Whether your need for SEO has outgrown your in-house capabilities or you need to part ways with your current SEO provider, the process of vetting an SEO agency can be a daunting task. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to hire an SEO expert.
All you need to find the perfect SEO partner for you, is a clear understanding of what questions to ask and what answers to expect.
Finding the best possible enterprise SEO agency for your business starts with writing a strong SEO RFP.
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Why Do You Need an RFP for SEO?
An SEO RFP simplifies the process of gathering proposals from several agencies and making a side-by-side comparison of what each has to offer your business. Creating a comprehensive RFP for SEO increases the likelihood that agencies will tailor their proposals and plans to your specific needs.
With the market saturated with SEO agencies, consultants, and integrated marketing companies who provide SEO services, standardizing the proposal process helps you objectively evaluate how their different strategies might address your business goals.
Writing a comprehensive RFP allows you the opportunity to invite all stakeholders to the table to align expectations about what you hope to achieve with an SEO campaign — setting clear expectations for your team at the outset.
By engaging in a rigorous pre-RFP for SEO discussion, you’re laying the groundwork for a more positive outcome, not only for your SEO agency search, but, in the final analysis, for your SEO campaign, as well.
Clarify Your Needs
A disciplined approach to RFP creation will require you to step through your marketing goals and clarify the role you expect SEO to play in supporting your business objectives. Starting with a well-defined purpose puts you on a path to finding a partner who understands your needs.
Solidify Project Details
As you pull together project details for your RFP, you’re getting a step ahead of the onboarding process with your new SEO agency. Any reputable SEO company will want to understand the ins and outs of your industry, business needs, and team makeup. Collecting that information ahead of your search will not only help you find the right partner but will also help you hit the ground running once you’ve found them.
Every potential partner who receives your RFP should be able to gauge whether or not they’ll be a good fit for your business. No SEO provider wants to waste time bidding for a project that isn’t attractive to them or that they aren’t well-suited for.
By providing scope and budget upfront, you’re giving agencies all the information they need to recuse themselves if they so wish. This means sifting through fewer proposals from ill-qualified SEO providers.
What Should Be In Your RFP?
At the most basic level, an SEO RFP should include:
1. Company Information
- The size of your company
- Details about your target audience
- Your company’s total revenue and business forecast
- A list of your competitors
- An overview that explains why you need SEO. Include context about the timing of your need (i.e., manual penalties, lost traffic, product launch)
- Point of contact information
2. Current SEO Strategy
- Strategically significant keywords
- Current SEO budget
- Web traffic and web traffic mix. How many sessions does each traffic channel drive?
- Results of SEO efforts to date
- Details about your backlinking efforts and content strategy
3. Team Details
- Content development resources
- Web development resources
Note if resources are internal or external.
4. Project Summary & Goals
- SEO budget
- KPIs: What metric(s) will you use to measure success?
- Desired outcome. What would a home run look like?
- Communication expectations
5. SEO RFP Timeline
- Cut-off date for agency questions
- Proposal due date
- Clear timeframe for decision making
- Final decision date
- Ideal start date
6. Evaluation Criteria
- A rubric of critical decision-making criteria that agencies will be judged against
- In addition to the criteria your team identifies, be sure to include any other important factors, such as:
- Geographic restrictions
- Experience in the field
- Requests for case studies
- Agency size
SEO RFP Template
The more comprehensive your RFP is, the better, so why waste resources re-inventing the wheel?
By having the essential structure laid out and a list of SEO questions to ask, you can focus on the most crucial part — providing detailed information about your business, your goals, and current barriers to your success.
Why Should You Include an Accurate Budget in Your SEO RFP?
Your budget is a critical piece of information to help competing agencies present options that best align with your needs. If you’re not clear about your budget upfront, you deny yourself the opportunity to compare proposals with a similar scope. You also risk the possibility of derailing your RFP timeline while agencies iterate on their suggestions to match your budget.
A key step in a successful and efficient RFP process is to align internal budget approvals ahead of time so that you understand what your organization is willing to invest in search optimization.
Including your budget also allows potential providers to step away from the process if they know they can’t meet your needs for the budget you’ve allocated to your SEO efforts.
Quick Tips for Writing an SEO RFP
Before you start writing your RFP for SEO, do your homework. You don’t have to become an SEO expert, but the more you understand about optimizing for organic search, the more specific your RFP will be, and the more likely you’ll recognize the agency that’s right for you when you find it.
Clarity in communication is the hallmark of an excellent SEO partnership. Start that journey on the right foot by being as straightforward as possible in your RFP.
