The Importance of Brand & Agency Relationships: Evaluating a Potential SEO Partner
The Right SEO Agency Partner Enhances Your Website Traffic Results In More Ways Than You Think.
Your company website is the foundation for cultivating and maintaining a robust Internet presence. It's the one place that you have complete control over the content, how it informs, and what it does in terms of supporting your marketing efforts. Consider your website as the basis for your overall content marketing power. If you do, then it's easy to understand why optimizing every page with responsible and effective SEO is so important.
The thing is that you're an expert at creating products and making sure they meet consumer needs. SEO is not something that you consider one of your strong points. That's okay. If you find the right SEO partner, you can bet that your website will enhance the company's reputation, generate more traffic, and keep interest in your product line high.
How does this happen? By properly qualifying experts in search engine optimization, you can be sure that every page on the website is working to your advantage. How will you do this? Here are some essentials that you should know, including what the right SEO agency will do in terms of attracting attention and getting your company website in front of your targeted consumer demographics via organic searches.
Starting With The Basics: Why Work With an SEO Specialist in The First Place?
Search engine optimization is not a static science. What was once a straightforward strategy focused on keyword analysis, SEO is much more complex today. The process involves employing comprehensive analytics that take into consideration all the factors that the major search engines utilize for page rankings and placements.
Those analytics may seem confusing to the untrained eye. They involve the collection of big data and knowing how to interpret it correctly. There's also the need to factor in a practical content strategy along with a realistic web marketing plan that ensures favour from the major engines. This means having a working knowledge of how the complex algorithms underpinning resources like Google RankBrain function.
Knowing what data to collect and how to relate the pieces to one another isn't a simple task. Some would say that you need all sorts of disciplines to accurately comprehend how user experiences relate to your SEO strategy. That's not that surprising when you think of how effective marketing strategies have always worked. To some degree, any marketing specialist must understand aspects of such diverse disciplines and sociology, anthropology, and linguistics. Remember that there's more than a little psychology found in the process of marketing.
Step back and take a look at what you see here. Can you honestly say that you and your team have what it takes to manage this complex SEO task properly? If you're honest with yourself, the answer is no.
The fact is that you need the right third-party SEO agency partner to sift through all the nuances and complex tasks that go into the search engine optimization process. Without support from a truly gifted partner, your SEO effort will be lackluster at best, and detrimental to your online presence at worst.
Qualifying the Right SEO Agency Partner: Questions You Should Ask Up Front
Selecting third-party partners is always something that needs to be done with care. That's certainly true with selecting the right SEO agency. Before you sit down to talk with anyone, it's important to develop a list of questions that you will ask early in the evaluation process. While many of them will be straightforward questions that apply to qualifying any type of partner, some questions will focus specifically on the area of digital marketing and the SEO approaches that the potential partner employs.
Here are five examples of questions to include on your list:
- On average, what type of results do you generate for your clients?
- Does your approach focus solely on Google or does it take into account one or more of the other popular search engines?
- How long would it take for me to begin seeing results?
- How much experience do you have with clients in my industry/niche/region?
- What, in your opinion, are the three most significant changes in SEO over the past five years?
As you ask these questions and listen to the answers, be mindful of potential partners who are long on prolific responses that are short on facts. A reputable partner is happy to answer your questions and provide verifiable information to back them up. If you get the idea that the potential partner is conducting a dog and pony show for your benefit, that's a sign to move on to the next candidate.
Assuming that you're impressed by the responses, it's time to take the qualification process to the next level. That means focusing on key talking points that a truly reliable SEO agency partner is likely to bring up. In order to make the conversation as productive as possible, spend some time gathering some data that you will in turn share with the potential partner. That includes things like:
- Your goals in terms of working to develop a strategy for affirming your company's value to website visitors as well as potential customers that you contact directly.
- Portraits of your primary and secondary targeted consumer bases. This is sometimes referred to as developing user personas.
- Specific marketing goals for the website, such as attracting at least a specific number of visitors per month.
- Details about your offline marketing strategies, as well as your use of other online tools like social media, landing pages, and advertising on different types of websites.
