The terms ‘search engine optimization’ or ‘SEO’ have become almost as popular as the terms ‘digital marketing’, and for good reason.
When done right, SEO has the ability to drive sustained and pocket friendly growth for your business in the long term. However, doing SEO right is tricky.
The undertaking demands a lot of technical expertise, the ability to constantly put out valuable content, being comfortable with using complex SEO tools and understanding several data points to build and optimize strategies that are likely to work.
Since SEO requires expertise from a variety of fields, most businesses find it easier to outsource their SEO efforts, which is actually an amazing idea.
However, since SEO does not really require a universally qualified certificate, the barrier to entry in the SEO industry is quite low. As a result, there are a number of online SEO ‘experts’ that are not really experts.
In order to be able to avoid such people and the bad experiences associated with them, it is important for you to know the basics of SEO and what SEO services actually entail before you go online looking for an SEO expert.
If that’s your goal, you have come to the right place. Let’s jump right into it:
What Is SEO?
As mentioned earlier, SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. As the name suggests, search engine optimization is a series of tasks all aimed at helping a website appear as high as possible in the search results for relevant search terms.
In other words, SEO helps by increasing the visibility of your website (and the associated products or services) in search engine result pages or SERPs.
Search engines like Google use over 200 different factors to determine the rank of various websites in their search results. An SEO expert or agency’s job is to make sure your website is delightful by all 200 standards and the search engine chooses to place it higher for relevant terms.
For instance, if you own a bakery in Chicago, you would want to rank high for terms that are similar to the following:
- Bakery in Chicago
- Best bakery in Chicago
- Cupcakes delivery in Chicago
- Custom birthday cakes
Many of the optimization actions and tactics that fall under the larger gamut of search engine optimization require serious technical expertise. Others demand consistency, resourcefulness, innovation, time, and vigilance.
Keeping track of your website’s performance on the basis of over 200 performance metrics can easily get overwhelming. That’s why many businesses choose to focus on their core expertise and outsource their SEO to consultants or agencies.
Let’s look at the kind of services offered by SEO consultants and agencies.
Who Offers SEO Services?
When looking to outsource your SEO needs, you will have to go with one of two options: either work with a consultant or with an SEO agency.
In the case of a consultant, you may be expected to take care of some of the responsibilities associated with SEO in-house. With some exceptions, most SEO consultants will only help you with strategizing and implementing certain aspects of SEO.
For instance, an SEO consultant may help you identify the right websites for guest posting and may even reach out to them on your behalf to secure a guest posting slot.
However, unless they have a team of content writers, you will be expected to take care of the content yourself. With that said, most consultants worth their salt are well-connected and won’t find it challenging to help you find the right writers for your guest posting needs.
Another limitation (or, in some cases, advantage) of working with a consultant is that their expertise is limited to certain specific areas of SEO. For instance, a consultant may only be well-versed with ecommerce SEO and may not possess the knowledge to help local businesses with local SEO.
In the case of businesses that are operating within highly competitive industries, you may benefit from this kind of expertise.
In some other cases, you may also find consultants whose expertise is focused on specific areas of SEO such as:
- On-Page SEO: Actions that are taken on your website to make it more appealing and easily understandable for search engines.
- Off-Page SEO: Establishing your website as a niche authority so that search engines take notice and place it higher in the SERPs.
- Technical SEO: Making sure your website’s performance (like load speed and security) are aligned with the best practices laid out by search engines.
On the other hand, working with an agency may or may not give you access to niche expertise, but it will certainly give you access to all the resources you will need to meet your SEO goals.
Most agencies employ SEO experts with expertise in various niches, along with all the resources needed to support their strategies and tactics. This includes website development experts, content writers, video producers and editors, email outreach experts, and many other similar experts.
You will be expected to deal with just one point of contact and the agency will take care of all your SEO needs.
What Is Included In SEO Services?
With that said, regardless of whether you are working with an agency or a consultant, opting for ecommerce SEO or local SEO, the following services are included within the larger gamut of SEO services:
- Website Audit: A website audit is the primary and most basic step of implementing any kind of SEO strategy. The step is aimed at understanding where your website stands in terms of optimization. This step is also aimed at revealing SEO actions that will result in immediate and long term improvements to your website’s rankings in the SERPs.There are tons of free and paid SEO tools that claim to have the ability to automate the website audit and reveal the necessary associated information. However, when an SEO expert conducts such an audit, they are usually able to dive deeper than SEO tools and find the exact information they need to craft a winning strategy for your business.With that said, if you are talking to an agency or an SEO consultant and they don’t mention a website audit as part of their process, it usually means one of the two things. Either they are ill prepared and don’t really have the necessary knowledge to deliver the kind of results you may be expecting or they simply don’t intend to provide you with a unique strategy customized to your website and business. Instead, they may plan to use a templated strategy that they use for their other clients.
- Competitor Audit: A competitor audit is aimed at understanding the SEO strategies employed by your biggest competitors. A thorough competitor analysis will not just reveal strategies and tactics that are working for your competitors, but will also tell you about the mistakes that they have made.This information, in the hands of the right SEO expert, can be used to guide a holistic and informed SEO strategy that will help you outperform the competition.However, there is a slight catch with competitor analysis that should be mentioned here. In many cases, the real world competitors and ‘search’ competitors of a business may be completely different businesses. This is because in the case of SEO, you should be trying to find out about the SEO strategies being employed by the websites that are targeting the same keywords that you want to rank for.This means, while it is a good idea to provide your SEO expert or agency with the list of businesses that you consider to be your competitors, you should also expect them to come with their own list of your ‘search’ competitors.
