A search engine optimization SEO marketing agency can be an excellent choice for some types of businesses looking to increase their visibility in search. It's true that SEO is cost-effective and can deliver long-term results.
However, SEO may not be the best choice for all businesses, at least not as a stand-alone service if you are planning on growing your business.
Failing to realize this upfront could send you down the disappointing road of spending lots of money on SEO only to find out it's not a good fit for your business goals, strategy or industry.
So, how do you know whether an SEO marketing agency is right for your company? The key is to understand what exactly this type of marketing agency will offer and whether those services will help you achieve your company’s growth goals.
What Does an SEO Marketing Agency Do?
An SEO marketing agency primarily focuses on using SEO strategy to increase your search results visibility. The search engine optimization company engages in two primary activities:
- On-page optimizations, such as your website design and content
- Off-page optimizations like link building
To rank well in search engines, you must have both on-page and off-page SEO. Google uses them to evaluate your website's credibility, relevance to a particular search, and the quality of user experience.
An SEO marketing agency uses both sides of SEO to boost your visibility in search engines. SEO done right is a long-term strategy that focuses on delivering an excellent user experience to increase credibility and relevance. However, you're not always getting what you think you are when you work with an SEO company.
SEO services typically include these nine services:
- Researching and analyzing your website, taking a look at how your website is performing currently
- Looking at other competitors of yours to see what’s working for their websites
- Doing a keyword analysis to see what your potential customers may be typing into search engines
- Optimizing items on your website, such as titles, meta descriptions, keywords and themes, to increase the click-through rate, time spent on page and number of pages viewed
- Determining whether the language on your website is clear, targeted and concise
- Analyzing how fast your website is and if it’s secure
- Taking a look at backlinks and whether they are helpful to your website traffic
- Providing you with regular SEO reports
- Determining what results you can expect with the budget that you have
The last point above is important to keep in mind because SEO is like so many things in business. You can outspend the competition, but is it sustainable?
A Warning About SEO
Many SEO companies use “Black Hat” techniques to get clients' results faster. That sounds great. But there's a catch.
While these strategies can give your site some short-term gains, they ultimately cause tremendous harm to your website's domain authority. These effects are hard and often expensive to undo, if it's even possible.
Black Hat SEO, otherwise known as spamdexing, is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexing. Methods of spamdexing include keyword stuffing, inappropriate link building and the repeated use of phrases that aren’t relevant to the services or products that you offer.
Here are some signs a SEO marketing agency is using Black Hat tactics:
- Cloaking: A site shows the visitor one piece of content and the search engine something else.
- Multiple Redirects: People think they're going to one place, and the site sends them somewhere else.
- Content Farms: An agency creates thousands of websites filled with inferior content for the sole purpose of creating backlinks. If your links increase quickly after hiring an SEO company, this is almost certainly what they're doing. You can check on this in Google Analytics.
- Blog posts that are hard to read: Content has distracting wording, boring language or numerous typos. This content is often computer-generated.
- Keyword stuffing: Agencies fill a page with irrelevant words to try to rank in multiple searches that don't really apply to the page.
In the end, this is the equivalent of hanging out with people who have a terrible reputation, so people assume you're the same way. It's hard to escape a bad reputation in real life, on social media and with Google. But, many businesses don't realize the shady websites their SEO company has them “hanging out with” to get results.
SEO A Long-Term Solution?
While an SEO marketing agency may help get your web pages ranked, that process alone does not necessarily equal lead generation.
SEO relies primarily on the popularity of Google searches to increase visibility. It doesn't generate interest in a topic that isn't already searched for by your target audience. So it can't increase traffic to your site if that search traffic isn't there to start with or a massive company like Amazon already has a monopoly on it.
On top of this, if you're not generating traffic through other means, search engines like Google don't have enough information to judge your site. So, even if you were the best website for a specific search, you still won't become visible there.
Finally, people don't typically buy from companies they don't know online.
- 89% of people check reviews first.
- 54% will research your company on social media before buying.
- 85% of buyers will do online research about your company before ever contacting you.
For these reasons, it's critical to look past SEO as a standalone strategy.
Getting people to your site is just the first strategy, what stage of the buyer's journey are they in when they get there and what content, offers, forms, cta’s etc are you providing in each stage and why?
SEO Is A Piece of the Puzzle
SEO only focuses on one area of online marketing … just like an AdWords marketing agency only focuses on researching, testing and optimizing ads for AdWords. You need a combination of internet marketing strategies to consistently generate leads, increase revenues and grow your business.
A digital marketing agency can provide that. A digital marketing strategy may be a better fit if you’re looking for long-term growth and generating additional business revenue.
That’s because a digital marketing agency considers the whole buyer's journey and focuses on delighting customers across marketing channels to build trust, affinity and positive brand perception.
