Date: 20th June 2022
So you’ve decided to go ahead with enlisting the help of an SEO specialist or digital marketing agency: but if the workings of SEO or digital marketing are unfamiliar to you, how do you know which are the best questions to ask?
Digital marketing success can often be tricky to understand and measure, it requires some investment and patience so getting this decision wrong could prove costly for your business.
Luckily, you need look no further for advice, as Geoff Meakin, an expert in SEO for healthcare, lists a comprehensive 20 questions you should consider asking potential SEO/digital marketing agencies before signing up.
20 Questions to ask SEO and digital marketing agencies
1. Why do I need a digital marketing agency?
Examine all your reasons for wanting to enlist the assistance of a digital marketing agency. If you can prioritise the services you are looking for in order of importance to your clinic, it will allow you to select a package or offering that best suits your needs as well as your budget. Digital marketing agencies can offer expert advice on all aspects of marketing your clinic in the digital realm, help you set realistic goals, devise an online marketing campaign action plan and help you make sense of the results.
2. What Services Do You Provide?
Digital marketing agencies are able to assist with a wide variety of services, including social media, SEO, pay-per-click, web design and email marketing. If this is what you are looking for, then a full-scale digital marketing agency should be able to service all these requirements and more.
Of course, there are downsides to this approach though and most small or medium sized clinics don’t need anything on this scale. For example, social media can be great for increasing brand awareness, but are your patients really searching for you on Tiktok? Email marketing can be good once someone has already contacted your clinic but you need them to know about you first. Pay Per Click (Google Ads) is great for ‘leapfrogging’ to the top of search but can be very costly over time.
Having worked with numerous private clinics and clinicians, we see time and again that SEO provides the best results for clinics. Not just in driving traffic to your website, but also in creating actual conversions (bookings and consultations). That’s why here at Healthcare SEO we focus on this single aspect of digital marketing.
That’s why we believe it’s much better to opt for a specialist SEO agency than a digital marketing agency. This is because a specialist SEO agency lives and breathes all things SEO without getting bogged down by distractions in other areas. They will have their finger on the pulse for all things SEO related and all the recent developments in search. As a client you’ll be paying for targeted assistance, instead of a generic package of digital marketing services.
Not only this, but you won’t have to worry about being constantly ‘upsold’ on additional services or funding underperforming areas of an agency’s business. Full scale digital marketing agencies are great if you have a big budget but for the most part, it’s better to go with a ‘master of one’ than a jack-of-all-trades.
If you have a need for web design, social media, video animation or PPC we have a network of highly qualified partners we can refer you to, who, like us, are specialists in the healthcare field.
3. Do you specialize in the healthcare industry?
Check if your agency specialises in any particular field or industries, as there are only a handful of SEO agencies who specialise in the healthcare industry in the UK.
Specialists in SEO for the UK healthcare market are already familiar with many of the pain points facing your target audience, as well as the types of terms they are searching for. Medical SEO specialists already know what content works best for attracting users to your site, they already know the best sites to approach in order to gain links back to your site and the strategies to use in order to get visitors to convert into actual consultations.
All this creates a more streamlined, more efficient service that can (and should) create better results for you quicker than going to an SEO generalist.
4. How long have you been offering SEO?
Obviously you’ll want to look for a well established agency that is headed by someone with several years of SEO experience under their belt.
Currently there are no official certifications or governing bodies for SEO. That means literally anyone can set up as an SEO agency and this results in some web design agencies and freelancers also setting up as SEO specialists despite only having a rudimentary knowledge and limited experience.
As there is some overlap between web design, paid ads, social media, PR and SEO; some agencies and individuals will conflate all of these when explaining how much experience they have. This is why it’s worth being very specific when asking about experience: you want to know how many years of SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION experience your potential agency or freelancer has.
5. Are you more adept at local, national or international marketing?
Most agencies that have been in business for several years will have a mixture of experience at both. Depending on your needs though, it may be best to opt for an agency that has more experience in either national or local campaigns.
This is because search engines actually use different algorithms for searches that are considered local. For example, if I were to search for “hip replacement London” or “hip replacement near me” the results I see would be different to those shown if I simply searched for “hip replacement”.
Although there is some overlap between local, national and even international SEO for private clinics, each of these requires a different approach.
As a result, it is always best to check what type of experience your potential agency or freelancer has. After all, you don’t want to hire someone to help you break through in America if they’ve never tried to rank a clinic in a location bigger than the Isle of Wight!
