Strategies To Choose the Right SEO Agency
It’s no secret that search engine optimization plays a critical role in most digital marketing strategies, regardless of which industry your company calls home. Expertly implemented SEO tactics help to broaden any business’s visibility in Google search results, as well as boost keyword rankings and increase revenue. Hundreds of SEO agencies have sprung up in response to this singular marketing strategy, which continues to prove profitable within the evolving digital landscape.
However, finding a valuable SEO agency that you can successfully partner with is an investment all on its own. Finding an agency to outsource your SEO strategy to and checking that off the list won’t cut it. Instead, it’s about developing a partnership of mutual understanding and common goals. If you want to maximize the benefits an SEO agency can provide, establishing the right mindset and approach is critical for success.
We’ve gathered the advice you need to ensure that the time, energy, and funds you spend in hiring an SEO agency are worth every minute, meeting, and penny. These guidelines can help you and your business weed out inferior agencies that promise unrealistic and unfounded results. You’ll also be able to identify what you need from a digital marketing agency and put it down on paper to get the most out of your partnership.
Want to learn more about getting value out of your SEO agency? Keep reading to capitalize on your investment from the get-go.
The Value of an SEO Agency
SEO agencies, like many other vendors, exist as a resource that companies of all backgrounds can consult with to achieve a goal. Those goals simply relate to digital marketing efforts, rather than services like shipping or accounting. Even so, identifying how an SEO agency can bring value to your company can set the stage for a profitable and meaningful partnership.
An SEO agency specializes in search engine optimization through various services. For example, Brandastic’s SEO services include increasing visibility in SERPs, guiding traffic through a tailored conversion process, optimizing the user experience on your website, and improving your company’s authority and credibility. These goals are met through managing and adapting user engagement, on- and off-page SEO strategies, content creation, conversion rate optimization, and other technical SEO factors.
This approach to SEO requires not only a broad view of your company’s overall digital marketing strategy but also a detailed understanding of many smaller elements. The best SEO agencies integrate this macro- and micro-view into their daily efforts. As such, you can easily quantify the value of an SEO agency by how its actions align with your company’s goals, despite the associated costs.
Best Methods for Getting Value Out of Your SEO Agency
Digital marketing efforts are cost-effective with the right partner by your side. Here are some of the best methods you can use to get more value out of an SEO agency.
Though the need for an SEO agency may be clear, it takes development from within to establish what expectations you have. You and your team will need to address questions such as:
- What do we want to get out of working with an SEO agency?
- What goals can an SEO agency help our company achieve?
- How will we measure success?
- What kinds of reporting do we need to track the agency’s progress?
- How will we communicate?
- Who will we appoint as a liaison?
- What pricing does our budget allow for?
- How long will we contract with this agency?
You may have had similar conversations if you worked with an SEO agency in the past. While past agency work can certainly help inform a new agency’s strategy, the new SEO agency should still bring additional value.
Finalize a Statement of Work
If your relationship with an SEO agency was contained within a single document, it would be the statement of work (SOW). On a basic level, an SOW details what you’re expecting of the agency, as well as what you’re willing to commit to in return. The more depth you can add to the SOW you present to an SEO agency, the better.
Most statements of work include (as needed):
- The nature of the working relationship
- Specific date ranges for reports, meetings, etc.
- Explanation of deliverables
- Detailed reporting of rates
- Clearly defined goals
- Necessary credentials (Google Suite as well as CMS)
Specific deliverables and goals will vary among companies. For example, your company may need to increase conversions through email inquiries, phone calls, downloads, social media likes/shares, or even newsletter signups. Those conversions could lend themselves to a larger goal of improving link-building strategies, search rankings, and content marketing efforts to boost revenue.
Establish Pricing Terms
SOWs provide an overview of what is to be accomplished, but often it takes breaking the deliverables and pricing down even further to tackle the nitty-gritty details. Companies take various approaches to compensation, from paying SEO agencies per project, hour, or achievement to committing to a month-to-month, six-month, or even yearly contract.
How you break down payment for your SEO agency partner depends largely on your budget. If your company can only afford to spend a certain percentage of the greater marketing budget each month, those restraints are clearly defined. However, you can also tailor your pricing to the agency’s performance as well.
For example, most performance-based statements of work set clear boundaries. Failure to complete a goal results in a set refund, whereas success in achieving that goal wins the agency a bonus. In most performance-based contracts, there is a single KPI at the core, along with an associated goal. Reporting regularly will demonstrate whether or not the SEO agency is helping or hindering obtaining that goal.
Fitting specific goals that relate to contracting an SEO agency into one or more larger company goals can also help that agency understand the bigger picture. Though you may not be asking the agency to contribute to those goals entirely, knowing them could help the SEO agency tailor its strategy for better results.
