The SEO industry is a crowded arena with many SEO agencies all claiming to be able to get your website to the “top of Google” by many various methods, some more obscure than others.
While many claims might appear somewhat exaggerated, often by agencies without a complete understanding of the complexities of running a successful SEO campaign, the rewards of finding the right SEO agency for your business’s virtual online presence are very real.
What is SEO?
SEO or search engine optimisation refers to the optimisation of your online content website so that it shows up in a prominent position within the search results for a given set of search queries or topics (often referred to as keywords). Search engine giants, such as Google, continually make updates to their search algorithms to reward good quality and relevant website content and punish those trying to ‘trick’ search engines by cramming their sites with irrelevant keywords, poor quality links and content.
Simply put, it is the process of getting people onto your site from these search results. But the SEO process itself is far from simple, so many small businesses are turning to SEO agencies to improve their online presence. The choice of an SEO company can seem as complex as the world of Search Engine Optimisation itself, so there are a few things you need to bear in mind when deciding on an SEO agency.
Questions to ask when hiring an SEO company?
It can be a tough decision when choosing which SEO company to use. After all, SEO is an “invisible” product and sometimes different agencies can confuse businesses by using different terms and jargon to demonstrate their “success” within this complex arena. So how do you choose? Here are seven vital questions to ask research you potential SEO partner:
1. What experience do you have?
Try to ascertain if they have helped businesses similar to yours and whether their clients have been with the agency for a long time. Loyal customers speak volumes – as do measurable results, so demand to see the facts and figures behind similar campaigns to the sort you would expect to run. Any SEO agency worth their salt will be proud to show their past successes.
2. How much work will be done in-house?
Many agencies outsource some, or maybe all, of their SEO work. The more work that is outsourced, the less control the agency will have and the less accountable they will be for your results.
3. What contact will I have with my account manager?
Regular communication is a crucial component of an SEO marketing campaign. It’s a two-way street, though; just as you need to know what is happening with the campaign, the SEO agency must be ready to adapt their campaign to your changing business.
4. What will you need from me?
It might be tempting to leave all SEO activities to your agency, but the more input you have, the better the results will be. So make sure you understand what will be expected of you, and how you can help your SEO agency.
5. What results do you expect, and over what timescales?
No agency will guarantee certain positions within set timescales, as Google can alter its algorithm at any time. Be wary of agencies that promise to ‘have you at the top of Google within the week’ – this is an impossible task. However, agree on goals and targets and ensure both you and your SEO agency are focused on the same outcomes.
6. How are keywords chosen?
It is easy to rise to the top of the search engine rankings using very specific phrases – but if no one ever types in those search phrases, you will never get any extra business. However, broad keywords might not be used by serious customers looking to make a purchase. Good keyword research is vital, and you need to know what your company will be targeting – a good SEO agency will understand this concept and will advise you accordingly.
7. What is your marketing experience beyond SEO?
SEO is not a solitary beast in the marketing zoo. It should be part of an overall marketing strategy, so work with a company that understands the bigger picture.
Raising the red flags
Anytime an SEO agency makes certain promises or claims, a red flag should go up. Here are the top things to look out for and help you detect a bad SEO agency:
1. Over or underpriced services
A low quote will most likely buy you a low quality of work and a high price will not be given by a commercially aware company. A Bristol SEO agency with a strong reputation will give a reasonable price.
2. Your site will be indexed in two days
Any agency promising to index your site without having visited and thoroughly analysed your site is not doing two-thirds of the work an SEO professional must do – research.
3. Guaranteed top page ranking within a week!
Anyone promising a particular page rank in a short time scale does not understand SEO in any way, shape or form. Search rankings are done periodically, not on a daily basis, by the likes of Google and you cannot speed up this process.
4. Massive search engine submissions
This is a huge waste of time – a well-done site does not need to be submitted to all the major search engines. In fact, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo advise that over-submitting a site to search engines will actually pull you down the rankings.
5. Thousands of links to your site
Again, the search engine giants will actually punish or blacklist sites seen to be building links too quickly and with irrelevant sites. Instead, a site should build quality inbound links over time.
6. Copyright requests for SEO and metadata
Do not engage with agencies that want to retain copyrights to any of the metadata that they create, edit or analyse for you. This leaves your site vulnerable to the possibility that they could bar you from using such data, undoing all your previous SEO work.
7. We know someone
Does your SEO agency claim to know someone at Google who can help your search ranking? We seriously doubt it. All employees sign confidentiality agreements and an SEO expert will stand on their own reputation – not an imaginary contact.
Likewise, any unsolicited SEO offers that appear “too good to be true” will be. So put those emails where they belong – in the spam folder.
The key to finding the right SEO company for your business is simple – research. Make sure you find an SEO agency that has ample experience working with companies similar to yours and is readily available to answer all your queries on an SEO campaign. Any agency that makes spurious claims and is not willing to openly communicate with you is not one that you should ever consider doing business with.
The road to SEO success is a long one – so make sure you pick an open, informed and relevant agency.