6. How will you improve my rankings?
SEO can be complicated with literally thousands of factors that can impact where in the search results your site is shown.
That being said, you should be aiming to work with a medical SEO agency or freelancer that has enough experience to explain a clear and logical approach. A rough gameplay for how they intend to rank your clinic.
7. How Do We Get Links To Fuel SEO?
Perhaps you’ve heard of Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO? Reputable companies will use legitimate or ‘white hat’ outreach or directory listings for backlinks. Watch out for companies who do not wish to disclose their approach or appear vague as it could indicate they use ‘black hat’ backlink strategies which provide short term wins but could ultimately be harmful to your website.
Various, legitimate link sourcing techniques include:
- Guest posting
- Link exchange
- Testimonials from suppliers
- Web2.0 links
- Meeting Journalist Requests
- Reverse Journalist Outreach
- Links from Events and Speaking engagements
- Links from sponsorships
- Links from insurance companies
- Links from hospitals
- Links from colleagues websites
8. What SEO Tools Do You Use?
Any halfway decent agency should be using the typical tools you may already have access to. These include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google Tag Manager
- Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Bing My Places
As well as more specialist tools such as:
- Heatmap tracking (Hotjar, Microsoft Clarity)
- Screaming Frog or Sitebulb technical SEO software
- Majestic SEO
This isn’t an exhaustive list but if your potential agency names 4 or more of these, it’s a sign that they are probably legitimate.
9. Who will be in charge of my account?
You may have chosen an agency founded by an expert with years of experience, but what if they’ve passed your account onto someone who has just left Uni?
Worse still, your account may not have been allocated to a specific staff member at all, meaning you won’t be able to build a good working relationship or benefit from staff continuity and familiarity with your business. Make sure you are given a named contact at the agency, and try to ascertain their experience level from the outset.
10. Who Creates Our SEO Content?
At the bottom end of the market, content is created cheaply by non native English writers.
Cultural nuances can be missed and the language can sometimes be clunky or doesn’t flow as you’d expect. Or it may be that the agency is planning on using AI to create your content.
Whilst this has a place for certain websites, you need to know if this is what is being chosen and the reasons why.
Sometimes it is preferable to source your own content writers, use in-house content writers or create content yourself. All these arrangements come with different pros, cons, procedures and price tags, so this is an essential point to discuss before proceeding.
11. Who Makes The Technical SEO Changes To Our Website?
Again, this arrangement will often depend on the resources available to the agency as well as to the business hiring them.
Some businesses have their own in-house technical website team, or they have a trusted outsourced provider, perhaps the company who designed the website.
Agencies will usually be able to provide clients with technical support if needed, but this will be priced accordingly.
12. What do you track and report?
A decent agency will be tracking some, if not all of the following:
- Traffic to your site to date
- Where that traffic is coming from
- Conversions on the site to date
- Where those conversions are originating from
- Which are the best performing pages on your site
- Which pages (if any) are losing traffic
- Which keywords you’re ranking for
- What has worked so far
- What’s happening next
13. How do you test what does or doesn’t work?
The Google Algorithm consists of literally thousands of factors. Google is deliberately opaque about what those factors are in order to 1) protect their intellectual property and 2) prevent people from using manipulative techniques in order to cheat the system.
As a result, many people blindly follow the advice of SEO “experts” and “gurus” without ever actually testing what actions are working (or not working).
Here at Healthcare SEO we use a number of ‘Test sites’ in order to ascertain what actions have the biggest impact on ranking. We can then apply these results to client sites without ever having to worry about whether we are wasting our time (or the client’s budget).
If your potential SEO agency doesn’t use testing like this they can’t know for sure what will or won’t work. In effect, your site will be their guinea pig.
Imagine you buy a brand new Porsche. Very nice. Now imagine the dealership warns you “We’ve never actually tested this new model. It hasn’t had any collision tests, the airbags, ABS and seatbelts haven’t been tested and we’re using a new ‘self-driving’ function that we read a blog post about. We’re confident you’ll love your new car!”.
How much confidence would you have in that scenario? Yet, many agencies do exactly this when it comes to SEO.
14. Can you tell me about an unsuccessful campaign?
Every agency that has been trading for a significant amount of time will have had unsuccessful campaigns for a number of reasons.
This can be down to miscommunication, a change in priorities for the client, personal circumstances or an algorithm update.
