You’ve probably heard that your website needs search engine optimization, or SEO for short.
Maybe it came up at a conference. Possibly your local chamber of commerce held a lunch and learn on the topic. Perhaps you’ve received unsolicited emails from agencies promising SEO that will boost your website’s traffic by incredible numbers.
And that’s what your website needs, right?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, more traffic to your website can increase visits to your store, purchases of your product or the number of people who fill out a contact form.
But only if the traffic comes from relevant, quality sources within your target audience. That’s the promise unqualified SEO agencies can’t fulfill.
So how do you find a good SEO agency that can provide the right services for your company – especially when you may only understand bits and pieces of the process?
To put it simply: Ask questions.
Directing these four questions toward any SEO agency knocking on your door will reveal whether or not you’re dealing with a reputable company.
1. Is a website audit part of your process?
A good SEO agency can tell you specifically what needs improvement on your website. They won’t just tell you that you need more traffic.
Instead, they’ll tell you a few reasons why your traffic is low. Then they’ll perform a detailed website audit that reveals all of the issues negatively affecting your site’s performance.
This audit then helps the agency create a well-prioritized plan of attack to boost organic SEO.
For example, if your website doesn’t have any title tags or meta descriptions filled out — the head and snippet that shows up in search results and summarizes a page’s content – those issues would rank higher on the priority list than a page with a low word count. Both affect how your website is ranked. But title tags and meta descriptions, shown below, play a larger role.
Quality website audits also help you better understand what’s affecting your website’s performance. That’s because a good SEO agency will include a key with definitions detailing the site’s various issues, or they’ll to discuss the audit with you in-person or by phone.
2. What other services do you provide?
Most unqualified SEO agencies dangle the promise of placing you first in organic search results and increasing your traffic by unrealistic numbers. Typically, they’re not specific about how they plan to do that.
In contrast, reputable SEO agencies are upfront about how they plan to improve your website and online presence.
A good agency will utilize a number of different tactics in addition to organic SEO to best position your brand online. Most often this includes the following digital marketing services:
Google My Business optimization
It’s a must-have for local companies. On mobile, these results will appear above organic search results. They provide the perfect space to share company hours, provide your phone number and address, and share photos of the inside of your store or your team members without the customer having to clicking through to your website. This can provide huge benefits! That’s because 76 percent of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby will visit a store that same day. Additionally, about 30 percent of all mobile searches are related to location, which means your brand could reach a lot of eyes with an optimized Google My Business listing.
This includes setting up relevant goals for your website in Google Analytics, such as filling out a form or buying a product, as well as reporting on the performance of SEO initiatives and digital marketing campaigns. We’d recommend asking for a sample report from agencies to help you best understand what their analytics management looks like. If the report is vague or confusing, ask questions or discuss the possibility of a custom report. A good SEO agency will provide solid analytics to support what they’re doing and be able to explain changes in performance.
Pay-per-click (PPC) campaign management
This includes developing, targeting and monitoring advertisements featured at the top of a search engine results page. Shown in the example below, PPC means that the client only pays when someone clicks on the ad. A good SEO agency should be able to provide average click-through rates for current campaigns in your business category. They should also have an explanation of how they target PPC ads. The more thorough the explanation, the more likely you’re dealing with a true SEO expert.
These don’t show up in search results but instead appear on different websites. The ads can feature interactive displays or animation to engage the user, which means it’s a plus if the agency has a creative team in-house. Again, the best SEO agencies should explain how they’re targeting ads and provide details about how they design the creative for these ads. In the case below, this ad appeared after we had visited Social Media Examiner’s website. It was one of their remarketing campaigns, which means the ads are served to people who have already visited or taken an action on your website.
3. How will you show me the progress we’re making?
Your agency should be able to show you analytics around the organic SEO and digital marketing initiatives they’re working on for your company.
Most agencies do this by providing clear monthly reports to the client that include explanations of key stats. They may review this report with you by phone or in-person.
But no matter how the agency handles reporting, you should be able to understand what the numbers mean. And if you’re not seeing progress, they should be able to articulate what’s going on, why it’s occurring, and provide steps for correcting.
It’s possible you may need to work with the agency to set more achievable expectations about the benefits of SEO and digital marketing initiatives. Or perhaps the goals set up within Google Analytics should be adjusted or refined to better track your progress.
Either way, your SEO agency should be able to speak to your concerns and help quantify the numbers by looking at year-over-year or quarterly performance.
If you’re not seeing progress and your SEO agency isn’t communicating with you, it may be time to say goodbye.
4. How often will you be checking in on my account?
Most reputable agencies can provide specifics about how they’re spending their time. They’ll likely be able to give you a breakdown of the specific number of hours they’re investing into keyword research, updating existing SEO, setting up digital ads, exploring new opportunities and more.
That’s because a good agency knows SEO and digital marketing are not set-it-and-forget-it tasks. To do them successfully requires monitoring and tweaking.
This is necessary on a daily or weekly basis because things change quickly.
Google or Bing could announce an algorithm update one day that affects current best practices. Possibly a new optimization option could appear on Google My Business Listings. Or maybe the price per click in the category you’re targeting increases dramatically because of greater competition.
If the agency you’re working with limits their efforts to setting up campaigns and pulling a report once a month, your digital marketing and SEO won’t ever perform as well as they could.
You don’t have to be an expert to pick a winner.
Too many people have been disappointed by unqualified SEO agencies who take their money but leave them with little results.
That’s not what we want for you.
Asking these questions reveals a lot about the company offering you SEO services, as well as what your expectations should be and how SEO can truly help your brand.
Remember, the best SEO agencies won’t throw out vague promises and unrealistic statistics.
They’ll provide real information with real numbers backing it up. They’ll explain the pieces of the puzzle that you don’t quite understand. They’ll partner with you to get your website and online presence to where it needs to be.
The best SEO agencies can be found. They’re just not always the ones emailing you.