What Is an SEO Agency and How Does It Work?
What Is an SEO Agency?
Consider this hypothetical: You’re getting ready to go on a trip. You get behind the wheel and pull up the GPS. Once your destination is located, you get turn-by-turn directions to where you’re going. This is essentially what SEO does for your brand.
Not on the map? Then you’re not likely to be found. But let’s also say you aren’t great at giving directions. And sometimes, you don’t even know who’s asking for them.
This is where an SEO agency can step in and serve as your brand’s personal GPS. Not only do they know the directions that lead to your brand — they also know who’s trying to find you. An SEO agency will ensure your visitors don’t get lost along the way.
You probably have a lot of questions at this point. What is an SEO agency? What exactly does an SEO company do? How do they know who’s trying to find my brand? And how do they get them from point A to point B?
No worries. We’re here to help guide you with all the information on how SEO agencies work and what they can do to put your brand on the map.
What Does an SEO Agency Do?
Not all SEO agencies are created equal.
Some are focused on a particular type of SEO (on-page, off-page, or technical), while others take a more holistic approach. Some like to show off the latest and greatest SEO agency tools, while others like to get hands-on. And some practice shady black hat SEO techniques, while others stay on the up-and-up with white hat SEO methods.
At FPS, we practice a few “musts” — the methods and approaches we think you should always look for when considering SEO agencies.
- Holistic approach: The three types of SEO mentioned above work best when used in tandem. We always maintain a big-picture perspective on a brand’s SEO, which may include other marketing channels like content and lead gen.
- White hat all the way: Just say “no” to unethical SEO. It might be cheaper and the results might come faster, but the risk (heavy penalties with long-lasting ramifications) isn’t worth the reward.
- Combination of tools, tech and hands-on: We love the latest SaaS, apps, and gadgets as much as the next, but we don’t just go for what’s new and trending. We look for tested, proven tools and pair them with expert strategy and analysis.
- Total transparency and honesty: If an SEO agency guarantees results that sound too good to be true, trust your gut. We pledge honesty and authenticity to our clients, so they always know what to expect.
Here’s a comprehensive list of services you should look for in any prospective SEO agency and what you can always expect from FPS.
Your SEO needs will be different from other brands based on your industry and the products/services you offer.
Your chosen SEO agency should take a deep dive into your business and your industry, understanding what it is you do, why you do it better than the competition, your USPs, and much more. Most SEO agencies will also look at your buyer personas and their search intent to make sure they craft an SEO strategy that delivers results.
Once your SEO agency understands your industry and your business, they’ll move on to understanding your current website.
While all may look picture perfect on the surface, in reality, most websites have a number of “hidden” issues.
Your SEO agency will be able to unearth these hidden issues, make immediate fixes for minor problems, and create an overall SEO strategy that will eliminate these holes and fill in the gaps to deliver better ROI.
Whether you have 1 or 100 people contributing content for your website, you’re bound to uncover inconsistencies. These might include:
...and the list goes on. Creating content that is optimized for SEO is a big job, but your SEO agency will look closely at your existing content and propose ways to make improvements.
A full website audit is usually left in the capable hands of a technical SEO expert. This expert will look for technical issues that can usually be quickly adjusted for an immediate SEO improvement. An audit will check for:
These issues are usually not difficult to fix, but they could stand in the way of your SEO success. An in-depth website audit will bring these problems to light and allow them to be fixed right away.
You think you know your buyer persona, but how well do you, really? Can you say for sure what they do in their free time? What social causes matter to them? What keeps them up at night?
A buyer persona will answer these questions and more, giving your SEO agency insights on the type of messaging that will have an impact and how to make sure it reaches them.
Buyer personas go beyond simple demographics; they also pull in psychographics and behavioral traits to guide your SEO strategy. Plus, it’s been shown that utilizing a buyer persona increases web traffic by 210 percent.
Setting up Tracking and Analytics
There are many KPIs and metrics you’ll want to track to be sure your SEO strategy is performing as it should. Google Analytics is one of the top tools for keeping tabs on SEO.
Daily or weekly tracking makes up the vast majority here, but it can be time-consuming. An SEO agency will take care of that for you to ensure you don’t miss anything important and maintain high visibility in your strategy’s performance.
Besides GA, there are numerous other tools your team of experts will use to stay on top of the data. Just make sure they have a process for reporting so you get the info you need when you need it.
