After being a practitioner for the last decade, I’m tackling this question a lot more often in a business development role at Seer. We don’t want to work with everyone looking for an SEO company. Many aren’t ready to bring one on board. It’s essential that needs and services match.
With that said, below are a number of questions we use within business development to help qualify and determine if it’s the right time and fit.
Should I Hire an SEO Company?
1. Yes, hire an agency if you have internal resources dedicated to SEO
The year is 2018. It’s been a long time since anyone can simply go out and hire an agency and “do that SEO thing and get us results” with zero effort internally. If you want to make SEO work with any company, you have to dedicate time and resources internally.
2. Yes, hire an agency if you have analytics data you can trust
Any good SEO or digital marketing agency is going to want to clear up any data integrity issues prior to setting goals or moving ahead with a project. Without knowing how much you have in your bucket and what holes need to be plugged, how do we really know what is achievable? From double-counting sessions to having e-commerce tracking set up to knowing your conversion funnel, there’s a lot to track (and track confidently) prior to starting SEO.
3. Yes, hire an agency if you have development resources or budget for a dev agency
Most SEO companies will not want to access your site, make changes, and publish. There’s a lot of liability and you likely know the functionality of your site better than we do. Any agency worth their weight is going to review your site to ensure there is a strong technical SEO foundation. This is typically where a lot of extra costs can occur as recommendations could change URL structure or site hierarchy, and end up creating or updating significant resources or content on the site.
4. Yes, hire an agency if you have enough budget
A typical 12-month project for a medium or large sized business will be $ 100K or more. This typically includes technical SEO, a dedicated team, project plan & strategy, setting goals, content strategy, etc. If that budget doesn’t make sense for 12 months, hiring someone in-house who has the skills likely isn’t cheaper (salary, benefits, fixed costs).
If for some reason you don’t have enough to hire a legitimate agency, finding a solid individual consultant to help give the site a shot in the arm could be a good move. There are plenty of solid consultants out there as well as people working for agencies who take clients on the side. Making the case for a bigger SEO budget through using a small one is something we see often. It also never hurts to ask if an agency you love that is out of your price range can do a three-month sprint or pilot program.
5. Yes, hire an agency if you determine they’re a great fit for your culture
I want to ensure Seer is as much of a fit for our prospects as I want our prospects to be a fit for Seer. If your culture has plans that might change at the drop of a hat because of what the CMO says, a lot of agencies might signal that they can’t work in that environment. On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking for an agency to communicate daily, have weekly calls, send reports weekly or monthly, and be an extension of your team, you need to ask how they communicate with clients to ensure it aligns with your needs.
6. Yes, hire an agency that won’t lock you into a 12-month contract
We all want to be treated fairly. If for some reason you’re not getting results after six to seven months and need to pull the plug, you shouldn’t have to pay for another five to six months for something that isn’t working for you. So 30- or 60-day outs for either party should be something to have in your contract, as well as ensuring the agency will play nice and have a transition plan for the next agency should that be the case.
7. Yes, hire an agency that talks about measuring revenue and goals
Any agency that leads with “we can get you ranked for XYZ” should be an immediate flag to slowly move the phone away from your ear and back on the hook. Hang up. Agencies should be asking about your yearly goals, what you’ve done in the past to achieve them, and how they can drive revenue for your business. You can’t pay your bills in rankings and the agency you select shouldn’t measure their success based on rankings.
Rankings are a great early indicator that things are headed in the right direction, but if they aren’t followed by increases in traffic, conversions, and revenue, then they’re simply a vanity metric.
8. Yes, hire an agency if you’re also investing in other marketing channels
SEO in a vacuum doesn’t typically work. It plays nicely when used in combination with PPC, PR, email, social, and brand advocates. SEO can provide a technically sound site and well-optimized content, but if there aren’t other channels helping to drive authority and traffic to the site, SEO could take an extremely long time to pay off. Even the best content needs a way to be shared and gain authority to then drive traffic organically.
Your potential SEO agency should want to collaborate with these other channels, sharing information to create a data-driven approach for success. An SEO company will want your search query reports, calls to action that drove open rates for email campaigns, and so much more. Finding data-driven opportunities is exciting and you should hear that over the phone or see it in person with the agency you select.
9. Yes, hire an agency if you’re looking for long-term success
Unless there’s something easily fixable on your site (like blocking it entirely with your robots.txt file), the majority of SEO is building long-term successes and value. If you need immediate traffic, paid search is a much more realistic way to achieve those quick wins. You’ll spend some to get some, but you could set up a campaign within a day and start selling and learning how customers react to different calls to action in PPC.
Before any of that, you’ll want to ensure you have your analytics configured and set up correctly so you can track what people are doing on your site. If you have data integrity concerns, perhaps finding the right analytics agency is the first step you’ll want to take, or find an agency that does both.
10, Yes, hire an agency if you’re invested in knowing your audience
Any good SEO agency isn’t going to talk about keywords and throwing content up to see what sticks. They’ll want to connect with you, the expert on your business. They’ll want to connect with customer life cycles, life stages that trigger actions, how people use your product, how people search for it, understanding if we’re reaching everyone just about to enter your funnel and catering those ready to convert too.
Behind every search is a person. Your agency should understand that and look towards sending the right audience and the right people to your site, not just sessions and rankings.