Beginning Your Search for an SEO Agency
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be hard to define as it’s a moving target of different website optimization methods to help the site rank high in search results. This process involves many tactics, including the development of a rich and complex back link profile, ensuring the website’s design is both simple and intuitive for a visitor to use, and regularly adding relevant and informative content to your website with not only user’s intent in mind, but the ability for search engines to index your content as well.
Hiring the right SEO agency can be a tedious and drawn-out process, as you need to have a solid understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your website. Gathering that information can be tough if you lack an up-to-par understanding of how SEO can be particularly beneficial to you and your website.
A well-versed SEO agency can help skyrocket your organic traffic, resulting in significant increases in monthly revenue. On the other hand, an inexperienced, out-of-the-loop agency may paralyze the current search traffic your website receives and will hinder any future increases in traffic, dropping your rankings.
Before you begin searching for a well-versed agency, it’s important do your homework to understand exactly how SEO can be beneficial to you and your website. Who are your competitors? What are your short-term and long-term goals for your website’s performance? How will you measure success? Knowing your goals and managing your own expectations will help you choose the right agency for your needs.
Unfortunately, knowing your goals and expectations isn’t enough going into the hiring process for an SEO agency. Asking the right questions during the vetting process will help draw out good information on the agency and help you make a good business decision when you choose which company to hire. Here are the top four questions you should ask your SEO agency.
Question 1: What’s the History of Agency and How Do They Measure Success?
As you begin the vetting process with a company, you should first ask about their company history both online and offline. How long has the company been running? If the company is new, they should still be able to point to successful projects or experience their staff has, as receiving an explanation of their effective and results-driven SEO campaigns will help you gather an understanding of how the company may be beneficial to you.
What are the largest challenges the company has been able to overcome over the past year? This question is important to ask because it gives the agency an opportunity to show how flexible and adaptable they are— a crucial skill in the SEO industry. It also helps to establish trust with your company during the exploratory process. If the agency is able to elaborate on instances where they have experienced and overcome roadblocks such as search engine indexing issues, server-related issues, duplicate content issues, or spam filtering issues, those positive marks that show flexibility and integrity. The opposite is a warning sign. Unexpected roadblocks are known to pop regularly, especially with SEO. If the agency has not experienced any roadblocks at all, there is a good chance they’re not experienced enough to deliver value to you and your website.
Generally speaking, if an SEO agency is growing, it is likely because they’re delivering results to their current and new clients, resulting in an increased demand for employees and increased revenue. If an agency’s workload and need for additional help are increasing, chances are they’re doing something right.
What are the agency’s goals? If the agency hasn’t achieved any of their short-term or long-term goals but can show efforts towards realizing them, that’s positive. Inability to show any action toward their goals is a red flag.
Question 2: How Experienced is the SEO Team?
If SEO is a moving target, you want someone able to bob and weave with change. You want an experienced and knowledgeable team with a wide skill set, so you’ll want to find out how experienced the team is and how they approach their SEO work.
SEO and digital marketing are skills that need to be maintained and updated as the industry is constantly changing. Whether the team is small or large, understanding what skill sets will be working on your project is imperative in your choice of agency. SEO professionals with experience in your industry or similar to your industry are your best bet for success. Is your business local or national? That will change the approach to your SEO and you’ll want an agency that’s experienced in the size of the market that you want to hit.
Ask the agency what specific areas of SEO members of the team are experienced in, or if their team consists of ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type of employees. You want an agency staffed with SEO professionals who have honed their personal craft, such as someone experienced in outreach back linking or someone with extensive content strategy experience. You don’t want an agency that forces their staff to be specialists in everything — it only means that they’re mediocre at all aspects of SEO.
Question 3: Does the Agency Have a Successful Portfolio?
When reviewing a company’s portfolio, it is important to understand what their successes were and how they achieved those successes. What were the goals that the client was seeking, what strategies were used, and how was success achieved? Did they target highly-competitive keywords, did they improve the client’s website, or did they focus on content strategy? These are all questions that they should be able to answer and provided data to back up. The agency should be able to point to key performing indicators that show improved website performance, such as increased website leads, phone calls, or sales.
Further, a good client portfolio should be the jumping off point for the agency to explain how they can use their successful strategies to help your website. When did you use this strategy and why will it work now? How will they take your company’s specific place in the marketing into account with their proposed strategy? The agency should be able to explain and justify how their small tweaks to your website will then result in increased website traffic and increased website keyword ranking.
If a company is having a tough time explaining how they’ve been able to add SEO value to their past and current clients, or if their details seem purposely vague, it is recommended that you opt for a more straightforward and results-in-mind company. By looking into other options, you’re likely to save time, money, and effort.
Question 4: In Which Industries Has the Agency Worked?
Ideally, the SEO agency you hire should be experienced in your industry. Digital marketing and SEO strategies can differ from industry to industry and it’s best to have someone who understands your industry and your SEO market working on your SEO.
For example, an auto parts eCommerce store (website one) and a website focused on selling cloud-based accounting software (website two), despite both being online stores that sells goods and services would have two different SEO strategies. Website one’s main SEO goals could be to rank for precise part numbers. Website two’s priorities are focused on signing their visitors up for a free trial of their cloud-based product.
Website one’s strategy fairly straightforward whereas website two will have a more complex SEO strategy. Website two’s calls-to-action need to be clear and concise and the actual form needs to be simple with as few fields as possible. Incentives, such as a free trial and guarantees (i.e. ‘satisfaction or your money back’) are commonly offered by software companies as a method to receive quality leads. Website one will need to rank for part manufacturers and part numbers, while website two will need to provide convincing content to get their visitors to sign up for a free trial of their software. To summarize, the industry, market position, and uniqueness of the company will determine its SEO strategy — ensuring that the SEO agency that you hire understands your industry is imperative to the success of your website.
It’s likely that you’ll take several steps when hiring an SEO agency to distinguish poor candidates from well-qualified ones. You should approach the vetting process in the same way as hiring a new employee: background checks, professional references, and an interview would all be a part of the process.
Of course, running their business name through Google, Bing, and other search engines would be a very smart idea. It’s likely that if you’re interested in an SEO agency, you’ve Googled them as part of your research process. Where they come up in the search results should help inform your opinion of their services — if their own SEO isn’t great, why would yours fare any better from their work?
Online searches will also give you a read on their online reputation management skills (ORM). Informative press releases and positives reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook are signs of a company that cares about their own online reputation and they’ll care about yours, too. On the other hand, while there’s almost no company out there that doesn’t have at least one bad review lurking somewhere, out of date social media updates, a large number of unwelcoming reviews, or a lack of reviews altogether are big red flags about an SEO agency.
In conclusion, when looking for an SEO agency make sure you have your questions (and the answers you’d like to hear) ready to go at the start of the hiring process. Base your hiring standards on the needs of your company and industry. Follow through on your standards and you’re likely to achieve tangible results.
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