SEO Plans for Small Business – 6 Critical Questions To Ask

"SEO is different to Google Paid Ads, its not instant, you don’t pay and within a few hours you can see and physically touch your ad. Its a game of chess – one of persistence and patience. So hopefully these questions will help you get a better sense of the true value you might expect from your selected provider."
seo plans for small business

If you are looking for the best SEO Plans for small business available it can be an overwhelming selection process to go through. There are thousands upon thousand of agencies and small time operators all vying for small business attention. For this reason they may look towards a referral, or another business owner who is happy with the results they have gotten from their SEO provider. Its also incredibly tough to decipher what you actually get in return for a monthly fee when it comes to SEO.

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Does SEO even work for small business? After all SEO is different to Google Paid Ads, its not instant, you don’t pay and within a few hours you can see and physically touch your ad. Its a game of chess – one of persistence and patience. So hopefully these questions will help you get a better sense of the true value you might expect from your selected SEO provider.

What is SEO for Small Business?

Before we dig into the questions to help find the best seo plans for small businesses, if you are newer to the concept of SEO and what could be defined as SEO for Small Business here is a list of what should be considered in scope:

Local Business Listing Optimisation and Management (Google My Business, Bing Places etc)

On Page SEO (advice on how to change the words/content on your website to help your site rank better)

Technical SEO (any activity relating to how your website functions – think loading time, user experience with navigation)

Off Page SEO (any activity relating to linking to your website which will help your site rank better)

So now to the critical questions to help you find the best seo plans for small business available.

seo plans for small business questions summary

Question 1 – Can you provide me a free audit of my SEO efforts to date?

This is a great question to lead with in my opinion. It will force the agency or freelancer to provide some clear data on what is and is not working with your SEO Efforts before you even consider them. SEO in its most basic form starts with words on your website so even if you have done nothing else this will be part of the insight you will receive. Another question related to ask is “how do I optimimize my small business website”?

If you get any pushback on providing an audit for free then you should be very wary. Its incredibly common practice for SEO Agencies and freelancers to provide an audit at no cost. In fact many use this as a sales tool by highlighting all the things you are doing wrong! Ask the freelancer or agency to get specific and categorise and prioritise items by level of effort and impact on overall results. See below an example screenshot of what the audit might look like.

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You will want to save the audit they provide you as you will want to compare a few of these free audits with a couple of your preferred candidates. The goal of this exercise is to look for common themes. Also look to identify those companies that go above and beyond with detail in the audit. Its a good indicator of how they might look after you as a paying customer.

Question 2 – Can you provide evidence of working with clients in my industry? If so show me..

SEO plans for small business can be quite specific for different vertical and industries. For this reason you should ask what clients very similar to yours that they have helped. The reason is that they would have done a lot of research on what has helped similar businesses. This should give you a heads start and save time in the long run. Ask them for results before and after that they were able to deliver for the similar business. SEO packages can be highly nuanced based on the type of industry. For example, what an SEO professional would do for a online retailer should vary considerably from what they should do for a local dentist.

Question 3 – Take me through the tasks you would perform and over what time frame?

Like question 1 around the audit but more specific, you are looking for a logical workflow of tasks. These could include items such as a) starting with a complete website audit, b) content creation and build out, c) on page SEO recommendations d) local listings optimisation (if applicable), e) directly and citation listings, f) ethical link building and content marketing / guest posting etc. You will want them to clearly list the level of effort (time) and potential impact of each of the tasks like they did for the audit.

Question 4 – What link building strategies do you follow?

Link building is still to this day the main driver for SEO ranking improvements. The right or wrong link building strategy can mean the difference between your small business been found on Page 1 of Google or alternatively being penalised (and not being visible at all – yikes!) When you ask this question its really going to sort the men from the boys. You are looking for genuine and long term ethical link building.

Any mention of high volume of links in a very short amount of time should be a big red flag. As quality links need to be earned, if they are offering a large volume quickly its likely to be a network or link farm, for which if your site is linked to you stand to be penalised. The ideal is a very slow drip feed of high quality and relevant links to your site. This should coupled with earned links (other companies and businesses linking to content on your website because they find it valuable).

Question 5- How and what will you report to me and how frequently?

This is an important one with SEO as its so hard to measure results in a short time of frame. You need to have clear reporting in terms of what “actions” have been taken and what “results” can be attributed back to those actions over time. Keyword rankings for specific pages are the absolute minimum. You should also expect incremental traffic, where that traffic is coming from and Domain Authority (a metric which shows how authoritative your website is).

You also need to get clear on how often you will receive communication from them. There is nothing worse than hiring an SEO professional who goes missing and you are constantly having to chase them up! I have often seen these comments on Upwork for example from small businesses looking for a new SEO freelancer because the old freelancer suddenly stopped communicating!

Question 6 – How will I be billed?

It’s very standard practice to pay a monthly fixed amount against a menu of tasks and services. Its completely reasonable to ask for an itemised breakdown so you can get clarity of what the cost of each item is. Be wary, if the company won’t disclose or itemise such a list as it might be a sign that they want to hide their margin. The way SEO companies make money is often time based.

By that I mean its the rate they pay the person implementing the SEO work on your behalf less the amount you pay to the company to arrive at the margin per client. You should also make sure that you have an exit clause after a minimum of 3 months. You do not want to be locked into something you are paying for that is not delivering value – but also bear in mind you need to give SEO time.

How to interview the SEO company or freelancer?

Now that you have your questions lined up I want to finally give some recommendations to how you can conduct the interview with the SEO company or freelancer. These days you can find great SEO freelancers on sites like Freelancer or Upwork. In addition there are physical SEO companies with actual locations. Don’t be put off by an online only company (or freelancer on Upwork) as long as they can provide clear evidence of delivering results, and are reliable and good communicators. One thing I would insist on is a phone call or video call interview with the company. You want to know who you are dealing with. By asking these questions on a call you will force a more genuine response as opposed to a scripted email reply.

Final Words

So there you have it, hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to select the best SEO plans for small business. Rememebr to take your time in the evaluation as SEO is a long term important investment for small businesses, you are not going to want to be chopping and changing agencies/freelancers every other week it will waste your valuable time. Good luck.

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