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Business owners generally understand that they should be using search engine optimization (SEO) to reach new customers and grow their business, but often that’s all they know about SEO. When you start researching what SEO is or how to do it well, it can get overwhelming quickly, especially if you’re new to digital marketing.
When you start looking for professional help with your SEO, you’ll no doubt find many SEO companies and digital marketing agencies, but how do you know if they can actually help your business? Sure, they list the services they offer, but to non-marketers, it can sound like gibberish.
In this article, we’re breaking down what an SEO agency is, what services they offer, and how to find one that’s the right fit for your business.
What Is An SEO agency?
First, we should start by defining what SEO actually is. Search engine optimization is a collection of processes and tactics that result in your website ranking higher in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Growing your site’s organic traffic is a cost-effective long-term growth strategy.
An SEO company offers professional search engine optimization services to businesses to improve their online presence and search engine visibility.
One of the major benefits of partnering with an SEO company is that they have specialized experience in helping businesses like yours rank on search engines.
SEO professionals provide a wide range of services, from website audits and web design to a personalized SEO strategy, and can help your business implement specific tactics to reach your goals.
Ultimately, an SEO company’s job is to partner with you to boost organic traffic, drive leads, and increase sales through search results.
What Services Do SEO Agencies Offer?
SEO services are generally categorized into two areas: onsite SEO (also called on-page SEO) and offsite SEO (also called off-page SEO).
Onsite SEO focuses on tactics you can do to make your website more search engine-friendly. It includes things like adding relevant keywords, internal linking, updating metadata, alt image tags, and schema. It also includes increasing your site speed and improving your user experience-related design.
Offsite SEO focuses on tactics deployed outside of your website that also result in a higher organic ranking. These include earning high-domain-authority backlinks and updating online directories (or citations) like Google, Yelp, YP.com, and other industry-specific citations.
It’s important to point out that not every SEO agency specializes in both onsite and offsite tactics. This is mainly due to the high degree of technical expertise onsite SEO requires, and the level of expertise offsite requires to gain high-quality backlinks.
Some specific SEO services an agency may offer include:
Business Evaluation & Site Analytics
SEO companies typically start by evaluating your website and what keywords it’s already ranking for, which involves looking at the site’s architecture and content to assess factors such as coding and keyword density. Evaluating your current website is the best way to determine its existing strengths and weaknesses before developing a robust SEO strategy.
In addition to website analysis, an agency will consider your business and industry. They will look at your target audience and overall business goals to decide which tactics can best improve your website’s organic ranking and reach your target audience.
Developing A Long-Term SEO Strategy
After completing an in-depth analysis of your website, an agency can help you create a personalized, long-term SEO plan. Developing an SEO strategy and drafting goals for your SEO campaign depends on your industry, type of business, and overall goals.
Part of developing a powerful SEO campaign involves keyword research to identify the keywords and phrases used most by your target audience.
Optimizing Web Design & Load Speed
Search engines focus on serving up the best possible results, creating a positive user experience, and prioritizing content that offers significant value to users. If your website takes a long time to load, it will not provide a good experience to users and will not be ranked highly by Google.
A web developer with technical SEO experience can optimize your UX (user experience) for desktop, tablet, and smartphones, boost your load speed, and fix any technical issues that could be slowing your site down.
Update Your Directory Listings
Many of your potential customers use Google, Yelp, and other online directories (or citations) to search for local businesses. Keeping your listings updated is crucial for increasing the number of leads produced by your online presence.
While there are a handful of these directories that everyone regularly uses (Google, Yelp, Bing, etc.), there are over 500 citations worldwide! An SEO agency can help business owners to determine which directories are relevant to their businesses and potential customers, then develop strategies to optimize each listing. Doing so can boost your local SEO, help you rank higher than your competition, and build you a strong online reputation.
Building A High-Quality Link Profile
A backlink is simply one website linking to another website, but they’re one of the most critical aspects of your offsite SEO campaign. Google puts a lot of weight on backlinks because they demonstrate your authority in your industry.
