How to Select an SEO Agency (with Checklist) [Full Article]
A guide to picking the Best SEO Agency for your needs
Search Engine Optimization is vital to making your online presence successful. You may operate an online e-commerce site or a brick-and-mortar business. Either way, SEO can help you garner new customers and produce hot leads. However, managing your online presence can be a full-time job. Not to mention confusing if you don’t have a lot of experience with internet marketing.
Having the right SEO agency working for you can make a world of difference for your business. Did you know that 85% of consumers look online before they commit to a purchase? So if potential customers can’t find your site online, you can easily miss a sale – or many sales. Finding a great SEO agency can help you rank higher for Google search queries, plus attract more customers searching for the goods or services you provide.
We’ve put together a guide to finding the best SEO agency, including important things to look for and a handy checklist for selecting the right SEO company for your needs.
How To Choose an SEO Company
Picking the right SEO agency for your needs is all about selecting a company whose experience aligns to your business needs. Do you wish to rate higher on search engine results pages? Are you having difficulty turning leads into conversions? Or do you have a specialized niche product/service that you want to increase visibility?
A great starting point might be an SEO agency’s case studies. A good case study in your industry can provide vital information in your search. A case study can also give you a glimpse of an agency’s processes. Look for hints that may indicate that an agency is on top of current SEO trends and changes that search engines like Google make with their algorithms. Are they including Google analytics data? Is there an understanding or analysis that is easy to understand? The case studies should also be relevant to your type of business – if you’re an e-commerce site, for example, you may not need to see the results from promoting a B2B supplier or an in-person service provider. The results from businesses like yours can also give you a rough indication of the kind of conversion rates you can expect. However, if you don’t sell directly from your website and instead rely on your online presence to generate leads, then you should ask for examples of similar lead generators.
Remember that good results mean different things to different stakeholders. Great results are those that help you achieve your goals.
What Should I Look For in a Top SEO Company?
Rankings and increased traffic to your website are the basic measurements of success, and if an SEO agency can’t deliver those, you should look in a different direction. However, you’re in business to make money, so if higher rankings and better click-through rates aren’t generating more leads and conversions, then you won’t be able to meet your primary goals. The best SEO agencies can show you tangible, quantifiable success by helping clients increase revenues and broaden their reach for new customers.
Improving your SEO is a marathon (vs. a sprint), and a top SEO agency will constantly improve your digital presence. And SEO includes many aspects nowadays. A partner may evaluate your layout, speed/performance, content, and much more to drive more traffic and present new ways to improve. They’ll also be transparent with you throughout the process, using analytics and search console data to show improvements. Think of the number of unique visitors, behavior flow (how they found you), high-volume search queries, and the kind of content that’s most popular.
Do I Need a Specialized E-commerce SEO Agency?
Some SEO agencies specialize in e-commerce businesses, which have different needs than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Unlike physical stores, e-commerce sites rely solely on their internet presence for success. Often, E-commerce focused agencies have a deeper knowledge of what kind of SEO they need to optimize conversions from leads.
These agencies can also help you find additional unique keywords that gain interest across all the goods and services you offer, helping you find more niche customers and qualified leads. Visibility is also important, and often, e-commerce businesses find plenty of success including vibrant social media into their marketing.
What about an SEO Agency that specializes in B2B?
B2B sales are a different animal (vs. B2C). Sure, people are people and reaching people and putting them through a funnel might be the same at an elementary level… however, having an SEO agency that understands the intricacies of the overall B2B sales cycle can be critical to your success. If your business works with larger corporations or if you’re a government supplier, having the right SEO to stand out from the crowd (and rank higher than your competition) is extremely important.
Business-to-business sales require a different approach than those designed to appeal directly to consumers. Often, business analysis and analytics can benefit B2B companies. Analytics data can be incorporated into an SEO Strategy to create rich and engaging content, giving further information about what each company delivers. Why is this important? To stand out from the competition. To find where the target B2B customer’s pressure point is and pushing on it to create sales.
SEO for B2B is all about understanding the intricacies of B2B buying stages. It impacts SEO, Content, Social, Email Marketing, Web Design, etc. Contact us if your SEO agency just doesn’t understand B2B!
Checklist For Finding the Best SEO Agency
There are a few things you can do to find the best SEO agency for your needs.
1. Ask Your Professional Network (People you Know and Respect in the Industry).
If you have a professional network, ask for recommendations about which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency to use. Or, look at successful businesses in your area, and ask them if they use a particular SEO company. Your professional network can give you an honest assessment of their experience with different agencies. LinkedIn is a great resource for such a thing, even if you don’t know a person, connect with someone you admire and ask their opinion on an SEO Agency referral.
Top SEO agencies will also show you their methodology for improving your SEO. This might include: site optimization, user experience and user interface suggestions, testing of headings/headlines, user flow and element placements, image optimizations, site link profiles, authority development recommendations, and much more. The more research that your agency does for your business and goals, the better they’ll be able to make the right choices for your website.
