With so many SEO agencies out there, how do you find the right one?
Picking an SEO company that not only fits the needs of your business, but gets results too, can be a difficult task.
In a previous blog post, we looked into the 11 key questions to ask when hiring an SEO Company.
If you’re in the early stages of looking for an agency, that’s the perfect place to start. It’ll help you whittle down your shortlist and provide insight into the SEO landscape.
However, if you find yourself looking for more, you’re in the right place.
We’re going to take a deep dive into the specifics before you appoint an agency.
The key considerations you need to be aware of before you sign on the dotted line.
Which leads this post into discussing 4 main topics:
If you’ve read our previous post, or are already in the midst of considering SEO agencies, then we’ll assume a couple of things:
a) you know what SEO is
b) you know the long-term advantages that can be gained from optimising your website
So, while this guide will highlight how to choose the right SEO company for your business, we won’t bore you with definitions.
We will discuss strategic decisions to look out for when an SEO agency is pitching for work.
One of our favourite questions to ask clients is “what does success look like to you?”
This is a question that forces business owners or decision makers to visualise the impact of the work that will be carried out.
It’s something performance coaches ask their clients, and while it may come in different forms, the sentiment is the same:
What is the bigger picture?
This should be the key consideration before any work is started.
Here’s an example.
Say your business sells bathroom furniture.
A fair assumption would be that they want to sell more products, appearing higher in searches for generic items such as “bathroom storage”, “bathroom wall cabinets”, “freestanding bathroom furniture”…the list goes on.
This might increase the amount of sales generated.
But your goal might be to increase the sales of your highest margin items, not the products that would get the most clicks on Google.
Our point being, the best SEO agencies will get to the root of your organisational objectives that impact your bottom line, rather than simply increase the number of clicks to your website.
Commercial objectives are the first thing you should be discussing in any strategic scenario.
Secondly? Your budget.
Let’s use another example.
You work for an online gambling business and want to increase the number of sign-ups to your website.
In reality, you’re competing with businesses that are spending upwards of £35 per click in Google Adwords, in addition to websites that have millions of links.
With the right budget, ranking for this is entirely possible. However, if you’re a new business that doesn’t have a huge budget, it wouldn’t be realistic for an SEO agency to take this project on and get any results.
What’s the bottom line?
An SEO agency should never discuss or propose a strategy that isn’t achievable, whilst aligning with your business goals.
Done correctly, you will see results in short to medium term that both make an impact on overall sales and visibility in Google.
The most reliable SEO agencies don’t provide guarantees.
Now that might sound a little strange.
But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Let us explain why.
Google is a search engine, with an algorithm that considers hundreds of different factors before it returns results for a given search query.
Nobody knows exactly what all those factors are.
Reliable SEO agencies have a good idea of what a website needs to do to rank. For example, we know keywords remain a crucial factor, as do links and website speed.
But while agencies may be doing the best job possible, Google often updates the core algorithm that decides rankings, meaning they fluctuate constantly. And we mean constantly.
To illustrate this, consider the Men’s Health website. Often used as a source of inspiration for workout, nutrition, and lifestyle tips, it is a huge site that appeals to many different people.
On the 22nd July 2018, Google rolled out an update to its core algorithm that affected websites related to health, specifically those with an eCommerce element.
The upshot for Men’s Health?
At its lowest point, a 59% decrease in search positions. And for a website that ranks for upwards of 200,000(!) keywords, with around 16,000 in the top 3 positions, this was huge.
With such an established website, you’d be forgiven for expecting the website would perform for the long-haul.
This shows just how unpredictable rankings can be. Therefore, any guarantees of ranking in first position are impossible to follow up on.
What you should be looking for from a reliable SEO agency, is a sustained approach to improved rankings.
Every client of theirs will have keywords that are integral to performance, which will likely form the basis of a monthly report.
The best SEO agencies will be able to share case studies of sustained performance, with keywords rising in position and maintaining their status.
The easiest way to check? Ask for a referral.
Testimonials should be visible on the SEO agency’s website, and if not, feel free to ask if you can get in touch with a current client for an opinion.