SEO Tools Installation
There’s some overlap in SEO agency tools between companies, but each agency will have their trusted and reliable tools that never leave their tech stack.
At FPS, we’re pretty loyal to some of the best SEO agency tools on the market, including:
Your SEO agency will have their preferences and will be able to install and set up your SEO agency tools so you have access to the data when you need it.
Technical SEO is one of the first strategic implementations your SEO agency will undertake. It’s often considered the “low-hanging fruit” of SEO, but it’s a powerful method of ensuring your website is found by search engines.
Tech SEO experts will assess your website for page load speed, coding errors, 404s, missing or broken redirects, schema markup, and more. Most fixes can be made quickly, and they will pave the way for success throughout your SEO strategy.
Customized SEO Strategy
Speaking of SEO strategy, it’s one of the most critical elements your SEO team will deliver. Before you begin, you’ll need to carefully examine the goals you want to achieve through your SEO strategy.
While SEO is generally more focused on search rank and traffic, it can also be an effective driver of sales and revenue. Keep in mind, as your SEO agency crafts your strategy, it may include elements from other marketing channels, such as content, lead gen, and social media.
Content and SEO just belong together. If you have great content but no SEO, no one is going to find it. And if you have great SEO but no content, your visitors won’t be compelled to convert. When you have both, though — well, that’s when the magic happens.
Your SEO agency should work to ensure that your content supports your SEO strategy and that your SEO gets eyes on your content.
Pay special attention to that bar on the left. Reworking older content is one of the best ways to improve SEO. It’s cost-effective, saves time, and gets the attention of search engine algorithms.
On-page SEO is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It optimizes everything on your web pages to ensure they will be found by search engines and offer visitors a good experience.
Your SEO agency will take all of these factors into account when auditing your website and building your SEO strategy. On-page SEO will also tackle things like eliminating duplicate content, adding optimized content to poorly-performing landing pages, formatting images and text for a better UX, and building new landing pages with a focus on conversion.
Off-page SEO isn’t quite as straightforward as on-page. It involves everything your brand does outside of its website, including guest posting, social sharing, and more.
The major benefits of off-page SEO include building your domain authority, improving your backlink profile and boosting your overall search ranking.
Studies show that 60 percent of brands outsource their link building strategy, and it’s easy to see why. Building your backlink profile is time-intensive, and you’ll need longer, more in-depth content to pull it off.
Surprisingly (or not), most pages have zero backlinks. And yet, it’s considered one of the top ways of ranking for priority keywords. Your SEO agency will make sure you have a link building strategy woven into your SEO strategy and will seek outreach opportunities that are a good fit for your brand and your goals.
Digital PR isn’t always a part of SEO…but it should be. Like traditional PR, digital PR seeks out earned media opportunities, but because all digital PR content lives exclusively online, it can and should be used to boost SEO.
Digital PR focuses a lot on relationships — relationships with content creators, influencers, media outlets, and industry thought leaders. Your SEO agency should make sure that all content being pushed out as digital PR is optimized for search.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, uses hypotheses and testing — much like growth marketing — to uncover ways to boost conversions on your website.
CRO looks at what’s happening when your visitors reach your website and the specific actions they take (or choose not to take). If they aren’t filling out forms or clicking on CTAs, a CRO analysis will help identify why and suggest changes that will give visitors a better experience and a reason to convert.
Growth Marketing Strategy
SEO can and should be a part of an overall growth marketing strategy. That’s why you need to look for an SEO agency that places a lot of weight on growth. Instead of tracking vanity metrics that are more fluff and little substance, they should be looking at growth trends, ROI, and revenue.
But how is growth marketing different from traditional marketing?
Growth marketing is based around the scientific method and uses testing and experimentation to find solutions that drive long-term growth.
Is SEO Worth the Money?
We might be biased, but we think good SEO is worth its weight in gold. But, notice the qualifier: good SEO. We might even go a step further and say great SEO. There will be a lot of bottom-dollar SEO agencies out there, making big promises and pedaling discount packages. On this, we can only say — you get what you pay for.
So, how much are enterprise brands spending on SEO?
Feeling some sticker shock? We get that. But we also know that if you’re an enterprise brand spending less than $5K per month, you probably aren’t getting the results you want.
