There’s a myth in the business world that search engine optimisation (SEO) is some sort of black magic. We can tell you now that SEO isn’t magic, but there are several dimensions to it! Good SEO requires both a technical mindset to maintain a website to Google’s exacting (and ever-changing) standards as well as a creative flair to create, optimise and present content. A good SEO consultant will have a genuine interest in all aspects of the subject.
In order to for you to succeed in this vital area, you will need to keep abreast of new developments in SEO-land. Yet for digital marketing managers, working in SMEs, they may have neither the resource nor the skills available to maintain their SEO, and as such rely on SEO agencies. In this case, outsourcing SEO can be a great idea – but only when your SEO agency knows what they’re doing.
We’ve had clients that have been stung by false promises from SEO agencies. We especially liked the SEO agency who rang a client and said they hadn’t been able to get into their website for a few months!
Once you’ve decided that outsourcing SEO is the best option for your business, now comes the task of selecting the perfect search engine optimisation partner. Your first port of call is Google, and your search for ‘SEO agency’ returns a plethora of agencies. How do you sift through the hundreds, if not thousands, of search results to find the best SEO outsourcing company for your needs?
Here are our top questions to ask to ensure you don’t fall into any common traps!
Every good agency will have a set of tasks they fulfil before even starting a relationship with a new client. These actions may differ from company to company since there are very few “right” answers when it comes to SEO.
In our case, we run a website SEO audit to check how a client is currently performing organically and to investigate any “quick wins” that may appear from the audit to bolster a website’s health. We then sit with the client and assess their keywords to create a content strategy plan with the help of carefully devised buyer personas.
If you ask a prospective SEO agency what their first steps are when undertaking a new SEO project and you don’t seem too convinced by the confidence in their response – or they want your money first – take this as a warning sign.
The key to a successful SEO partnership is transparency – from both the client and the agency. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In our experience, we’ve had prospective clients come to us having had agencies promising the world (ever heard “rank 1st in google”?) and unable to deliver evidence to prove success in campaigns. Find an agency that can prove its worth – this comes in handy if/when stakeholders ask you!
There are many tools out there (both paid and free) that can be used to measure the progress of an SEO campaign. A good agency will have these at their fingertips and be competent in analysing how effective their SEO strategy is. They will send you regular updates because they will be proud of what they are achieving.
Once you’re happy an agency is capable of assisting you in the short-term, you may want to consider the long-term. Aligning your current biggest digital marketing challenge, i.e. SEO, with an agency’s greatest merit makes sense for the present. However, understanding the full depth of their services provided is key in choosing a great digital partner for the future. Finding an agency that can grow with you as you succeed is a huge bonus.
Two prime examples would be if they have a content creation capability – SEO is so dependent on regular delivery of great content – and also any design expertise to help make the user experience of visitors really slick. These all count towards securing SEO success.
You’ve looked at your goals, decided on a list of ‘must-haves’ for an SEO agency and have found what you think may be a perfect fit. However, they’re on the other side of the world. Now we do live in a shrinking world where technology is king – so surely the location of an agency doesn’t matter? We think it does.
It’s true that technology has aided us in being able to contact someone who’s a thousand miles away instantaneously, but an agency that’s located nearby comes with significant benefits. We find that meeting an agency on a regular face-to-face basis can help build a solid understanding of your business and, with it, a good mutually beneficial, long-term, relationship. You’ll get a feel for whom they are and the values that they stand for, and they’ll be able to understand your SEO goals on a deeper level.
Location-based searches will provide a comprehensive list of agencies in your area. A search for ‘SEO agencies Oxfordshire’, for example, will return a list of local agencies to Oxfordshire (if they did their SEO correctly….)
Once you’ve got your SEO goals aligned, both short term and long term, the next thing to do is set out a budget. There’s no set rule as to how much an SEO agency should charge for a service. If you’re completely unsure as to what is a good price for an SEO service, a top tip is to ask for quotes from several different agencies. These quotes will give you a gage of how much you need to spend and equally whether your initial budget is realistic in terms of your goals.
You may find that you get a range of different quotes from agencies. Take time to digest these! Check that the agencies are explicit about costs and that there are no hidden extras that they will charge you for. Cheaper isn’t always the best in the long run! Also, get the agency to split the cost down into types of activity so that you can measure this month-by-month.
Before any decisions are made on an agency – it’s in your best interest to find out as much information as you can about them. Their website is a good starting point. It should highlight their services that they offer, the tools they use and perhaps even case studies of previous SEO projects that they’ve worked on. Check out their blog – are they talking about relevant SEO challenges that your business is facing? Are they up to date on what’s hot in SEO? As well as getting a feel for a company, doing as much research as possible highlights their credibility as an agency.
And we’d love to be considered too:
If you’d like to speak to Toast Inbound about outsourcing SEO, please feel free to contact us! As previously mentioned, our initial SEO task on any new project is undertaking an SEO audit of a website. For more information, please click on the image below!
Author – Lizzie Griffiths
Lizzie is a digital marketing executive at Toast Inbound. She works with clients to help them achieve their SEO goals and improve their presence in Google’s search results.
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