In today’s digital age, having an online presence is crucial for any business looking to grow and succeed. An effective website that attracts high quality traffic can make a huge difference in generating more leads, customers and revenue. This is where partnering with the right SEO agency can give your business a significant competitive advantage.
However, the SEO landscape is filled with agencies making tall claims and false promises. Not all SEO agencies are equal. Choosing the wrong partner could end up wasting your time and money on poor quality work and compromised results.
Hiring the best SEO agency tailored to your specific business goals and needs requires thorough research and due diligence. Here are the key tips to hire the top SEO agency for your business:
Define Your Goals And Needs
Before starting your search, take time to clearly define what you want to accomplish through SEO and outline your expectations from the agency.
Identify three or four priority SEO goals like:
- Increasing organic traffic
- Generating more leads
- Improving keyword rankings
- Growing brand awareness
Along with the goals, think about your target customer persona, brand positioning, and unique value proposition. The more detailed and specific you can be regarding your business objectives and needs, the better equipped an agency will be to deliver customized strategies and solutions.
Shortlist some metrics you will use to track the effectiveness of SEO activities like increase in monthly site visitors, lead conversion rates, rank improvements for target keywords etc.
Having this information handy even before you approach agencies will help align your vision right from the start.
Research SEO Agencies Extensively
Once your goals and expectations are clear, start researching SEO agencies online.
A simple Google search for “best SEO agency for XYZ industry” or “top SEO company in ABC region” can give you a starting point.
Spend time going through online directories, company websites, client testimonials and third-party review sites to make a list of potential agencies.
While researching, look for these key aspects:
- Relevant industry experience: An agency that specializes in your particular industry or niche will have a deeper understanding of what works. For instance, an agency experienced in ecommerce SEO can be a better fit for an online retail business.
- Case studies and client results: Check if the agency has case studies, client testimonials or reviews that demonstrate expertise in delivering specific results similar to your goals. An agency that has repeatedly achieved outcomes like 50% increase in traffic or 100% growth in leads for clients in your industry is likely capable of replicating it for your business.
- Services offered: Look for an agency that provides end-to-end SEO services including extensive keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, site speed optimization, local SEO and more. Avoid agencies offering only limited services.
- Company size and experience: While company size is not everything, mature agencies with ample experience, resources and manpower might be better equipped to handle all aspects of your SEO.
- Tools and capabilities: The agency you choose should stay updated with the latest SEO techniques and have access to advanced tools for data reporting, analytics, rank tracking etc.
Making a list of 10-15 agencies based on thorough research will give you a solid starting point.
Interview Multiple Agencies
Once you have a list of prospective SEO agencies, start narrowing it down further through direct interaction.
Have Discovery Calls
Schedule introductory calls with the shortlisted agencies. Use these discovery calls to:
- Understand their end-to-end SEO methodology
- Discuss strategies specific to your industry and business goals
- Evaluate their communication style and responsiveness
Come prepared with a list of questions including:
- What is your approach to keyword research?
- What SEO techniques do you use for on-page optimization?
- How do you evaluate website technical SEO issues?
- What tactics do you use for off-page SEO and link building?
- How will you generate regular reports and updates?
See if the agency asks insightful questions about your business, customers, competitors, website, targets etc. Their level of interest and the relevance of their queries will help assess how well they can customize for your needs.
Discuss Deliverables, Timelines and Pricing
Discovery calls will also give you an opportunity to discuss project timelines, deliverables, and costs.
Ask specific questions like:
- What are the typical deliverables I can expect on a monthly basis?
- How soon can you complete the initial technical SEO audit of my website?
- How frequently will you share reports and updates on key metrics?
- What is your monthly retainer fee for SEO services?
- Do you charge any additional fees for one time activities?
Gauging responses around expected deliverables, timeframes and pricing models will help determine if an agency is suited to your budget and needs.
Shortlist 3-5 Options
Based on the discovery calls, shortlist 3 to 5 agencies that seem to best fit your requirements.
Avoid agencies that make unrealistic claims, don’t ask questions about your business, or seem vague about their process and pricing.
Check References and Online Reputation
After shortlisting, take the next step to double check credentials and reputation.
Ask for References
Contact the references provided by each agency to have candid conversations about their experience.
Speaking to their existing or past clients will give you direct insights into:
- How well did the agency understand your industry and needs?
- Were they responsive and easy to work with?
- Did they achieve your SEO goals as discussed?
- Were you satisfied with their reporting and results?
- What challenges did you face during the engagement?
Verification from references checks the agency’s credibility and ability to deliver on their promises.
Research Online Reputation
Along with references, research the agency’s online reputation on:
- Industry forums and communities – Check discussions related to the agency on platforms like Quora, Reddit, Warrior Forums etc.
- Review sites – Reviews on Google, Facebook, Glassdoor and independent review sites indicate client satisfaction levels. Look out for any negative feedback.
- Social media – Twitter conversations and discussions can reveal feedback about the agency from professionals in your industry.
- Press mentions – Media features and guest articles can reflect subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
- Awards – Industry awards can validate capabilities and credibility.
While no agency will be perfect, try to assess overall reputation based on various sources. Watch out for any major red flags.
Review Proposals Critically
Once you have evaluated expertise, experience and reputation, the last step is to review customized proposals.
Ask the shortlisted agencies to submit a proposal outlining their approach, activities, timelines and costs tailored to your business goals.
Scrutinize these proposals to determine who demonstrates the best understanding of your requirements and provides appropriate solutions.
Look for Customization
Avoid agencies that send generic proposals with no customization. The proposal must reflect your specific objectives, target audience, and industry based on your earlier discussions and questionnaire.
Customized strategy and recommendations indicate that the agency has truly understood your unique needs.
Compare Approach and Activities
While proposals should align on broad strategy, look for differences in the specific SEO activities and tactics suggested.
For instance, one agency may focus heavily on broken link building while another may prioritize local SEO. Based on your business, evaluate which activities seem more relevant.
The right proposal will cover all essential optimization, technical, off-page and content related activities in a structured month-by-month approach.
Evaluate Costs and Timelines
Finally, match the costs and timelines laid out in the proposal against the expected ROI, deliverables and your overall budget.
Negotiate until you have a proposal that addresses your needs adequately within comfortable budgets and timeframes.
Finding the right SEO agency for your specific business goals and audience takes effort. By following these tips, you can take the guesswork out of your research process:
- Start by clearly defining your expectations, targets and metrics for SEO success.
- Research extensively and shortlist agencies with relevant experience and expertise.
- Directly engage with agencies through discovery calls and interviews.
- Talk to references and evaluate online reputation.
- Critically compare customized proposals you receive.
Be prepared to interview, evaluate and negotiate before making your final choice. With diligent research upfront, you can build a strong partnership with the best suited SEO agency and achieve your desired outcomes.
The effort you put into finding the right partner will pay off in terms of increased brand visibility, website traffic, leads and revenue. So take your time and carefully assess all options when planning to hire an SEO agency.