Back in the day, if you wanted to get noticed, it meant renting a billboard, taking out an ad in a newspaper, or if you could not do the last two, then you could just put up a sign somewhere about the website you own. But now, with large search engines being the go-to fonts of information for most of us, to make themselves heard, people, companies, and other organizations have been seeking ways to fight and claw onto the top of search results using a process called search engine optimization, SEO, and perhaps even have their own SEO agency.
Choosing the right SEO agency is now more critical than ever for businesses that want to thrive online. Recent surveys show that over 90% of web traffic comes from search engines, and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of Google. With SEO being a major factor in search rankings and visibility, partnering with the best SEO agency can have a tremendous impact.
This guide will provide crucial tips and the latest insights to help you make the smartest choice when selecting an SEO agency. We’ll cover everything from understanding your business goals, vetting agencies, asking the right questions, evaluating expertise and more. Follow our comprehensive advice to find an SEO partner that will boost your rankings, traffic and revenue.
SEO Agency Basics: What Exactly Is SEO?
Well, you see, giant search engines like Google use algorithms to try to push relevant results to the top of the page so that when a user types in “computer mouse”, they will get links to buy a new input device rather than a picture of Stewart Little trying to use a PC.
Now, how exactly these algorithms work is usually a closely guarded trade secret, but there’s enough public knowledge for webmasters to attempt to tune their pages to boost their position in the search results.
In fact, Google even puts out a search engine optimization starter guide to help website owners improve their chances of earning the coveted top result. So then, for starters, it’s a good idea to optimize the metadata of your page.
Metadata is all the stuff other than the actual content people will see in their browser window and accurate metadata. Things like descriptive page titles or embedding a short explanation of what’s on the page into your HTML, which you can often end up seeing underneath the Google results, can help push your site up to the top.
A more recent development is making URLs themselves more informative. You’ve probably seen this on news sites which have started to use file names that indicate what the article is about, like “tasteless-youtuber-wears-socks-and-sandels.html”, which is a lot more helpful to a search engine than just assigning some random number.
Another pro tip is to nest your pages in some sort of sensible directory structure organized by things like topics and dates. But what about the page itself? Well, since most modern search engines use how often a page is linked to as a key metric of its importance, providing descriptive text links in the body of a webpage to other pages of your site can be very helpful.
And search engines are also aware of things like topic headers and alt-text for images to help categorize the site. The key, as with any metadata, is to keep these as short but also as informative and descriptive as possible to make it easier for a search engine to determine that your site is relevant to a particular topic.
Of course, though, everything outlined so far is a legitimate SEO strategy. There are plenty of other tricks that might be employed by unscrupulous site owners, and these are collectively known as Black Hat SEO or spamdexing. Their goal is to try to make the page seem more relevant to a topic than it actually is.
These tricks can take the form of anything from citing keywords in an invisible text that a user would have to highlight to see to buying linkbacks or even traffic from other sites to using irrelevant keywords that might just be trending at the moment or even just overusing the relevant ones.
This kind of behaviour has resulted in a bit of a digital arms race between search engine developers who are trying to weed out these pages for their users and spammers or site owners who are desperate for clicks and aren’t above using shady tactics.
So who will ultimately win? Well, let’s put it this way: Search giants like Google deploy more sophisticated methods to separate the signal from the noise. Common advice is that if you want your website to be around for a long time, you must stick to honest, tried-and-true tactics. Even if your website does feature material of ill repute.
See more: Keyword Density
How to Create an SEO Agency?
Think about the car that your friend drives, and then think about their personality. Their personality usually matches the type of car they are driving. The reason I’m bringing this up is that the car you drive gives off a big first impression of who you are as a person.
The same thing is true for your website and your business. Your business website really does project the success of your company, your brand image, and how expensive your work will be. The clients will decide whether to work with you or not based on the quality of your website.
So, your website is really a big part of the foundation of your success as an SEO and marketing business owner. What you need is authenticity; a seamless website design has to be SEO-friendly and one that drives traffic and converts for you.
Profiletree gives you the opportunity to have your website and your business fully up and running with all its pillars established and ready to go.
