I’ve recently launched my business website.
Do I actually need to outsource my SEO efforts to an SEO company?
Can I just take online courses on SEO and do everything myself?
How much should I spend on SEO?
Should I work with a full-stack digital marketing agency to get better ROI?
These are some of the common questions business owners ask when they are considering hiring an SEO agency. And all those questions are valid.
A result-oriented and data-driven SEO agency is different compared to a generic digital marketing agency for several reasons. This is because they have unique services and approach online marketing in a completely different way.
To have a better understanding of SEO agencies, it’s essential to understand the right terminology of SEO.
What Is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process used to position a website high on search result pages for relevant keywords or phrases. It’s a continuous optimization process implemented to a website to gain visibility on search engines especially Google.
We must be transparent here. Most businesses have a very common misconception about SEO. They assume that SEO is a method that can grow their businesses exponentially within a short time. Although it’s partially true that SEO offers exponential growth for businesses, still it requires consistent SEO efforts for the long-term. And the success of SEO campaigns heavily relies on many crucial factors.
SEO is all about playing along with Google’s rule (Google Algorithms). Google wants to provide the best experience for the users, and they expect our sites to provide the same. That’s why it is important to provide accurate and relevant information for the audience.
You don’t have to focus completely on satisfying search engine algorithm. Your audience should be your priority. As long as you fulfill their search queries, SEO will follow.
Your content is what your potential customers are eagerly searching for. The content on your site needs to provide information or solution to the problems their searching for. So, your content needs to be optimized for the human readers and that’s what Google wants. You need to clear your doubts about SEO and have a clear mindset on how SEO can help your business grow before implementing any SEO strategies or work with SEO agencies.
With some of the important points, we hope you understand what SEO is about and what to expect from an SEO agency.
What Does an SEO Agency Actually Do?
SEO requires on-going optimization tasks to satisfy the search queries of the target audience. This way, search engines like Google will acknowledge the quality and relevancy of the content published on your site and start ranking higher on search result pages.
To achieve the best results for businesses like yours SEO agencies perform the following tasks:
Research and Develop SEO Objectives
Before starting with any SEO tasks, the role of an SEO agency is to help their clients to understand their business nature and define specific SEO goals or objectives.
In some cases, the client already identified their SEO objectives. So, in this scenario, an SEO agency just needs to evaluate the SEO objectives whether they are realistic to achieve and make some adjustments if required.
The most experienced SEO agencies know that search engine ranking is not the ultimate goal of SEO efforts. Other goals matter the most like:
- Increasing organic traffic from search engines
- Generate qualified leads
- Improving online brand awareness which encourage potential customers to recognize your brand
- Focus on online reputation management to show a positive image of your brand to increase credibility and trust
- Increase in revenue and get positive ROI
Businesses must use SMART objectives because it will provide a clear indication of how an SEO agency develops strategies that work perfectly for your website.
SMART objectives were introduced by George T.Doran which are commonly used in organizations to create, track and accomplish short-term and long-term goals. This concept can be used for SEO as well.
The SMART objectives will provide how SEO strategies should be approached:
- Specific: The more specific your SEO objectives are, the better you can identify the right keywords/phrases and create content that reflects your potential customer’s search intent
- Measurable: The beauty of SEO depends on how you measure the performance. You need to identify the right SEO metrics that matter to your business and measure them
- Achievable: The objective you create for SEO should be achievable. Analyze your short-term and long-term objectives and determine whether they are achievable within a specific timeline. Having a milestone will keep your SEO efforts on track.
- Relevancy: Your SEO objectives should be relevant and aligned with the overall goal of your business. For example, revenue from SEO should account for at least 10 or 15% of the overall revenue.
- Time-Bound: Like what we had mentioned in the achievable part, you need to have a realistic time frame to achieve your SEO goals or objectives.
Performing an SEO Audit
Once the SEO agency identifies the goals to achieve with the SEO efforts, an SEO audit is the next thing to do.
SEO audit is the process of analyzing your site’s current performance on search engines. The purpose of an SEO audit is to identify and resolve many foundational issues related to your website before implementing SEO strategies.
SEO audit is a broad subject that involves different aspects of a website. An SEO agency will have a list of SEO audit tasks they need to perform to determine whether the site is ready for further optimization or to fix the problems found during the audit.