More than what went wrong, the more important follow up questions here are “what did they do to put it right” and “What did they learn from it?”
15. Who is your longest client?
It’s important to know what an agency’s ‘churn’ rate is as a high client turnover could indicate customer dissatisfaction.
The truth is that SEO takes time. It takes time to plan, approve and implement changes to your clinic’s site, then it takes time for Google to find, update and rank your changes.
This means most clients will not see results for at least 3 months. Here at Healthcare SEO we often get results for clients in less than three months but this is never guaranteed.
Therefore, if your potential SEO freelancer or agency does not have any examples of clients that have been with them more than six months, it could be a warning.
16. Can you guarantee No. 1 rankings?
You can’t guarantee number one rankings, not least because Google constantly tests search results in a different order. Also, guaranteeing that you’ll rank for something very distinct like “botox specialist in weston-super-mare that doesn’t charge very much and has one eye and one leg” is not the same as guaranteeing that you’ll rank number one for the word “Botox” in every country in the world.
The other important aspect to note here is that not all rankings are created equal. Imagine you’re an orthopod. What would you prefer to rank for – “What is orthopaedics?” Or “Private Orthopaedic Consultation near me”? The first is an informational question that a student nurse or general member of the public may ask. The second shows a clear definitive search for someone that can help or treat them.
Knowing the difference and focusing on the latter is key to enjoying a successful SEO campaign.
17. How Do You Measure SEO Success?
Are they targeting traffic? Or conversions? Or some other metric?
Often things can go wrong between clients and SEOs because agencies mistakenly believe their mission is to increase TRAFFIC to a clinic’s website when, in fact, the clinic had hired them to get more CONSULTATIONS AND BOOKINGS.
While increased traffic may well lead to consultations and bookings, it’s important to make the distinction before you get nine or twelve months down the road of your SEO campaign.
It’s for this reason at Healthcare SEO that we always spend time at the start of a campaign setting up accurate goal tracking (things like phone calls, contact form submissions and direct emails through the site). These metrics are the main driver of the SEO campaign and inform us about what is or isn’t working. After all, what’s the point in getting thousands of website visitors if those visitors are not going to lead to bookings or consultations?
Some agencies will also tout how they “increased pageviews” by x% or decreased bounce rate by x%. Be wary of these types of metrics as, not only are they easily achieved but they won’t actually contribute to your bottom line – that is to say, they won’t lead to more consultations or bookings.
18. Where Do You Get Your SEO News And Updates?
Not only is this important for the news and relevance aspect of SEO but also the healthcare industry, as certain trends and developments online can have a big impact on healthcare businesses in particular.
With all the constant changes in online search it’s easy for news topics such as Google launching new online mental health assessment tools or changes in regulations in the healthcare industry to go unnoticed. These types of changes can impact what you are allowed to do online (see GMC’s new draft Good Medical Practice Guidelines) and are easily missed amongst all the “noise” in the digital marketing space.
This is another good reason to use a healthcare specialist SEO agency.
19. What will I own if we part ways?
Will you keep all the content that has been written, even if it wasn’t published? The backlinks that have been generated? Directory listings?
In most cases you should still have access to, or benefit from these. However, it’s always best to check and be sure.
20. What’s The Timeline Of Events?
Your agency should have a clear timeline for the work. A good agency will have a systematic process that they’ve used countless times and will WANT you to hold them to it.
Here at Healthcare SEO, because we’ve worked on countless healthcare related campaigns, we can give you a very accurate timeline. Of course, this can (and usually does) change depending on the clinic involved, but having a rough timeline really helps to keep everything moving smoothly and ensures everybody is aligned.
Hopefully this article has provided you with a comprehensive set of suggestions to ask any prospective SEO or digital marketing agency before proceeding with a contractual relationship with them, but do consider removing less relevant questions or adding any follow up questions as suitable for your clinic’s needs. The main points to take away are that you leave the interview feeling reassured that the agency you work with is well organised, experienced, reputable and knowledgeable about all things SEO. The more they also understand about the healthcare industry, the better. Ultimately, you want to feel that your clinic’s digital marketing strategy is in safe hands.
👉Being specialist providers of SEO service for private clinics we can quickly and accurately advise you on these and many other issues, so why not contact Healthcare SEO to book a free, no obligation video review of your website or feel free to book a call at a time convenient to you.
Author: Geoff Meakin
SEO Consultant for Healthcare and Private Clinics