Finding the best SEO agency to fit your needs is tough and top SEO agencies are few and far between. Why? Well because there are so many out there and it's a competitive market, each offering something unique to entice you in. A lot of SEO involves marketing your business and getting customers to come to you so it's no surprise most of them are a dab hand at it, but it's what they can do for your business that matters.

What to look for in an SEO agency

Another important thing to bear in mind before starting your digital marketing campaign is how long SEO can take. If a search engine optimization company guarantees quick results (as enticing as that sounds), they probably are not very trustworthy. Even for the best of SEO companies, ethical and organic SEO takes time and patience to pay off. But when it gets going you'll see your business take off!

Evaluating your options before hiring an SEO agency is a must. You need to ask yourself questions like:

What are my business' long term and short term goals?

What are my company values?

What is my budget going to be?

What services do I require?.

A question that probably hangs heavy on a lot of entrepreneurs noggins is 'How do I find the right SEO agency for me?'.

Well in this article I'm going to give you some insight, and hopefully leave you feeling a lot more confident about making an informed decision.

Listed below are some of the key aspects to look out for when researching SEO specialists.

Experience, Team Members and Ethics

The best SEO company will always have experienced team members; this is a must even if the company is brand new. Web design and optimisation is no walk in the park. It takes years of experience in prominent roles to have adequate technical knowledge to perform SEO of the highest standard. And it takes a team of trained individuals on different SEO techniques to be able to carry out all the different tasks. When it comes to carrying out SEO tasks and monitoring and maintaining sites there are many things that can go wrong, so it takes someone that is comfortable and experienced to deal with the issues promptly. You don't become one of the best SEO experts without a great deal of trial and error.

The same applies for other team members too. A good SEO company will generally have a few different people responsible for different tasks such as content creation, blogger outreach and any other behind-the-curtain technical SEO. Newsletter and blog posts are you're making your website more visible to people who are entering keywords associated with your product or service via search engines like Google.

The Benefits of Experience

Having an experienced SEO partner is highly advantageous for other reasons too. SEO experts will be able to give you as a business owner, insight into how to monitor things such as traffic conversion rate, bounce rate and performance statistics through SEO tools. As an entrepreneur, you want an strong SEO partnership so you can keep in the know on important aspects of your campaign and also gain useful tips to keep your firm on the right track.

Ethical SEO

Just as important as the company's team are the ethics they uphold. Without ethical practices, any benefits you see from SEO are temporary. Any SEO agency that cuts corners or works the system may see high rankings for a few days but as soon as the search engine catches on, they're guaranteed to lose those rankings—and possibly the opportunity to ever regain them. You can also be slapped with a Google penalty if your site uses black hat SEO techniques.

Tactics to Avoid

Black hat SEO tactics are against the terms of service and can easily result in your site getting banned. Here's what to watch out for:

Content is robotic and stuffed with keywords

It may have worked a few years ago but keyword stuffing can now get your business blacklisted and that is a difficult one to come back from. Google expects high quality content nowadays that is relevant, so put your trust in a company that cares about content. Content marketing plays a huge part in improving your rankings on Google and also aims to strike a cord with your target audience, so it isn't just about the engines.

Links from low quality sites

Your website wants plenty of backlinks, but bad links are a big no no. Unethical SEO companies will pay bad sites to link to your domain. This creates a bad connection and, again, can result in your website being blacklisted. On the bright side, a good SEO company can get rid of bad links to your site and replace them with ones from relevant, high authority sites.

Content Duplication

Search engines are confused by duplicate content, so they may just stop indexing your website altogether. If your website isn’t being crawled or indexed, your page rankings will plummet. If an SEO firm encourages you to use the same content on different pages or websites, if you have more than one, then it's also a no go. You have to make sure that all of your content is original. If they offer unique content creation fit for search intent then it's a good sign.

Link Stuffing

Google are able to detect link stuffing, and can tell whether your links are relevant to the content on a page. Link stuffing worked a few years ago but their algorithms change and it's now punishable. Search engines simply want to serve results to users that are truly relevant to their searches. As punishment for link stuffing, Google may remove your website from its listings, reduce your authority or completely blacklist your website.

White hat SEO techniques are, as you'd expect, the exact opposite. A reputable agency will focus solely on white hat techniques in order to improve websites organically and help businesses see real benefits for a long time to come. You'll find the best SEO agencies focus on improving aspects such as User Experience, link building, keyword research and developing better content than your competitors. Google has always encouraged webmasters to make their primary focus one of providing a good user experience. In the online world, first impressions mean everything.

Specialities and Services

A standard SEO company will generally offer a couple of packages that include your usual SEO strategies. The best SEO agency however will offer a strategy aimed at improving specific parts of your website. This can either be on-page or off-page optimisation. Examples of on-page optimisation include:

  • Content optimisation
  • Technical audit
  • Web design
  • Page speed optimisation
  • Internal linking structure

Examples of off page optimisation includes:

  • Networking with high ranking domains
  • Blogger outreach
  • Content marketing
  • Maintaining social media accounts
  • Link building

When hiring an SEO specialist these are certainly things you want to look out for. It proves that they have a good skill set and it also means if you are looking to improve or optimise certain parts of your site and don't wish to spend too much money, you can just pick one which will benefit your business the most. Maybe the last company you used provided poor backlinks, or perhaps you'd like to rank for certain keywords... Chances are an SEO agency with an array of services can fix that for you!