If you have never built a website before, that’s not a problem. You don’t have to have any coding skills or anything like that. We will walk you through this step-by-step and help you gain experience along the way.
Choose a Type of SEO
There are loads and loads of different things that you can do with SEO. For example, a person who instructs how to do SEO services mainly does link-building. You can do White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO, ….., or whatever type of SEO you can create and pick one.
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO refers to the usage of optimization strategies and techniques that focus on a human audience as opposed to search engines. This kind of SEO completely follows search engine rules and policies. It may also be referred to as “ethical SEO”.
For example, a website that is optimized for search engines and primarily focuses on its organic search engine rankings is considered to be optimized using White Hat SEO practices. Examples of White Hat SEO techniques include using keywords, link building, and writing content for human readers.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive and improper SEO strategies and techniques that focus only on search engines and not a human audience. They usually do not obey search engine rules and policies. It may also be referred to as “unethical SEO”.
Black Hat SEO can often result in your website being banned from search engines because it doesn’t follow search engine rules and policies at all. Even its tactics are always seen as shady practices.
Typically, Black Hat SEO is used by someone who doesn’t intend to use the website for long because the focus is on a quick and high-return business model.
So, the risk of being banned by a search engine is somewhat irrelevant. Examples of Black Hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, invisible text, adding unrelated keywords to the page content or page swapping, and completely changing the website after it has been ranked by search engines.
Design a System
While each client will have their own individual needs, you should design a system that has proven to be effective. The system can be adapted for each situation, but it can work as a basis for each new campaign.
Having a system simplifies your work, allowing you to focus on the most productive areas of SEO. Search engine algorithms change frequently, so you must remain current, but many of the fundamentals will stay the same.
Develop Case Studies
It is far easier to secure clients when you have successful case studies. However, a case study will take time to come to fruition, so you should start as early as possible. You can create a new project, but it is often better to offer a free trial to someone you know in exchange for a testimonial. A good case study can do more than an exceptional sales pitch, with direct proof of your abilities helping to sway clients.
Attracting your first few clients is often the most difficult stage, but you can then gain some momentum. You may ultimately want to gain large corporate clients, but it will initially be easier to attract smaller local businesses.
Social events and local business meetings are good for networking since SEO is something most business owners want to eventually get around to. Setting up an SEO campaign for your own website, along with some paid traffic, is also a way of showing you can back up your promises.
Offer an Audit
A proven method of developing an initial relationship is a free audit. The audit will analyze a website, study on-page optimization, and examine the competition for relevant search terms.
An audit should typically be simple to avoid confusion but provide some important initial information to a client. To carry out an audit, you could develop your own tool, subscribe to a white-label product, or manually use an SEO intelligence service
As your agency grows, outsourcing becomes a way of managing simple tasks. There are some decent reseller SEO companies, so using them for tasks like syndicating press releases or posting content is a good idea. Whether you outsource work or employ people in an office, you will ultimately want to reach a point where you oversee projects.
The final step is to seek referrals from existing clients. Most clients will have relationships with other business owners, offering a great opportunity for expansion. A referral program could offer benefits for anyone who brings in a new paying client; the option of a discount or a free month works well.
While each client might have their own individual challenges, these steps can be used as a guide in almost all cases.
SEO is a proven marketing strategy, so there will always be potential clients looking for your expertise. If you want to develop an online business that also involves direct contact with customers, starting an SEO agency might be your best option. Here we are sharing our most popular articles and blog posts on SEO:
Of course – what is SEO
What to consider with SEO hosting
SEO training – an agency service we offer
SEO Agency Basics: How Does Google Search Work?
As an SEO specialist, Google is like your test lab. You get everything done there and do your own research and experiments. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to get a grip on how Google Search works.
The first thing to understand is that when you do a Google Search, you aren’t actually searching the web; you’re searching Google’s web index, or at least as much of it as we can find. We do this with software programs called spiders. The spider starts by fetching a few web pages.
Then, they follow the links on these pages and fetch the pages they point to, and follow all the links on those pages and fetch the pages they link to and so on, until Google has indexed a pretty big chunk of the web, many billions of pages stored across thousands of machines.
