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Getting the most from your SEO agency.

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 by Stephen Sumner

SEOThis is a bit of a funny post for someone at an SEO agency to be writing. It’s also just a post covering things from my personal perspective in the hope that it might help a few people get more from their existing SEO company (and if you are looking for a new SEO company then it might help you kick things off with a flying start!).

So, the best way to look at this is from the start: if you are going to engage an SEO agency to work with you, it’s a good idea that you get your ducks in a row before signing a contract. Do you understand your own marketplace properly, for example? Some think they do but it is not until the keyword research is done that we quite often find that there is no traffic for the terms the customer wants to rank for. As with most things in business, research is always helpful and giving your agency as much information about your business, marketplace, competitors and future goals is going to help the agency set realistic goals with you from the outset.

Doing your research on finding the right agency is going to save you a lot of trouble in the long run. As with most industries, there are those who play by the book and those that do not. Generally speaking, I would avoid any company that offers SEO on a pay-per-results basis. The reason for this is that they’re going to take the short view and use low-quality tactics to get you to that number one spot. I am generalising, I know, but being the penalty specialist here I see a lot of companies that have had cheap SEOs doing link building that really belongs in a cess pit and not on Google. Not only that, despite it being done to get rankings, it inevitably ends up going wrong.

Also, don’t let geography put you off who you work with. We have customers all over the UK (and beyond) and we make it work well for all of them. We have a great set of reporting tools and also have excellent communication tools available these days, such as Skype, email and Gotomeeting – to name just a few.

So, here are a few points worth considering on choosing an SEO company and getting started:

  1. Compile as much research on your business and market. If you don’t know your market as well as you should, you are going to be wasting crucial time at the beginning of the campaign.
  2. Work out a budget and do not look for cost savings. Look for who is going to provide the most value and take a long-term view with a fruitful relationship, rather than going for broke with blackhat SEO.
  3. Don’t let geography put you off working with the right SEO company. Modern communications make it all very easy.

Those are just a few tips on starting out. Not comprehensive but hopefully helpful. Now, let’s say you are going to appoint an SEO agency or you have done so already, this next part will give you an insight in to how to make things go a lot smoother.

Avoid decorating committees!

What do I mean by that? Well, I belong to a sailing club where just about everything is done by committee – to the minutia of the colours the bog walls should be painted. In SEO we need to make changes, ideally very quickly, in order to get results. It is no good having to sign off every change with a committee of different stake holders. If you are a marketing manager, you need to get the buy-in from all the appropriate people in your company and go for it, otherwise you will see that mission creep sets in.

Open-up your data.

The more data you can provide your SEO company the better. We have had clients in the past that were reluctant to who provide basic things such as Google Analytics data, which is like asking a pilot to fly blindfolded. We can’t be expected to benchmark and measure the performance of a campaign if we do not have visibility of the data.

Forget vanity keywords.

If someone came to us and said they want to rank number one for a term like “Loans” I would say “no, not unless you have a budget the same as the top brands,” and even then, that is just such the wrong approach. You need to be looking at getting hundreds or thousands of keywords ranking, not just a handful of vanity keywords. Likewise, a local term in your town might be easy to achieve but is there any traffic attached to that term? It’s all about finding the right balance.

Get a marketing calendar in place.

It makes life so much easier for us to spot opportunities, avoid technical road-blocks and other issues if we have visibility of your marketing plans for the year. We can see opportunities with social media and can therefore prepare content marketing plans to match important events such as Christmas and tradeshows, etc.

Be prepared to dump your developer.

It is quite amusing how often this comes up. A web developer or designer has built your site and thinks it is sh*t hot in terms of SEO. However, when we start our technical work that we find all sorts of issues that they do not even have the knowledge of, such as canonicalization issues and spurious error handling. We get all manner of excuses as to why these issues cannot be fixed from developers, which range from “it is not possible on this server” through to anything born of plain arrogance. If you want the SEO campaign to perform you need to ensure you have the technical resources in place that are going to be able and willing to do what is needed.

Actually do something with the recommendations you are given.

Funny one, this. Customers pay an SEO agency to provide them with expert advice and recommendations, then just file the work provided and do not action things. If you want to see the best results we recommend actioning the items, or at the very least challenge them if you do not agree. Just sitting on the recommendations, however, is not going to get the results you are paying for.

Don’t rely solely on SEO.

Yes, if you are serious about succeeding on the web then SEO is a fundamental part of that, but in most cases you need to have an integrated strategy that covers all the other marketing activity that is required. Social media, traditional marketing, email marketing and public relations all go hand in hand, so becoming too reliant on Google for your traffic is not wise. Most of these marketing activities complement each other, so – ideally – you want to get these all happening in tandem where appropriate.

Leverage your internal resources

Do you have someone in your company who loves spending time on Facebook or is an excellent copywriter? You can energise an SEO campaign when you have additional resources added to the mix. Think about that when looking for an SEO company also.

A little information can be dangerous

This is not intended to sound arrogant, but sometimes there are instances when a customer has read a blog on link building, for an example, then believe from reading that blog that more links are better.

False.

Not everything written in the blogosphere is accurate. Would you make mission-critical actions based upon what someone else writes on an individual blog? Additionally, we have seen companies do some of their own “freestyle” SEO on the side that can, in some instances, get things in a real tangle. If you do not trust your SEO company than you need to address this issue first.

Buy cheap, buy twice… not always but be careful.

If you are a one man band then you can probably buy cheap and avoid buying twice. What I am saying is that you need to pay a sensible amount of money for quality SEO work and that needs to be in scale with your business and expectations. That said, hiring a cheap SEO company will often leave you out of pocket when you have a pile of toxic links pointing at your site.

In summary, the more planning and research you can do prior to engaging an SEO company the better position you are likely to find yourself later on down the line. Free up as much information to the agency once you get going to help them make informed decisions. Work with them to get things done and don’t be afraid to make bold actions if your developer is holding your online business plans back.  I hope my open and honest points will help you with your business.

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About the author

Stephen Sumner

Stephen Sumner