix is usually selling snake oil.
7. What Is Your Client Retention Rate?
It’s important to check how long they’ve been in business and the number of active clients they have. However, the most important question to ask is “What is your client retention rate?” That provides you with the best indication of a company’s legitimacy.
8. Who Will Do the SEO on My Site?
Many SEO companies are scams. Get a name, a number and social media accounts of the person who will do the SEO on your site. Why? If you don’t know who will be doing the SEO on your site, there’s a good chance the vendor is simply a front to accept your business and outsource everything. Buyers should know from whom they are purchasing and what they’re purchasing. If they do give a name, allow a 60-day period before you hire them. During those 60 days, you’ll see if the person working on your site is someone you feel comfortable working with. Call the person a few times and ask questions. Does your contact answer his phone or respond to email, or do your questions go unanswered? Does he check out online? Make sure the person is real because that’s hard to manipulate.
9. Will You Go After Influential Websites in My Industry?
Every year Google will alter the algorithm to ensure white hat strategies are being implemented by a company or website. If the links do not look natural, you will be penalized, and it can really set you back. A link-building vendor should build relevant, natural links to your website. Ask how they will build links. What strategies will they will use to build relevant links? Will they go after influential, authoritative websites in your niche? If not, what exactly are their link-building strategies? Are they just looking at outdated metrics such as PageRank? The most important thing is for you to become knowledgeable in link-building to understand the best vendor to outsource to.
10. Who Are Your References?
Because of all the recent algorithm updates, you need to be careful who you hire. You should ask the company you are potentially working with for references of past companies and sample reports. This company will be acting on your behalf, so you need to know what types of links you will be getting and if they use any tactics that violate Google’s guidelines. If the company guarantees a certain number of links, run away as fast as you can.
11. How Do You Measure Your Success?
SEO is constantly changing. Website optimization takes time and precision. You need to know who you can trust with optimizing your website. Avoiding SEO companies that abuse and game both clients and the system is one of the first tactics you should adopt in your SEO strategy. It pays to understand what they are doing and why before you pay out any cash for SEO. Break it down for the company you want to work with, and make sure you feel comfortable with the relationship before getting started. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
12. What Are Your Tactics?
The best way to qualify potential link-building vendors is to first educate yourself about SEO practices. You should know the difference between black hat and white hat, and stay up to date on algorithm updates and SEO trends. You want a strategy that is as organic as possible, so ask your potential vendors details about what their tactics will be, and don’t compromise on the quality of your links. Link-building is a long-term strategy, so be wary of anyone promising overnight success. Know your topic, and you’ll know which questions to ask.
Image: Flickr, Marjan Krebelj