Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of SEO agencies out there.
And each one of them is good for something.
Thus, your question shouldn’t be, how do I find the right SEO agency, but how do I choose an SEO agency that’s right for me?
I’m glad you made it here, as I’ll guide you through how to avoid choosing an SEO agency that’s right for something not relevant to growing your business.
Well, then, keep reading.
First things first, why do you need an SEO agency?
Know Your Goals and Desired Outcomes
Imagine you hurriedly booked a last-minute flight from New York to meet some business partners. Thankfully, the airplane you boarded flew fast with no delays.
And you land safely at the airport.
On arrival, the announcer congratulates you for a safe journey and welcomes you to Beverly Hills in Texas. Meanwhile, your intended destination was Beverly Hills in California.
You’ll regret the waste of your time, right?
Hiring SEO agencies is like boarding that airplane – each one could be great at flying your site’s organic ranking somewhere. Your first job before you start flying, therefore, is to ensure you choose and are on the right plane.
Thus, to choose and onboard an SEO agency that’s right for you, you must:
- Know your business destination (your goals), and
- What you want to achieve when you get there (your desired outcomes).
In SEO, where you’re going requires a different airplane (or agency). The main ones being:
- SEO-optimized content marketing
- Voice SEO
- Link building,
- Local SEO, and
- eCommerce SEO
And for outcomes?
You may need to:
- Rank your entire website or specific keywords higher
- Get more qualified traffic and leads, or
- Drive sales directly from organic search.
Your target business goals and outcomes determine what SEO strategies and tactics you’ll need.
And because no SEO agency is a one-size-fits-all for all strategies, industry verticals, and company sizes, knowing these basics lays the foundation for who you’ll partner with.
Let’s take some hypothetical examples.
Pretend that your goal is to show up on Google’s 1st page when certain people use certain words to search for certain information relevant to your business.
And the outcome?
You want to attract this set of people, educate them with engaging content, and pull them into your sales funnels.
In this case, you’ll need an agency with expertise in SEO-optimized content marketing. And you’ll need one with proven results in helping other companies achieve similar results:
Okay, let’s assume you have freelancers creating excellent content pieces for your site. But you realize Google isn’t ranking them for your target keywords.
Instead, when people search, content pieces below the quality of what you’re creating keep showing up on the top pages while yours languishes on Google’s 17th page.
This situation indicates your competitors probably have higher domain authorities or more backlinks pointing to their website and high-ranking content pieces.
In this case, to increase your website’s domain authority, get relevant links pointing to your content, and boost ranking, you’ll need an SEO agency with expertise in link-building:
As you saw in both examples above, it’s easier to know what type of SEO agency is worth considering when you’re definite about your goals and outcomes.
Taking this first step to look at yourself in the mirror and know exactly what you need streamlines the selection process.
It also ensures you only shortlist agencies with expertise and experience driving other businesses to your intended destination.
But, it doesn’t end there.
Even with only a few dozen agencies to consider, choosing one that’s right for you still demands you look out for characteristics that prove they walk the talk.
Doing this further helps you vet and choose an SEO agency that’s perfect for you.
6 Characteristics That Make a Great SEO Agency
Regardless of the specific SEO needs you have, you’ll still find dozens, if not hundreds of agencies, vying for your business.
The search engine optimization service providers’ industry is valued over $65 billion.
Thus, expect anyone with a laptop and internet access to make wild claims of being an SEO agency, as they yearn for a slice of the industry’s billions.
There are characteristics great SEO agencies possess. And you’ll find these traits in all the best SEO companies.
I’ll list the fundamental ones below.
Use them to vet an SEO agency from the list you shortlist before choosing to work with any.
1. A Defined Process to Execute SEO Strategies
Excellent SEO execution follows a battle-tested process.
As an SEO agency gains experience working with numerous clients, they outline their winning process to give potential customers a peek into how they deliver results.
Thus, each company with practical SEO experience has its own process. And this makes it a characteristic of SEO agencies with proven results.
For example, at Neil Patel Digital, our process follows eight unique steps:
2. A Diverse Team of Specialists
The next characteristic to look out for before choosing an SEO agency is the team to put their process and recommendations to work.
A lot of thought goes into SEO execution.
From strategic ideation and leadership to account management and execution specialists, ask for the team who’ll work with you to achieve your goals.
Again, experienced SEO agencies are proud to make their team public:
3. An Impressive Client Portfolio
Results-generating SEO strategies are hard to manage from ideation to execution, but they also take time and commitment.
Thus, as exceptional SEO agencies work with clients to achieve results, displaying their clientele has become a common characteristic.
Doing this does two things.
It shows you they’re experienced. And it helps your decision to choose, using the type of companies they’ve worked with as a benchmark:
4. Real Customer Testimonials
If an SEO agency helped increase your website traffic, leading to more sales, you’d be open to giving them a testimonial, right?
In the same vein, when choosing an SEO agency, scan their website for what past customers say about them.
A common characteristic you’ll find with the best SEO agencies is the proud display of what happy customers say about their service:
5. Industry-specific Thought Leadership
Exceptional SEO agencies are always on the forefront of the latest trends, especially how it impacts rankings, traffic, and business in general.
In most cases, you’ll find a top executive of the company sharing insights via blogs, social media, and research papers, which makes them maintain thought-leadership.
So, before you hire an SEO agency, check if they’re up to date and share recent trends about the SEO industry that help you keep pace with the market:
6. A Crisp-clear Company Culture
An SEO company may have the unique expertise you seek and all the characteristics listed above. Yet, their company culture may not fit with yours.
The truth is, exceptional SEO agencies don’t take on toxic clients; neither would you like to work with people whose values you don’t agree with.
