As the name itself suggests, an SEO agency is a business that offers SEO services.
What does that exactly mean though?
What do SEO companies actually do and do you need one? If so, how do you search for and recruit an SEO agency for your business?
We'll answer these questions starting now.
What you will learn
- What an SEO agency is and what they do
- What kinds of services an SEO company may offer
- What the benefits of working with an SEO agency are
- How to choose an SEO agency to work with
What is an SEO agency?
An SEO agency is a service business that provides search engine optimization services. These can include content writing, on-page, off-page and technical SEO packages. SEO agencies comprise of a team of digital marketing experts who take on several clients simultaneously.
The goal of SEO companies is to improve their clients’ rankings in search engines and drive relevant traffic to their websites. Unlike other agencies, marketing agencies that offer SEO services only work on your website's organic traffic via search rankings.
The benefit of hiring an SEO agency is that your business has knowledgeable experts working on its strategy and deployment without the hassles of recruiting and managing marketing employees.
What do SEO agencies do?
SEO agencies offer a variety of search engine optimization services while some specialize in certain aspects of SEO.
For example, an SEO company can offer only on-page SEO services. Others which offer a wide range of services are usually called full-service SEO agencies.
Here are the 10 things an SEO agency does.
1. Create SEO strategy
An SEO strategy is a detailed plan designed to improve a website’s organic search rankings and organic traffic.
It’s a complex and intricate document and typically consists of numerous SEO tactics.
- Search engine results page (SERP) analysis
- Website audit
- On-page and technical optimization
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
- Content planning
- Link building
What an SEO strategy consists of will depend on the needs of an individual client. Their industry and target audience will also play a role, as will their competitors.
Websites that are already performing well in search engines or those that operate in niches with a low competition will need different strategies.
Businesses in a large or competitive market will often complex SEO tactics and a more comprehensive SEO campaign to achieve their goals.
It is the job of an SEO company to learn all about their client’s business and marketing goals.
An SEO company will first take the time to learn more about your industry and target audience. And will analyze your competitors before developing an SEO strategy.
2. Keyword research
Keyword research involves identifying the terms and phrases potential customers or clients type into search engines when searching for products or services similar to the ones you offer.
Agencies will identify popular search terms, how they correlate with different stages of the buyer’s journey, and what your customers’ main pain points are.
They will then conduct competitor keyword research and figure out what terms other businesses in your industry are targeting.
They will often look at both organic search engine results and paid ads to get the most complete picture.
An agency will look at different metrics to gauge the relevance of a keyword:
- Search volume, or how many people search for a certain phrase in a month
- Keyword difficulty, or how difficult it would be for your website to rank for a keyword
- Search intent, or what a searcher is expecting to see when they type a certain phrase into the search bar
Quality keyword research is the foundation of every good SEO campaign. A good SEO company will devote a lot of time and resources to this step.
Manual keyword research takes hours and is a recurring task, so an agency might use a keyword research tool like Surfer’s Keyword Research.
It identifies which topics your website should cover and groups them into topic clusters along with keyword metrics.
And even understands search intent.
Thus saving hours of research time and helping agencies and business owners create the most relevant content for your website.
3. Link building
Link building is the process of acquiring external links to a client’s website.
Backlinks are an important ranking signal.
Search engines analyze the quality and relevance of the websites pointing to yours. They then use them to determine where you should rank in search engine results pages.
The better your backlink profile, the better your chances of ranking higher.
This makes link building an important SEO service for agencies. It is also highly scalable, which is why many agencies offer it.
There are even agencies who specialize in link acquisition services alone.
An SEO company will use numerous link building tactics to acquire backlinks. These can include:
- The skyscraper link building technique
- Acquiring backlinks from round-up posts
- Broken link building tactics
- Cold outreach to relevant websites and influencers
- Link acquisition through marketplaces
Which tactics will be used will depend on the current state of a client’s backlink profile.
An agency will often do a backlink audit to determine whether certain links need to be disavowed, and what kinds of links are missing from the portfolio. They will also analyze the backlinks of a client’s main competitors.
Industry limitations may impact link building efforts. If there are few blogs that write about your industry, there will be fewer link building opportunities.
A client’s budget will also determine the scale of an agency’s link building services.
4. Competitive analysis
Competitive analysis is the process of identifying a client’s main competitors and analyzing their SEO strategies.
Its purpose is to better understand the tactics that work best in an industry.
It also helps determine the level of effort required to rank a client higher.
Competitor analysis consists of several elements:
- Competitor keyword analysis
- Competitor backlink profile analysis
- Competitor content review
The deeper the analysis, the more likely the agency will identify a content gap or a missed opportunity. This tactic often takes a lot of time and effort, but when executed correctly, the results can be very much worth it.
A good SEO company will analyze several types of competitors.
They will look at the top names in your industry, as well as companies who are currently your most direct competitors.
These are the websites who are currently ranking near you in search engines like Google for the most relevant and lucrative terms.
