Before choosing an SEO it is best to ask them a few questions
How often do you submit pages to the engines?
Do you guarantee rankings in the number one position on the engines?
How do you determine what keywords to use?
Do you do organic optimization or do you use PPC?
(Personally my company uses purely organic optimization, as it is less expensive for our clients, and often has better results. There may be successful PPC campaigns, but I do not know of any. I added this question simply because you should know what the company's philosphy is in this regard, and be aware ahead of time if you will be charged extra fees for PPC.)
Does it matter what IP address my site is hosted on?
What are the specific things that have to be optimized, and what do you have to do to optimize them?
(If that question is asked as a general question about all sites, a good SEO will not give you an answer - for two reasons. The first one is that the things that have to be optimized vary from site to site, page to page, and the second one is that the things that need to be optimized vary with time, depending on the changes to the search engines' algorithms. So to give anyone a hard and fast list is misleading. On the other hand, if the question is asked about a specific page and/or a specific site, then a good SEO company will be able to profide you with the information. That being said, understand that it does take time to analyze a web page or web site, and the SEO should be paid for their time.)
Are you a full service provider?
(In order for an SEO company to optimize a site best, they need to be able to either make code revisions themselves, or work closely with the site designer. Site designers typically lean more towards focusing on the visual features that site visitors see, than they do towards the aspects of a site that the search engines' spiders see. That is fine, as long as they understand and accept the need for an SEO to look at things from the different perspective - and they work together on achieving the best overall results for their clients. Although this is an extreme example of how the failure to have a collaborative effort can do damage, the one that comes to mind is a site that was beautiful and functional to site visitors - but designed entirely in Flash and never indexed on any search engine. Another advantage to using an SEO company that is full service is that they are able to make changes to the content of the site for you when changes are necessary, and check that there is nothing in the content changes that would have a negative impact on the ranking of your site. Additionally, if the SEO company handles the hosting of your site, they should be also checking the status of your domain IP address, and make changes promptly if another domain within the same Class C addess block gets a "bad reputation" and/or is blacklisted.)
What about links to my site?
(You should not "buy" links to your site, and your SEO should not buy them. There are "link farms" that some site owners and some SEO's use for link-building. Building links in that manner is not ethical. If a site is providing good content and valuable information for site visitors, then you will find that in time other sites will add links to it automatically, because they want to provide their clients with ready access to the information. A good SEO company should talk to you about your associates/affiliates/site owners in businesses related to yours/etc. who might potentially provide links to your site. For example, if your company sells widget batteries, and you have a relationship with a company that sells widgets but no batteries for them, in order to provide your customers with what they need, it would be good to have a link.)
Should I have another site, that just redirects to my site, so that I have a link to my site?
(The answer should be no. If you have more than one site, it is best to provide unique content that is valuable to site visitors, on each site.)
Do you validate the code?
(The answer should be yes. Clean code will make your site easier for the spiders to navigate, and more "indexable" in other ways as well)
Do you have any tricks to get my site ranked higher?
good SEO company does not use "tricks".
The "trick" is to make sure a
site serves a legitimate purpose, provides
visitors with useful information, and does
not (even inadvertently)
break any rules)
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