- A list of your top five direct competitors
Observe the way the potential partner reacts as you present each of these elements. Do you sense enthusiasm or interest? Does the partner participate in the process by asking clarifying questions or commenting on the work you've done so far? If the answer is no, that means the partner is more interested in doing things his or her way, and less interested in taking what you've done so far and using it as a springboard to make a good thing better. Thank that potential partner for their time and move on to the next candidate on your list.
Wrapping Things Up: Asking For Those Coveted References
With the initial interview coming to a conclusion, it's time to ask for references. Remember, you've already done some research online. That's how you found the candidate in the first place. Now you want to talk with current or past customers who've worked with the SEO agency in the past.
Given the nature of SEO and how quickly it evolves, it makes sense to ask for references that involve customers from the last few years. Feedback about more recent results is of more value to you than the benefits that the partner provided to a customer ten years ago.
You want at least two references. A reputable agency is likely to provide three as an industry standard. If you sense any reluctance to provide references, take that as a red flag.
Following Up With Those References
Now that you have the references in hand, what will you do with them? Make contact as soon as possible. Identify yourself and state the reason for making the contact. That includes mentioning the name of the SEO agency representative who supplied the contact data.
During the ensuing exchange, there are certain details that you want to gather. Ask specifically about:
- The level of customer service and support that the reference received
- The quality of the work provided during and after delivery
- The timeliness of meeting deadlines for the delivery of work
- The increase in success after hiring the agency partner versus the success rate prior to the hiring
Before you wrap up the conversation, ask the reference is there was anything else - positive, neutral, or negative - that stands out about working with the SEO agency. You're not looking for anything that requires deep thought. What you do want is something that stands out enough for the reference to think of it immediately.
Turning To the Auditing and Content Search Tasks Related to Your Site
If your partner candidate has made it this far, there's a good chance that there is no need to look any further. Before making a commitment, there's still one more important aspect to explore. That has to do with what the partner will do in order to audit your pages and evaluate the content.
Ideally, the process that the partner outlines to you will include these five elements:
- Assessment of keywords and how they relate to topic research
- A technical SEO assessment relevant to your stated consumer demographics
- A full UX audit
- Convertible Asset Research coupled with online mentions
- Practical SEO guidelines development that incorporates the latest in SEO strategies
This type of intensive review will encompass every aspect of your website. The page organizations, tags, images, text, links, and every other element will be involved. A look at your current page rankings will focus on what elements are helping and which ones need to be changed in order to achieve better results.
At this point, it's about identifying somewhat simple aspects that can be improved immediately. Once that's done, it will be time to move on to activity designed to provide long-term improvements in rankings and authority.
There are some other elements that you want the partner to include in the audit. Those include:
- A listing of recommended changes, including fresh or reworked content
- Identification of and resolutions for technical issues
- Quotes for implementing the new strategy
- A viable timeline for implementing and completing the changes
- Projected outcomes, allowing for certain events occurring during the process
- Existing URL parameters
- Resolution of internal linking problems
- Your site's friendliness to search engine crawlers
- Efficiency of server connectivity
- Speed of your desktop and mobile website loading times
- Response codes
- Resolution of any miscellaneous red flags or site deficiencies
Closing Thoughts Before You Make Your Decision
The SEO agency partner that you ultimately select has to offer a sound SEO strategy. You want that agency to be a verified Google Premier Partner. Given that Google is the single most popular search engine in the world, it makes sense to have a partner who understands and has access to the most recent updates and tools made available by Google.
The partner must be willing to work with you to make the user experience for site visitors better than ever before. While touting the company's most attractive qualifies is great, visitors won't get to them if the experience is less than satisfactory. Instead, they'll migrate away before you make a good impression. They may never be back.
You've gone as far as you can with your talents. Now is the time to connect with an SEO partner who will aid you in creating rich content that makes the user experience something that's worth sharing with others. It can be something as simple as pages that load quickly and happen to include recipes using one of the foods that you offer. It could be tips about selecting shoes you offer and how they're just right for certain occasions. With the aid of your partner, you begin to put yourself in the position of the reader and give them something to think about. You also give them a reason to come back, and to share what you offer with others.
Choose your SEO agency partner wisely and there's the potential for great things to happen. Who knows? In six months from now, you may find your audience is much broader and your visitors feel more connected and engaged that you ever dreamed possible.