Google Search Example
Now, suppose you want to know how fast a cheetah can run. You type in the search box, say, “Cheetah running speed,” and hit enter. Google’s software searches its index to find every page that includes those search terms.
In this case, there are hundreds of thousands of possible results. How does Google decide which few documents you really want? By asking questions─more than 200 of them.
These questions can be something like how many times did this page contain your keywords? Do the words appear in the URL, title, or directly adjacent? Does the page include synonyms for those words? Is this page from a quality website? Or is it low quality, even spamming? What is this page’s PageRank?
That’s a formula created by Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that rates a webpage’s importance by looking at how many outside links point to it and how important these links are.
Finally, Google combines all those factors together to produce each page’s overall score and sends you back your search results about half a second after you submit your search.
SEO Agency Basics: What Is an SEO Specialist?
Basically, if you’re an SEO professional, your main task revolves around improving and working on a company’s ranking on search engines by understanding which search engines are mostly preferred by the target audience, how this search engine optimizes itself, and what that target audience is searching for.
Usually, if you’re an avid internet user like myself, you would use certain keywords to reach what you want. These keywords are the most crucial factor in the whole process.
Skills you need to become an SEO specialist:
- Analytical: Your clients and your superordinate (if you’re not a freelancer) will require reports and analysis on how your SEO strategy is going.
- Service-oriented: Managing relationships is a crucial part of the role you’re holding.
- IT knowledge: It is necessary to have a base understanding of content management systems (CMS), HTML coding, and design software.
- Ability to meet deadlines: Any SEO strategy must have more than one goal and timeframes for when each goal will need to be reached.
- Great attention to detail: Writing or editing content for a website is often part of the job, and you have to take care not to make any mistakes.
What Are the Types of Qualifications You Need to Become an SEO Specialist?
Although not always a prerequisite, a minor education in any type of marketing (offline or digital) and web or graphic design is highly desirable to become an SEO specialist. Many professionals do not start out in SEO but move across from a generalist marketing or web/graphic design role.
On-the-job training will be provided by most companies, and it’s important you have knowledge of diverse industries ─ unless you are working in-house, your clients will be varied. For an SEO specialist, the most important element is ongoing training throughout your career.
It is worth noting for sure that the SEO industry is constantly changing as search engines evolve, new technologies emerge, and the use of social media increases and diversifies. Industry blogs, news articles, conferences and training courses are ways to continue training in any industry, and the marketing industry is no exception.
What Do SEO Specialists Do?
In simple terms, there are two parts to what they do:
- On-page Optimization
On-page optimization is everything on your websites, like your title tags, your descriptions, your headlines, your internal linking, and a number of other factors. Most importantly, understand what your top three competitors are doing on Google for the specific keyword phrase(s) that you are targeting.
- Off-page Optimization
Off-page optimization is now internet marketing, which could mean social media, YouTube, Pinterest, blogging, etc.
Any tool that promotes your website to get natural links back to your blog and website.
There are also people who volunteer to share your website because they like the content that you have. While linking is not everything in terms of SEO, it’s still a huge part of how Google decide what websites to actually rank.
So, what should be done by an SEO specialist? Again, before they start actually creating links to your website, naturally, they should understand how hard it is going to be to beat the top three on Google. How long have they been doing it? How long will it take them?
There is no point in being found for hundreds of keywords if you don’t test and measure on Google AdWords first for a minimum of three months with a realistic budget.
Do SEO Specialists Earn a Lot?
It all depends on how much of a professional you are, just like any other job. Sometimes, SEO experts would get up to 50,000 dollars per year. You just have to climb the ladder step by step and make a name for yourself in the vast land of digital marketing.
SEO Agency Basics: How to Hire an SEO Specialist?
Most people don’t realize how important it is to distinguish between a useful SEO specialist and a “cunning” SEO specialist. You might pay a lot of money without positive results, or even worse, one who implements shady practices on your website that result in a reduction in search rankings.
And, not to worry, SEO isn’t black magic. If you want long-term success, there aren’t any quick, magical tricks that an SEO specialist will provide so that your site ranks number one.
It’s important to note that SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website, so successful SEO helps your website put its best foot forward so that it ranks appropriately in the spot where an unbiased potential customer would expect your site to be seen.
