While digital marketers often work with SEO professionals to develop a comprehensive and effective online marketing strategy, SEO is its own, highly technical field. Thus, your business needs to invest separate resources in obtaining high-quality SEO services, and to do that, you need to know what features signal the best SEO agency in the world.
Understand Your Goals
Believe it or not, your SEO goal is not “to rank higher.” To rank higher where, on which search engine? Which searchers are you trying to rank higher on? And what does “higher” mean to you — are you trying to reach the first result, or would you be happy to reach the first page? Why do you want to rank higher; what do you think it will accomplish?
Your SEO goals should be quite specific, so you can find the right SEO agency to meet (or exceed) them. Vague goals like “higher ranking” and “more traffic” aren’t even close to good enough to benefit your business. You need to formulate goals like these:
- Earn more traffic from specific audience groups
- Boost revenue by driving sales, downloads or trials through organic search
- Improve sentiment for the brand by limiting visibility of negative reviews
You should work with your management, sales and marketing teams to devise valuable goals for SEO.
Define Your Budget
Next, not all SEO services cost the same. It is much more time- and energy-intensive to improve rankings in competitive industries or for competitive search terms. Additionally, large and experienced SEO firms tend to charge higher rates — as befits their knowledge and skill — than freelancers, less reputable agencies or firms that are just starting out. Finally, some services are simpler and easier to enact than others; for instance, optimizing a page or domain for search is a relatively straightforward project, but building SEO content and links is an ongoing effort.
Some businesses pay $100 per month for SEO, and others pay over $10,000 per month. You need to define your unique budget before you start looking for services, so you know exactly what you can (and can’t) afford.
Interview About Tactics
You could peep into your business spam folder and find hundreds of emails advertising the ability to get your website on the first page of search results for a ridiculously low, flat rate. Indeed, they probably will — but that success won’t last. So-called black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing and link spamming trick Google’s algorithm into believing that a webpage is highly relevant and exceedingly valuable, but relatively quickly, Google catches wise. Then, Google will penalize your website, dropping it lower in rank than where you started or perhaps removing you from its index entirely.
It is incredibly important that the SEO agency you work with practices safe SEO. You should ask them about their typical tactics — even ask them about the strategies they use to improve their own rankings. The process should be slow and rigorous, not fast and cheap, and it should require changes to your website as well as coordination with third-party publishing sites — though the exact strategy will depend on your goals. As long as you get the sense that your SEO agency isn’t offering a one-size-fits-all approach, you should be on the right track.
Ask About Communication
Hiring an SEO agency allows you to offload the heavy responsibility of optimization onto qualified experts — but that doesn’t mean SEO is set-and-forget. You want your SEO partner to communicate with you often, showing you incremental results of your SEO efforts, seeking approval for different projects or requesting some kind of action from you, like developing content. How often your SEO team checks in will, again, depend on your goals and budget, but you don’t want to be left guessing about the next time you’ll hear about your SEO progress.
You should know not only how frequently you will speak with your SEO agency but how they will reach out. Ideally, they will use a universal communication tool like the phone or email, but you might need to download collaboration software to send and receive files or work on SEO projects together. You need to understand this from the get-go to avoid miscommunication that costs you SEO success.
SEO is one of the most critical elements of digital marketing — but the two are not one in the same. You need a professional, experienced and successful SEO agency to help your business achieve its digital marketing goals, so the more effort you put into searching for the right SEO team for you, the better.