If you’re relying on billions of people to find you through Google search every, search engine optimisation (SEO) needs to be at the top of your priority list.
If you want to increase web traffic, you have 2 choices: a) master search engine optimization (SEO) and manage an inhouse team or b) hire a professional SEO agency.
The process of hiring the best SEO agency can be daunting, especially if your knowledge of SEO is limited.
There are many great SEO agencies out there, but there are also the mediocre ones – and sometimes it’s hard to tell the real deal from a total fraud.
Choosing the best SEO agency for your firm is similar to evaluating any investment: you’ll want to conduct a diligent investigation of historical performance, speak to references, and try to get an inside look at how the agency is run.
To make your life easier, we put together 7 points that help you identify the best SEO agencies:
#1 Best SEO agencies provide results not generic services
People don’t buy services, they buy results. Make sure that the agency you hire offers customised solutions to your particular business objectives.
Every business is unique and as such needs a customised SEO strategy to help build traffic, increase visibility, and help you reach your goals.
A great SEO agency will spend time talking to you to understand your business objectives and will ensure the strategy is tailored to your requirements.
Unfortunately, there are too many agencies that provide cookie-cutter services on autopilot. Don’t waste your time with them.
Ask your SEO agency: What is the SEO process that you would follow to meet my expectations?
#2 Best SEO agencies optimise for search-intent not just keywords
The SEO industry has evolved and matured into a fully grown-up customer-centric marketing discipline.
True SEO professionals put their audience first, and as such, optimise a website for search engines considering user’s search intent, user experience, and site usability (not just keywords).
So when an SEO agency you are speaking with is talking about ‘charging per keyword’ – this is a red flag! Search marketing isn’t about keywords anymore.
Keyword research is still important, but an understanding of how Google is extracting intent from users’ search queries and matching it to relevant pages will get you much further.
In fact, a critical part that we have been working on over the last few years at Digivate is increasing the richness of the Schema mark-up for our clients.
Schema mark-up allows us to be far more explicit on the function of the page – either informational, transactional or navigational.
Any SEO agency worth working with will take the time to research your target personas (check our unique approach to developing MIND personas), understand what the target audience is looking for, and come up with a keyword strategy that relates to your audience’s pain points.
Search engines are only the medium through which customers find your business, so while it’s important to improve your website’s visibility, you want to make sure that your SEO agency understands what your customers are looking for and what value your content provides them.
Ask your SEO agency: How do you decide which keywords and topics to target?
#3 Best SEO agencies report on meaningful KPIs that drive business growth
When you’re working with an SEO agency to come up with your digital marketing strategy, make sure that they are using specific and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the success of your campaign.
KPIs like “increasing rankings” are vague and mean very little, while specific goals like “organic revenue”, “increase in conversions” or “number of signups” are what drives business growth.
A great SEO agency will discuss specific KPIs and reporting with you during the onboarding process.
Ask your SEO agency: Do you have previous examples of reporting I can look at?
#4 Best SEO agencies create authoritative content
Thought leadership marketing is a great specialisation to look for in an SEO agency.
While it is more time consuming to implement, this kind of content marketing takes the “content is king” approach to SEO by establishing credibility in your field and making you a valuable source of information for your customers.
If your website hosts authoritative content, it’s more likely to be linked to by others within your industry, helping to increase your visibility on search engines.
Stay away from SEO agencies that recycle short 300-word articles that don’t add any value to customers.
We see too many businesses blog for the sake of blogging, without really understanding why they are doing it and who are they writing for.
Ask your SEO agency: Can you show me examples of your thought leadership work, preferably in my industry?
#5 Best SEO agencies understand the importance of content pillars and content clusters
Look for an SEO agency that utilises pillar pages and content clusters in their content strategy.
Pillar content (or cornerstone content) is a comprehensive and evergreen resource with detailed and in-depth information upon which your blog strategy is built.
The ultimate purpose of pillar pages from a business perspective is to serve as the main lead-generation page for a particular service or product.
Pillar pages form the centre of your blog strategy and they can’t exist without supporting content (also known as topic clusters).
Hubspot has a great visual representation of how content pillars are related to the blog posts that support it:
Ask your SEO agency: What is the purpose of blog posts in relation to the main lead generation pages?
#6 Best SEO agencies have over 5 years of experience and killer case studies
One of the best ways to find an excellent SEO agency is to see their case studies.
You should ask the agency for detailed case studies and references of previous clients to see how exactly they improved their business.
Not only will case studies demonstrate the agency’s knowledge and experience, but it’ll give you an idea of whether the agency is a good fit for you and your business or not.
Ask your SEO agency: Do you have any case studies from other businesses in our industry? What percentage of your clients renew every year? How long have your oldest customers been with you?
#7 Best SEO agencies are transparent about their practices
There are 2 types of SEO agencies: those that follow Google webmaster’s guidelines (known as “white hat” SEO agencies) and those that don’t follow Google’s guidelines (known as “black hat” SEO agencies).
Any SEO agency you choose to work with should be willing to discuss their practices with you and show that they follow Google’s guidelines.
If they’re not fully transparent, they’re likely to be using “black hat” SEO techniques like private link networks, keyword stuffing, and content scraping to generate false results.
While on the surface, it may seem like these unethical techniques are helping to generate short-term traffic, they will eventually lead to penalisation of your website.
Ask your SEO agency: What SEO techniques do you use to increase search traffic?
What SEO agencies do exactly?
An SEO agency helps to define and implement your SEO strategy to achieve your business objective. Your SEO agency team usually consists of technical SEO executives, strategists, content creators, and outreach specialists.
A great SEO agency will take care of every aspect of your SEO, from the technical (like ensuring your website’s pages can be indexed by search engines) to analysing your content for keyword usage and potential inconsistencies.
They’ll also take care of all aspects of off-page SEO, ensuring the information in local directories is up to date, as well as contacting industry publications and bloggers for guest post opportunities.
Why hire an SEO agency?
There are many reasons why you would want to hire an SEO agency.
The main reason for hiring an SEO agency is lack of resources (time, knowledge, money) to hire, train and manage a dedicated in-house team.
This is where SEO agencies come in.
The great thing about hiring a reputable SEO agency is that we already have established processes, skill sets, access to intelligent data and the most up-to-date tools to get your project off the ground immediately.
But the biggest benefit of hiring an SEO agency is our experience. We know what works, why it works and how long it will take to work – we manage your expectations, so there are no surprises.