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10 Things to Look for When Hiring a Local SEO Agency

Dec 2, 2021
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10 Things to Look for When Hiring a Local SEO Agency

It seems like a new local SEO agency starts up every week with promises of quick ranking results for low fees. At first appearance, this may seem attractive, but like most things, you get what you pay for, so it is important to know what to look for when hiring an SEO Firm.

How do you separate the "white hat agencies" from the "black hat agencies"? What red flags should you look for during your research? You may wonder if you even need to worry about which strategies a Local SEO agency uses as long as your site ranks in organic search.

The truth is that hiring a local SEO agency that uses black hat tactics could earn your website a Google penalty and destroy your online credibility. 

Keep These 10 Things in Mind as You Vet SEO Services:

Your marketing strategy should focus on attracting new visitors to your website. When the number of website visits increases this is great news! But are they the right visitors? You need to optimize your site for your buyer persona.

You will need to employ a diverse strategy aimed at driving targeted, "free" traffic to your website that helps you achieve your business's goals. To accomplish this, you may prefer to delegate your digital marketing efforts to local SEO experts while focusing on other aspects of your company. Unfortunately, a number of these "experts" are far from it and often do more damage than good. We believe you will prevent headaches in the future by asking these ten questions as you seek to hire a local SEO expert.

  1. What's your research process?

Research is the backbone of SEO. Any SEO agency worth hiring will place a lot of emphasis on research. When interviewing a potential agency, ask them how they go about research and what type of information they gather. Research is so important because without taking the time to identify specific keywords and competitors within your niche or industry, it won't be possible to build a detailed buyer persona.

From the beginning, something to look out for is whether an agency spends more time talking about their services or your needs. If an agency isn't focused on your needs, they may be offering cookie-cutter, generic marketing services. Each Local SEO campaign is unique because each business owner has individual goals and messaging. Your marketing strategy should focus on your company, its goals, and the type of consumers you are targeting.

  1. Can you back up your talk with results?

Results speak for themselves. It's easy to buy a domain and tell the Internet you're the best around. However, just because you say you're the "#1 SEO Agency in Melbourne" doesn't mean you have the data to prove your claim. Ask to see how they measure their results. Do they have a case study? Agencies that have long-term positive results with clients will have ways to show their work. An SEO agency that won't share its results cannot be trusted! 

Don't be afraid to check out online reviews as well. It's important to make sure a local SEO Agency practices what they preach are best practices for local business owners as far as maintaining a healthy Google My Business page or other strategies you may discuss.

  1. Can I see your rankings and traffic?

Keyword ranking isn't everything. However, it's important to work with people who can show that their strategies work for clients. It's vital to see that they practice what they preach.

  1. Will they tell you the truth?

There is no magic formula for ranking on Google. Every site will have times when their traffic will fluctuate. Many industries have busy and slower seasons; for example, a pool repair company may have higher traffic in the summer than in the winter. An algorithm update can also impact site traffic. As your traffic shifts up and down, a good SEO agency will implement strategies to address decreases.

It's important to hire an agency that will be open and honest about the ups and downs in site traffic. They should have a working understanding of the calendar flow for your industry, and the impact algorithm changes can have on search. Google makes anywhere between 500 to 600 updates each year. Each one can cause some fluctuation. Look out for any agency that promises you'll never lose a ranking position. They can't make that promise.

  1. What is your reporting process?

Communication is vital. Any local SEO agency you're interviewing should be able to show you how they will communicate with you and that they have completed different tasks outlined in your contract.

  1. How do you measure client success?

Speaking of key performance indicators (KPIs), it's vital that the agency you work with measures the right analytics and doesn't send you vanity metrics. For Local SEO, some of the KPIs to measure include:

  • Sessions
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pageviews
  • Average Session Duration
  • % of New Users
  • Search Click-Through-Rate
  • Impressions

It's helpful to see where your site traffic is coming from as well. If most of your traffic is referral traffic from one source, this is important information you can leverage. 

  1. Do your clients need to meet certain criteria?

An SEO Agency should spend as much time interviewing you as you do them. Both parties' expectations must be clear before signing an agreement. If an agency says they will work with any budget, in any industry, and meet any standard, that should raise a red flag. It takes an allotted number of hours to accomplish specific tasks, and each task costs a certain amount of money.

Working with an agency that charges you what tasks are worth will reduce the chances the majority of work is outsourced. In addition, when an agency uses in-house team members that work with dedicated account managers, tasks are streamlined, and there is continuity with management.

For agencies to provide highly specialized care that doesn't take a cookie-cutter approach, they will need to limit the types of industries they work with or employ enough account managers to accommodate any specialty.

Just because a local SEO agency has improved the rankings and visibility for several B2B companies in your area doesn't mean they will have the same success with B2C industries.

  1. What's your approach to organic ranking?

Drawing organic traffic is vital for local businesses. If the only way a company can retain its online visibility is with paid ads, there's something wrong with the business model of the SEO Agency. To be clear, PPC is sometimes a great way to leverage search volume for certain competitive keywords to attract potential customers. However, if this is the only strategy implemented, I'd rethink the selection process of industry keywords altogether.

  1. Are there other services your agency offers?

The fewer agencies you need to interact with, the better. If you need to refresh your website or your intent is to expand and incorporate PPC, email marketing, or content marketing in the future, why not work with an agency that will work with you to develop your marketing goals? You will save time by reviewing one report each month, your team of experts will be on the same page as far as your business goals and strategies, and as an added benefit, you may save money by grouping services.

  1. What is a realistic timeframe to see results?

Any digital marketing agency that tells you to expect to see an immediate improvement in your SEO results is not telling the truth. Even if they can implement a strategy immediately, there isn't a guarantee Google will read your sitemap and register updates as quickly as the agency has implemented them.

Additionally, since rankings fluctuate, it will take several months to show that the changes made create a lasting positive impact on rankings. Therefore, the only way to know which updates are working is to deploy A/B tests or to make incremental changes one at a time and monitor rankings for several weeks.

Hiring a local SEO agency for your marketing goals is an important decision. Take your time and ask the strategic questions to ensure you will work with a reputable agency you can develop a long-term relationship with, like SMA Marketing!

Is your website optimized for local search?

Download our Local SEO Website Checklist to learn more about how you can improve your local search rankings.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated with fresh content.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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