If you’re ready to call in the professionals for your search engine optimization, here are the top things to look for when hiring an SEO agency.
In 2018, just forty-four percent of companies invested money into SEO for their business. That’s an insanely low number – SEO is one of the most important pieces of marketing that you can do to help improve your business.
The term “SEO” can be an ominous phrase to those who aren’t as versed in digital marketing as those within an agency. While there are many moving bits and pieces to SEO, it can be best boiled down to this – it’s where your website is placed (organically) when someone searches a term that is relevant to your site.
Are you showing up on the first page of search results? Are you not there at all?
SEO matters because it helps your audience discover your business when they’re actively looking. Not only is SEO deeply impactful for your site’s organic search visibility, you can also attribute a true ROI to it.
But, how do you find an agency that fully understands SEO? Here’s our guide on what to look for when hiring an SEO agency.
1.) The Type of Experience They Have Under Their Belt
Working as a specialist with a five-person team on a single client is a lot different than being responsible for creating keyword campaigns and strategies for a portfolio of clients. There’s also a big difference between working for an international corporation and a local physician’s office. Consider what type of responsibility a potential agency has had in the past and if it’s at the same level of expertise that you will require.
Will this team be working in conjunction with a larger marketing department? Who will they be reporting to? Who will they be working with the most?
If you’re considering hiring an agency, ask to see examples from their portfolio. Ask them how they work. Understand their system and test to see if it will fit with your team.
2.) Do They Follow SEO Best Practices?
One of the most important things to check when meeting with agencies is if they’re following best practices for SEO. There are many ways to perform SEO, but they need to be up-to-date on their knowledge, tactics and strategy.
Ensure the agency you’re working with is following best practices for all forms of SEO – from off-Page to technical.
Off-Page SEO Best Practices
Off-page SEO is content that links to your website from other sources across the internet. A quality SEO specialist will have tested strategies for creating a backlink portfolio of both owned and earned media. An SEO professional will understand how Google’s algorithm works and will know how to check a website’s page rank and domain authority.
Ask the agency to explain how off-page SEO works (even if you already understand it). Their response will be telling. Do they make it easy to understand? Do they explain it with confidence? Ask specifically how they plan to use off-page SEO for your business.
There are a couple of tried and true tactics that an SEO agency might suggest. This includes guest posting and link building.
These two components create backlinks for your site. Google values links that are natural and truly “earned.” An SEO agency will implement proper strategies to ensure that they’re following Google’s best practices.
Look for these types of off-page SEO tactics, and don’t be afraid to ask why they are specifically suggesting a particular idea. If they can clearly tell you why, then you know that they’ve done their research and have a strategy in mind.
On-Page Copy and Technical SEO Best Practices
Aside from off-page tactics, SEO also includes tactics to implement on your website. These practices can be broken down into two categories: on-page copy and on-page technical SEO.
A quality SEO agency should be able to conduct a basic website audit, assess the data and optimize a website. It’s important to take the word “easy” with a grain of salt. The actual “repair” of your website can take a week or it can take three months (depending on what kind of shape it’s in).
For technical SEO, an agency should know how to index your website on numerous search engines. They should know how to set robot meta tags and manage your sites robots.txt file and XML Sitemap files page. Ask if they know how to check a site’s mobility.
The technical aspect is important because it tells Google that, most importantly, your website exists. An SEO agency should know how to optimize website pages and blog posts.
An agency will update page URLs and title tags to the correct character count and include a focus keyword and your brand name. They’ll know that page headers should be different from title tags. They will specify that meta descriptions don’t do much for rankings anymore, but are an important part of the user experience. They’ll also know the value of image alt-text and how to format it.
Copy is the other half to on-page SEO. Google values content that is relevant and valuable to readers. If you’re consulting with an agency that understands SEO, they’ll know that you can’t just write 1,000 words for a product page that is stuffed with the same keyword every other sentence.
Make sure that both of these aspects to on-page SEO are being conducted properly at the agency you’re working with. You don’t want to get started on SEO with a company that has no clue what they’re doing and aren’t following best practices.
3.) A Big Picture Understanding of Your Business
Even if a potential agency checks all the other boxes, they won’t know how to move your company forward if they don’t understand the big picture. The best SEO strategies are integrated with an overarching inbound marketing strategy. They are aligned with bigger company goals and the purpose is always clear.
Hire a team who specializes in SEO but also has knowledge of social media, content marketing, email marketing, PPC and SEM.
Ask what other types of technical and marketing experience a candidate has. See what industries they’ve worked for, as well as the scale of the clients they’ve conducted SEO for.
Knowing the big picture matters because having a full understanding of how all the pieces fit together presents opportunities for improvement that others miss. Investing in these relationships isn’t only good for business, but it creates a level of trust between both parties and helps to create a healthy business partnership.
4.) Personality Traits and Behaviors of SEO Agency
Skillset is only half of the job of an SEO agency. Like any job, an agency’s outlook, work style and ability to communicate are just as important. SEO can be a challenging concept for some people to understand, so being able to communicate clearly and patiently is a key trait to look for.
During an initial consultation, ask a potential agency to explain something complex. Take note of how they explain things and present themselves. Would they be able to explain core concepts to C-level executives? The creative department? Or clients?
Natural drive and love of research are important to the job of any SEO agency. If you hire a team that doesn’t honestly enjoy research, they can lose motivation to perform their job at a high level.
SEO agencies need to be analytical and detail-oriented. They need to be critically minded and also creative. While SEO is a very systematic process, only creative minds can work through bottlenecks and create new solutions.
Search engine algorithms are always changing. So, SEO agencies must stay updated on industry changes and news. Great SEO specialists have a desire to learn and naturally pursue knowing everything about the topic and being the best.
5.) What Are You Looking For?
This might be the most important question to ask when you’re considering hiring an SEO agency. Do your expectations of SEO match the agency’s approach? Will they be easy to work with? Will they help move the needle toward your company’s goals?
You can put yourself through a lot of pain and wasted revenue by hiring the wrong SEO company, so make sure that you’ve carefully thought out your decision.
Are you ready to elevate your business with the help of “real” SEO experts and Google Partners? You’re in the right place. Let’s get in touch and discuss how we can expand your digital presence! Fill out a contact form here.