What are SEO Companies?
You’ve got a lot of questions: 3.5 billion of them, to be precise. That’s how many search queries Google processes each and every day. It’s an overwhelming number, but it also means you’ve got 3.5 billion opportunities to reach your audience with the information they’re looking for.
You’ve got questions about SEO, too. What it is, how it works, and how choosing the best SEO company to support your brand will help you seize as many of those 3.5 billion chances as possible.
Basically, an SEO company is your partner in improving your SERP (search engine results page) rankings, getting your brand seen, and attracting visitors to your website to raise awareness, engage, and eventually convert.
Here, we’ll lay out everything you need to know to choose the best SEO company to boost your brand.
How Do SEO Agencies Work?
You can take a lot of different avenues to reach your SEO goals. You might partner with an independent contractor SEO or hire an SEO as part of your in-house team. Or, if you want comprehensive, end-to-end SEO support, you might choose to partner with an SEO company or agency.
Whatever you choose, your SEO experts should know your brand and your industry inside and out. They should stay up on the competitive landscape and be aware of all the best practices in the biz. Individual SEOs will likely have broad knowledge of all types of SEO — on-page, off-page, technical — while a company or agency may have individuals who specialize in each area.
Here are some of the primary services your SEO company may provide:
- SEO strategy: This is typically the first big step after the audit phase. Once your SEO company knows your brand, they can create a long-term strategy designed for growth.
- Technical SEO: This fixes many issues that act as a barrier to your performance, including crawl speed, indexing, schema markup, 404 errors, and more.
- Competitor gap analysis: This identifies your primary competitors, both direct and indirect (those that market to the same audience or provide the same service, but not both) and looks for ways to set your brand apart.
- Content optimization: Content and SEO go hand-in-hand, and all content from your brand should be optimized with SEO in mind.
- Mobile SEO: Mobile searches are swiftly overtaking desktop searches, and your brand must be ready to adapt and adjust.
- Link building: Part of off-page SEO, link building deals with backlinks and referring domains and improves your site’s authority.
The list of possible SEO services goes on and on. A good SEO company will know which services to recommend for your brand’s needs, budget, and goals, and will have experts positioned in each disciplined to understand the best way to achieve success.
So, what does successful SEO look like?
Why Hire an SEO Company?
We’re not going to lie — SEO companies don’t come cheap (at least not the good ones). Most enterprise brands spend $20,000+ every month on SEO, with $5,000 being the average minimum.
That’s a lot of green. But before you open that wallet (or close it in a fit of absolute panic), you need to understand the value of hiring an SEO company relative to the cost.
Let’s take a closer look at why hiring an SEO company is the best choice for brands that want to grow.
Increase Sales and Revenue
There’s no quick fix when it comes to SEO. You won’t see results after the first week or even the first month. However, in the first three years, you can expect to see significant, measurable growth in your sales and revenue.
The best part? Once you’ve implemented your SEO strategy, this growth will continue (with regular monitoring, adapting, and tweaking) for years to come.
If you need a quick growth injection, consider testing some growth hacking tactics or pairing your SEO strategy with a PPC campaign at the start. That should give you some encouraging early results while your SEO plan takes off.
You Can Focus on What You Do Best
Whatever your job title, if you haven’t seriously studied SEO, it’s not a skill that’s likely to be in your wheelhouse. Even if you read, watch, or listen to everything the internet has to offer on SEO, you still won’t have the experience of an SEO expert. That’s the whole reason SEO experts exist.
They have the education, training, and experience needed to deliver results for your brand. By letting them take the wheel, you aren’t giving up control — you’re making the smartest decision for your team and your brand. And when you find the right SEO company or expert, you can rest assured that they share your goals and your motivation, so you can spend your time where it really counts.
Leverage Industry Expertise
Great SEO companies don’t just have knowledge and skills in SEO (though that’s sort of a prerequisite) — the best companies will also have experts in content marketing, link building, and data and analytics. When you pick the right SEO company, you’re getting more than an SEO expert — you’re getting an entire team of experts with combined years of experience in delivering the results you want to see.
So, what should you look for in your team of experts?
Get Valuable Analytics to Improve Business Performance
You probably already have a tool you’re using to collect marketing data, like Google Analytics. Maybe you even keep an eye on your keywords through Ahrefs or another SEO platform. So why do you need an expert team to tell you what you already know?
Because SEO experts don’t just gather the numbers — they analyze them and extract insights they use to refine your strategy and build tactics that move the needle for your brand. They understand your buyer persona and buyer’s journey and map KPIs to your funnel so they’re ready to deploy the most effective tactics at exactly the right time.
9 Questions to Ask an SEO Agency
So now you understand the why of outsourcing your SEO needs to a dedicated expert agency. What about the how? Well, let’s start with how not to do it. When selecting your SEO agency, never choose:
- The first agency you contact without exploring the other options
- The cheapest agency
- An agency that makes promises that sound too good to be true (spoiler alert: they are)
- An agency that gets shifty when you ask about pricing
- Agencies that don’t have or won’t provide customer testimonials
Instead, evaluate every agency you approach by asking these hard-hitting questions:
1. How will you improve my search engine rankings?
Don’t expect them to share all their secrets at this stage in the game. But any SEO company worth its salt will be able to give you a detailed look at their SEO process, from conducting audits to building a strategy to implementing specific tactics that will boost your SERP rankings.
