In my last post, I looked at what businesses need to do to build a strong partnership with their agency. After all, an SEO program is only as successful as the relationship between the two. But what if you don’t yet have an agency?
In a world filled with SEOs, how do you find the right one for your business?
The thing is, there’s no easy answer. What’s right for your business may not be right for my business. To complicate things even further, you may find what seems like the perfect fit only to later find you work very differently. Case in point; when I was in-house, I worked with an agency for a couple of months. While I liked them, they couldn’t adapt to how quickly we moved. They were too caught up in their standard processes. Did that make them a bad agency? No. But it did make them a bad fit for us.
If you are thinking of hiring an SEO agency or are in search of a new one, here are a few things to look for:
The only constant in life is change. In the world of marketing, that couldn’t be more true – brands shift, products cease to exist, team members leave – change is indeed constant.
In the world of search marketing, change has another name: Google. In fact, according to Search Liaison Danny Sullivan, Google makes changes every single day.
Your agency has to be flexible.
This not only includes the type of program they offer but how they respond when change happens. For example, a client recently let us know they’d be going through a site redesign…in two weeks. We had to halt work on planned recommendations and make sure everything was set so the client didn’t lose any existing search visibility. This meant analyzing content, running a tech audit, testing redirects, making sure tracking was working, and so on and so forth.
In another instance, a Google update completely changed the SERP (search engine results page) landscape for a client, knocking their site to the bottom of the result and killing traffic to a key page. In this case, we had to determine whether to try and “save” that term or focus on making up the traffic in another way. Sometimes flexibility means thinking about how else you are going to reach your goals.
Its obvious flexibility is important but how can you determine if an agency will be flexible? Consider asking the following:
- How do you outline a program?
- How would handle a new product launch?
- How do you typically prioritize requests from the CEO?
- Tell me about a time a client threw you a curveball.
Their responses will show you how they handle new requests and how they adapt programs.
Just like it’s important for you to be transparent with your agency, it’s important for your agency to be transparent with you. How much time is being put into the program? Why are results not where they should be? When can you expect to receive that deliverable?
One of the reasons I believe we have excellent relationships with our clients is because we are honest. That example I mentioned above with the client whose site was impacted by Google…there was no hiding the results. Instead, we had to candidly say, you aren’t going to recover that term so here is what we need to do. We are taking responsibility and we are going to go above and beyond to make this work.
Know what else? We don’t always have the answer! One of the toughest things I had to learn as an account manager was that in most cases, it’s okay to say you don’t know. However, it is our job to find out.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Any good agency has nothing to hide.
3. Custom Program Planning
During an RFP, we are inevitably asked what makes us different from other agencies. And here’s the thing…there isn’t much. We’ll admit that. What makes us good is the people who work here and customization we provide to clients.
Woah woah, Casie. This is a blog post, not a sales pitch.
When it comes to SEO, no program is the same and any agency that tells you differently is one you should stay far away from.
A good SEO agency will work with you to determine what your goals are, what your budget is, and what resources you have available. Based on those things, they can then help create a program that is right for your business.
Because look, at the end of the day, not everyone needs content creation or link building. If you are a big brand with a well-known name and a ton of earned press, you probably don’t need a link building program. If you have an in-house team of writers, you don’t need us creating content for you. Instead, we can help guide what is being created.
There is no excuse for bad agency work and there is no place for cookie-cutter SEO. Ask your agency how they would customize a program for you and how that looks compared to other client programs they run.
4. Customer Testimonials
Who are their clients and are they willing to talk to you?
One of the things I love about being on the agency side is the relationships I have made. I have clients and former clients who I still see and still talk to. I have current clients who I look forward to speaking to every week.
These same clients are the ones who have been with us for years or have worked with us at stages throughout their career. They are clients who are willing to talk to prospects or let us publish a case study on our site.
And I know this isn’t something exclusive to us. I have friends in the industry who also love their clients and have great relationships.
Before engaging with any agency, ask to speak to references. Just like you wouldn’t hire a team member without speaking to their references, you shouldn’t hire an agency.
5. Industry Knowledge
If you work in the B2B space, you already know how different it is from B2C. Particularly when thinking about lead gen vs. ecommerce. Here’s the thing…experience matters.
We aren’t experts in everything and therefore, we don’t accept every RFP that comes in. We work with companies where we have experience and expertise. While the team is certainly amazing at learning new spaces and niches, having some knowledge of the industry is always helpful. Plus, we want to ensure we are setting everyone up for success.
When thinking about hiring a B2B SEO agency, make sure they are familiar with your industry or at least familiar with the landscape.
In the End…
I have worked in the SEO space for a long time and I can say with certainty, picking the right partner is not only imperative, but it’s also unbelievably rewarding. It’s important to remember that there will be failures and there will be successes, but in the end, if you find an agency who genuinely cares about your business and your success, you will be much better off.