Outreach specialists and blog post writers are also a key part of a good digital marketing agency. Blogger outreach is a strategy that involves partnering with established bloggers to publish quality content on their trusted and high-traffic blogs. This builds not only builds juicy links for your website but it boosts your search engine rankings too. It's a useful marketing strategy for brands, agencies and freelance marketers. Email marketing and social media are other useful promotional tools that a good SEO company can utilise.

Another service that is very useful to small businesses and start ups is local SEO. The SEO process for local business differs greatly to national or international. Your goals will differ greatly too. While traditional SEO focuses on improving your site’s visibility on a national or global scale, local SEO allows you to capture local search territory to connect with searchers in your area.

In addition to traditional SEO strategies, local SEO employs some additional tactics to help you reach local searchers.

These local strategies include:

  • Claiming and optimising profiles on local listing sites like Google My Business
  • Earning and managing reviews on local review sites
  • Targeting relevant, local keywords on your website
  • Creating location-specific website copy
  • Adding name, address, and phone number (NAP) information to your site and local directories
  • Earning backlinks from reputable, local websites

With Local SEO you can promote your products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them online. So if your business operates locally, has multiple stores, or wants to attract a loyal customer base, then this is a great search marketing solution for you. If you are a local business, you definitely want to choose an SEO agency that can meet your needs, and do so on a reasonable budget. As with a standard SEO strategy it can take time, but it's a worthwhile investment.

Portfolio and Case Studies

If you're considering choosing an SEO agency and you haven't yet browsed their portfolio or case studies, then you need to do so before moving forward. Looking at an agency’s portfolio helps you understand, a) what types of businesses it serves and, b) how versatile they are. It's good to look for patterns related to your niche too. For instance, if you are a law office and you see the agency has worked with a number of other firms, it shows they are experienced within your industry and know what it takes to see fruitful results. If they have a portfolio spanning across a wide range of industries, this is also a good sign as it proves they are a versatile agency and can easily adapt. If there is no list of clients or any indication they’ve worked with actual companies, this is a potential red flag.

Case studies work the same. A lot of SEO companies don't have case studies so it's definitely worth looking around and finding one that meets your needs. It's a really easy task to undertake and an imperative one. Through reading the case studies you can gain an idea of how the company operates, who they've worked with, and the results they've gathered for current or previous customers.

Reviews and References

Much like case studies, reviews provide a critical insight into how well an SEO agency works with their customers and much more. Unlike case studies though, reviews are written by the customer so it's a great way to gauge an understanding of the business. Anyone looking for an SEO team to handle their website should check reviews before anything. Doing this not only gives peace of mind but can tell you whether the company is suited to you or not. Bear in mind reviews are not foolproof though. Some negative reviews may be from unreasonable clients and some good reviews may be fake. This is the internet after all, it's bound to happen. If you're ever unsure, just check other factors such as references to give you clarification.

References work the same as reviews but you have to go out of your way to get references usually. When you choose an SEO firm it is definitely a good idea to ask for references though. It doesn't take long at all, and any established SEO agency will be more than happy to do so. If they are a good agency they'll have happy customers and thus great references.

Contracts and Pricing

Before we look at the different pricing structures involved in SEO, it’s important to define exactly what we mean when we say the ‘price of SEO’. When we talk about an SEO budget / price or how much SEO will cost, we’re not talking about plunging money into pay per click. What we’re referring to are the costs of enhancing organic traffic to a website by optimising its ranking with search engines (and particularly Google). SEO takes a lot of time and a lot of background work.

There are hundreds of SEO agencies and digital marketing agencies in the UK. They offer varying SEO services to individuals and businesses for their websites. The best are run by an SEO expert - the worst are run by crooks. What we need to get to grips with before we talk about the average costs of SEO services in the UK is how those organisations charge. More commonly, SEO services will often be priced up by providers as a cost per month. This is the cost structure most commonly employed by SEO agencies or digital marketing companies of any real size.

Some marketing agencies may charge by the hour or per project too. It's most likely that freelancers will charge by the hour. Whatever you decide on though, ease with caution! The price of SEO ranges greatly, we're talking from £50 per month for a cheap agency, up to £10,000 a month for high-end SEO. Obviously cheap SEO can be dangerous and expensive SEO could be out of your budget, so have a look around, make some calls and find the right marketing firm for your brand. You want to get what you pay for at the end of the day. As long as you go with the right SEO firm, it's a fantastic investment, and you may even see your web presence improve from the get go.

Tips for Choosing The Best SEO Agency For You

Define your SEO goals. Most SEO agencies offer a similar set of services aimed at improving website design, traffic and improving brand recognition. Your business has specific goals though, tailored to improve your business. Make sure you research and find the best internet marketing agency for you. Once you've worked out what your long-term and short term goals are, it will the process of finding an SEO firm a lot easier.

Watch out for SEO guarantees. If an SEO agency guarantees specific positive results, you need to be asking questions. It’s one thing to show positive results, but it’s quite another to guarantee specific outcomes. Be suspicious if an SEO company guarantees them because there is no way to predict website SERPs precisely.

Be clear about the budget. If you have a spending cap, make it known when discussing what services you want. Ensure you are in the know on what prices you should be paying too, and remember that cheaper isn't necessarily better.

Gather all the relevant information. Any questions? The best SEO agencies will be more than happy to answer any queries you have regarding their services. So if you are unsure about something on a service providers site, pop the question over the phone or through email.