Finding the right partner in any business venture is tricky. And SEO services are not an exception. Search engine optimization is one of the primary concerns of any business with an online presence. After all, it is how the clients can find you.
There are lots of agencies and freelancers offering them, but how can one be sure that it is the perfect fit? In this article, you’ll find the steps on choosing the best provider for your business needs and the factors to look for.
Set Your Goals
The first step is to understand what you are looking for. Every business is unique and thus requires an individual approach, from specific business processes to particular industry factors. To know whether the agency can fulfill the demands, one needs to first formulate them.
For example, if you are interested in a technical SEO agency that can also provide full-cycle services like Develux, you need to search exactly for that. Knowing what you need to achieve and what you expect when you get there is a crucial factor in making the final decision. The goals may be in the range of:
SEO-optimized content marketing strategy, creation of content, or boosting the existent one;
Voice SEO optimization;
Technical advancement of a platform;
Building a larger audience of customers;
Ranking higher for specific keywords;
Get more organic and qualified traffic;
Drive sales and optimize the buyer’s funnel.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution out there. Depending on your objectives, an agency will develop a custom strategy and a set of practices.
Think About the Budget
Quality comes at a price. It is not to discourage one from hiring a professional SEO agency. It simply means not settling down for the cheapest options out there. If something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Expertise comes with time and effort, which costs more. If you are not sure what price is reasonable, research the average ones for a location on sites like Glassdoor or PayScale. Look for something in the middle when considering offers from various firms.
The same goes for promised deadlines. Do not settle for the cheapest and the fastest promise, it probably won’t meet your expectations. Success is not achieved overnight and requires constant maintenance.
Consider Referrals and Recommendations
According to the WebFX study on what factors influence the decision on SEO agencies, referrals and recommendations are in the first place with 45% of respondents naming it. And it is understandable why.
Word of mouth is one way to get insight into the quality of work an agency offers. And it also showcases whether it is knowledgeable in your particular industry. For example, if you are looking for a casino SEO agency, it is always a plus to find an experienced casino SEO expert, someone who has been working in this field before.
So it only makes sense to ask for recommendations from former clients or similar businesses that have ordered casino SEO services from a specific provider.
Another way to look for recommendations is to navigate sites like Clutch that rate companies based on client testimonials.
It is great to know the basics of SEO automation yourself. So when you get bombarded with terms, analytics, and reports, you know what is actually important.
One can evaluate expertise and quality of services by:
Communication and customer service;
Transparency in practices, SEO automation tools used, and reporting;
Former clients’ satisfaction rates;
Time of the market;
Team and their qualifications;
Internal processes and policies, etc.
A credible provider is always transparent with what they offer, how much they charge, and how they deliver the results. If there is any “mystery” or “secret ingredient” involved, it is a red flag.
Create a List of Possible Partners
One common mistake many businesses make is the search for local agencies. It dramatically narrows down the number of candidates and offers. In SEO, geographical location of a partner is not important for performance.
The only reason to care about it is when there is no opportunity for direct and fast communication. Otherwise, it is much more affordable to outsource this to an agency from other countries as many of them have lower rates than the US, UK, or EU partners.
Create a list of firms you like based on recommendations, testimonials, and the ability to fulfill your needs.
Look at Portfolios
This step helps not only to see the industry expertise and the range of clients working with a particular agency. It also shows how effective they are in what they do.
A great provider always illustrates its promises with the actual work it has done. Consider whether you find the cases sufficient and whether they are relevant for your niche.
Past performance can be represented by industry awards as well.
See How it Ranks
It is a simple yet very effective factor. Look at how high the agency ranks in the search engine result page for specific keywords. If they cannot help themselves, they probably won’t be very suitable for your business.
If the company ranks high as for their main keywords of the page, it is a good sign that the team knows what they are doing.
Opt for Ethical SEO
In the world of automated SEO software and analytics, there are two ways to do things. One is the right and ethical way; the other is often referred to as black hat SEO.
Ethical here means that the agency works by following guidelines and regulations of search engines. Unethical practices can provide only a short-time boost that will lead to future decline and significant problems. For example, being ranked as a spammy and unreliable source. And no one wants that.
One of such practices is acquiring high numbers of followers on social media by paying for bots and abandoned accounts. But it leads to zero revenue as those are not real followers, hence, bring zero traffic and engagement
Consider What an Agency Offers
Although SEO is data-driven and based on continuous monitoring and testing, no one can guarantee specific results. No one can say ‘you’ll rank first in Google by this keyword guaranteed” or “you’ll get 100,000 new followers in a month guaranteed”. It is simply impossible. If a provider throws such promises at you, it either uses unethical practices or simply lies.
Google doesn’t take payments for ranking priorities. It also doesn’t disclose all the factors that go into the ranking. And the search algorithm is constantly updated.
Communicate Directly With the Candidates
After everything mentioned above, you’ll end up with a shortlist of possible providers. Now it is time to reach out to them and directly ask about services, strategies, and practices.
Ask about their reporting system. How do they report results, how often, and how do they interpret the data received. Look for clear and comprehensive reporting and a strategy based on analytics.
Direct communication is also a final step in deciding whether an agency is the right fit. How do they communicate? How fast do they respond to inquiries? How willing are they to provide case studies?
One can also ask them about their experience in the industry, ROI, and expected results.
Characteristics of a Great SEO Agency
Those, who are wondering what to look into when deciding on an SEO agency, might find this check-list helpful:
Clear evidence of its previous performance, successful cases, clients, and metrics;
Strong corporate culture, transparent reporting practices, and clarity as to pricing;
Great customer service, fast response to clients, and attention to individual needs;
Ability to provide full-cycle services as SEO works best in the complex;
How the offered services correspond with the goals you’ve set for your business;
Ethical practices, software tools, and processes the agency uses to achieve results;
It has a defined process for SEO and a set of best practices;
It has a varied and full team of specialists;
Experience in the industry and ability to give knowledgeable consultation;
10. Portfolio of successful cases that corresponds with what you are looking for;
Specialization in your industry or market or at least previous experience in it.
And last but not least, business and cultural fit to your company. It is might not seem to be a necessity at first. But it is always easier and more effective to work with someone who shares similar values and has the same work ethic.
Finding a perfect SEO agency might be not easy as there is a huge demand and a huge pool of offers to choose from. The best idea is to start with your goals and expectations as well as the budget and work from there.
Look into evidence of previous performance and the quality of work. Consider reaching out to previous clients for feedback and recommendations. And do not settle for providers that offer something that simply cannot be achieved ethically.