This should be your first and most important question, so if they clam up at this point, they probably aren’t what you’re looking for.
2. How do you communicate changes to our website?
When it comes to SEO, the only thing constant is change. At some point (likely at many points), changes will need to be made to your website, whether it’s correcting broken links, updating CTAs, or adjusting navigation. Of course, these changes should never be made without your knowledge and sign-off. Make sure you know up-front exactly how these changes will be presented, who will be making them, and who will ultimately be responsible for approvals.
3. What tools do you use?
Most SEO agencies can rattle off a list of top industry tools, but what they’re using isn’t as important as how they’re using them. Ask them for details on how they conduct keyword research, why they’ve chosen the tools they use, how they monitor backlinks, and how they’re tracking the metrics that matter to your brand’s success.
4. Do you have a plan for mobile?
The answer should never be “no” or “not yet.” Mobile is here, and it’s soon going to dominate search. If the agency courting you is dismissive about mobile search, head for the door.
A great SEO agency will have a concrete plan for mobile SEO and will weave it throughout your overall strategy. If they seem hesitant, they aren’t the right fit for your brand.
5. Can you share results you've achieved with past clients?
A website jam-packed with trust signals still isn’t enough if the agency can’t produce actual results from actual clients. You don’t need detailed financial statements, but any good SEO company should be able to show hard evidence that they’ve delivered on their promises.
There are a couple other important questions you should ask along with this:
- Would any of your previous clients be willing to speak with me about your experience?
- What’s the longest relationship you’ve had with a past (or current) client? (This demonstrates their commitment and client satisfaction. Remember that shady agencies tend to look for quick, one-off projects instead of long-term relationships with clients.)
- Do your clients tend to be in the same industry or niche as my brand?
6. What strategies do you implement to move the needle?
Again, they aren’t going to be giving away trade secrets at this point, but they should be able to speak clearly and in detail about the process they use to build your SEO strategy. Ask for examples of what they’ve done for other clients and how they plan to demonstrate proof of performance.
You want to be sure your agency is constantly looking for ways to update and tweak your strategy to make it more effective. Ask how they plan to do this and — critically — what they’ll do if/when they find out a particular tactic isn’t working.
7. How do you measure the success of SEO campaigns?
More traffic? More conversions? More $$$? This isn’t just a question for a potential SEO company — it’s something you should discuss and agree on together. If they don’t know what your expectations and goals are, how can they meet them? And if you don’t know what they’re tracking and why, how will you see the results you want?
The KPIs you want them to monitor should include:
- Impressions: How many people are seeing your brand in their search?
- Traffic: How many of those click through to your website?
- SERP rank: At what page and position do you appear?
- Keyword performance: Are you ranking for the right keywords?
- Bounce rate: Is something causing your visitors to jump ship?
Of course, this is just a handful of the many metrics your SEO agency will be tracking. Keep in mind, it’s not just about the data — it’s about what they do with it and how they adapt your strategy to it.
8. How long does it take for us to see results?
There is no easy, clear-cut answer for this one, and if an SEO agency says there is, that’s probably your cue to peace out. Generally, it takes around six months to begin seeing the results — and that’s after your SEO strategy has been approved and implemented. Up to nine months is normal, and it may even take a year to see truly meaningful and measurable results.
Remember — we said this is the long game you’re playing. The payoff is that you will continue seeing those results compound and build over the course of years (with regular adjustments, monitoring, and maintenance).
9. What do you need from us to achieve these goals?
Sure, this is a service you’re hiring out, but to have a significant impact, it should also be a partnership. That means you’ll need to do your part to provide your chosen SEO company with the info they need to achieve maximum results for your brand. They may ask you to supply:
- Log-in information for Google Analytics and any other tools you’re already using
- Details on your existing marketing automation and digital platforms
- KPIs you’re currently tracking and what data you’d like to see
- Your in-depth buyer persona and buyer’s journey
- Any industry or competitor information you’ve already compiled
You’re going to want your SEO agency to be an open book, and it’s crucial that you’re willing to do the same.
How to Choose the Best SEO Company
Feeling overwhelmed? We know — it’s a lot of information to process. But trust us when we say that it’s so worth doing the legwork before you start the process of evaluating SEO companies. Once you’ve made it this far, you’re ready for the exciting part: choosing the right SEO agency to grow your brand. Here’s how you narrow the field and make your final selection:
Ask for Referrals
Referrals give you a proven track record that an SEO agency can deliver on their promises. If they suddenly get shy or coy when asked for referrals from previous or existing clients, it’s time to bow out.
