How to Hire the Best SEO Agency for Your Company

I came across an interesting email conversation today that sparked my interest to write this post. This email was from another company that was looking for insight on hiring an SEO agency.

They are currently on the hunt for a new agency like many other businesses today that need SEO help and are looking to hire an SEO agency or firm that can help them move the needle. From my understanding, they had this tip from someone internally that they were currently working off of who said he or she worked at a digital marketing agency previously, and gave them a list of green and red flags to look for.

Here’s what was on the list:

Red Flags:

  1. Promise anything at all.
  2. They come with a plan already.
  3. Bring packages to sell you.
  4. Cookie cutter feeling.
  5. They try to sale you on their company.
  6. They show you off topic items that you are not wanting to know.
  7. They do not come prepared.
  8. Do they name drop a lot?
  9. Their website does not rank well itself.
  10. If they throw out they have a lot of workers in a lot of places.

Green Flags:

  1. Pay for your results not what they can do.
  2. Come prepared with an audit ready for your organization.
  3. Set Goals based upon your goals.
  4. Conversion focused.
  5. Have great reviews and when you contacted that company they approve of your decision.
  6. Custom from the very beginning. From introductions to prep, through planning, through wireframes. This SEO firm does its job and does not cookie cut anything.
  7. Do they do their own case studies or look them up online? Have them show you their case studies.

Of course I’m biased, but I don’t think finding an SEO agency is all that hard. But the thing is, a lot of people aren’t sure what to look for when hiring an SEO agency.

Why?

A lot of people don’t fully understand SEO if they don’t work in it day to day (understandably so), so they ask the advice of their friends and colleagues.

So if you’re looking for an SEO firm to help your company with SEO, how do you find the best one?

The answer: it’s subjective.

Which is why I don’t like lists. It’s not the end all be all.

Easy answer, right?

I know. Sorry. But let me explain.

Anyone can live or die by some of claims in the red and green flags, but to me everything is subjective. And every agency is different.

Some agency’s experience level can give them the right to make certain predictions or result claims, others not so much. I wouldn’t live or die by any of the claims other than cookie cutter programs and “guaranteed results” because every site is different. Google makes 500+ changes to their algorithm a year. You can’t trust certified results on a constantly moving target. What you can trust, is those that give you an educated guess based on their experience, however.

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On the audit part and preparedness bit in the list – agencies can get very busy and creating an audit upfront for free is not likely unless they are a really small shop looking to make sales, or if it’s a very basic audit. Knowing the site a bit and off the cuff suggestions in the initial meeting with them is a good sign though.

On the agency website rankings piece – I’ve noticed that agency websites have a tendency to be neglected (Cobblers children have no shoes story), so I wouldn’t put much weight in that either (unless it’s really terrible, like the keyword is repeated 50 times on a page, they have spammy links built to their site, and other obvious things like that). They still can be a good agency.

What I would suggest is to find a SEO company that has experience working with the platform your website is built on. It’s not a deal breaker if they don’t as long as they can learn it and it’s not a Frankenstein build. It’s very hard to make a website perform organically if the platform is not technically sound and no one invests money to fix it (which happens) and you still continue moving on with the program anyways.

It’s a good idea to meet a few members of the prospective agency’s SEO team if you can as well. It really gives you a good idea of their approach. Ask about the types of clients they work with (B2B, B2C, ecommerce, enterprise clients, etc.)

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I’ve worked for a couple average SEO agencies, that didn’t take a very forward-thinking approach to SEO or their programs. I’ve also worked at a pretty decent one that was very good at what they do. And then I’ve also worked for an ad agency that really didn’t have the processes and education in place to execute great SEO campaign/programs. All in all, you have to interview them and get a feel for who they are, what they do, and what their approach is.

Something that I do want to point out that is important (this is a BIG one) is that most agencies don’t bring up is their internal processes. Internal communication between the account team and the SEO team and investment in employee education can really make or break a program’s success. Don’t be the next dud. Ask them how they stay up to date on the latest trends, who is in charge of making the SEO program a success and how do they plan on delivering on that so that you can get a feel if you think they will be able to deliver or not.

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If the SEO company that you’re looking at doesn’t specialize in digital marketing, I would just go somewhere else. Some agencies (rightfully so) tack on SEO as a new service to serve a need with their current customers (like a web design company or advertising agency). This is fine if they know what they are doing. Some however, just don’t have the skill or processes internally to make it work (or work well). They simply don’t have a complete grasp on SEO and aren’t willing to sacrifice money to admit it.

I’d even recommend asking how they work and communicate as a team, what SEO tools they use, and based off what they know about your company so far, what kind of SEO strategies might they suggest. If they can easily explain with details on how they would tackle everything with a timeline to complete, you should feel confident if it is worthwhile to pursue them as an agency. Talking to a few of their existing clients is very helpful and good idea to do too.

So that’s it. That’s my take on hiring the best SEO agency for your company.

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If you’re reading this and still looking around for an SEO agency, consider hiring my company Bite Sized Media for SEO services.

-Rachel