From a small business’ perspective, SEO is hard.
It’s technical, time consuming, and investment intensive. That combination, in the case of most businesses, means they will have to depend on an external partner for their SEO needs.
That’s where the confusion starts.
The search engine optimization space is a lucrative business and professional opportunity and as a result of that, it is currently populated by thousands of options for businesses looking for SEO help.
This increases the likelihood of you choosing the wrong option.
Now, the wrong option may not necessarily be an unethical bunch of phony experts or an agency that promises more that it can deliver. Although, it is necessary for you to be able to root out such options.
However, wrong options also include agencies and experts that may not have expertise that is relevant to your business.
This is important because of an interesting change that occurred in the SEO industry when it started becoming crowded. As a way to differentiate themselves, SEO pros started carving out their specialisations and offering their services to specific industries.
THis is not always the case. However, if you do end up choosing an agency that specialises in working with an entirely different industry, your results may suffer.
Thankfully, there are a few fairly simple considerations that you can make to ensure you choose an agency that is not only dependable, but offers the kind of expertise that your business requires.
Let’s see what they are:
Know Your Goals
This one is quite obvious. Unless you know your goals and understand your business’ exact needs, you won’t know what to look for in an agency.
The benefits of having clear goals go a long way, even after you have selected an agency that offers the SEO services that your business needs. For instance, it helps you help your agency partner form precise strategies executed with your goal in mind. Every piece of content, every tactic, every keyword that you target, every aspect of your SEO campaign will be guided by your goals.
Find Agencies The Right Way
Don’t just Google “SEO agencies near me” and look at the first few options that pop up. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons. For instance, except in the case of some local businesses, there is no real benefit of working with an agency near your office.
When looking for an agency to work with, your first plan of action should be to obtain a few names through good old work-of-mouth. If a friend or business associate recommends an agency, there is a higher likelihood that their partnership with you will also be worthy of a recommendation.
However, if that isn’t an option, you can turn to Google. However, instead of searching with a location specific query, try a specialisation specific query. Something like “SEO agency for ecommerce business”. You can go even more granular with your search with terms like “SEO agency for women’s online store”.
Then, look for these agencies on business directories and SEO agency directories. Look for Google reviews.
Using these sources, you can begin shortlisting agencies that you will filter out as you go further into completing this process.
Know The Red Flags
Most ethical agencies that will not qualify for working with you will tell you the same upfront. This will leave you with agencies that can work with you and agencies that simply want your money.
The latter will usually show some red flags that many business owners overlook. Some of these are:
- Promising absurd results. This one is an easy one to spot. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Promising quick results. Any seasoned SEO pro will tell you that SEO is a time consuming undertaking. There are many other marketing options for businesses that are looking for overnight results.
- Promising definite results. Nobody outside Google knows how the Google search algorithm works. In fact, only a handful of Google employees may possess that knowledge. Without knowing and understanding how the algorithm works, it is next to impossible to accurately predict results, let alone promise them.
- A surprising low quote. When it comes to SEO, like most things in life and business, you get what you pay for. Generally, when you pay less than the industry standard, you are getting services that are below the industry’s service standard.
Impactful SEO involves running a lot of experiments and taking optimization decisions based on the results of those experiments. Anyone that tells you otherwise is not worth your time.
Consider Your Needs
If your business has been online for a while, there is a good chance that you have resources, either freelance or full time, that can take care of certain aspects of your SEO needs like content production.
Or maybe you have been dabbling with SEO on your own and struggling with results.
However, before you can look for the right agency, you must diagnose your SEO problem. You can do this with an SEO tool.
Most SEO tools offer a free trial period and come loaded with a variety of features like rank tracking, keyword tracking, and even a full page SEO audit.
Based on the results and the availability of expertise and resources at your disposal, you can decide what kind of expertise you need.
You can also diagnose your website’s SEO problems without an SEO tool (to an extent).
For instance, if you have been consistently publishing content optimized with your targeted keywords but not seeing any improvements in traffic, you may require more backlinks pointing to your website. In this case, you may need the services of someone that specializes in guest posting.
Enquire About Their Process
You may be thinking that if you knew about the SEO process, you would have done it yourself.
However, the objective of asking about a prospective agency’s process isn’t to test your knowledge, but to find out how systematic they are with their approach.
Since SEO takes a long time to show results, it is easy to get lost somewhere along the way and find your SEO efforts becoming more and more scattered every day. A plan is critical when it comes to preventing such a situation and diligently working towards your SEO goals.
That’s why, an agency’s ability to develop, implement, and explain their strategy and plans to you are critical to ensuring a successful partnership.
Moreover, every agency will probably have a unique plan or process that they have perfected by working with their clients in the past. Learn more about their ways, it will make it easier for you to decide whether an agency will be able to align themselves with your business or not.
Check Out Their Portfolio
There are two purposes of this step. The first one is obvious, to make sure that the agency you are considering has done work that proves their expertise.
The second purpose of checking an agency’s portfolio is to see what kind of businesses they work with. As mentioned earlier, in many cases, you may benefit when you work with a smaller agency that focuses on a single or a handful of industries.
However, there is another aspect to this consideration.
Consider The Scope Of Their Expertise
SEO is not a single task. It has many aspects that demand a variety of different skills. THis is where a lot of smaller agencies lack. Since they are working with limited clients, they have limited budget for hiring resources and outsource the rest of the work to external partners.
While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is always preferable to work with an agency that has all the expertise you need within their own team. This is usually the case when you choose to work with bigger agencies.
Now, whether you want to work with an agency that offers specialized services tailored to your industry or want to work with a bigger agency (probably) with more experience and a wider range of experts on their team, will depend entirely on your goals and budget.
There you have it, all the considerations you must make to ensure you are working with a dependable SEO agency that offers exactly what you need. Before wrapping this article up, there is one obvious but important consideration that I would like to remind you- checking out the reviews of the company you are thinking of hiring.
Social proof can be quite helpful when it comes to avoiding unpleasant situations and that’s why online reviews exist!
If you have any other questions or any other tips that you would like to add, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.