If you’re a small or large business that needs help with your search engine marketing, there’s no shortage of companies out there willing to lend a hand. Whether you’re looking for an agency to manage, a consultant to provide advice, or a software service to help make your life just a bit easier, you can be sure that there’s a solution to meet your needs.

But just because something looks like it may be the perfect fit for for your business needs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time questioning the service.

What can you do?

To help you avoid uncomfortable situations that can go hand-in-hand with a bad partnership, we’ve compiled a list of questions you should be asking your SEM agency:

    1. Who owns the account and assets? We can’t underestimate the importance of this. When working with a trusted, honest partner, you should have the freedom to login and see the goings on of the account at any time.
    2. How do you charge? Any good relationship must be based on trust, but earning that trust should start by establishing a habit of transparency. As the client, and the person entrusted with a portion of your company’s budget, you need pricing transparency so that you can validate you aren’t being overcharged.
    3. Do you have any references or case studies? As the manager of the budget you likely want to see something that indicates your potential partner clearly knows the ins-and-outs of what they are selling you. If they can’t show how they have improved SEM for previous clients, how can they demonstrate their value and help you improve your results?
    4. Who is working on the account and what is being done? You should make sure that you’re regularly communicating with someone who is fluent with the daily happenings of your account – not just a talking head.
    5. How can you “guarantee results”? Don’t fall for this sales pitch. You don’t want a company that guarantees any results, you want a company that is committed to helping your business concretely grow in the short- and long-term. In order to avoid falling into this trap, we recommend asking process-related questions and ensure that their practice revolves around delivering incremental value. Despite how much we want to believe in a silver bullet for SEM, if a company ever promises you one, run the other way!

There are some questionable business practices are out there – ultimately trying to lock you into a contract with no headache-free escape in sight. These practices aren’t just frustrating, they can even eat up an unreasonable portion of your budget in the long run. But by simply asking the right questions, you can safeguard yourself and your SEM efforts.