5. SEO analytics and reporting
SEO analytics and reporting involves the tracking and analyzing of SEO data. Its purpose is to measure the success of SEO campaigns, and understand how they need to be tweaked or changed.
There are many ways to analyze SEO success. This service will most often consist of:
- Organic traffic tracking, monitoring and analysis
- Keyword ranking tracking
- Conversion rate tracking and analysis
- Tracking other events, like page scrolls or clicks
Each SEO company will have its own way of reporting and analyzing data.
Most of them will rely on Google Analytics and Google Search Console as their main data sources. Some agencies will then use Google Sheets and Docs to compile and share data, while others use third-party reporting tools.
Looker Studio and Agency Analytics are among the more popular choices.
The depth and extent of an SEO report will depend on the services an SEO agency is providing. For example, if they are building links for a client, the report will consist of links and relevant metrics like domain rating or authority for each of them.
A more comprehensive SEO strategy will come with a more detailed report.
It can be very useful to check how an agency handles reporting and which tools they use before you choose to work with them.
The quality of the report often directly correlates to the quality of their services. If you can’t understand a word of the report, and you aren’t given an explanation when you ask for one, it’s better to look for another agency.
6. Content creation
Many SEO companies can also offer various content creation services. These can include the creation of:
- Blog posts
- Landing pages
- Service pages
- Product descriptions
- Case studies, white papers, e-books, press releases
- Social media content
- Videos, images, infographics and other visual content
This service will include market, keyword and competition research, as well as content optimization and position tracking in search engines.
A lot of content agencies will provide content packages for a specific price. For example, they may offer to write 5 long-form blog posts per month.
You can also use tools like Surfer AI to create long-form articles that are optimized for search engines. Here's an example of an article generated in less than twenty minutes.
The advantage of using AI writing tools is that you will save a decent chunk of what a writing agency will charge you.
Using AI can also help you write faster and scale more efficiently without straining your pockets.
Thus, helping you reach your SEO goals quicker.
7. On-page optimization
On-page or on-site optimization is the process of checking and correcting the elements of a page that affects its SEO.
Some of the tasks included in on-page optimization are:
- Keyword optimization
- URL structure and optimization
- Optimizing meta descriptions and title tags
- Improving internal linking
- Auditing sitemaps and robots.txt files
- Website speed optimization
- Boosting mobile-friendliness
- Crawl optimization
- Technical SEO audits
The depth and focus of a technical and on-page SEO audit will depend on the structure of the website in question.
A website that is performing well in search engines will often need a less detailed audit than one that is experiencing problems.
If a website’s on-page and technical SEO are under optimized, it won’t rank as well as it could.
This is why it’s important to find an experienced SEO company that’s well versed in this service.
They will ensure your website's foundations are strong and ready to be built on.
8. Off-page SEO
All activities aimed at improving search engine rankings that take place outside a client’s website fall under the category of off-site or off-page SEO.
They can include:
- Various link building tactics, like cold outreach or guest posting
- Social media or video marketing
- Certain local SEO tactics, like Google My Business optimization or directory listing creation
- Press releases or HARO link building
Some of these tactics go beyond what is considered “regular SEO”.
Not all agencies will offer these services, especially if they are small or relatively new.
Large SEO companies and digital marketing agencies are more likely to provide these SEO services.
9. Local SEO
If you sell your products or services locally, i.e. in a certain specific area, you will want to show up for as many relevant searches as you can.
Local SEO optimizes a website to be more visible in these local searches.
Some basic local SEO tactics include:
- Google My Business profile optimization
- Creating local citations in relevant business directories
- Generating online reviews from customers, both on Google itself, and on relevant third-party websites, like Trustpilot
Local SEO is different from traditional SEO in many ways.
While general SEO knowledge is still relevant, the agency providing these services also needs to understand local SEO best practices and the client’s local geography.
Ideally, you will want to work with an agency that specializes in providing this specific service.
If that’s not an option, at least make sure that the agency you choose lists this specific service on their website, and that it’s not a mere afterthought thrown in for good measure.
10. Mobile SEO and ASO
Mobile SEO is the optimization of a client’s website to be more visible in mobile search engine results pages.
ASO, or App Store Optimization, optimizes a mobile app to perform better in app store search results.
These tactics will involve:
- Ensuring mobile-friendliness
- Page speed optimization
- Optimizing content to smaller screens
- Structured data optimization
- App keyword optimization
These SEO services are quite specific and require significant expertise and experience.
Being good at search engine optimization in general does in no way guarantee that an agency will optimize your app’s performance in the app store well.
If you are in need of ASO or mobile SEO services, look for an agency that specializes in them to increase the likelihood of success.
What are the benefits of working with an SEO agency
Working with the right SEO agency can be very beneficial for a business.
Here are a few benefits of working with dedicated SEO marketing agencies.
SEO companies have lots of technical SEO-related knowledge you probably lack in-house. After all, it's their job to understand the intricacies of the SEO industry and how search engines work.