Following are some of the areas an SEO agency will focus on when performing an SEO audit:
- Check the mobile-friendliness and responsiveness of your website
- Check for indexing and technical SEO problems
- Check website load time
- Remove low-quality pages and posts
- Check structured data implementation and fix the errors
- Check meta description
- Analyze organic traffic from search engines
- Check and improve on-page SEO elements
- Check keyword rankings and set up keyword ranking tool
- Check and fix broken links
- Check and revise content with huge opportunities to increase rankings
- Optimize site for UX signals
- Check and fix internal linking structure
- Check whether Google Analytics and Google Search Console are integrated
- Check for SSL
- Check for URL structure and fix the errors
- Check for duplicate content
- And many more
We can keep on going with the list of SEO audit tasks that needs to be performed. However, the depth of SEO audit often depends on the experience and expertise of the SEO agency you work with.
The result generated from this SEO audit will be used to develop SEO strategies that work best for your website.
Keyword research is one of the important SEO tasks that an SEO agency works on.
Keywords are the core elements of SEO and identifying the right keywords will either make or break your SEO campaign.
An agency will make sure the keywords chosen for your businesses is relevant and often searched by your target audience. There are three important principles to consider during keyword research:
- The chosen keywords must be relevant to your business and typed by your potential customers. The keywords should also have enough average monthly search volume (number of times people search for the keywords on monthly basis).
- The keywords should be related to your products or services. You don’t want to optimize your content for the wrong keywords and attract an audience that doesn’t need your products or services.
- The difficulty or competition of the chosen keywords. If you don’t have the budget and resources to rank for competitive keywords, the SEO agency that you hire will have difficulties in ranking your site for the keywords. Competitive keywords require more time and work compared to the less competitive ones.
SEO agencies will use keyword research tools to identify and produce a list of relevant keywords to your business. It will be sorted by priority and competition difficulty. Some agencies use multiple tools to produce accurate keyword research data.
Your site might be ranking for certain keywords and it will be identified in the SEO audit section. The agency will make small tweaks to your on-page SEO elements to help your site move to the top position on the SERPs for the keywords you’re already ranking for.
Other than keyword research, competitor analysis reveals the list of keywords your competitors are currently ranking for. If you’re working with an SEO company, they will identify the keywords gap between you and your competitors and create a separate list of keywords your site can rank for depending on the competition.
Develop Content Marketing Strategy
The right SEO agency will know that a successful SEO campaign requires the best content marketing strategy.
Do you think you can rank a website without content?
A good SEO campaign needs the best content to generate organic traffic. Without content, you can’t optimize the keywords relevant to your products and services.
Even if you have content created, without a solid content marketing plan, it will be extremely difficult for any SEO company to drive desired results for their clients.
A solid content marketing plan will involve the following activities:
- Identify the target audience’s search intents for researched keywords
- Finding topic ideas that resonate with the search intent. For example, if the audience’s search intent is informational, then content that provides in-depth information will generate quality organic traffic.
- Develop a content calendar and publish the content consistently. For example, twice a week or once a week.
- Create a strategic content promotion plan. It is important to work on promoting the content aggressively to reach the right target audience on other digital channels.
The main focus of content marketing is to develop the best content around the chosen keywords and make it valuable for the target audience. It’s not about optimizing for search engine algorithms.
If the SEO agency you work with focus too much on satisfying the search engine algorithms and avoid providing the content people are looking for, then you should determine whether you’re working with the right agency.
90% of SEO agencies avoid combining SEO with content marketing as they are aware that it requires extensive research and proper planning to generate results from content marketing. And that’s why some SEO agencies offer cheap services.
The SEO agency that generates the best results will develop a content marketing strategy to attract and drive highly qualified leads to your website by using content as a lead magnet.
Data-driven On-Page Optimization
SEO agencies approach on-page optimization base on the data gathered during the SEO audit phase. You can’t simply do on-page optimization to your website without having a solid information about the on-page elements of your site and how it’s affecting the site’s performance on search engines. Some agencies might combine Technical SEO and On-Page Optimization. But, keeping them separate will help focus on each section at a time. It will be less complicated for business owners like you.
On-page Optimization will include the following activities:
- Include target keywords strategically in content. For example, include them in the title, sub-headers, within the first 100 words of the content, meta description, and URL.