For example, if a realtor in Los Angeles writes an article for Zillow that talks about LA real estate trends and the article links back to that realtor’s website, that link would be considered a high-quality link in Google’s eyes.
So why is this important? Because Google rewards relevancy! They want to provide their users with the most relevant results that line up with their search. If a local real estate website has very respected, highly-trafficked sites like Zillow linking to it, this shows Google that they’re very good at what they do. Google, in turn, rewards them with a higher organic ranking.
However, one great backlink isn’t enough to get you on the first page of the Google search results. Google looks at your entire link profile to assess the quality of the inbound links your website has earned, including the number of links and their diversity. The quality of your link profile helps search engines rank your website and understand how your site relates to your competition with similar products or services.
Benefits Of Working With A Professional SEO Agency
The benefits of prioritizing your SEO are obvious: more leads, more sales, and more revenue. However, many businesses just don’t have the internal bandwidth to do SEO well. Some tangible, real results you can get by outsourcing your SEO work to an agency include:
Strategic Improvement Of Search Engine Rankings
An experienced SEO firm knows which tactics will help your business be successful in ranking higher on search engines. It’ll take less trial and error, which means your SEO budget will go further and help you reach more potential clients sooner.
Increased Website Traffic From Your Target Audience
An increase in traffic from the wrong visitors won’t increase your sales and revenue.
However, an SEO agency can help you strategically target the keywords and phrases that align with your product or service. If you’re ranking for words and phrases that your target audience is searching for, you’ll start bringing in more traffic from people who are more likely to buy your product or service.
SEO firms can also help your business grow by delivering quantifiable results and valuable insights. This data analysis is often applied to benefit other segments of a marketing campaign like Google ads, Facebook ads, content marketing, and even traditional advertising channels.
Saves You Time & Money
It takes time to really understand SEO and create a plan of action for your company. You may not have the bandwidth for that within your team, which can delay getting started. An SEO agency can help you get started sooner AND complete the work more efficiently than your in-house team can.
How To Tell A Good SEO Company From A Bad One
With so many SEO agencies competing to be YOUR agency, how do you tell the good ones from the bad ones? Here are some things to look for in an SEO agency, and some red flags that should send you running.
Good SEO agencies will:
- Promise results that are realistic
- Provide regular data reports on their progress
- Have experience with businesses like yours
- Have a proven track record of success (case studies are a great way to see how they’ve been successful with other businesses)
- Offer customized strategies tailored to your business
- Be open about their strategies and clearly outline the work they’re doing for you
- Treat you like a partner — which means you’ll have to do some of the work too
Bad SEO agencies will:
- Make unrealistic promises, like getting you the top spot in the Google search results
- Use Black Hat strategies like duplicating other’s content or keyword stuffing
- Be secretive about their strategies, calling them “proprietary”
- Not have any tangible work to show that they’ve done on your behalf
- Increase your traffic but not your revenue (because the traffic isn’t coming from your target audience)
- Increase your backlinks, but not on any sites relevant to your industry
- Offer a one-time fix with no maintenance — SEO is always changing and is a long-term task
Not all SEO agencies are equal, so go with your gut and partner with an agency that you trust.
Boost Your Online Presence with SEO
If your business is actively pursuing new customers, developing an SEO campaign is a great place to start.
You can build an internal SEO team that is actively engaged in increasing your organic ranking by focusing on:
- Technical SEO: JS frameworks, XML sitemaps, taxonomy, redirects, log files
- Data SEO: reporting, feeds, data visualization, structured data, location data
- Content SEO: keyword research, creative assets, copy, internal links in copy, semantic HTML
Or, if that requires too many resources, consider hiring an SEO agency. Keep in mind that not all SEO professionals are created equal. Many just focus on one or two aspects of onsite and offsite SEO processes and tactics, and their focus may not be what your business needs most.
Ultimately, the best SEO firms have a deep foundational understanding of onsite and offsite SEO processes and tactics and how they relate to each other.
If you’re ready to partner with an experienced SEO agency that can help you understand your competitor’s tactics and recommend a strategy designed to boost your website’s organic rankings without breaking the bank, get in touch with our team today.