This type of marketing agency has clearly defined conversion funnels to reliably turn visitors into leads into customers into promoters of your brand.SEO is an important part of this picture. A digital marketing agency does everything an SEO services company does but within a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
Digital marketing encompasses your whole online presence and makes sure all of your marketing efforts work together seamlessly to achieve your goals. They tend to be larger marketing firms with lots of resources they can put to use for you at a fraction of the cost if you needed to pay for these tools or services individually.
They may use various channels and methods, like content marketing, inbound marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and pay per click.
Why is this important? A digital marketing agency will use a proven process to deliver the results. The process involves applying strategies that continually improve the cost-effectiveness of your marketing while at the same time creating a foundation on which you can grow.
Inbound agencies, in particular, work to solve real customer problems and use data to learn who your ideal customers are and what they need to help them. An inbound marketing agency recognizes that the people you are targeting interact with your business on many different levels and in different stages of their buyers journey. Ensuring web pages, content, offers and the like are all working together to meet your business goals are the key to a successful engagement..
How A Digital Marketing Agency Will Grow Your Business Better Than Just Using SEO
A digital marketing agency will develop a complete marketing strategy using five fundamentals of inbound marketing to achieve the agreed-upon goals of their clients.
- Contacts - Invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology to manage contacts and understand the whole Buyer's Journey
- Buyer personas - Know who your ideal customers are.
- Buyer's journey - Understand how people go from being strangers to leads to delighted customers who spend more and tell their friends
- Content - Well-researched, high-value content
- Goals - SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely
An agency will then leverage the 4 steps of the Buyer's Journey.
- Attract - Attract the ideal customer with the right messaging (content) at the right time and place
- Convert - Turn casual content consumption into a more meaningful relationship using a combination of lead magnets to acquire contact information and use analytics, segmentation, and automation to nurture MQL.
- Close - Turn an MQL into a Sales Qualified Lead SQL
- Delight - Don't see buying as the end. Continue to nurture with high-value content to increase loyalty and customer lifetime value.
One of the goals of a digital marketing agency should be to align sales and marketing. This is achieved by developing a lead scoring system that determines when leads move from marketing qualified to sales qualified leads.
- High Fit-High Engagement Lead - Outreach now. This is probably an easy sell.
- High Fit-Low Engagement - They have all the traits we're looking for in an ideal customer but are not progressing. After HFEL, reach out to see if we can overcome any barriers and close.
- Low Fit-High Engagement - Unlikely to close right now. Keep nurturing through marketing content and outreach only when all of the above are taken care of.
- Low Fit-Low Engagement - Unlikely customer right now, but that doesn't mean something won't change. So just keep nurturing through marketing automation and segmented content.
People like to tout the ROI of SEO, but quite often, companies spend money only on SEO with little to show for it.
Do you see marketing as an expense or an investment? When something pays you back plus a return, that's an investment, not an expense. It makes more sense to invest in a digital marketing agency than SEO optimization, because together they will deliver returns with attention to the framework of:
- 5 Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing
- Buyer's Journey
- Marketing-Sales Alignment
However, marketing can become an expense when you keep spending with little to show for it after a year, two, five.
With that said, it's important to realize that all marketing takes time to deliver a positive ROI. It takes time to build trust and get your sales funnels moving like a well-oiled machine. For this reason, it's critical to work with a digital marketing agency that has a track record and can deliver on its promises.
However, for companies looking for quick wins with a limited budget, certain marketing agencies do have DIY programs that can catapulte your sales in a short period of time. Take a look at our new Masterclass, The 5 Most Critical Lead Generation Mistakes Business Make, to get an idea.
What to Look for in a Digital Marketing Company
Without a doubt, SEO is important in the modern buyer's journey.
Overwhelmingly, people today research and buy online, even if you offer services or goods from a physical store. SEO marketing agencies can help you increase your website visibility, but SEO alone will not grow your business.
To do that, you need a steady stream of leads who are either ready to buy or need some nurturing to understand you have the solution to their problem..
It’s more cost-effective to work with a digital marketing agency because they get the big picture and can help your customers understand the value you offer.
You're looking for:
- A Proven process
- Someone who asks the right questions to understand your business and audience
- Long-term clients because they're happy with their results
- Able to meet client goals
- The agency uses the same process for their own company
- Realistic promises to set clear expectations … You can understand where they're going to take you and they're not cryptic about how they do it.
If you’re looking for more marketing advice on how to get better results, our article, How Digital Marketing Agencies Can Grow Your Business, offers key tips on getting the most out of your marketing budget.
Bill is the CEO and Founder of InTouch Marketing. Bill drives the vision and direction of InTouch except when England's playing in a soccer tournament, because everything stops!