An agency will have worked on projects of different sizes and scopes.
This means they have acquired lots of experience and have the necessary know-how to help you avoid the most common SEO mistakes.
They can help you save both time and money, as you won’t have to learn something they already know.
Access to experienced talent pool
SEO companies usually consist of teams of experts who specialize in different areas of SEO.
To match this skill set, you would need to hire a whole SEO team of your own.
This is not only very costly and time-consuming, but would also require a lot of management on your part.
Don’t fall for the claims some freelancers make that they specialize in every aspect of SEO.
While they can certainly have a decent basic level of knowledge, they can never have the expertise nor time in their day to execute a full-fledged SEO strategy on their own.
By working with an SEO company with a diverse talent pool, you can benefit from comprehensive SEO services that will tick all the boxes, from keyword research to link building.
SEO tools and new technologies
As a non-SEO company, you will need access to premium SEO tools required to handle various SEO tasks. Acquiring them will be expensive.
And you’d still need to learn how to use each of them and how to combine the data they provide to achieve the best results.
An agency will already have mastery over these tools.
Delegation of expertise
Managing and tracking an in-house SEO team is a time-consuming effort. It would only distract you from your core business and primary goals.
Instead, you can rely on an SEO company to deliver the results you have agreed upon.
There will be very little to no management involved. You will still have plenty of time and energy to focus on growing your business.
Support for internal teams
If you do have an in-house marketing team, an SEO company can assist in the execution of SEO-related tasks.
They may be able to offer training for your staff, or provide access to resources and expert knowledge.
They may also be able to lease you an employee to fill a gap. Whatever you lack, a good SEO company should be able to provide.
How to choose an SEO agency
In order to experience all the benefits of working with an SEO company , you need to make sure you choose the right one.
Working with the wrong company can fail to deliver the results you’ve expected.
Worst case, it can even do serious harm to your online reputation and make search engines see you as an untrustworthy resource.
Here are 5 steps to take before hiring an SEO agency.
Identify your goal
Before you start looking for an SEO company, you need to know what you are trying to achieve.
Set yourself some concrete goals.
- Do you want to check the state of your website and optimize it better?
- Are you looking to improve your rankings and earn more website traffic?
- Or do you want to increase your conversion rate?
- Perhaps you want to achieve a combination of these goals?
Once you know what you need, it will be easier to choose an agency who can deliver the kinds of SEO services you are looking for.
Validate your SEO agency’s credentials
When you find an agency you like, take a moment to examine their awards, testimonials and titles. Their reputation can be a very good indicator of the quality of their SEO services.
However, you need to vet them first.
Read client reviews about the agency on their website.
Also check websites like Clutch, Trustpilot and Glassdoor. Read their Google Reviews too, and search for the company name to find any news articles or other relevant reviews.
Review case studies
Reading through an agency’s case studies is a good way to gain insight into their approach and results.
Take a look at the kinds of clients they have worked with before.
While you aren’t necessarily looking for a brand in your niche, you at least want to see a case study about the type of service you are looking for.
Know that SEO companies often anonymize their case studies. This is done to protect a client’s privacy, and is in no way a red flag. Focus on the processes they describe and the ultimate effect they have had.
Ask about project management
Ask your prospective agency about their team’s structure. Find out how they structure their budgets and contracts.
Ask to see an example of an SEO report.
This information will help you gauge how professional and organized they are.
It will also directly impact the quality of their services. You don’t need them to do things exactly how you would. You do need them to be able to answer any questions and explain why they do things the way they do.
Have a discovery call
You can learn a lot about an agency and their team through a discovery call. It will show you how they communicate, and whether or not they are the kinds of people you want to work with.
Ask to speak to the people you will actually be collaborating with. You don’t want to speak to a sales agent or high-level manager alone.
You want to meet the people who will be doing the work.
The call can be very short.
Ask a couple of key questions and see how they respond. Keep an ear out not just for the quality of the answers, but for their personalities as well. Would you like to do business with these individuals?
- SEO agencies offer search engine optimization services.
- These SEO services can include anything from strategy creation, keyword research, competitor analysis, link building, on- and off-page optimization and content creation.
- Some SEO agencies also offer local SEO, mobile SEO or ASO services.
- Working with an SEO company lets you tap into their know-how, access their talent pool and utilize their toolkit.
- It’s a great way to get the SEO support you need without having to manage a team in-house.
- When choosing an SEO agency, make sure to set some goals first. Then check out their credentials and case studies to get a feel for the quality of their work.
- Have a discovery call and find out about an agency’s project management style before you commit to a contract.
SEO agencies can offer a variety of search engine optimization services, from creating and executing a comprehensive SEO strategy, to optimizing your website for local search.
While working with the right agency can significantly boost your rankings and traffic, working with the wrong one can be disastrous.
Take your time and conduct due diligence as if you're hiring an employee when you go looking for an SEO agency.