Finding the right SEO agency for your company can be very difficult. And, from my experience, almost everyone has chosen an agency that promised the world but inevitably came up short. So, when people are used to being burned by an agency, skepticism can mount, and looking for a new agency seems a lot more daunting.
As a salesperson at a digital marketing agency, I often find myself navigating these conversations and giving my best advice as to how to pick the right SEO agency. From what I have found, there are several key elements that you need to consider when picking the right agency for you, your business, and the goals you aim to achieve.
Types of Agencies
To understand the process of picking the right agency, you need to first understand what your options are. There are a few different types of agencies, and each different type will be able to provide different services.
- Integrated (or Full Service) Agency: An integrated marketing agency is an extension of your business. Taking a holistic approach to brand strategy and marketing communications, integrated agencies have the resources and skills to effectively promote your company across all channels. (brafton)
- Specialist Agency: Specialist agencies focus on one specific channel or aspect of digital marketing. For example, in the realm of SEO, a specialist agency would be an agency that focuses on content creation or link building.
- Global Consultancy: Historically, consultancies have been focused on strategy. That being said, many consultancies now offer both strategy and implementation. This has led to an increase in popularity among marketers. In fact, Forrester conducted a survey in which 73% of marketers responded saying that they would be interested in using a consultancy for digital marketing work.
- Boutique Agency: Boutique shops are a lot like integrated agencies in that they act as an extension of your business. The main difference is that boutique agencies are much smaller. Depending on the specific agency, they may have a specialist or generalist focus.
Don’t shop every single type of agency. Based on your specific needs, you should be able to figure out what type of agency is going to be best for you to talk to.
Logistical and Cultural Fit
Understanding who the agency is and how they engage with clients is an important first step in choosing the agency that will work best for your company. The way in which an agency and your team integrate can be the difference between seeing ROI and an engagement being a total failure.
Treat each agency in your vetting process as a date. What I mean by this is that you will want an agency that not only looks good on paper but also fits into your workflow in the most desirable way for your business and goals. Some agencies may have the right clients and experience to be great partners, but they are lacking in logistical alignment.
Ask yourself, how do you see the perfect engagement running and how will each agency work within the confines of your expectations. There are more than enough agencies out there for you to find the right one for your specific needs.
Your Plan for Now and for Later?
Especially when discussing growth-oriented companies, there is often a need to see quick results. Whether the need is an audit or running a small campaign to drive traffic, some companies just need to get a quick win.
What a lot of these companies fail to understand is that you can not microwave your SEO and digital marketing. SEO is like a chess game being played against every company in your keyword universe. It all takes time to see results and the more time you put in, the more data you will have to inform decisions down the road.
When choosing the best agency for your business, think about what your long-term goals are. What do you need now, and what will these improvements lead you to do next?
If you are in need of a one-off project, then it will make sense to look at agencies that specialize in that specific area. For example, if you need a technical audit, go to a technical SEO-focused agency and if you are looking for content creation, maybe a content development agency is the best call. (Editor’s Note: iPullRank specialize in both things. We also are ideal for enterprise SEO services.)
But, the real question is why do you need these tasks completed? If you need to create a bunch of content, is it because you want your website to look more robust, or is the content meant to move your customers through the purchase funnel?
Some agencies aren’t set up to help with this type of strategic decision-making while others are. Oftentimes, it comes down to their product offerings. Agencies with a specific niche aren’t going to be able to help you think beyond the term of your engagement.
As an employee at a boutique agency, I run into this conversation a lot, especially after a brand has finished up an engagement with another agency. These brands did not consider the long term and found that as time went on their needs and scope of work shifted as well.
At iPullRank, our services are based on strategy. Although we are more than happy to help with smaller or one-time deliverables, our goal is to help in developing a long-term strategy to drive an increase in things such as conversions and leads.
Know your budget, and be willing and able to explain the reasoning behind it
Agencies are a lot like cars – you get what you pay for. No one has ever looked at a Mercedes and thought “oh I can get the same car from Honda at a fraction of the cost”.
Yes, both car brands will get you from point A to point B, but the way in which they do it, and the benefits that come along the way, can be entirely different.
This is exactly why knowing your budget is so important. One of the biggest comments I hear while selling SEO services is that a company has set a budget based on previous spends with an agency that they used to work with. This is NOT the way you want to think about budget! In order to get a better product, you need to pay for it.
But how do you determine a budget? I won’t dive too deeply into this as we have a blog post that speaks specifically to it, but it often involves isolating the needs of your company and how those needs will drive results.
Common needs include the need for auditing and strategy, technical SEO, content optimization, content creation, link building, and often a mixture of several of these elements.
Sometimes you have no say in your budget because the decision-maker is up the chain of command, but the great thing about SEO is there are ways to project traffic opportunities. We discuss this concept in an episode of Rank & File, which I encourage you to check out!
Once you have determined your budget, you need to be able to explain why the budget is the way it is and what you expect to get out of that budget. This conversation is crucial because a sales rep should be able to know immediately if your budget is realistic for their services.
Once again, you get what you pay for. So if you are deciding between agencies with drastically different price points, be aware that most likely the higher-priced deliverable or engagement should be much more detailed and robust. If you are not sure, explanation of their methodology. You can then determine if it makes sense for your business to invest more or if the price is even worth the service being offered.
Commitment to you and your company
One of the most important things you need to ask of an agency is commitment to your company and your goals. This can often be a feeling in the pit of your stomach, but there are ways to determine a company’s enthusiasm and commitment to working with you.
How can you gauge an agency’s commitment to you and your company?:
- Are they corresponding to you in a prompt and personalized manner?
- Are they asking questions to truly understand the current situation?
- Are they willing to share ideas that may be helpful to you?
- Do they sound excited to potentially win your business? If so, why are they expressing this excitement?
- Are they willing to work with you on budget?
The agency vetting process can be a daunting task. That being said, isolating and focusing your energy on these topics will help you in weeding out the pretenders and determining the right agency for your goals.
It is important to understand, this search may take some time. And, frankly, the more time you spend researching your options, the happier you will be in the long run.
When it comes to making that decision, iPullRank is always available to help. If you would like to learn more about our services or see how we can partner to drive growth and conversions, let’s find some time to chat!