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Hiring a search engine optimization (SEO) agency can be a gamble because you only start to see results after six months to a year of active work.
But waiting for months, even a year, only to realize your SEO plan isn’t working can be a significant business setback. It costs time and money you could’ve spent to grow your business in another way.
That’s why choosing the right SEO agency that delivers results is vital.
After years in the SEO industry, I’ve identified the five most important factors determining whether an agency is good:
1. Look for transparency
When choosing an SEO agency, the number one thing you need to consider is transparency. Don’t be swayed by fancy industry terms and jargon. Instead, look for clear and specific strategies.
For example, it’s not a good sign if an SEO agency states it “works on your on-page and off-page SEO” without giving you any specifics. Instead, you want an agency that offers a clear month-to-month plan that outlines every step of the SEO journey and explains its importance.
By being aware of each month’s deliverables, you can assess whether the agency is delivering on its promises. It acts as a roadmap, making the SEO process more tangible and measurable. That way, you can understand the aim of specific actions and track the agency’s progress.
A clear SEO strategy also enables better communication. When you know all the next steps, you can provide your input and address any concerns, creating a more effective partnership.
Lastly, an SEO agency should be transparent about the expectations that it sets. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trustworthy agencies set honest, achievable goals and timeframes, ensuring you know exactly what outcomes to expect.
2. Ask for previous results
Previous results best indicate whether an SEO agency can really do its job. That’s why you should always inquire about past results, specifically in your industry.
For example, if you run a local restaurant and need an SEO agency to improve your online presence, you should go with an agency that has previous experience with local businesses, especially in the food industry.
You should also closely investigate any claims that SEO agencies make. For example, let’s say that an agency claims to have increased website traffic by 200% in six months. These results are impressive if the website already has 20,000 monthly visitors, but not so much if they only have 100 monthly visitors.
Remember, concrete results matter — not just percentage increases. So, ask for specific numbers and make sure they are relevant.
3. Request an air-tight scope
Before you start working with an SEO agency, request an air-tight scope of your partnership. A well-defined plan is a pact between you and the SEO agency, aligning expectations and promoting transparency. It enables you to see the inner workings of their approach and answer vital questions, like:
How many articles will they publish each month?
What are the quality metrics for the backlinks they’re going to build?
What other SEO actions are they going to take, and when?
An SEO agency should create an actionable plan that explains every step. For example, in the first month, they may do a content audit, keyword research and a backlink audit.
By month two, they may implement critical on-page SEO fixes and start publishing content. The third month brings the beginning of an active link-building campaign, promising to deliver at least 10 backlinks. Then, the following months bring a steady flow of 15 articles and 10 backlinks.
A detailed SEO scope clearly explains the journey ahead, keeping you informed and allowing you to hold the agency accountable.
It’s a two-way street of expectations and results, which significantly improves your collaboration.
4. Review content and backlink quality
Content and backlink quality directly impact your website’s search engine rankings. That’s why you must ensure that the content and backlinks you receive are qualitative.
Quality content should answer questions, provide solutions and entertain your readers. If an agency delivers 500-word, short-form articles, then that’s a big red flag. In 2023, long-form, comprehensive articles perform a lot better.
Meanwhile, a good backlink originates from a legitimate, authoritative website with real traffic. If your agency wants to deliver “forum backlinks” or “blog comment backlinks,” they’re just wasting your time.
5. Ask about reporting
When investing in an SEO agency, you want to be in the know on their performance at all times. That’s why you need to ask about the agency’s reporting practices.
Start by asking about their reporting schedule. Monthly updates are standard, giving you a regular overview of your SEO progress. You also need to know what’s in those reports. Look for a breakdown of the most important metrics like impressions, key page traffic and overall website performance.
Lastly, you need to understand how they measure and track progress. They should have metrics in place, tracking monthly changes. This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about revealing the story they tell and how it impacts your business. A good agency ties its efforts to lead generation and revenue impact. After all, your SEO journey should translate into real-world success.
Choosing the right SEO agency can help your business thrive. However, in an industry where results take months to surface, the wrong choice means wasted time and money.
Don’t leave your business success to chance — pick the right SEO agency by prioritizing transparency, past results, detailed plans, content and backlink quality and effective reporting.