Every SEO agency is different in terms of their processes and focus. Some might focus more on directory listings and off-site activities while others will be much more focused on what’s going on in your website itself. But despite this, there are some standard things you can expect with any legitimate firm.

In this post we’ll go over some of those basic things for if you’re considering hiring an SEO agency. And if you’re already working with one, make sure it’s providing all these things.

Having A Specific, Results-Oriented Plan

This might sound obvious, but I talk to a lot of business owners that can’t answer the question “What is your SEO guy doing for you?”

Sure, you’ve hired them to “do SEO,” whatever that means. Ideally there would be a plan of attack that makes the goal of the first month or so clear. It might be something like:

We’re going to go through each page of the site to clean up meta data, edit content, and reorganize information to improve reader engagement. After that we can dive into new landing pages and blog articles.

You don’t have to understand the minutia of everything they’re doing, but with this you at least know what’s happening with your site and what to look out for. It will also be clear what updates to look for when you have future review meetings.

Reviewing the initial plan can also be a tiebreaker if you’re deciding between two agencies. Whose plan seems more thoughtful and comprehensive?

SEO agencies and what to expect

Regular SEO Meetings

You should be meeting at least once a month to go over everything. This is a good chance to throw around ideas, work together on the next month’s plan, and review the results of the previous 30 days’ work.

This way you’ll always know where you stand and what’s working, and it keeps your SEO team accountable. After all, any other employee you have would have to produce results and have something to show for their work, and it’s no different here.

This isn’t to promote any kind of distrust, but I think any business relationship without reasonable accountability is bad news.

I’ve heard plenty of stories over the years from business owners who paid someone for six months and felt like they got nothing out of it. After a little digging, it’s clear in almost every case that there was no ongoing dialogue between the business owner and the SEO agency.

What kinds of reporting should you be looking for?

  • Traffic and conversion analytics reports – how many visitors did the site get, from what sources, and how many of those visits resulted in a conversion action? (e.g. phone calls, subscription, or online purchase.) The conversions part is important, because simply getting more visitors isn’t affecting your bottom line.
  • Keyword tracking and ranking reports. What keywords are your focusing on, and how have your site’s rankings for those keywords improved since the last meeting? What is the plan for the next month?
  • What are potential challenges to your SEO campaign’s success and how can you solve them? For example, your SEO agency might point out your business has some negative reviews, which despite how well your site ranks will hinder phone calls. They may then suggest ways to resolve that and improve click through.
  • Some SEO agencies offer competitor tracking, which allows you to chart your progress against one or a few of your biggest competitors. This helps you stay strategic, and is another marker of progress.
  • Social trends etc. that might affect keyword and topic focus going forward.
  • Technical reports about site load speed, server load, and areas for improvement in the design for both aesthetics and the foundation needed for search engines.

You may decide after a few months of successful work that you don’t need all those reports every time. You’re busy after all, and they’re doing a good job. But a good SEO guy/agency should always have those reports ready for you for the asking.

If you’re about to work with an agency, make sure you go over what types of work and reporting they’ll offer so you know what to expect. And if you’ve already been working with someone for awhile and aren’t getting this type of reporting, it’s probably time to ask some questions.

Relaxed Pacing 3+ Months In

SEO is a very momentum-based endeavor. Depending on where your site is at when someone starts working on it, it will probably require a lot more work early on than later. Like pushing a boulder, it takes a lot of strength to get it rolling, but less effort to keep it rolling.

The first month or so is kind of a loss leader for the SEO agency, and some agencies account for this with higher rates early on that taper off as the campaign progresses.

Don’t be surprised if the apparent workload slows down a bit once the campaign is a few months in. Very likely by then all the technical kinks will have been resolved and rankings will be on the rise. From there it’s something of a maintenance mode. Keep adding new material, keep refining pages and content, keep building backlinks, etc.

It’s this phase of a campaign I think things become more nimble, because you have the freedom to explore other keywords, hit niche markets, and build intricate layers of reinforcing content.

Those are the basics and most important things to watch out for. If you have questions on this or other aspects of SEO campaigns, leave them below in the comments or privately with my contact form!