To avoid this, top SEO companies have the characteristic of displaying their company culture, so potential customers can decide if working with them aligns with their culture:
How to Work With an SEO Agency
Most SEO agencies work as an extension of your in-house marketing team.
Thus, there are steps to working with an SEO agency that’s right for you. These steps are essential, as they ensure your collaboration with them is successful.
Let’s explore the major ones.
1. Prepare your in-house, front-facing team
Before you work with an SEO agency, get relevant teams in your company on the same page. Let them know why your company needs to hire SEO professionals and how working with them will impact your business.
Also, select those who’ll work directly with the SEO agency to drive the results you seek. The people you choose would help to bridge the communication gap between your company and the agency.
Doing this ensures that there’s always someone to keep the SEO agency in sync with your company culture, goals for working with them, expectations, and timeline.
2. Discovery session
Working with an SEO agency could be to rank higher for target keywords, generate more traffic, drive sales, or all three.
But, no business case and needs are precisely the same. And SEO strategies that worked for company A may not work for yours.
Thus, take the time to share everything about your business as it concerns SEO with an agency you choose to work with. Doing this helps them develop custom strategies and plans unique to achieving your goals.
Exceptional SEO companies allow you to share this information with them via a discovery session:
3. Research and Recommendations
After you share your business situation, needs, and goals with an SEO company, be on the lookout for what they do next.
Top SEO agencies don’t jump into sending you quotes and invoices.
They delve into research, using what you shared with them to gain the right context about your business situation. Doing this brings them on the same page with your company, target audience, business goals, and competition.
After this research, they usually share recommendations of what needs to be done to get maximum results. They can send this recommendation via a report sent over email or talk you through it over a phone call.
4. Contract with Deliverables
After your discovery call and follow-up conversations, expect to receive a contract with deliverables from an SEO agency, if working with you looks like a good fit.
It’s best to share this contract with relevant members on your team, especially those working directly with the agency. Ensure to go down to the nitty-gritty of the contract’s terms and conditions.
Also, share it with your legal department to avoid signing an agreement that hurts or binds your company in the future.
5. Onboarding, Project Scoping, and Management
To work with you, an SEO company would request access to some of your digital assets.
Depending on your work scope, such access could include your website or blog passwords, your analytics tools login codes, selected in-house staff, etc.
To kickstart a working relationship with your company, SEO agencies usually take you through a detailed onboarding process.
So, you should expect one.
Over this onboarding session, the scope of your project, delivery timelines, communication channels, and an understanding of how both parties manage your project is defined and communicated.
How to Find The Right SEO Agency For You
So far, I’ve outlined the characteristics of exceptional SEO agencies and walked you through some fundamentals steps to working with one.
But, as I established at the beginning of this guide, you don’t just need the right SEO agency, you need an SEO agency that’s right for you.
How do you find one?
To help you, we put together a list of companies that we believe to be the best in the business.
Also, we skipped SEO agencies who can’t even rank their site organically. Finally, we looked away from digital marketing generalists who do everything under the sun for a quick buck.
What follows is our vetted list of the five best SEO companies of 2020 by the types of projects they’re exceptional at working on.
The 5 Top SEO Agencies
1. Neil Patel Digital – Best For SEO-optimized Content Marketing
At Neil Patel Digital, we’re great at SEO-optimized content marketing.
Our team of highly experienced SEO experts and content marketers brings decades of hands-on experience to the table. We believe brands can influence how their customers think through the creation of distribution of thoughtful, engaging content.
And we put this belief to work by partnering with forward-thinking companies to develop SEO-focused content, performance-based digital marketing strategies and programs that get the attention it deserves.
When you work with us, you’ll deliver content the right types of content to your target audience at the right time:
2. Voice SEO – Best For Voice Search
Voice SEO started as a small team of SEO experts. Initially, they focused on using their SEO skills to help businesses like them to grow online.
Through dedication and close observation of the ever-changing SEO industry, Voice SEO realized the growing use of devices such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Echo, to query search engines.
Seeing that 50% of all online searches in 2020 would be voice-based, a statistic in the upward trend, Voice SEO followed the highest standards in SEO to narrow its focus on helping companies with voice search engine optimization:
3. ReachLocal- Best For Local SEO
When it comes to executing best-in-class local SEO strategies, ReachLocal needs no introduction.
This SEO agency is responsible for generating over 201 million local leads for more than 19,000 clients across the globe.
Not only are they the go-to company for practical and strategic local SEO executions, but ReachLocal’s experience also spans over 15 years, and they have offices in five continents:
4. FATJOE – Best For Backlinks Acquisition
FATJOE comes highly recommended for acquiring backlinks for SEO. Turn to this SEO agency if you need help generating high-value backlinks.
And you can do this with the assurance that even other SEO agencies rely on them for the same.
FATJOE was founded in 2012. Today, they’ve grown to become one of the world’s biggest outsourced link building agencies, and they serve more than 5,000 clients:
5. OuterBox – Best For eCommerce SEO
OuterBox is our pick for eCommerce SEO.
They’re an SEO and performance marketing company focused on helping eCommerce brands drive growth through search strategy, design, and conversion rate optimization.
Irrespective of which eCommerce platform your business is built on—Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, Drupal, or others; OuterBox’s eCommerce search engine optimization strategies and tactics are effective and reliable:
Conclusion: Be Patient with Your Chosen SEO Agency
Choosing and partnering with an SEO agency, even one that’s perfect for you, isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
It takes time before you’ll start seeing results.
However, it is worth the wait because once things kick-off, SEO is like a flywheel that gets better by the day and works like a vicious cycle:
So be patient.
Only ensure you choose an SEO agency that’s right for you. And most notably, one with a diverse team of experienced experts who breathe SEO: