In our digital age, SEO is responsible for a gargantuan proportion of organic traffic for the majority of successful websites. Given that a significant amount of consumers are now online, it’s never been more imperative for businesses to rank on the coveted page 1 of any Google search. To truly succeed in the digital marketplace, companies must find exceptional digital marketing agencies that provide effective SEO services and website design that will attract and engage customers and increase growth. In this article, business owners and SEO experts discuss how to tell if your agency is legit.
“I’ve owned a business in the past and hired SEO’s, now that I am a full-time SEO, I’m often asked by friends and family who are business owners to vet an SEO or agency they are considering using. I’ve had numerous agencies try to tack on an SEO Package of $300 or $400 to the rest of the services they offer. When I press them on what’s included in that, all who charge something like that have basically admitted to me nothing. Initially, they’ll do some directory submissions but beyond that, it’s essentially just billing for nothing, maybe tracking a couple keywords but not really doing anything with the data.
Obviously, it’s helpful to have some understanding of SEO to be able to vet someone or verify what, if anything, is being done for your business and I realize not everyone has that knowledge. However, ask your SEO or agency what they are doing. They’ll likely throw some big words at you and talk about trying to get you on the first page of Google. Ask them to explain in lamens terms what they are doing and what that means. Sure you may not understand the answer they give you but if they tell you they are building directory links, research what that is. If they tell you they are creating content ask to see it, or more than likely if you’re involved in the process, this would be blog posts so you should know about new content on your website. Overall, don’t just pay a bill and let someone send you some report you don’t understand at the end of each month. Actually ask them to explain what they are doing and why, and justify where your money is going.”
John Frigo, SEO Lead, Best Price Nutrition
“If an agency knows how much you, as a potential client. will spend on an SEO campaign before doing research, then they are lying to you. The research that an SEO agency does will dictate the level of spending that their potential client will need due to the type of work that needs to be done. An SEO agency should shape their client’s budget into what they need after auditing their website. Only after auditing the site can an SEO agency clearly understand how much needs to be spent to fix various areas throughout the site. Then they can use the client’s budget to work best for them to improve the client’s site at the quality with which they deserve.”
Tom Massey, CEO, Snowy Pines White Labs
“I believe that the number one thing any agency should be doing is being completely transparent with their clients. No hidden tactics. No secrets.
Here is what we are doing and here is why we are doing it.
Keep the client in the loop of what is going on. What are the plans for this month? What is happening next month? What results are we seeing and what do we expect to see going forward?
Communication is important, and if your SEO is not communicating with you it is probably because they are hiding from poor results. I often talk to business owners who say the only time they hear from their agency is when an invoice is due. That is ridiculous to me in this day and age of free or inexpensive communication methods like Zoom, Google Meet, etc.
The agency and client relationship should feel more like a partnership.
They should also leverage the expertise of their client. I frequently tell prospects before we start working together, I’m very good at what I do, but I will never pretend to be the expert in your line of work. I lean on my clients to understand pain points for their customers, market trends, seasonal trends, why do people buy, what keeps people from buying, etc.”
Mike Friedman, Owner, Clicked Marketing
“The best tip I have for people who are skeptical regarding the quality of an SEO or any other digital marketing agency, is to dig deeper into their websites. Check their rankings, UX, and key service pages/blog posts. Do they practice what they preach?
The sheer saturation of SEO service providers makes it difficult for people to decide on which provider can actually get results, and a great indicator of that is by doing your own audit of their website to see if it’s up to par with what you’d expect them to do for your website.
The audits themselves don’t have to be too comprehensive, but usually a few manual checks will do the trick. For instance, are their social media profiles posting regularly? Do they have good engagement? How many legitimate-looking reviews do they have on Google or other reviewing platforms?
Of course, some business owners aren’t going to be as savvy to want to check these manually, so this is where word of mouth and referrals can be helpful in terms of establishing credibility. Because of the important nature of SEO within the online world, it’s very likely that your connections would have had experiences with SEO service providers or agencies. It’s always a good idea to ask for their feedback to help guide you towards providers that have actually achieved great results.”
Itamar Blauer, SEO Consultant
“If you are shopping for SEO agencies and want to tell which ones are legit there are a few ways to tell:
First, the agency should have references or portfolio examples to show the work they’ve been able to achieve. You need proof that they can deliver. Ideally, you can see proof in the form of a reference or case study from a company in your industry. And, if you can get a reference at the company that you can get in touch with to ask them about working with the agency, it’s even better. You don’t need to hear from a salesperson at the agency how good they are, it’s more important that you know what other customers think about them.
Speaking of seeing examples, one other thing to note in this area, it would be telling that the SEO agency is legit if the agency’s website ranks well in search engines. Does the SEO agency’s website rank well in search? If they are a good SEO agency, you would think that they would be aware that doing good SEO for themselves is important.
Also, when it comes to SEO, you need to read the fine print of whatever contract you are being asked to sign. Here are some things to watch out for: 1) Ownership: Who owns the website having the SEO done on it? If the agency owns your website, if you cancel your contract or end your relationship with them, you will lose all the SEO work they did. This is a tactic employed by shadier agencies to keep you from leaving them. 2) Term length: How long is the contract term for? Something like 2 years is excessive. 3) Deliverables: How often will you get phone calls from the agency and reports on the work done and results?
One last thing, if they “guarantee” page one rankings, they should not be trusted. This is an incredibly deceptive marketing tactic and if an agency promotes themselves like that, then their actual services shouldn’t be trusted either. It’s an incredibly alluring promise, and unfortunately, it’s pretty common in the industry, but it’s dishonest. While it can be technically true that an agency can get you page one rankings in a short period of time, it’s not really possible to do for the kind of high-value keywords you would care most about.”
Andy Cabasso, Co-Founder, Postaga
Finding a stellar digital marketing agency that provides proven and effective SEO services can be a daunting prospect for business owners. In 2020, optimizing your website for SEO is imperative for the success of any company. In addition, you also must ensure that you have effectual content creation and marketing strategies in place for your business. Ultimately, optimizing both your business’ website and content will boost your SEO performance, thus maximizing growth.
Sarah Bauder is a senior content specialist at Little Dragon Media. Sarah has a degree in journalism and has a decade of experience writing content at numerous renowned publications. She enjoys writing about digital marketing, business, entrepreneurship and more.