What Your SEO Provider Should Be Doing (But Probably Isn't)

April 30, 2018

By JoAnna Dettmann, Kaysha Hanock


An online economy that depends heavily on search, along with the complexity of search engines and digital tools, has led to a flood of SEO firms and freelancers. Given that the industry is complex and always changing, the quality of these providers varies widely. Some are legitimate experts, while others are offering the service to expand their offerings without really knowing what they are doing.

Worse, an SEO provider could be using shady SEO techniques without you knowing it, which puts your site in danger of being blacklisted by Google. That would mean losing all of your current search traffic and having to rebuild your ranking from nothing. So being able to spot the real experts from the pretenders is critical, not only for maximizing results but for minimizing harm to your brand.

How can you know, then, which is which? More importantly, what should your current provider be doing if they are, in fact, a legitimate SEO specialist? As a general guideline, any firm worth their salt should:


Say "No" Sometimes

If an SEO provider or agency says "yes" to everything you want, chances are good the dollar signs are flashing before their eyes. A reputable SEO firm, on the other hand, will want to provide the right services to match your goals, industry, and audiences. For example, if it's not clear that PPC ads will drive results, they should not recommend PPC just to make money off of you.


Not Provide a Timeline

Be wary of providers that promise results according to a specific timeline. The truth is that the success of digital strategies depends heavily on what the competition is doing, and on what search engines are doing. Experts know this, and so offer a process to refine and test practices — they almost never promise specific outcomes within a given time frame.


Provide Regular Reporting and Transparency

Do you know what your SEO provider is doing, and why they are doing it? What metrics are they using to measure success? How do they know when to change tactics? If they are not being completely transparent about these things, it's a big red flag.

The industry has matured enough that true experts no longer simply measure website traffic or social media likes. There are a number of metrics that can be used to track, diagnose, and tweak a digital strategy. For example:

Traffic SourcesUser BehaviorSearch Engine Rankings
Site traffic broken down by segment
(organic search, paid search, social media referrals, etc.)
Average time on site Rankings by search engine
  Pages per visit Number of listings by position
  Top viewed pages Average listing position by search engine
Site traffic coming from particular search engines Top exit pages Number of unique keywords
    Rankings compared to traffic
    Specific keyword rankings
Display Certified Google Partner Status

Being a certified Google Partner is something earned: A person must complete courses and pass several tests to gain individual qualification, and their agency has to meet some strict requirements to become a Google Partner. Being a partner means the agency has achieved a (globally recognized) level of expertise in Google advertising and demonstrated excellent customer service. It is a signal to the world that the agency knows how to use Google's tools to the fullest and optimize campaigns for actual results.


Ask About Your Goals

A good agency will not try to force you into a one-size-fits-all solution. Nor will they start the conversation talking about tactical goals like website traffic or social media likes. No, a good agency starts with your overall business plan and marketing goals and works backward from those to create a digital strategy to support them.


Ask About Your Digital History

When SEO is done incorrectly, it can damage your search visibility, as well as your brand. The first step in any engagement with a digital marketing firm should be to discover what damage has been done (if any) and start by repairing or reversing that damage (if possible). Again, if your agency isn't asking about your history, they are probably trying to sell you a package of services you might not need.


Do a Competitor Analysis

Understanding the online competition is crucial to the success of any digital strategy, especially when it comes to SEO. Your agency should want to understand the competition's SEO strategy, their SEO tactics, and their level of success. They should be looking not only at your known competitors, but at any website ranking for the keyword phrases you are targeting. This is the only way to determine what works in your industry, and what results to expect.


What If They Are Not Doing These Things?

If your agency is not doing all of these things, it's a red flag. It takes months to enhance a website's SEO — and mere hours to destroy it. With those kinds of stakes on the line, neither optimizing a website nor implementing a digital strategy should be left to amateurs.

Look for a reputable company and vet that company responsibly; SEO done well takes time, expertise, and experience.


Kaysha Hanock and JoAnna Dettmann are co-founders of tSunela (@tsunela), a digital marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization, mobile search marketing, paid search marketing, local search optimization, web analytics, and social media marketing.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


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