- On-Page and Off-Page Strategies: On-page and off-page strategies come together to form a holistic SEO strategy. Most SEOs will offer both these services. However, the catch is that many would try to pass off their cookie-cutter strategies as custom strategies for your business.While such strategies are not always bad, there is a good chance that you will be paying a hefty monthly fee to get your website optimized and that’s why, you must demand your SEO consultant or agency to provide you with a strategy tailored to your website, your business, your resources, and your budget.SEO consultants and agencies that take the time to provide their clients with tailored solutions usually charge a higher price for their services. However, this higher charge is much more likely to return a positive ROI on your investment, as compared to a “cheap” and templated SEO strategy.
- Routine Reporting: Many times, reporting does not get as much attention as it deserves in the conversations about SEO. However, the truth is that reporting is just as important as the most important aspects of optimizing your website.Tracking and reporting on the right metrics can reveal incredible information about the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. This information isn’t just necessary for you to decide whether or not your chosen SEO consultant or agency is delivering the kind of results that were promised to you, it is also important for your chosen SEO experts to make sure their strategies are working. If they aren’t the same reports can reveal where your current strategy is falling short and reveal actionable information about how you can improve the results of your SEO efforts.
- Ongoing Optimization: The actions and gaps revealed in the reporting stages are worked upon in the ongoing optimization stage. Ideally, your SEO strategy should be constantly improving. There is no such thing as a perfect, fully optimized SEO strategy.This means, even after the SEO experts have delivered on their initial promises, they will continue to chase more ambitious targets, keep testing new strategies and continuously improve results. This ongoing optimization can take many forms. For instance, if your website is consistently appearing at the top of the SERPs for all your currently targeted keywords, the SEO expert may suggest that you should expand the list of your target keywords, helping you attract even more organic traffic.
Now that we have understood what all is included with SEO services, let’s look at the considerations you should be making while picking a SEO partner.
Picking The Right SEO Partner
As mentioned earlier, SEO is a long term and ongoing process. That’s why the agency or consultant you work with should actually be treated as a partner or an extension of your in-house marketing team. Since that is true, it is incredibly important to do your due diligence while picking an SEO partner.
Here are a few quick pointers that you should keep in mind:
Ask About Niche Expertise
As mentioned earlier, if you are working in a highly competitive industry, you may benefit from working with a niche SEO expert. While this is not an absolute must, finding someone with niche specific expertise will give you a competitive advantage.
Check Out Previous Work
This one goes without saying. While working with any external partner, not just an SEO expert, it is strongly recommended that you check out their previous work.
This way, you can ensure that the claims they are making are backed by a track record of producing measurable results for their clients.
Check Online Reviews And Ask For Business References
Besides checking the case studies provided by prospective SEO partners, it is also a good idea to check out their reviews on third-party platforms. Besides reviews on Google, you can also find authentic reviews on agency directories like Clutch.co. If you are evaluating a freelancer or an independent consultant, you can find authentic reviews on their LinkedIn profile.
Don’t stop your research at finding positive (or negative) reviews. Take it a step further by asking them to provide client references. If an agency or a consultant has a client that is happy and willing to get on a call with you to talk about their experience, you can get a more practical insight into how your prospective partner works and whether or not they are the right fit for working with your business.
Gauge Their Abilities With An SEO Audit
As mentioned earlier, the SEO audit done with an SEO tool and one done by a trained expert will reveal different things. This is why an SEO audit is one of the most surefire ways to gauge whether or not an SEO expert or agency will be able to deliver on the promises and claims they are making.
Be warned that in the case of some truly great agencies and consultants, you may be required to pay for such an audit. However, it is a small price to pay for finding an SEO partner that you can depend upon.
Stay Cautious About Agencies And Consultants That Promise Definitive Results
Different businesses and industries demand different SEO strategies in order to get desirable results. SEO rarely works with a templated approach and that’s why, it is almost impossible to predict the results of an SEO campaign.
So if an agency or a consultant is promising definitive results or numbers, it is probably only because they want to make the sale. While there is a chance that they may deliver and even over deliver on their promises, such cases are extremely rare. In most cases, if an agency or consultant is promising definitive results, it is a sign that they don’t have the kind of knowledge or expertise or experience that they claim to have.
I hope that this article has helped you understand SEO and SEO services in more depth. Before wrapping up, I would like to remind you that SEO is a long game and when you are out looking for someone to take care of your SEO needs, make sure you have the mindset of finding a partner and not a vendor. Don’t just find an agency or a consultant that can deliver results, find someone with whom you and your team can effectively coordinate every day.
If you have made up your mind about working with an agency, do get in touch with us. Our processes and strategies have worked for about 800 businesses from all kinds of niche. We have achieved this by treating each client and their business as a unique entity and helping them with solutions tailored to their needs and situations. We can do the same for you. Simply fill out the form on the contact us page and someone from our awesome team will get in touch.
If you have questions about the information shared in this article, or want to add your own valuable insights, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. We promise to be prompt with our response.