For some time now, SEO has been a popular topic attracting the attention of companies that run their own websites. Doing it properly can bring numerous benefits. What to pay attention to when searching for an appropriate SEO agency and what’s all the fuss about?
SEO is a field that can be discussed in a number of ways. There are as many positive reviews as negative ones and SEO is quite mysterious. This is mainly due to frequent unethical practices employed in the past and a lack of transparency between the agencies and their clients. In today’s entry, we’ll spill the beans and tell you what SEO is all about!
Nowadays, running a business almost always equals having a company website. Nevertheless, having a page isn’t enough to succeed. It’s essential to make sure that users searching for particular products or services disregard your market rivals and choose your offer instead. How to do it? Of course, it’s affected by a number of factors, including brand recognition and page position in the search results on specific keywords (usually these two elements go hand in hand but that’s not always the case). Your website position is determined by numerous elements. With appropriate knowledge and practical skills, you can significantly improve positions of particular phrases which translates into increased traffic. This is the scope of activities of SEO agencies. What to keep in mind before investing in SEO?
SEO… What is it all about?
In a nutshell, SEO (search engine optimization) is a set of activities supposed to improve website positions on particular phrases in the organic search results. Perhaps this definition still remains black magic to some of the readers. But don’t worry, we’re here for you to explain it in more detail. When searching for a local Italian restaurant, you’ll probably start with asking your friends for recommendations or entering a relevant phrase into the search engine to see available locations in your area. The vast majority of Internet users benefit from Google. When typing in the phrase “Italian restaurant Boston” you’ll see a list of results redirecting to rankings of well-known restaurants and their websites. In spite of thousands of available results, users usually stay on the first page and select one of the highly ranked positions as a destination to celebrate their Saturday dinner.
What conclusions can you draw from this situation? Being ranked high on specific keywords is an extremely important factor that affects the success of your website and contributes to profits brought to the company. How to reach high positions in the search results? If you aren’t an expert in the field, it would be best to hire a professional agency. However, let’s take a closer look at performed activities to understand factors that affect page visibility and positions.
On-site or off-site?
Of course, this question is pointless as quality SEO is based on these two elements. On-site means all the activities carried out within the website, whereas off-site consists of practices carried out "outside" the page.On-site activities include, among others, creation of the sitemap, page code structure (unique meta tags, descriptions), implementation of proper titles and headers, or expansion of content with the use of emphatic tags. Optimizing the landing page and subpages for relevant keywords allows Google robots to associate your website with certain words.
Off-site, on the other hand, is about acquiring valuable links to the site which includes promoting the company on online forums, writing articles, cooperating with partners and creating company profiles on various social media platforms.
SEO on your own or with a professional agency - what’s better?
The abovementioned set of activities applied in SEO is significantly simplified. As far as being active on online forums is a piece of cake, knowing what to pay attention to when acquiring links is a completely different story. Moreover, website optimization requires at least basic knowledge of HTML. Theoretically speaking, it’s possible to do SEO on one’s own, however, if you don’t have any expertise in the field, the game simply isn’t worth the candle. Apart from the time spent on the learning and implementing changes, there is a risk that these actions will bring more harm than good. Nowadays, Google is very sensitive to incompetent SEO activities and the so-called keyword stuffing which may result in your page being penalized by the robots.
Alright, now we’re aware that in most cases it’s better to benefit from services offered by a professional agency than to perform tasks on your own. As in every industry, SEO agencies also differ in terms of the quality of provided services. What to take into consideration to ensure that you select the finest company?
Before you sign the contract
Once you know what SEO is about, it’s time to start searching for an appropriate agency. There are numerous guidelines you should take into account when selecting a specific SEO company. Make sure that the agency you want to start a long-term cooperation with meets the below-mentioned requirements.
1. During the first meeting, the representative of the SEO agency should ask you about the actual objective of the performed activities. What are your business goals? They’ll determine the most effective strategy and relevant keywords.
2. SEO isn’t magic. Select an agency able to clearly and transparently tell you about specific activities performed to improve your website position. Transparency of the SEO agency is one of the most important elements you should take into consideration.
3. An SEO auditis another must-have element characterizing a reliable company. Without getting into too much detail, a page audit should include all important parameters defining your website, present results and recommended modifications. It's worth mentioning that a well-prepared audit is basically a strategy and the SEO agency should significantly (if not totally) contribute to its implementation.
4. A clear and understandable contract with precisely defined terms of cooperation and its termination is, of course, a small detail that applies to all contracts. On the other hand, acceptable terms of such a contract could be discussed in a separate entry. Undoubtedly, it’s worth paying attention to the duration and potential penalties.
5. Let’s emphasize one more time that SEO activities aren’t magic and can be presented in a clear and structured way. It’s even easier to present results expressed in numbers. That’s why a professional SEO agency should provide its clients with monthly reports that include positions of individual phrases and appropriate commentaries. This also provides an opportunity to suggest any other changes or key phrases if the current ones don’t generate enough traffic.
6. Although it’s the sixth aspect on the list, it’s certainly the most important for many business owners. Price. Is it possible to effectively perform quality SEO activities for competitive keywords and be ranked in the top 10 for 20 dollars a month? Of course not. As with any other valuable service, the price increases together with the quality. It’s infeasible to purchase durable leather shoes for 5 dollars. However, let’s leave these cliches and focus on various billing models. The first one is performance-based SEO where clients pay solely for reaching given positions in the search results. When considering this solution, it’s worth keeping in mind that the agency will probably want to improve positions in a short time. In many cases, this method will involve rather unethical activities. Besides, if positions increase quickly, they can decrease even faster. Unfortunately, there are many examples when Google penalized websites that advocated such an aggressive SEO model. Perhaps a few years ago such services were acceptable, however, black hat SEO has been condemned for quite a long time right now as it simply doesn’t pay off. Let’s discuss another billing method based on a fixed subscription and bonuses for improving positions of specific phrases. In this scenario, the agency focuses on activities that bring long-term results. Although the whole process is long and rankings improve gradually, the probability of staying in reached positions is much higher than in the case of the previous example.
We're explaining the pros and cons of performance-based payments for SEO here: Is It Better To Stay Away From Performance-Based Payment for SEO Services?
7. Last but not least, discuss behavior and activities once the cooperation is over. It frequently happens that SEO agencies remove backlinks to the website when the contract is terminated. As you can guess, in this situation positions decrease drastically. It’s a good idea to discuss this aspect before signing the contract and make sure that the selected agency won’t act this way.
A brief takeaway
Knowing what SEO is about, significantly facilitates the process of searching for an appropriate agency. As with any other service, SEO activities performed by an agency can be either professional or unreliable and harmful to the site. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that cheap service providers probably won’t take into consideration your long-term business goals. A quality agency is aware of the fact that SEO isn’t just a scheme of actions performed in the same way for every client. Each enterprise is different, therefore experience and creativity needed to determine an individual and most beneficial approach for each website are crucial to success. Moreover, it’s worth keeping in mind that high positions of a few keywords aren’t the objective on their own. They should help the company to constantly develop and acquire new customers.
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