Most people tend to lump SEO together, however, as a marketing tactic, search engine optimisation can be broken out into further subdivisions and this can make it difficult for business owners and marketing managers to understand. Just as you’ll appreciate there are differences between a freelance SEO, SEO consultancies and SEO Agencies, the same is true between SEO agencies. No SEO agency is born equally.
SEO is a myriad of different things to different people. When I was working as Head of Marketing for a tech firm in Manchester, UK, I remember my Managing Director at the time telling me that I couldn’t have SEO as part of my marketing mix because it was too close to what the tech team did and because it was impacted by everything the team did. It took a lot of re-education and that person was never wholly convinced. But that was because they had a very narrow view of what search engine optimisation was all about. This narrow view can be a problem when you try to engage an SEO agency.
Most SEO agencies will have processes in place that allow them to do SEO at scale in a repeatable manner. Now I’m talking about processes and not like in the bad old days when every SEO and SEO agency had their own private blog network that they were prepared to do something shady with. So these processes will be based on the foundations of the business, the skillsets of the early employees and the route the business has taken over the years. In this sense there will be some limitations to what they do.
Most SEO agencies won’t be good at every aspect of SEO and I wouldn’t pretend to you that there aren’t areas in which we can improve at GrowTraffic, but I would say there are things that we have specialised in – perhaps to the detriment of other elements of SEO – because these are the things we feel offer the best returns for our customers and provide us with a stable and scalable business model.
That last point is important too. When I ran GrowTraffic as a freelance SEO consultant, I was much more inclined to experiment and do different things for different businesses and make try things out. GrowTraffic grew from a freelance business to a multi-consultant SEO consultancy and into the SEO agency it is today, and in that time we had to regularise how we do things. This naturally means we specialised in the things that work for us.
When I stand up at those networking events and talk about GrowTraffic, I always say something along the lines of: “GrowTraffic is a full service digital marketing agency with a focus on SEO. We use a content marketing approach to SEO, in order to sustainably grow our client’s online profiles and provide the anitdote to normal SEO agencies who promise the world but who don’t deliver anything tangible.” Something like that. But the point is we do content for SEO first and foremost, and then we do all the other types of SEO you can imagine. Other SEO agencies will do link building first, some will just do onsite SEO.
When speaking with an SEO agency, it’s essential that you understand what they mean by SEO. Because it can mean a large number of different things.
And don’t be baffled by psuedo-science. I remember around 8 years ago there was an SEO who lived in the same town as me, the SEO had this pitch about his credentials in using science and data to beat the algorithms. In 2012 and 2013 I spent quite a bit of time undoing some of the work he’d implemented – which was pure mumbo jumbo. Recently I bumped into him, he’s still making the same pitch, no doubt it’s still the same mumbo jumbo and some large businesses are still buying into it.
When working out what SEO specialism your agency should focus on you need to ensure you know your own business’ strengths and weaknesses when it comes to digital marketing.
If you are great at bashing out well optimised, on point content, then don’t speak to an SEO agency that focuses on growing your rankings through content. Similarly, if you’ve got a really high domain authority you probably don’t need to work with an SEO agency which specialises in link building. If you’ve had your website onsite optimisation to a good level it’s probably not worth working with an SEO agency that just wants to work onsite.
You should get a feel for what they’re good at by what they focus on when they’re pitching their SEO services ot you. Try to explore examples of other types of SEO that they do or that they’ve been successful. I’ll add a caveat here, most SEOs know about all elements of SEO and they should be able to talk the talk when it comes to describing different SEO tactics – even if they aren’t great at them themselves. So beware and try to get examples of relevant testimonials.