Not long ago, I was asked by a digital agency to perform an SEO audit for a well-known organisation based in Dublin. The agency wanted me to provide them with a complete SEO audit, on-site and off-site, to pitch to their client for a website redesign and to improve their current search engine ranking, mainly on Google.
Once I received the email with the domain name listed, I had a quick look at their current rankings and realised that the site was several years old, didn’t rank for almost any keywords.
I scanned their robots.txt file:
For those who don’t know how to read this, the meaning of these two lines is: “Search engines, please don’t index my pages”.
The agency who created the website forgot a detail: changing one character in a line of text.
Choosing a good SEO Consultant or Agency is a very important decision which can change whether a business makes or lose money online.
In the above example neither the client or the digital agency realised that, for months, the website was invisible to Google, other search engines and, most importantly prospective customers.
BrightEdge Research found that, with 51% of the total websites’ visits, Organic Search dominate traffic in 2017.
The figure shows how important Search Engine Optimisation is for any business.
A large number of organisations choose to outsource this aspect to Consultants or Agencies. An external partner can provide a skillset the company doesn’t possess.
Choosing a great SEO partner is tough if you don’t know what your website needs.
Google provides some tips for hiring the right SEO agency for you, so I’d suggest you look at the following video.
Given a large amount of SEO options in the market, choosing the right partner is not an easy job.
I’d like to give you some advice on how to choose the right SEO partner.
I’ve been using the term “partner” numerous times because:
- SEO isn’t a one-off campaign
- It’s a long-term relationship
- You’ll need to work with your SEO regularly
- The feedback should be clear and honest
- It’s a matter of trust, you need to rely on their work
What is SEO consulting?
SEO supports you in reaching your business goals.
It can help you to increase brand awareness, improve revenue, refine customer retention, generate new business, and so on.
Defining the goals you want to reach across your website is up to you, and having a clear vision of them aids you in finding the right consultant or agency.
When you plan to hire an SEO you should provide a clear idea of your business and understand if their vision fits with what you’re looking for.
As you’ll spend a lot of time working together it’s important to trust each other and work towards a shared vision. You don’t want to start over again soon.
SEO as an investment
You want your website to be an asset, generate revenue and get a positive return on your investment.
Working with SEO should be long-term. Quick wins and tactics work when supported by a broader and solid plan.
Establishing high-quality backlinks takes time and can potentially aid the development of business partnerships. In contrast, obtaining a bunch of low-quality backlinks takes a few minutes and can cost as little as €10, but may also negatively affect your site.
SEO is composed of a multitude of variables. It may take time to reach the desired outcome and needs to be part of an overall strategy.
Like everything in life you get what you pay for, and a good consultant’s experience and expertise will help to grow your business.
Understanding the basics
It’s important to have some basic SEO knowledge.
Recalling a conversation you had in 2008 doesn’t count, as well as that 2013 blog post about Google and ranking at #1. You don’t want to get banned from Google now do you?
Invest a few hours educating yourself. Great starting points are the latest version of the Google Starter Guide, some blog posts published by industry related tools like Moz, Ahrefs and Yoast, or speakers at conferences like SearchLove, SMX, BrightonSEO, MozCon, Learn Inbound who are authoritative voices in the industry.
- Why creating good content matters?
- What content is, and what “good” means?
- Why backlinks matter, and what’s a good backlink?
- Why should I improve my site speed?
- Hiring an SEO partner requires a little time and money investment in ensuring you get the best fit for you!
- Hiring the wrong services could be a very expensive mistake.
SEO Consultant vs Agency
What does an SEO person do
A solo freelance SEO consultant works on their own, often primarily on strategy and recommendations, to help increase your targeted organic traffic and reach your business goals organically.
Often a freelance consultant works as SEO project manager, to implement their recommendations, for example by a copywriter or web developer.
What does an SEO Agency do
An agency employs several kinds of professionals, such as account manager, copywriter, SEO, web developer, graphic designer, and so on.
With an agency, you can have a full range of services but it can cost much more. You should deal with the account manager, which is the ‘man in the middle’ between you, the client, and the executives who do the job. More than one person will probably work for you, which has benefits and disadvantages. The time the agency spends on your project depends on your budget.
A good analogy I’ve found for explaining the difference between an SEO consultant and an agency comes from Brendan Hufford.
“The difference between a consultant and an agency is the difference between an architect and a contractor. If I need somebody to properly design and lay out the strategy for a building, I’m going to seek out an architect. However, if I get the strategy, do not know how to implement it, and I need somebody to actually build it for me, it’s time to hire a contractor.
Sometimes, you have all the resources to create a successful campaign and you need somebody to create an effective strategy for you. In that case, a consultant would be the best. In other cases, you need high-level effort but don’t have the internal manpower for it. In the latter case, an agency may serve you better.”
Search for [best seo agency in town]
Don’t just rely on who ranks better for [seo agency] on Google.
Agencies and consultant should invest their resources towards their clients rather than their own website.
Many of the key consultants rely on ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals.
Get (unbiased) references
The best feedback about potential SEO services comes from personal connections you have, or can get, as these will unbiased and based on first-hand experience.
As your business needs are unique you should assess how the service works, the pricing model, how feedback is provided and the daily communication process.
It’s important to research each consultant or agency in advance, and compare if your values, work style and culture are aligned. A quick meeting or phone call is advisable.
1. Promises of short-term results.
There are SEO quick wins and tactics, but obtaining results for competitive industries takes time.
If the tasks discussed only refer to short term tactics, quick wins and solutions to game Google to get great results then look for the exit door.
2. It’s important to ascertain if you will have direct access with the people working on your site, or if it’s just the account manager.
3. References to a specific number of backlinks per month, ‘buying backlinks’ or any arithmetic calculation to get easy results.
4. Consultants or agencies that claim they can start in a few days.
For any SEO service it takes time to research your needs, company and culture and services/products.
Setting (realistic) expectations
Realistic expectations include:
Enhancing sales and leads
Improving brand awareness and authority
Ranking for ‘car insurance’, ‘vacuum cleaner’ or ‘hotel dublin’ globally with the one-page site you went live with two weeks ago, and whose only visitors are your colleagues, is not.
Goals, keywords and topics should be discussed to enable a short, medium and long term approach.
Any good consultant should start with a discovery session(s) to discover more about your business, culminating in a detailed proposal.
Ask your consultant or agency to explain all aspects of their proposal you don’t understand, and feel free to ask anything.