Ensure They Specialize in Your Industry
You wouldn’t go to an automotive upholsterer when you need a suit tailored. And you certainly wouldn’t seek the advice of a veterinarian when you need medical treatment. While the industries may seem similar, the reality is that they’re miles apart in terms of audience, services, and best practices. Whether you're a tech company or a startup, it’s critical that you find an SEO agency that understands your industry and the role you play in it. They don’t necessarily have to be dedicated to your particular niche, but you do want to see that they’ve worked with a client in a similar field and have delivered results.
Read Reviews and Testimonials
This is word-of-mouth advertising for the modern age. Reviews are invaluable when it comes to narrowing down your choices. Be wary of agencies that have no reviews — maybe even more so than those that have a less-than-stellar overall rating. When looking at reviews, pay close attention to any that seem negative. You can glean a lot of insight into whether the issue was with the agency itself or the demands of the client. You can also learn quite a bit from how the agency in question responds to these reviews.
Testimonials are likely hand-picked to showcase the best traits of the agency, but they’re also a valuable way to understand the client’s experience and relationship.
Ask for Case Studies
Case studies are a lot like testimonials, but they’re backed with data and show proof of performance. Watch out for case studies that make over-the-top claims without offering hard evidence (screenshots of actual data, input from clients, etc.). If you aren’t sure, ask if you can speak directly with a current client to verify.
Think Beyond SEO to Conversion
More impressions, more traffic, and more clicks are all great, but if all those visitors aren’t actually converting, you aren’t really getting what you’ve paid for. Fortunately, SEO is one of the best and most efficient ways to increase conversion.
You’ll want your prospective SEO agency to be able to tell you how they plan to invest their time to get you more conversions that give a lift to your bottom line.
Ensure Their Ethics Align with Yours
Black hat SEO has been largely culled due to the diligence of search engines like Google that are actively looking for unethical practices. There are many SEO agencies out there that are totally on the up and up. They practice ethical, responsible SEO that helps you not only grow your brand but also avoid penalties in the process. Still, there are some out there that want to cut corners to give the impression that they’re getting you better, quicker results. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Agencies that claim to get you instant results
- Promises of results that seem impossible or unlikely
- Tendency to use black hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing, cloaking, content duplication, and sneaky redirects
- Reluctance to be up-front with pricing, packages, and add-on costs
The SEO agency you choose doesn’t necessarily have to share all of your values, but they should, at minimum, be committed to exercising good business practices.
Understand the Risks of Working with a Cheap SEO Agency
Cutting costs and saving money is good business. But looking for fire sale SEO prices is probably going to come back and bite you.
To save money, most of these discount agencies hire entry-level employees that don’t have the experience to back up their big claims. And the packages they offer sound great, but you’ll soon find that they don’t cover what you actually need or that the cost significantly rises as you add on services and customizations.
Avoid SEO Companies that Make Guarantees
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it…well, you already know. A lot of SEO agencies are quick to overpromise, but they’ll nearly always underdeliver. “Results guaranteed!” sounds good on paper, but it’s pretty meaningless if you don’t actually get those results (or get your money back). Instead, you want an agency that gives you an idea of what results are possible and likely to be achieved at your pricing level. If they aren’t transparent about this, they aren’t likely to be transparent about anything else.
Ask About Fees and Contracts
It bears repeating: good SEO isn’t cheap. And cheap SEO isn’t usually good. Sticking to your budget is imperative, but you also want to make sure that budget is realistic and aligned with your expectations. Be sure before you make a decision (or, heaven forbid, actually sign anything) that you have a complete picture of all the charges and fees you’ll be accepting.
This can include any packages, monthly retainers, or ongoing expenses. Many SEO companies will ask you to sign a contract. That’s not a red flag, but if they get skittish when you ask to show it to an attorney — that is. Clear all contracts with your legal team and make sure everything checks out before you sign.
Schedule a Consultation to Learn More About Services
Emails and live chat are useful, but they can’t replace an actual face-to-face conversation — especially when the stakes are this high. Fortunately, in the era of Zoom and video conferencing, face-to-face conversations are a lot easier to swing. Ask for a consultation, and use your time wisely. Make sure they answer all of your questions thoroughly, never make you feel rushed, or brush off your concerns.
The First Page Strategy Advantage
If you’ve made it this far, we’d like to offer you a reward: expert SEO strategy and management from a trusted partner that gets genuinely invested in your brand’s success. Okay, yes, you’ll have to pay for it (we weren’t kidding when we said good SEO isn’t cheap, and cheap SEO isn’t good) — but we can promise you that we are always transparent, honest, and ethical, and we believe our reputation speaks for itself.
Plus, a conversation is free, so you have nothing to lose except a little bit of your time (and we promise, we’re great conversationalists).
So, if you want…
- An in-depth SEO audit
- A comprehensive strategy designed to grow your brand
- The best SEO experts in the business
- Combined decades of experience
- A proven track record in delivering results
…then you want to talk to FPS. We won’t shy away from your hard-hitting questions (we’ve already given you a list above to start with) and we won’t make you promises we can’t keep.
Get in touch today, and find out why FPS is the best choice for your brand.