But before you start signing blank checks, here’s why SEO (the great kind) is worth every penny:
Organic Search Is the Biggest Driver of Traffic for Most Websites
Facts are facts. And the fact is, search will drive more traffic to your website than anything else.
But the only way to ensure your brand appears in SERPs and reaches the right audience — your buyer persona — is with a solid SEO strategy and the help of a trusted SEO agency.
Attract the Right Audience
You don’t necessarily want the most traffic when launching an SEO strategy — you want the right traffic. To get that, you’ll need to make sure your SEO approach is aligned with your target audience’s search intent.
Of course, within each of these buckets, there are smaller, more niche areas of search intent. SEO will help you identify these and reach your buyer persona wherever they are through long-tail keywords, rich snippets, local listings, and “people also ask” questions.
Done Right, SEO Builds Trust and Credibility
It won’t happen overnight, but SEO will help your brand become a trusted and reputable name in your industry. This happens within each segment of SEO your agency will be doing:
- Technical SEO: Resolves technical issues and glitches to make your website easier for search engines to find and supply to your ideal audience.
- On-Page SEO: Optimizes your web pages to offer a better experience to visitors, which helps them find what they need and encourages them to convert.
- Off-Page SEO: Forges relationships that build your backlink profile and position your brand as a thought leader.
All of these help build authority and increase awareness, laying the foundation for a solid brand reputation.
Improved User Experience
Web users are pretty savvy these days. They also have the attention span of a goldfish. So if you want them to stick around long enough to convert, you’ve got to make it worth their while.
SEO — especially technical and on-page SEO — will address most of these issues, including page load speeds, site architecture, image optimization, and SEO content. This ultimately ensures your website offers visitors the best possible experience.
You don’t want an SEO agency to tell you your strategy is doing well — you want them to show you. Fortunately, any good SEO company will have analytics and reporting as a key step in their process. They should also be willing to give you access to the tools they use to get their data so you have clear visibility into your SEO performance.
SEO is built on data, and you’ll be able to see hard numbers on the results you want, including traffic, search rank, ROI, and revenue. The results won’t come in all at once, but when you have the right agency and the right strategy, they’ll be worth the wait.
How to Choose the Right SEO Company
Okay, so you’re sold on the value of a qualified SEO agency. Great! What’s next? That’s a little tougher to pin down. There are countless SEO agencies out there. Some are pretty amazing. Some are hucksters. How do you tell the difference?
Track Record of Achieving Results
Prospective SEO agencies should be able to provide you with case studies, testimonials, and positive reviews from actual clients. More than anything, though, they should be able to give you data that proves their performance.
If an agency works primarily with ecommerce for SMBs, but you’re an enterprise B2B SaaS brand, they aren’t likely to know how to drive the kind of results you want. Or, let's say you're looking for SEO for your technology company. You’ll want to make sure your chosen agency has experience in your industry and understands the landscape — including trends and best practices — they'll be navigating.
Full-Service In-House Team
One of the biggest values an SEO agency offers is the benefit of a full-service team without you having to hire multiple in-house employees. But that means you need to know they truly cover every aspect of SEO and that their experts are the most knowledgeable and experienced you can get.
Aligned with Your SEO Goals
Whether you want more leads, more conversions, more traffic, or more revenue (or all of the above), you need to be sure your SEO agency understands your goals and has a game plan for achieving them. To get to the first page, you’ll need to be on the same page. Set expectations and make sure you’re aligned every step of the way.
Fees and Contract
Your SEO budget is whatever you can afford. Look for SEO agencies that are upfront with pricing so you aren’t wasting each other’s time. Pay close attention to contract length, recurring charges, and what happens if you want to get out early. Many SEO agencies will work with you to customize a plan around your total SEO spend, but if they’re shifty when it comes to costs and billing, get out while you still can.
SEO Companies That Prioritize Conversion over Vanity Metrics
Sure, increasing traffic is great, but if it’s not the right traffic, is it really worth all the effort? Pageviews without clicks don’t mean much, and unqualified leads will just linger in your funnel until something better comes along. A great SEO agency will look at the metrics that matter — the KPIs that are aligned with your goals and help your brand achieve long-term, sustainable growth.