- Keep the keywords frequency or density to 1% to 2% but make sure it does not affect the overall content.
- Use an internal linking strategy. Link to other content on your site that is relevant.
- Use external links to valuable resources or citations that you used for your content.
- Keep the URL short with the primary keyword.
- Write attractive and informational meta description as it boosts organic CTR.
- Update old content with current trends and information.
- Include the right schema markup to show Rich Snippets on search result pages.
- Optimize images by using the right file name and alt-text.
- And many more
On-page optimization is a continuous process. And that’s why SEO is considered a long-term process that generates the best results in terms of traffic generation. For example, you’ve published new content then you need to work on the internal linking strategy. If you have old content, you need to update them with fresh information to make them relevant to currents trends.
An SEO agency will perform continuous on-page optimization to make sure the client’s site retains the top position for the target keywords. Let’s say your site is ranking on the 9th or 10th position on the SERPs, continuous on-page optimization can move up the position.
The technical issues with your site will be easily identified during the SEO audit. Technical SEO is not about making your site error-free for crawling and indexing.
It’s about your site health.
The right SEO agency knows that the technical part of your site is important for other optimization strategies to work.
An agency will consider the following activities for your site’s technical optimization:
- Develop XML sitemaps to provide accurate information about your site to site crawlers.
- Develop a clean site architecture with the right hierarchy.
- Implement hreflang for sites with multiple languages.
- Check for mobile usability.
- Resolve broken internal and external links.
- Test website and webpages load time.
- Use canonical URLs to eliminate duplicate content.
- Perform complete inspection of Google Search Console account to identify technical SEO problems and rectify them.
You need to have a healthy website for SEO strategies to work. Even simple errors can push down your site rankings. So, SEO companies know how to handle the technical part of your site and make it compatible with SEO.
Link Building / Off-Page Optimization
Many SEO agencies do’ focus on link building strategies due to the complexity of the tasks. It requires enormous effort and time to build quality links to a site. Furthermore, it’s not easy to acquire quality links nowadays.
Be careful with SEO agencies that build links for your site using PBNs (Private Blog Network). There are mixed reviews about PBNs among SEO experts. But, the majority of them are against this method as it can be easily taken down by Google with their constant algorithm updates. It’s extremely risky to have a backlink profile that revolves around PBNs.
Link Building is a strategy that gets your site mentioned on other relevant sites. This shows Google that your site has the credibility and authority in your industry. So, it will be easier for your site to climb up the rankings.
However, link building is getting hard these days. Only SEO agencies with years of experience in the SEO industry can build the right links. It’s hard but not impossible.
Even link building requires the combination of content marketing to be successful.
These are the common legit link building strategies used by SEO companies:
- Guest blogging on authority sites that is relevant to your niche.
- Manual outreach to sources and sites used in content creation to ask for a link back.
- Take part in expert roundups and interviews.
- Sponsor events related to your niche.
- Get your products or services reviewed by bloggers and influencers.
- Offering testimonials and reviews
- Approach sites that provided backlinks for your competitors
SEO agencies do not overpromise in acquiring links. The most they can help you acquire 2-3 links per month. Sometimes, acquiring quality links can take months as link building is a strategy that easier said than done.
Monitor and Produce Performance Report
This is the best part of hiring an agency. If the agency does not provide a monthly report on your SEO performance, how do you know what kind of activities they’ve done for your site?
As you know, SEO is not a short-term process and you’ll need at least 6-12 months to see the best results from the campaign. Before waiting to see the best results, you need to know whether your site is on the right track by achieving short-term SEO goals.
It’s not about your organic traffic and keywords rankings, other important metrics matter to your business website. Continuous monitoring will help to make the right adjustments and changes to SEO strategies to improve your site’s performance.
The right SEO agency will provide monthly reports on the completed tasks and your site’s performance on search engines.
Most business owners are clueless about what their SEO agencies are doing. By now you should know what SEO agencies do and how to spot the right SEO agency.
Every business wants to work with an SEO agency that can generate results. But most of them don’t know what an SEO agency should do in taking their business to the next level.
What are things do you think that an SEO agency does apart from the ones we’ve listed in this article?
Share your amazing thoughts by commenting below.