A successful SEO specialist also looks to improve the entire searcher experience, from search results to clicking on your website and potentially converting.
A good SEO specialist will recommend best practices for a search-friendly site. From basic things like descriptive page titles for a blog or small business to more complex things like language markup for a multilingual global site.
SEO ensures that you’re serving your online customers a good experience, especially those coming from a search engine. And that your site is helpful whether they’re using a desktop computer or mobile phone.
How Does the SEO Process Go?
In most cases, the SEO specialist will need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefits.
When working with an SEO specialist, you should request that they corroborate their recommendations with a documented statement from Google either in a Help Center article video or google a response in a forum that supports both:
- The SEO specialist’s description of the issue that needs to be improved to help with ranking
- The approach they prescribe to accomplishing this task
Requesting those two bits of information will help prevent hiring a poor SEO specialist who might otherwise convince you to do useless things like add more to the keywords meta tag or buy links. If you search for Google advice on this topic, you’ll see blog posts and videos from us that clearly explain that adding keywords to the meta tag wouldn’t help.
Furthermore, while Google uses links for page rank, its documentation highlights that it strongly advises against buying links to increase page rank.
One basic rule is that, in most cases, doing what’s good for SEO is also doing what’s good for your online customers. Things like having a mobile-friendly website, good navigation, and building a great brand.
Additionally, if you’re a more established brand with complicated legacy systems, then good search-friendly best practices likely involve paying off some of your site’s technical debt, such as updating your infrastructure so that your website is agile and able to implement features faster in the long term.
SEO Process Simplified
Now, if you believe you want to hire an SEO agency, here’s a general process:
- Conduct a two-way interview with your potential SEO specialist. Check that they seem genuinely interested in you and your business.
- Check their references.
- Ask for (and you will probably have to pay for) a technical and search audit.
- Decide if you want to hire.
Let’s break this down and start with step one. In the interview, here are some things to look for. A good SEO specialist doesn’t focus only on search engine ranking but on how they can help your business. They should ask questions like:
Step 1: Conduct a Two-way Interview
- What makes your business, content, and/or service unique and, therefore, valuable to customers?
They want to know this information to ensure it’s highlighted on your website for your current and potential new audience.
- What does your common customer look like? How do they currently find your website?
- How does your business make money? And how can search help?
- What other channels are you using? Offline advertising? Social networks?
- Who are your competitors? What do they do well online (and potentially offline)? Look elsewhere if the SEO specialist doesn’t seem interested in learning about your business holistically.
- It’s difficult to do good SEO without knowing a business’s goals, its customers, and other existing marketing efforts. SEO should complement your existing work.
Step 2: Check Their References
If your potential SEO agency provides information on prior clients. Be sure to check their references; you want to hear from past clients that the SEO specialist was able to provide useful guidance and worked effectively with their developers, designers, UX researchers, and marketers.
A good SEO specialist should feel like someone you can inherently work with smoothly, learn from, experiment with, and who generally cares about you and your business, not just getting your site the highest rank. Ultimately, those techniques rarely last long, if they work at all.
They’ll want to educate you and your staff on how search engines work so that SEO becomes part of your general business operations.
Step 3: Request a Technical and Search Audit
If you trust your SEO specialist candidate, give them a restricted view, not right or full access to your Google search console data and even your analytics data.
Before they actually modify anything on your website, have them conduct a technical and search audit to give you a prioritized list of what they think should be improved for SEO.
If you’re a larger business, you can hire multiple SEO specialists to run audits and prioritize improvements. See what each has to say, then determine who you could work with the best.
In the audit, the SEO agency should prioritize improvements with a structure like the following:
- The issue
- The suggested improvement
- An estimate of the overall investment
In other words, the time, energy, or money it would take for your developers to implement the improvement and for Google search and searchers and customers to recognize the improvement. The SEO specialist will need to talk with your developers to better understand what technical constraints may exist.
- Estimated positive business impact
The impact might be a ranking improvement that will lead to more visitors and conversions, or perhaps the positive impact comes from a back-end change that cleans up your site and helps your brand be agiler in the future.
