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Do you want to outsource your SEO management to a company? When vetting potential SEO agency partners, keep these tips in mind.
The quality of service provided by SEO agencies can vary. That means that a large number of companies and brands have been burned at least once.
Furthermore, many agencies look and sound the same – just change the logo and branding. Nonetheless, they provide varying degrees of depth of experience and expertise.
SEO agencies aren’t one-size-fits-all, and entering a bad-fit relationship can be costly in terms of both money and time.
Using my agency experience, I’ve outlined nine tips to help you navigate the process of selecting the right fit and right agency for your organization.
Good agencies will ask you early on what your goals are, whether they are based on ROI, conversions, or whatever other metric you use to measure success. (Be wary if someone offers to do SEO for you without delving into the subject.)
It is reasonable not to know what to expect from SEO unless the agency assists with the research.
Do what you can, however, to at least understand what ROI looks like for you. This could take the form of the number of conversions required or specific actions.
As a reference point, you can also look at industry benchmarks and your own performance baselines.
Whatever you know or don’t know, be clear on what success looks like in terms of making money or achieving your goals. Have as much of it as possible before beginning your search for an SEO agency.
You’re probably looking for an SEO agency because you lack the necessary internal SEO expertise and time resources. In any case, a successful agency partnership will require some level of collaboration or effort from you or your team.
Even if the agency handles everything, you’ll need time commitments and availability for approvals, oversight, feedback, and performance reviews.
In many cases, brands and organizations retain additional aspects or have other partners to cover the full range of SEO requirements, such as content, IT, UX, and any collaborative elements.
Plan out what your internal team could or should be in charge of. Make yourself available to collaborate or use the agency or outside partners.
This will assist you in determining whether the agency is suitable for all or some aspects of the SEO work you will eventually require.
By combining goals and knowing what ROI looks like, as well as internal resources or existing partners, you should be able to find some budget parameters to work from.
Even if you want to hear the first number from the agency, knowing your budget parameters will help you qualify faster and filter out the agencies that are the best fit in terms of size, scope, and fit.
For example, if you can quickly get some ballpark pricing and know what arena you’re in, you can move on if it’s significantly above (or significantly below) your estimated budget.
Be forthright with that information, and inquire about how the agency will assist you in any initial strategy or audit steps to understand avenues to meet your goals, as well as the risk for various budget levels and investments.
As you browse websites, speak with those who refer you to potential agencies, or begin any initial outreach, keep in mind that specific dimensions matter.
This includes the agency’s size in comparison to your organization. Or, more importantly, how well they can serve your company. Another factor to consider is the stage of your company’s growth and lifecycle.
Agencies can be pure generalists, accepting any and all clients with a dollar to pay. A few take into account various factors that help narrow things down a bit, such as pricing minimums, a focus on specific niches or industries, audiences, conversion types, or even the makeup or structure of your team.
Save time and energy searching for areas that are a good fit for who you are and what you want. Refuse pitches from agencies that appear to be out of your league or are not in line with your goals.
Excellent examples include:
Do your research and be prepared to question or challenge any contradictions or mixed messages you encounter.
I frequently receive a slew of excellent questions from prospects I speak with. Sometimes I don’t get asked enough questions, so I end up answering questions I wish I had been asked or assuming my potential clients want to know.
The more organized your questions are, the more objective your comparison of the agencies you are considering will be.
Plan questions about anything and everything that is important to you, whether it is related to:
Be ready, especially if you have internal resources that will own copy or content, development, or other things that require close collaboration and partnership.
Know who you’re working with and how their cultures align (or don’t).
Prepare a solid list of questions, a strategy for who will ask what, and whatever level of notes or scorecard you can manage. Finally, you can be objective while also returning to your finalist(s) with more profound levels of details you want to firm up.
Do your personalities complement other people?
I’m not referring to just you and me, the president, who is currently leading the discussion (or whatever sales or account representative).
I’m referring to those on your team and those on the agency’s team who will be working together in the trenches.
Examine the compatibility of the teams. Learn about employee retention and stability. Determine the level of transparency to be expected. How involved will they be?
These considerations, as well as agreement on the agency’s approach, are critical.
You don’t want to hit a brick wall or drop out right after signing the contract or just a few months into an ongoing agreement.
Is something too good to be true? Is something wrong? Is a red or yellow flag flying somewhere?
Trust your instincts and go deeper. Validate your concerns about how you will fit in with the agency. Pose your difficult questions.
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t move forward. That’s a red flag, and you should follow your instincts to pause and dig deeper.
I’m not saying to flee. Perhaps you are their first client in your niche or industry.
That may be acceptable with the appropriate level of transparency, research approach, and risk tolerance. In some cases, it’s better to go with someone new rather than the same old thing.
Aside from resource constraints and a lack of understanding of SEO strategy, communication and mismanaged expectations are two of the most significant roadblocks to success.
Every client has a unique level of SEO knowledge, awareness of SEO processes, and understanding of the agency’s unique perspectives on those things.
We (agencies) can take it for granted that not everyone geeks out to the same extent that we do.
If you are unsure about the procedure, ask again.
What are the steps from contract to discovery, onboarding, research, strategy, optimization, reporting, communication, timing, and results accountability going to look like?
Make sure you understand everything. If you don’t know, keep asking and taking notes to get up to speed and set the right level of accountability and expectations for the partnership.
Don’t sign anything you haven’t read! If you don’t understand the terms of the agreement, have a lawyer or SEO expert review it.
Be wary of long-term contracts, catch-all cancellation clauses, and work ownership claims. None of those things are wrong, but you should be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
Long-term planning may result in cost savings and commitment from both parties in the relationship. SEO does require time. You should, however, avoid the following scenarios:
Holding your work product, content, or properties hostage.
After a few months of working together, we were hit with change orders.
Assuming that other areas (such as content, development updates, CRO, and so on) are covered and under the agency’s purview, only to discover that they are not.
Getting into a gray area where they weren’t explicitly stated.
The ideal situation is for the relationship to be founded on trust and accountability, with billings and value remaining balanced over time. After signing the contract, you don’t have to think about it again.
It is difficult to find the best SEO agency for your needs. It can be difficult to cut through the noise of so many people who sound the same, find ways to assess their experience and expertise, or map out your fit with them.
Furthermore, it can result in a waste of time, energy, and money. That is not what I want for you.
Hopefully, the advice I’ve given will help you prepare for and think about the process in depth so that you can find the right fit for you and succeed.
Because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, our in-person services are closed until further notice. However, our online services are available as usual with some special offers.
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