It is no secret that Search Engine Optimization is a massively important part of modern marketing and has become one of the best ways to grow a brand's online visibility. Over the last decade, hundreds of new SEO marketing companies have emerged, promising you the latest and greatest ways to help your business achieve that visibility. Their pitches may sound promising, but it is important to realize that there are MANY ways to achieve SEO results and only a small percentage of them are legal, useful, efficient, and effective! Are you asking the right questions to your digital marketing agency?
Choosing the right company for your digital marketing can be a daunting challenge. Here are several ways to find out if your digital marketing agency is providing you with the best SEO practices:
Are they involved in all aspects of your digital presence?
Just about any sensible person can understand the concept behind keywords and backlinking, but what strategies they use to implement those tactics are what sets the experts from the rest of the crowd. You see, search engine optimization is a very broad title for a myriad of systems and tactics to achieve an overarching goal. Any expert SEO firm should be optimizing all aspects of your digital presence, including your website content, design, and layout, social media pages, local NAP listings, and much more. If you agency is not optimizing all of those aspects, then you are by no means taking advantage of the compounding benefits of search engine optimization.
Have they analyzed your competitors to determine a competitive strategy?
There is an immense amount of data that can be gathered by researching your competitors. For one, their marketing teams have already done their own research and a good SEO company will take that research and build upon that or leverage any flaws they may see in the competitor's strategy. Second, knowing your place in the rankings as compared to other companies in your industry and/or local region allow you to accurately predict goals and create realistic objectives for the strategy you set in place. If your agency has never asked you who your competitors are, they are either so good that they figured it out on their own, or they need to be replaced.
Who is writing your content?
This one is obvious. "Content is King" is a very well-known phrase in the SEO world, and for a good reason. The keywords utilized in any content needs to be researched, triple checked and optimized in order to achieve fantastic SEO results. Any good search engine optimization firm will want to write the content for your business in order to have the most control over these aspects. Oftentimes, they will ask someone in your business to give them bullet points or to potentially even start writing the content, so that they can harness your expertise in your industry and then optimize the content from there. If no content writing or editing is being provided, you should be looking around for new agencies.
How long are they telling you it will take?
The unfortunate part about search engine optimization is that it takes time. Quite a bit of it, honestly. Many snake oil firms will promise you results in 2-3 months and that is your first clue to hang up immediately. You see, Google works on their own timeline. The efforts that an agency must put into place are time-consuming and even after all of the implementation time passes, it takes months for your to start seeing any true results.
Now, I don't want to dissuade you from the idea of SEO. It is unfortunate that it takes time, but just as Rome wasn't built in a day, your SEO strategy will take some time to implement and take effect. The standard time frame we tell our clients is that it will take 6-12 months to begin seeing real results. This does not mean that you cannot see results in earlier months. We have seen rankings increase as early as 3-4 months, but that is quite irregular. Anyone promising instant results is selling you snake oil.
Ask them about their tactics. Do they use white hat search engine optimization methods?
Just as in our world, the world of SEO has it's light and dark sides. There will always be cheaters in every industry, we call these frowned upon and often illegal tactics Black Hat methods. Highly standardized and legal tactics are known as White Hat. As you can imagine, there is a blending section right in the center, known as Grey Hat. Any respectable SEO firm will strictly stick to the white hat methods and stay away from white hat methods.
Black hat methods simply don't stick and will end up causing more harm, usually by adding spam scores to your domain authority, leading non-qualified leads into your website and social channels, and not directly causing any harm. If any illegal processes are being used, then you can be liable for the fees, legal actions, and Google may ban your IP address and make it very difficult.
Long story short: Stick to the white hat methods. They drive traffic, sales, and will prevent headaches later in life.
How detailed are your reports and how are you comparing them?
Reports are fantastic, but without proven statistics to compare them to, they don't mean a tremendous amount. When you receive reports, ask your project manager how certain stats compare to other stats in your same industry. Ask for proven industry standard from huge digital marketing survey houses like Hubspot and Moz. Is your agency tracking as much as possible? Have they offered to place a call tracking number on your digital assets (website, social media pages, local NAP listings, etc.) to track how many calls they are sending your way? These are very important metrics that you should be tracking.
Your best indication of which search engine optimization firm will be well aligned with your business is how well do they optimize their own brand and online assets. We always tell our clients that we would never do anything for them that we wouldn't do for ourselves. We ask them "How did you find us?" and the answer is almost always, "We Googled SEO companies near us and your name was everywhere." That should be a good indication of how well an SEO firm can implement the strategies they preach. If they can dominate search terms in their industry, then they can surely do it for you.
At the end of the day, there are hundreds of bad SEO firms for every one great and respectable SEO agency. Find the agency that will extend your marketing efforts, push the limits of your optimization, drive traffic and sales, and Create • Connection™.