- Plan of how to iterate and improve on the implantation of or how to experiment and fail fast should results not meet expectations
That covers the structure of the technical and search audit. How about we discuss each of these audits individually?
Firstly, in the technical audit, your SEO should be able to review your site for issues related to:
- Internal Linking
- URL parameters
- Server connectivity
- Response codes
If they mention that your site has duplicate content problems that need to be corrected, make sure they show you the specific URLs that are competing for the same query or that they explained it should be cleaned up for long-term site health, not initial growth.
One must state this because many duplicate content exists on websites, and often it’s not a pressing problem.
See also: Top Free SEO Tools
SEO Agency Basics: Search Audit
Your potential SEO specialist will likely break down your search queries into categories like branded and unbranded terms.
Branded terms are those terms with your business or website’s name, like a search for Gmail, which is a branded term, while the search for an email is an unbranded term or general keyword.
An SEO specialist should make sure that for branded queries such as Yahoo, your website provides a great experience that allows customers who know your brand or website to easily find exactly what they need and potentially convert.
They might recommend improvements to help the entire searcher experience, from what the searcher sees in search results to when they click on a result and use your website.
For unbranded queries, SEO can help you better make sense of the online competitive landscape. They can tell you things like, “Here are the types of queries it would make sense for your business to rank, but here’s what your competition is done and why I think they rank where they do.
For instance, your competition perhaps has great reviews, really shareable content or runs a highly reputable site.
See also: Long Tail Keywords
SEO Agency Basics: Unbranded/General Keywords Improvement Ideas
An SEO specialist will provide recommendations for improving rankings for these queries. They’ll introduce ideas like:
- Update Obsolete Content
They might say that your site is suffering because some of your well-ranking content is obsolete, has poor navigation, a useless page title, or isn’t mobile-friendly. Let’s improve these pages and see if more website visitors convert and purchase or if they can micro-convert, meaning perhaps that they subscribe or share contacts.
- Improve Internal Linking
Your SEO specialist might say your site is suffering because some of your best articles are too far from the homepage, and users would have difficulty finding them. You can better internally link to your content to feature it more prominently.
- Generate Buzz
The SEO specialist might tell you, “You have great content, but not enough people know”. They can try to generate more user interaction and generate buzz, perhaps through social media or business interactions. This will help you attract more potential customers and maybe garner natural (organic) links to your site.
- Learn from Competition
Your SEO might explain, “Here’s what your competitors do well. Can you reach parity with this and potentially surpass them in utilities, or can you better show your customers your business’s unique value?” Again, a good SEO specialist will try to prioritize what ideas can bring your business the most improvement for the least investment.
And what improvements take more time but help growth in the long term? Once they talk with you and other team members, such as developers or marketers, they will help your business forge ahead.
To wrap up this part, it’s worth mentioning that one of the biggest holdups to improving a website isn’t the SEO experts’ recommendations, but it’s the business-making time to implement their ideas if you’re not ready to commit to making SEO improvements.
While getting an SEO audit may be helpful, ensure your entire organization is on board. Otherwise, your SEO improvements may be non-existent regardless of whom you hire.
Benefits of Hiring an SEO Agency
Understanding Your Goals:
Before starting your search, clearly define your objectives and KPIs so you can evaluate if a prospective SEO agency is the right fit. Consider specifics like:
- Target keywords and top search queries
- Ideal ranking improvements and traffic goals
- Conversion and sales targets
- Brand awareness and engagement needs
- The frame to achieve results
Tip: Prioritise which objectives are most important so you can assess how well an agency’s proposal and historical results align.
Vetting SEO Agencies:
With over 1,500 SEO agencies in the UK alone, the options can be overwhelming. Use these tips to narrow down the choices:
- Verify industry experience – look for 5+ years, specifically in SEO.
- Review case studies and examples of past ranking improvements and traffic growth.
- Ask for referrals and testimonials from current clients.
- Confirm expertise across core areas like technical SEO, content strategy, link building and more.
- Check for Google certifications and partnerships.
- Evaluate reporting and analytics capabilities.
Red flags include vague service promises, low online visibility for their own brand, and inability to provide past examples.
