When selecting an SEO service, you should first consider your SEO goals. Then, spend time with a few SEO service providers to discuss those needs in light of what each agency delivers. It’s also helpful to speak with current or past clients.
SEO service providers help you increase your visibility in search engines and thereby assist you in generating more traffic for your website. An SEO service provider may conduct a variety of tasks, including auditing your existing website for SEO effectiveness, conducting keyword searches, developing an SEO plan to outrank your competition and writing SEO copy for your site.
Types of SEO Services
Before purchasing SEO services, it’s wise to get a handle on the different types of SEO available. Understanding the basics will give you a considerable advantage when evaluating SEO agencies.
- On-Page SEO: On-page SEO involves optimizing on-page content elements such as headlines, page content, image alt-tags, page titles and the page URL. Including appropriate internal and external links within your content also boosts on-page SEO.
- Off-Page SEO: Off-page SEO involves tactics that improve your overall search rankings but are irrelevant to individual page content. Building high-authority backlinks to your site is a critical off-page SEO service that a top-notch SEO service group should provide.
- Technical SEO: Search engines need to understand your site content and structure, so an up-to-date XML sitemap is crucial for effective technical SEO. Other technical SEO necessities include eliminating site problems, such as slow page load times, mobile responsiveness issues, duplicate content and HTTP error codes, for example, 404, which indicates content is not found.
- Local SEO: Some service providers specialize in helping your site rank higher than competitors in your local market. Optimizing your Google Business Profile listing is key to local SEO success; a reputable local SEO service provider can handle this for you.
- E-Commerce SEO: Websites built for e-commerce need to be optimized somewhat differently than non-e-commerce sites. Some SEO agencies specialize in helping websites with online stores increase site traffic and improve sales conversion metrics.
- Voice SEO: Voice search users typically ask conversational questions that contain more words in their search string than used in a text search. Voice SEO is particularly important for local service or hospitality businesses likely to benefit immediately from people looking for options for urgent needs, such as the nearest service station, bakery or dog groomer.
Portfolios and Results
When evaluating SEO service providers, be sure to look at their client portfolio and case studies that detail what they’ve accomplished for others. Pay attention to whether the SEO service specializes in specific industries or audiences and their typical client size.
Get a clear idea of what results might be possible—based on what the provider has done for others—as well as how long it will take for the new SEO efforts to start gaining traction. If you’re working with a strong SEO agency, you should start seeing some positive results within 60 to 90 days of initial strategy implementation, but keep in mind that it may take 120 days or longer to make a significant impact.
When interviewing SEO providers, check for competitive conflicts. If an agency represents multiple companies targeting the same search content in the same, limited local market, that’s a potential red flag. While that type of SEO agency likely understands your market well, it is also likely using similar SEO strategies for direct competitors, which may put you at a disadvantage in tight local competitive climates.
Reporting and Transparency
It’s best to work with a provider that offers complete transparency on what they will do for you and how they’ll generate and report results. Some SEO agencies merely use powerful SEO analysis software such as Ahrefs, KWFinder or Semrush and regurgitate findings in the form of polished SEO reports for their clients. You could do that level of SEO on your own, and likely for a much lower cost than hiring an SEO agency.
While the search statistics from top SEO software programs are helpful, stats alone are insufficient. When evaluating SEO service providers, make them explain how they add value to your SEO efforts beyond what you could do for yourself via off-the-shelf SEO software.
Your SEO agency should deliver actionable insights on where and how to adjust your website content to achieve optimal search visibility. Your SEO provider should also help you better understand your search competition plus uncover untapped or under-tapped opportunities to elevate your search rankings.
Before agreeing to work with anyone, ask for a full accounting of what metrics will be reported, when the numbers will be reported and how performance trends will be tracked and reported over time. Your SEO service provider should offer detailed progress reports every month so you can measure the return on investment (ROI) of your SEO expenditures.
Ethics: White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO
White hat SEO refers to tactics that are aligned with search engine best practices. If an SEO tactic is Google-approved, you are safe to use it for your website. Black hat SEO refers to tactics that aim to improve a website’s visibility in search using more manipulative methods that distort reality. Black hat tactics are banned by Google and could result in a traffic-dropping Google penalty or get your site blocked by search engines permanently.
Examples of black hat SEO include keyword stuffing, link spam, link exchanges, hidden text or links, buying backlinks and sneaky redirects. It’s important to vet your vendors well to ensure they only use white hat SEO tactics.
Customer Service and Reviews
You can and should expect exceptional customer service from your SEO partner. One way to assess a provider’s reputation is to search online for reviews written by actual customers. If you’re working with a local business, check out customer reviews on their Google Business Profile page.
Another way to learn more about what you can expect in terms of service quality is to ask your professional network whether anyone has worked with a specific agency. Getting feedback from someone you know and trust is ideal. You can also ask the SEO agency you’re considering working with for customer references and speak directly with an active customer.