When it comes to results, beware of short-term gains.
It’s difficult to trick Google, but it is possible. There are tactics that can be employed to gain a short-term surge in performance, that could propel a website to the top of the rankings in a short space of time.
Rest assured, Google is quick to crack the whip.
These gains are not sustainable and have often been achieved by faking the credibility of a website using a huge influx of backlinks.
The most reliable SEO agencies will provide sustained growth, growing month on month for years.
If an agency demonstrates results that occur over an incredibly short space of time, ask for more in-depth historical data. It could be that the results dropped off a month later.
Communication is key, right?
Well, this is particularly relevant when it comes to hiring any agency to work alongside your business.
Whether that’s someone who’s running marketing campaigns or yourself directly, communicating not only on a strategic basis – such as the values you possess, but on a day to day basis too, is crucial to continued success.
Let us guide you through a typical scenario:
- You contact a number of agencies on a shortlist to tender (or interview) for your SEO contract.
- First interviews & meetings take place. The agency sends in the big guns. Director-level staff go all out to impress you, displaying their knowledge and delivering a solid presentation.
- After meeting all of the potential businesses, the agency is appointed.
- Kick-off meetings are scheduled, and the Directors are nowhere to be seen.
We get it.
The most experienced staff are brought in to win the job, and then it’s handed over to more junior staff.
But often that’s exactly what’s required.
Directors are great for leading the top-level thinking, but when it comes down to getting the work done, you want someone who’s involved in project delivery every single day.
What is important, is that you’re made aware of who will be handling your account from day one, and there is a clear line of communication between you and your account manager.
A common complaint is that once an agency is hired, communication drops off. The most reliable SEO agencies will explain how often they’ll be in touch, and what type of communication you should expect on a regular basis.
For example, it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear from your agency 2-3 times a month. This would comprise sending your monthly report, followed by sign off for any content expected to go live during the month.
As content marketing in particular can depend on hearing back from third party websites, while your agency may be hard at work contacting websites to place your articles, until they get a response there won’t be much to update on.
Managing your expectations and communicating clearly in this case is essential. You should never have any problems contacting a reliable SEO agency.
Now, what should you expect from the best SEO agencies?
The difference between the level of communication outlined above and the best agencies, is that they’ll get in touch without being prompted.
This can be as simple as informing you of the latest Google update, or a recent development in digital marketing.
By keeping you up to date with the industry, you can be sure that they are considering every method of success for your campaign.
We’ve already discussed budgets, and how they play an important role in the selection of the right SEO agency.
There’s quite a heated debate surrounding the amount of time, and therefore money, you need to put into SEO before you see results.
And while there are many different pricing strategies out there, finding what fits your business, and style of working, is important.
Take Bubblegum’s pricing strategy for example. We’re so confident that you’ll see results from your SEO campaign that we run on a monthly rolling contract.
(You can also get started with a Free SEO Proposal )
This gives the businesses we work with the utmost flexibility, and also places a level of trust in us that we’ll continue to strive for the best results in order to keep their business.
While this approach may work for some businesses, it may not for others.
SEO agencies are well within their rights to ask for contracts between 6 to 12 months long.
Well, in all honesty, it’ll probably be at least 6 months before you can see significant results.
Less competitive industries will show signs of improvement earlier than this, however 6-12 months in, it should be clear that they are making a difference to your business.
Plus, contracts give agencies the opportunity to invest more time getting to know your business, developing relationships further and increasing knowledge transfer.
While there’s no right or wrong, we’d say it’s up to a business to decide what works best for them.
How to Choose the Right SEO Company
At times, it can feel like a huge challenge. If you follow our guide, you’ll be in a much better position when it comes to selecting the right SEO agency.
Often, you’ll get a feel for the agency as soon as you meet them.
Their nature and the way they communicate with you will set the tone from the outset.
An SEO agency that can be trusted will want you to do what’s right for your business.
If it’s not a fit, no worries. But often they’re the businesses that you’ll want to deal with.
For a free consultation with Bubblegum Search, who can help you get a grasp of how your website is performing as well as navigate the world of SEO, get in touch today.