Which SEO Proposal Should You Accept?
After you’ve finished your RFP and received proposals from competing agencies, how do you choose who to work with?
The best fit for your business depends on several factors, including your SEO goals, the services provided by the agency, and the overall experience you have throughout the RFP process.
When thinking about how to hire SEO services, here are some questions to consider:
How experienced is the agency?
How many years have they been in business? What brands have they worked with? Have they worked on projects as complex as yours? Keep in mind, experience is essential, but so is flexibility. You’ll want an SEO agency that listens to you.
What level of support can you expect?
- Do you have one point of contact?
What do you do when they’re on vacation?
- Will you interact with a call center?
How do you track who’s assigned to your account?
- Is there a designated team assigned to your campaign?
Working with a group of individuals with clearly assigned responsibilities allows for continuity in service, regardless of sick days or PTO. Having a transparent structure provides greater accountability and better relationship-building.
How specialized is the agency?
Would you benefit from deep expertise in organic search? Or would you prefer a multi-tool generalist who brings expertise from other marketing channels to the table?
What resources do you have in-house?
Look at how agency resources will supplement or complement your internal team. If you don’t have a content writer, you’ll want an agency to support you with SEO content writing services. If you have a limited technical team, look for a partner that can help implement SEO improvements.
Does the agency provide a comprehensive suite of SEO services?
Some agencies focus on specific areas of SEO, such as content creation, technical analysis, or backlink generation. Make sure your agency can support you with services that you don’t have internal resources for.
Is the proposal aligned with your SEO needs?
While it seems like an obvious point to consider, it’s easy to lose sight of your original need as you evaluate a stack of proposals. Try to create a direct line between the objective of your RFP and every agency you consider.
How does the proposal reflect the agency?
Consider the form of the proposal itself. It should speak directly to your objectives in a comprehensible and understandable way. Judge it at the most granular level. Careless mistakes could reflect a lack of rigor that might extend to the quality of your SEO campaign. Opaque jargon will set the tone for ongoing communications.
What about the team members you meet with? At the very least, they should seem professional, pleasant, knowledgeable, and experienced. Make a note if they seem like they’re only in it for the contract, or if they seem to genuinely care about your business goals.
What’s their reputation?
You’ll want to look at the agency in the broader context of the industry. Are they well-respected? Do they have a proven track record that’s relevant to your business?
- More than one SEO case study from other customers in your industry
- References from their past and current customer roster
Check reviews on:
12 Questions to Ask an SEO Company
The agency you find will only be as good as the questions you ask.
Here’s a list to get you started.
- Describe your workflow and process.
- What opportunities do you see for us that we’re missing?
- How do your keyword research services work?
- Can you provide specific technical guidance for implementing SEO recommendations?
- Do you have SEO content writing services?
- Describe in detail your link-building services.
- How do you track and report on campaign progress? Will we have access to any dashboards or tools?
- What do you need from us to run an effective campaign?
- What’s the average annual budget of your current customers?
- How will you adapt your strategy to my brand/industry/niche?
- Describe how you see SEO fitting into a larger marketing strategy.
- What’s the average duration of your customer relationships?
One More Question: Will an SEO Proposal Include a Preliminary Audit?
I wanted to pull out this question for some in-depth consideration.
In a word, yes, a proposal submitted in response to your SEO RFP should include a preliminary audit of your website.
This is especially important for enterprise-level SEO buyers. There are very few agencies that can handle the complexity of optimizing an enterprise domain for search, and a preliminary audit is likely to be a proof point of their expertise.
Not every agency will provide the same level of analysis during the proposal process. Pay close attention to the detail of strategic recommendations a prospective partner shares for your consideration.
The rigor and expertise you see upfront speak volumes about what you can expect from them once you’ve signed a contract.
Regardless of the scope of your RFP, after you’ve chosen an agency, you can expect them to conduct a comprehensive audit of your website. They should fully disclose what an audit reveals and use those findings to inform a customized strategy that takes both your goals and your current SEO health into account.
During the RFP process, ask specifically about what will be included in a full audit. All audits are not created equal. You’ll want to make sure that the audit you get from your SEO company will include more than basic automated reports.
Get Started With Our Downloadable SEO RFP Template
If you’re ready to investigate how an SEO agency can help your business thrive, get started with our sample RFP for SEO services.
Click here to get the entire package of SEO RFP tools, including a customized Asana project, weighted SEO scorecard, and question tracker, in addition to the SEO RFP template.
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