There is perhaps no hotter topic in marketing right now than search engine optimization, or SEO. When people are looking for an answer to a question they have, they look online. So much, in fact, that when we’re trying to find something, we don’t “look for it” anymore – we Google it.
Many people are searching for answers – about 70,000 every second. Every time someone types a query into a search engine, it creates an opportunity for a brand to provide a solution for that person. And it's best if your brand is on the first page for that search query. Hence the name of our company.
The idea behind SEO is to put your brand at the top of the search results page that offers a solution to the user’s problem or provides an answer to their question. When executed properly, SEO is one of the best forms of inbound marketing, bringing potential customers with an immediate need that you can solve, directly to your website. A lead can turn into a sale in a matter of clicks, and this is much more impactful than other forms of inbound marketing which simply reinforce your brand or establish your expertise in the field.
SEO is word of mouth in the internet age. People trust Google and other search engines to answer their questions. If Google believes you can solve someone’s problem, then that person is likely to believe it too.
So, what’s the best way to take advantage of SEO to drive growth? You need someone on your side that can ensure your website rises through the ranks of search engine results pages (SERPs) and makes its way to the top. The main choice when it comes to finding that person or people is: do you handle it in-house or hire an SEO agency?
Here are six advantages to consider using SEO services provided by an inbound marketing agency.
SEO, on its surface, may seem like a simple concept. Provide the best answer to a question and get Google to put you on the first page. But the reality of achieving that goal is not nearly as simple as it sounds.
Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, aiming to refine and improve their engine to help people find what they’re looking for and demote results of those who game the system. These changes can happen multiple times a day, and in 2018 there were an average of 9 changes per day!
With changes happening so frequently, it can’t be someone’s part time job to handle all things SEO. A full-time commitment is needed to understand these changes and figure out how they apply to your website.
This is where a remote agency's SEO services can save you time and money. An inbound marketing agency that offers SEO services makes their living by staying informed. These professionals are dedicated to staying on top of SEO trends and getting in front of search engine changes that could have a negative impact on your web traffic. At First Page, our SEO Expert is constantly reviewing Google's algorithm changes and folding that conversation into our monthly analysis of performance and forward-thinking strategies.
If we set aside the investment required to master SEO and stay on top of the latest trends, it still takes time to put all that knowledge to work. This isn’t a one-time investment. As you continue to create content and add pages to your website, there will be an ongoing need to ensure that those pages are optimized. If you change brand messaging or go through a website redesign, SEO is also needed to ensure you're not changing copy or pages that rank.
You may find that continuously thinking about how SEO applies to your content is diverting your attention from your area of expertise. If that is the case, then an SEO agency might be the right solution for you. If you hire someone for SEO services, you can focus on delivering the high-quality content that resonates with your customers and the agency can focus on tuning up that content to appeal to search engines and site visitors.
As the field of SEO has evolved, the criteria that Google and other search engines use to rate and rank your website has followed suit. Many years ago, search engine ranking was determined solely by the content on your website. Over time, however, it has grown to include measurements like how quickly your webpage loads and other *very* technical signals. The technical side of SEO has gotten so complicated that we actually have a 'Technical SEO Expert' at First Page in addition to our 'SEO Expert.'
The end goal of these changes and improvements is to create an algorithm that can predict the experience a human would have with a given web page, which is why a metric like page speed matters. Have you ever given up on waiting for a webpage to load? Similarly, websites that use encryption are favored by search engines because it’s assumed that users prefer a secure experience.
Making changes to your website to improve SEO ranking based on performance, user experience, and security are not always obvious. If done improperly, they can end up having the opposite of the intended effect. If you optimize a web page for SEO by dropping image resolution to make your page load faster, but then the images are blurry or don’t accurately display your offerings, your efforts are counterproductive.
If instead, you hire an SEO agency, they can handle optimizing your website without compromising your intended user experience. You should look for an inbound marketing agency that understands how to improve your organic visibility while simultaneously optimizing the customer journey and user experience.
In the SEO world, there are many different techniques you can apply to improve your rankings. Unfortunately, not all techniques are “approved” by search engine developers. There are some that are considered as gaming the system, called black hat, which means the practitioner chooses to ignore what search engines deem a violation of their guidelines where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve.
Sadly it isn’t always easy to know right from wrong. In fact, the Google Chrome team accidentally used a black hat technique at one point. As a result, Chrome was penalized by the Google Search engine team and Chrome’s rankings dropped as a result.
At First Page, we're wildly against black-hat SEO tactics and only use white hat. If you’re caught using black-hat tactics, the search engine can reduce your rankings or, in the worst case, completely remove your site from their index. This can be a devastating blow to a brand trying to build its online presence. The immediate reward is not worth the long-term risk.
SEO agencies are familiar with the range of techniques available and know which ones are safe and which should be avoided. Paying for SEO services from the right company that only uses white-hat techniques can improve your rankings quickly, while ensuring that everything is done ethically.
What gets measured, gets improved. There is no way to determine if your brand is successfully attracting new customers if you have no metrics to measure.
You need to have systems and tools in place to monitor rankings, traffic, conversions, and more. Questions about site visitors need to be addressed, such as:
What is their behavior on your site?
Are they leaving the site without converting because the journey you want to take them on isn’t clear?
Are they bouncing immediately because they don’t understand what it’s you do?
Are they getting right to the point of purchase, have a full shopping cart, and then abandoning?
It’s critically important to understand which, if any, of these scenarios site visitors are going through. A fix to a problem requires metrics. Not just one, but many metrics that can give you the insights you need to make the right decisions.
If you hire an SEO agency, they can put systems in place to collect data on where organic search visitors to your site are coming from, what they’re doing, and where they’re going. Not only can they collect that data, but they can provide reports so you can see what’s successful and what isn’t. Armed with this data, you can then set the direction on what changes to make to help drive more visitors and more conversions.
Any good inbound marketing agency understands the important tie between SEO, content and social media. The three marketing channels work together and should be seamlessly integrated and benefiting each other. Social media provides an excellent platform to create all the right signals that search engines are looking for to increase your rankings. If people are sharing content from your site or links to your product pages, it shows search engines that your site provides value.
Creating shareable content and using social media as a tactic to boost SEO has a secondary advantage in that it provides fantastic exposure to new audiences that might not have found you through a search engine. When you hire an SEO agency, make sure they understand this link and how it can benefit your brand.
SEO is a fast-paced, high-stakes game that brands are forced to engage in if they want to compete in the digital age. While many are tempted to tackle this on their own, there are plenty of reasons why reaching out to an inbound marketing agency and getting their help may make sense for you.
The many benefits an agency provide means a better ROI on your money invested in SEO services. Get a free SEO/content analysis from First Page Strategy and our audit will tell you what to change and why. With our help, you’ll be better able to keep up with your competition and bring new visitors to your site, all at a fraction of the cost for an in-house marketing team.