What SEO Success Looks Like
Wondering what the true indicators of SEO success are? Taking a big-picture look, you’ll want to see consistent brand growth and a stronger bottom line. But that can take a while. While you’re waiting, here’s what to look for to be sure your SEO strategy is working:
Better Quality Traffic
Yes, traffic can be a vanity metric if all you’re looking at are the numbers. Instead, traffic metrics can be analyzed against other KPIs, like conversions, to make sure the traffic your SEO is bringing in is the right audience and that you’re giving them the right message.
A simple click-thru isn’t always a conversion. Take a careful look at what the end goal is for every page. Your CTAs, lead gen forms, popups, and more should all be optimized for conversion so that when visitors come knocking, there are no unwelcome surprises on the other side of the door.
Content should always be well-written, but there are a lot more considerations than that. Great content that’s optimized for SEO will also be the right length, at the right reading level, in the right tone, with the right headers, transitions, and tags. The best content is more than just words on a page; it’s an experience. And hopefully, one that prompts the action you want visitors to take.
Improved SERP Ranks
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again (probably a lot): If you aren’t on the first page, you may as well be on the last. There’s more competition than ever for the top spots, including the coveted position zero (and a flood of paid search ads as well). SEO success doesn’t always mean getting to the very top, but it does mean seeing consistent improvement, eventually landing you on the first page and working your way up.
Stronger Brand Reputation and Authority
This comes largely from a strong off-page SEO strategy. Outreach and link building will improve your domain authority and position your brand as a reputable and trusted leader in your industry. This also takes considerable time to achieve, but the end result will be worth it.
We can’t quite say SEO is a set-it-and-forget-it approach to growing your brand. However, once you’ve gotten through the process of building a strategy, making technical SEO changes and leveraging your on-page and off-page SEO tactics, you’ll begin to see growth and results over time. Your strategy will need regular adjustments and tweaks, but overall, you’ll continue to see results in the future.
The Process of Working with an SEO Company
Process will vary from one SEO agency to another. However, you’re likely to find some similarities between them. For the purposes of this outline, we’re using our FPS process.
Discovery and Kickoff
This is where the onboarding process begins. We work with clients to build a relationship and become an extension of your brand and your marketing team. We’ll set you up with access to the tools we use for SEO monitoring and tracking, bring you into our project management platform (with ongoing support), and set up discovery calls with all the key stakeholders in your company.
Our team will get a better understanding of where you currently are, and where you want to be, by conducting multiple in-depth audits. These may include:
- Keyword audit
- Competitor audit
- Content architecture audit
- Technical SEO audit
- Backlink audit
- Blog audit
- Data and analytics audit
This is where we really shine. We’ll build out a strategy for at least one full year of SEO services. This includes building out:
- Buyer persona
- Buyer’s journey
- Search intent paths
- User experience
- Pillar pages and topic clusters
- Linkable assets
- Blog strategy and processes
- Distribution strategy
Once we have your strategy built out, we’ll begin implementation. This will include tech SEO updates to your website, on-page optimization, content strategy, and off-page link building and outreach. We’ll make sure you’re updated on the progress at regular intervals.
We’ll build custom dashboards in the tools we use to measure your success, like Google Data Studio, Klipfolio, HubSpot, and more. We’ll also build out a reporting process that works for you, whether you prefer weekly check-ins, monthly calls, video updates — however you want us to communicate with you, we’re on it! We’ll also use this time to discuss how we can make continuous adjustments to your strategy to improve your results.
SEO Agency vs. In-house SEO: Which Is Better?
It really depends on a lot of factors, including your overall budget, your needs, and your goals. If you’re an established brand that can afford to hire an in-house team, that might work best. If you’re a startup looking to grow through SEO, and you need experts and specialists to get you there (without the additional costs of FTEs), an agency is the way to go.
There’s no right or wrong choice here. The only wrong decision would be ignoring SEO entirely or choosing a cut-rate agency that doesn’t meet your needs.
Partner with First Page Strategy to Generate Revenue for Your Business
Deciding whether you need an SEO agency is a big deal and not one you should make lightly. Need some guidance and advice without a high-pressure sales pitch? FPS is your go-to support system.
Schedule a chat with us, and we’ll give you straightforward, honest input. No hard-selling, no pressure, and no expectations.
If we’re not a good fit, we’ll wish you the best as you continue your search. And if you are — well, we’re already excited to see what we can achieve together!