The best SEO agencies will also have transparent reporting, showing you how they calculated the increase in traffic. Your agency should start every engagement with a detailed scope that all parties agree to. And success can be measured by using several different tools or platforms to determine which keywords and content are contributing to increased traffic vs. which parts of your website need work.
2. Require an open, honest, and transparent estimate
Ask for costs upfront:
- Where is your budget going?
- Is there at least a description of services to be provided?
- Is there recommendations vs. limits?
Some SEO agencies may be outside your budget, And be very cautious with low-cost SEO agencies. The adage, “you get what you pay for,” is most apparent in the world of Search Engine Optimization. If an agency isn’t charging much for services, they’re probably not providing the same quality of service vs. a reliable, cost-conscious agency would. A good agency will be able to determine how much work improving your website’s SEO will take, and price it accordingly.
An estimate should provide a line-by-line explanation of where your money is going, and how that money leads to success.
3. Determine What Success Looks Like Early
Ask how the SEO Agency quantifies results. Include tracking how your site ranks for Keywords over time (for Search Engine Results Pages’ sake) and what metrics they use to determine the success of their SEO campaign overall. The SEO campaign program/strategy is ultimately an effort to help your business make more money. And a top SEO agency will also show you how you perform with key performance indicators. These go well beyond tracking Organic Traffic only; also think about:
- leads your site brings in,
- conversion rates on contact forms,
- direct, referral (and organic) traffic numbers
- revenue generated (e-commerce),
- and much more…
Ask the SEO agency for examples of recent websites that they’ve optimized with their SEO programs (and, if possible, the keyword rankings that they helped these sites achieve). Remember to look for the current examples – what worked five years ago for SEO is much different today. Some SEO programs in various marketing verticals simply take a while to show results. I think we all understand that. However, a good agency will still be able to show progress even if their business is in a difficult industry.
Once you have an idea of your desired results (KPIs establish, quarterly or bi-annual check-ins, etc.), pick the SEO agency that has experience helping other companies achieve similar goals. Remember, your SEO agency is your partner, and an SEO Program is a lot of back-and-forth collaboration. They get to know your goals and your business ins and outs. And that information drives some decisions. Combined with intuition and expertise, this should create a successful collaboration (over time) for both parties.
And if an estimated ROI isn’t part of the initial calculations for success… Contact us!
Check out the agency online. Peruse their social media presence and their website (note, some of the greatest ad agencies out there don’t post much on social – e.g., W+K, 72 and Sunny, etc. – that’s not the end of the world), but do you like what they’re posting? Does it align with your values? Are they making any political stances you disagree with?
Read reviews from other clients, and look at independent testimonials. It’s ok if they don’t have any reviews… remember, people usually post negative reviews before positive. So no reviews can be a great indicator. Also, look out for fake, overly positive reviews. They’re typically easy to spot and are done when an Agency (just like a product review) needs to balance out some of the bad reviews.
SEO agencies are primarily marketing businesses, so one without a strong online presence may indicate one without the experience or talent to make your business successful. It could also indicate an agency that’s just so busy they don’t have time to work on their digital presence. So ask questions:
- Ask why pages or posts haven’t been updated (in the past week/month/etc.).
- Ask if they’ve worked with businesses in your vertical (it’s probably ok if they haven’t, but sometimes an industry niche makes all the difference in a marketing program).
- Ask if they specialize (maybe they focus on e-commerce, local SEO, or your industry niche)
- Ask how often they’ll meet with you. Even the lowest budget clients have monthly touchpoints in our agency.
- Ask what other services they provide. Usually, SEO isn’t the only service (but it just might be). If they offer other marketing mediums, does this help you?
- Ask, ask, and ask again. Make sure you feel comfortable with your choice.
Time to Make a Decision
Compile all the feedback from Steps one through five and make a decision. And don’t wait too long; waiting too long can start to creep into the realm of unprofessional. There’s risk involved in everything. Selecting an SEO Agency to help boost your own career progression is just another risk. And while no one makes a decision hoping for failure, failure is part of progress. The Point? Don’t be afraid. Take your educated decision, stand by the agency you picked, and run with it. You should know within 3-6 months if the company you selected to represent the SEO arm of Digital Marketing was the right one. And if they’re not (for whatever reason), start the process all over again. Take what you’ve learned from this agency that you didn’t like, and make sure to look out for the undesirable attributes in your next agency.
YOUR TIME IS NOW! LET’S GO!
Feel like we missed something? Have a little secret when selecting an SEO Agency you’d like to share?
We’re not perfect, but this has been our checklist (in five parts) of what we think a client should look for when selecting an SEO agency. However, feel free to share what you think on any of our social media accounts. And as always, we’re available to add new life to your digital presence. Each business is unique, and it’s important to us to understand each client’s goals so we can take specific steps to help achieve them.