How to choose the right SEO agency - 5 questions to ask during discovery calls

When choosing an SEO agency, we recommend going with one that takes responsibility for conversions and doesn't only report on vanity metrics like traffic and social media shares.

These SEO agencies are hard to come by, so we decided to write this guide and help you make a more informed decision. Below, we'll discuss five questions you should ask SEO agencies when hopping on a discovery call with them.

We hope this will be a nice contrast to all the other "guides" on the internet that mention generic advice like: "think about your needs" and "examine the team." You probably already know this. You're looking for actionable advice on how to choose the right SEO agency, and we believe these questions will help you separate the good ones from the bad:

  1. How do you generate conversions?
  2. What does your content writing process look like?
  3. Do you generate backlinks to my website?
  4. Can you provide references and case studies?
  5. What is your pricing structure?

Note: We obviously built SaaSpirin (our SEO agency) around these criteria. Our SEO strategy is based on buying intent and not search volume, allowing us to convert users who are already searching for your product. If you’d like to learn more about our process, consider jumping on a quick discovery call with our founder.

1. How do you generate conversions?

What separates good SEO agencies from bad ones is whether they generate conversions or if they just report on traffic and rankings. This is because while traffic and rankings are nice, you ultimately want people to buy your product.

An agency’s ability to drive conversions is highly dependent on what keywords they choose to target, i.e. their SEO strategy.

The industry standard for developing an SEO strategy looks like this: 

  • Consult an SEO tool like Ahrefs
  • Go after keywords with high search volume and low keyword difficulty
  • Put these keywords into a spreadsheet.

The issue with this strategy is that high-volume keywords are generally top-of-the-funnel, meaning the people searching for these terms aren't ready to buy and need to be put through a long sales funnel.

For example, if you sell construction software, high-volume, top of the funnel keywords would be "what is construction software" and "what are the benefits of construction software."

These keywords might have high search volume, but people searching for them are unlikely to buy your solution. They don't even understand the value of construction software yet.

Contrast this to bottom-of-the-funnel keywords like "best construction software" and "construction software for small contractors." Searchers typing these terms into Google are ready to buy. You just need to create a piece that addresses their pain points and shows why your solution is better than the competition.

In our experience, these bottom-of-the-funnel keywords are responsible for the majority of a website's conversions, and you can rank for them in a matter of two or three months since they have a low keyword difficulty score, typically below 10.

So if you learn that an SEO agency builds keyword strategies around volume, then we'd recommend steering clear as their proof that SEO is working will most likely be showing you a graph of how website visitors increased over time, not the actual number of people who converted after reading the articles they published.

2. What does your content writing process look like?

We also recommend learning more about an SEO agency's writing process during your discovery call.

This is because many SEO agencies use what we like to call the “ChatGPT writing strategy.” They'll type the primary keyword they are targeting into Google, scan all the content on the first page, rewrite it, and publish it onto your website.

This makes it impossible to become a pioneer and thought leader within your industry because your content sounds the same as everybody else's, with surface-level arguments and advice.

So, during your discovery call, we suggest asking questions about an SEO agency's content writing process. If an agency is vague about how they write content or outright admits to using this ChatGPT-like strategy, it might be a good idea to opt for another agency.

Ideally, an SEO agency should interview you to understand your business, survey your customers to understand their pain points, use your product and your competitor's products, and with this knowledge, write articles instead of copying whatever's already on the first page of Google.

For example, when we started working with a recent client, MightyForms (an online form builder), we did an hour-long video call with the founder, and asked endless questions about his form builder, like, what makes it better than the rest, and what pain points users are experiencing before buying his form builder.

This helped us create truly unique content that resonated with customer pain points and showed that they didn’t have to struggle with basic form builders like Google Forms. We didn’t just rewrite what we found on SERP.

3. Do you generate backlinks to my website?

Backlinks are a major ranking factor because they are essentially votes of confidence for your website. Building backlinks makes it easier to rank for competitive search terms since your website is more authoritative in the eyes of Google.

So you'd want an SEO agency to actively build backlinks to your website because it’ll allow you to outrank competitors trying to rank for the same keywords.

Unfortunately, we notice that many SEO agencies don’t have a backlink building strategy. They’ll publish content and hope that other websites link back to it. But unless you’re publishing the latest industry news or your content is revolutionizing your industry, it’s difficult to get other websites to link to you organically.

This is why, during discovery calls, you want to learn how an agency builds backlinks to your website. An SEO agency should already have connections within your industry, so once they publish content on your website, they can utilize these connections and get other websites to link back to you.

SEO agencies should also expand upon the criteria they look for when building backlinks. You don't want a bunch of spammy, low-quality links pointing to your website because not only are you wasting money, but it can also harm your website's rankings.

4. Can you provide references and case studies?

Although you can probably find case studies, references, and testimonials on every SEO agency's website, we recommend diving deeper into these case studies on discovery calls.

Dig into the specifics of how long it took the agency to understand the client's product, how many pieces of content the agency published per month, which articles generated the most conversions, and how much value the client received compared to the monthly retainer they paid.

If possible, you also want to get in touch with these case study clients because it'll give you a better understanding of what to expect from your side. These clients are usually willing to walk you through their experience with the SEO agency, what they liked about them, and some sticking points you need to consider.

5. What is your pricing structure?

Although pricing will pretty much depend on your budget, you don’t want to go for the cheapest SEO agency you can find on Fiverr or Upwork. These agencies will literally copy and paste AI content and publish it on your website. They are also known to use black hat SEO techniques that can get you penalized by Google.

In our experience, a good SEO agency starts at $2,000 per month and this package will include a website audit, bottom-of-the-funnel SEO strategy, three or four high-quality articles, and a few backlinks to authority websites.

So if you're a SaaS startup and you're bootstrapping, an agency that charges around $2,000 per month can offer good results, given that they meet all the criteria listed above.

However, certain boutique SEO agencies that specialize in a specific field can charge up to $10,000 per month. So, if you have a bigger budget and very specific SEO needs, you might want to consider these services.

SaaSpirin: A SaaS SEO agency that takes responsibility for conversions

If you’re struggling to choose the right SEO agency, consider asking these five questions during discovery calls as they will help you understand if an agency reports on conversions or just traffic and other vanity metrics.

If you’re looking for an SEO agency that takes responsibility for conversions, consider booking a quick discovery call with us. We’ll walk you through our entire conversion-based SEO process and answer any questions you have.