There are many benefits to outsourcing your SEO. In the long run, these benefits greatly outweigh the cost savings you might experience by trying to do SEO yourself, especially if you’re pressed for time or inexperienced. Among the many benefits, three stand out.
You should be hiring an SEO agency that knows what it’s doing. The main reason why you’re hiring them is that you don’t have time to learn how to do SEO or assemble a team and manage it. So, they should be experts at what they do.
This falls a bit under expertise. When you are a business owner or an entrepreneur, you have to wear many hats, and it is hard to add any extras. Hiring an SEO agency makes you focus on working on your business, not on your business.
- Ranking Your Website Up High
The third and most important benefit is basically the essential reason why you need an SEO agency. As mentioned above, SEO is crucial for any website.
In the past, only those in specific industries with high amounts of competition may have needed SEO to see their websites take the top spot in search engine results pages (or SERPs). But now, every industry has competition, and SEO has become necessary to reach potential customers or leads.
Without SEO, your website may never gain the exposure it needs to rank highly.
SEO Agency: Bottom Line
In summary, choosing an SEO agency that meets your business objectives and budget while increasing your startup fees is no small feat.
However, if you conduct the proper research and stay current with regard to best practices, you can find a suitable consultant or digital marketing agency to strategically optimize your digital presence. And if you want to establish your own, ask yourself how you want to appear on the web. Make your site a reflection of your business, and the best way to do this is with search engine optimisation.
Key Questions to Ask:
In interviews and proposals, get clear answers to these vital questions:
- What is your SEO process and methodology?
- How will you select and optimise keywords?
- What tactics will you use for on-page optimisation?
- How will you improve backlink profiles and earn high-quality links?
- How will content strategy integrate with SEO?
- What SEO tools do you use?
- How will you communicate insights and reporting?
- What are the specific deliverables and timelines?
Tip: Ask for a sample keyword report, content strategy and link-building plan to better understand their approach.
Go beyond promises and thoroughly evaluate areas of expertise:
Technical SEO – Review how they optimise site architecture, URLs, page speed, structured data, etc. Ask for examples of technical audits.
Content Strategy – Assess their content planning process, formatting, optimisation and promotion tactics.
Link Building – Ask for case studies showcasing link-building results. Evaluate outreach strategies.
Analytics – Confirm they will provide in-depth tracking and reporting on rankings, traffic, leads and conversions.
Ongoing Optimization – Ask how they continuously optimise efforts over time to get better results.
Latest SEO Stats and Trends:
- 76% of marketers say SEO gives them the best ROI compared to other channels (SEO Platforms)
- Google’s page experience ranking factor now includes Core Web Vitals like page speed. (Google)
- In 2022, ~63,000 searches are conducted every second on Google. (Backlinko)
- Over half of clicks go to the top 3 organic results. (Advanced Web Ranking)
- Featured snippets drive ~30% of traffic to sites. (Optimize Suite)
FAQ About Choosing an SEO Agency:
Q: How much should I expect to pay? A: Legitimate SEO agencies will provide custom quotes based on your needs and goals. Be wary of dirt-cheap options, which likely use spammy tactics. Expect to invest at least £1,500 per month.
Q: What credentials should they have? A: Highly respected certifications include Google Analytics, Google AdWords, HubSpot Inbound and SEMRush. Individual contributors may also have reputable SEO qualifications.
Q: Should I hire an agency or freelancer? A: Agencies provide a full team of expertise, while freelancers offer more flexibility and specialisation. Assess your needs and budget.
Q: How can I evaluate past performance? A: Thoroughly review case studies and examples of previous clients’ growth in rankings, traffic and conversions after working with the agency.
Q: How quickly will I see results?
A: It takes an average of 3-6 months to begin seeing measurable gains. Ensure you evaluate on a long-term basis, not just 1-2 months.
Choosing the right SEO agency takes thoughtful evaluation across many factors – proven expertise, long-term focus, custom-tailored strategies and demonstrated results. Use this comprehensive guide’s strategic tips and insightful questions as your playbook. Taking the time to make the smartest choice will pay dividends through increased visibility, website traffic, and revenues for years to come.