Corey Morris is the Chief Strategy Officer at Voltage–an award-winning digital agency focused on marketing, websites and branding.
You want to rank better on Google and have decided to invest in SEO. If you’re not trying to do it yourself or hire someone for your team, you can find an SEO agency to get you the results you want.
But let’s be honest, marketing agencies are a dime a dozen. There are so many out there to choose from, all offering different services at different price points.
I have worked in marketing for 17 years, and in my experience, there are several key things to consider when choosing an SEO agency.
1. Know your goals and ROI measurement beforehand.
Before you meet with an agency, you need to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve through SEO and how much money you’re willing to spend. Once you have these answers, think about how you’re going to measure the ROI. Consider what you need to break even or turn a profit. Maybe you need more leads or direct sales? Perhaps, you’re looking for other types of user engagement on your website? When you know your budget and the way you’ll measure ROI, communicate that with the agencies you’re interviewing.
2. Choose the right size agency.
There are pros and cons to working with agencies of all sizes. Small boutique agencies are often less expensive and scrappy. They’re willing to go the extra mile to offer a personalized marketing experience. But, they may not be full-service. That means you may have to hire other professionals to assist with certain aspects of your marketing campaign.
On the other hand, large agencies usually cost more but typically have the capacity to handle large campaigns in more industries. Furthermore, they likely have web developers and other marketing professionals in-house, so working with them is more of a one-stop shop. That being said, they have a larger staff pool. So, people you’ve never met might work on your SEO campaign. Likewise, they have lots of other clients, so you may not receive personalized attention.
Think about what kind of service you want. Then, find an agency whose size aligns with your budget and unique needs.
3. Seek transparency.
You should know what work is being done on your site and who will be working on your campaign. When you interview SEO agencies, consider asking questions like:
• How much communication can I expect to have?
• What information will the agency share?
• What is your SEO strategy?
• Is your team staying up on trends?
• How much experience do you have working with clients in similar industries?
4. Know who you’re working with.
It’s not uncommon for marketing agencies to outsource tasks like SEO to outside partners. This is not a bad thing, Nor does it indicate you’ll get poor service or less than ideal results. But, it is important to know who exactly you’ll be working with.
Find out if your campaign will be handled by an in-house SEO team and ask if you will be assigned a lead strategist. Likewise, find out if you’ll be working with an account manager who will handle the communication between you and your SEO team.
5. Know what is expected of you.
There will be times when your SEO team needs your input, but the frequency they’ll need you to participate varies greatly. Sometimes, they’ll request a check-in call to discuss your campaign and key performance indicators. Other times, they may ask you to write a blog post or content for a page on your site. It just depends on your particular needs and campaign objectives.
6. Do your research.
Ask the agencies you’re interviewing to provide you with references from clients. Follow up with these businesses. Ask questions about the quality of this agency’s work and the attention they received while working together. Make sure the agencies you’re considering have run successful SEO campaigns under similar circumstances.
7. Get a full understanding of pricing.
SEO is a long-term investment. It can take months to see substantial results. So, it’s important to know what SEO tasks are included in the price you’re being quoted.
Often strategy, research, implementation, reporting and analysis are included in the price. But, this may not be all you need to achieve good SEO. Additional things that may be needed include copywriting, web development/coding, UI/UX work and more. Ask how an agency goes about charging for tasks that are outside the initial scope of work and see if you can get a feel for if/how often these out-of-scope tasks may be recommended.
8. Set realistic expectations.
You’re making a big investment in marketing, so you want impressive results. But, you must be realistic about the results you can achieve through SEO work.
SEO strategists are not miracle workers. A good agency will do whatever they can to get you the best results possible within the scope of work for the project, but they may not be able to get you a number one ranking on Google right away.
If an agency promises you instant results or backlinks, be careful. These are often signs of a marketing scam. It can take months to see major changes in your data.
9. Make sure the right SEO metrics are being tracked.
Before agreeing to work with an agency, I recommend you understand how they analyze SEO data and inquire about the metrics they’re tracking.
SEOs often track impressions, average position, and visits. But this may vary depending on your campaign goals and the way you’re measuring your ROI. Most importantly, make sure the tracking and goals are deep enough to get to your end business goals through meaningful conversions.
In the end, choosing an SEO agency is an important business decision. It takes careful thought and information gathering to find one you’re comfortable with. Let this list of things to consider when choosing an SEO agency guide discussions with the agencies you’re interviewing. The answers you receive will tell you a lot about who they are as an agency and help you feel more confident making this big decision.