Interview and Evaluate Potential Partners
There’s a ton of ways to grow your business using Programmatic Marketing no matter what your business goals are. Programmatic is great to use in tandem with traditional media because you can retarget people who have seen the traditional media ad to add another touchpoint in their consumer journey. If you have existing assets for CTV or social, you can repurpose them to create brand recognition between media types.
The biggest asset of programmatic is performance tracking – with the use of first party data and pixels, you can use programmatic campaigns to directly track ROAS to see how effective your ad dollars are at driving a specific action.
- How long has the agency been in business?
- What expertise do the agency owner and their team bring to the table?
- How many employees will be working on the account at any given moment?
- What makes that SEO agency different?
- How can the agency specifically assist your company in achieving its goals?
- If the agency requires you to sign an extended contract, why?
- What measures are in place to avoid a conflict of interest should the agency work for your competitor(s)?
Some businesses focus solely on how long it will take for an SEO agency to generate results. While you can certainly ask that question to see what kind of response you get, it should be more to determine if the agency is legitimate or not than anything else. As we’ll discuss in the next section, guaranteed results are almost an immediate red flag.
Transparency and honesty are invaluable when it comes to working with an SEO agency. Ask for case studies, testimonials, and a clear pricing structure to understand the terms of your potential relationship. Agency owners that demonstrate leadership and expertise in their field can also help demonstrate a vested interest in contributing to the industry as a whole, not just your company.
Carefully Review Company Audits
As you interview SEO agencies and narrow down your choices, you’ll find many of them will offer to perform an audit. Audits are a snapshot of your company that an SEO agency can use to develop and pitch a marketing plan that fits your goals. These advisory reports include both what your company is doing well in addition to where it might be lacking.
More specifically, an audit holds your current SEO strategy under the microscope to determine what site structure or user experience issues may occur, or what content gaps contribute to your company missing out on search traffic. The audit will also report what keywords you’re currently ranking for and those you should target to boost conversions, visibility, and, ultimately, revenue.
The depth of each audit will depend on the agency as well as its expertise. Surface-level audits can certainly uncover potential areas of improvement, but the best agencies dig deeper to consider your domain authority, Google My Business (GMB) listings, on-site SEO, content, and social media presence.
In performing an audit, some SEO agencies may recommend particular software purchases. This is not an immediate red flag, as some programs can be well worth the investment. The SEO agency may earn a commission from selling you the software, but they should be able to demonstrate (perhaps with a case study or testimonial) how that software purchase can propel your business forward toward a particular goal.
Automate Reporting to Support Accountability
The deliverables section of your established SOW can include automated reports that detail specific measurable data points. This data allows you to determine if the SEO agency you hired is moving the needle or simply cashing your check. You can also use automated reporting to spend more time executing strategy elsewhere.
Automated reports often come from the Google Suite programs you use, in addition to any other reporting software you subscribe to. These reports are best generated weekly or monthly, as it can take time for certain implementations to effect change. They should also be easy to read and open the discussion up to adjusting strategies as necessary. The best SEO agencies use these automated reports as a springboard for discussing their efforts in context.
Elements that Devalue an SEO Agency
If you’ve never worked with an SEO agency before, knowing what red flags to look out for can be difficult. Here are a few behaviors or responses signaling an agency may not be the best choice:
- Guaranteed rankings: It’s practically impossible to guarantee search rankings. The best SEO agencies certainly deliver a boost, but not straight to page 1.
- Black-hat or gray-hat tactics: You’ve probably heard of people buying positive reviews on Amazon and Yelp to falsely advertise a great product. Shady SEO practices such as buying backlinks and attempting to dupe Google’s search function will only set you back.
- Quantity vs. quality: Handfuls of blogs and social media posts can certainly get the word out. However, you shouldn’t trade 25 quality posts that demonstrate your business’s authority for 100 mediocre fluff posts.
- Lack of experience/portfolio/testimonials: Every SEO agency has to start somewhere. The best agencies use their own business to develop strategies, rather than experiment with yours. If their website doesn’t rank well, how can they be of value to your company?
- Low rates: Most SEO agencies set pricing anywhere from $500 per month to $5,000 or more. Meeting your budget requirements should be a factor in choosing an SEO agency, but not to the extent that you sacrifice value.
Consulting with others within your company can also help you identify claims that might be too good to be true. While you can certainly discuss these points with the agency itself, pay close attention to the response you get. It may tell you everything you need to know.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy and reliable SEO agency poised to help you achieve your digital marketing goals, look no further than Brandastic. Passionate about supporting your marketing efforts, this award-winning website and digital marketing agency knows it takes innovative strategy and dedication to achieve a solid online presence.
Through the collaborative process, the experts at Brandastic work with your company through nurturing relationships that help you feel like an integral part of the process. Contact us for a free consultation and to learn more about how we help brands tell their story.