Partnering with a search engine optimization (SEO) agency requires more than pulling a random name out of a hat and calling it a day. Careful evaluation and research go into choosing an SEO company that fits your goals and budget — after more than 25 years in the industry, we know.
That’s why our team has compiled our top recommendations for how to compare SEO agencies:
Comparing SEO companies: 7 factors to consider
When determining how to compare SEO companies, there are a lot of factors to consider, whether you’re a small to medium-sized business (SMB) or a larger company that requires enterprise SEO services. Some are more important than others, but all play a role in helping you choose the best SEO provider for your business.
Take a look at what you should consider when choosing an SEO agency:
- Agency deliverables
- Industry expertise
- General expertise and experience
- Customer service
- Technology and software
|Questions to Ask
|General expertise and experience
|Technology and software
1. Agency deliverables
When comparing the best SEO agencies for your business, look at their deliverables so you know:
- What you’ll receive on a one-time or ongoing basis
- How often they’ll perform these tasks
- What they’ll need from you to perform these tasks
Understanding what you’re looking for in an SEO partner can help you determine which SEO firms are most relevant to your business. For example, if you’re looking for a white-glove SEO plan, focus on full-service agencies vs. niche ones.
At minimum, the best SEO companies should provide the following with your plan:
- SEO audit
- SEO reporting
- SEO consulting call(s)
- Account manager
If you’re partnering with a full-service agency, they should also deliver:
- On-page optimizations
- Off-page optimizations
- Technical optimizations
Keep in mind, how much the company delivers will depend on your business, too. For example, if you’re unable to give the agency site access, you’ll become responsible for implementing the optimizations.
Before you dive into comparing SEO companies, outline what you’re looking for in SEO deliverables. By outlining your needs, you can better narrow down your pool of potential SEO partners and hone in on those best suited to your SEO goals.
Questions to ask
- What services am I looking for?
- What am I trying to achieve with these services?
- Do I need a full-service or specialty agency?
- How much time will the company require from me and my team?
2. Industry expertise
Along with the extent of their digital marketing services, you also want to look at whether an agency has industry expertise. Your business and industry are unique. With that in mind, you need an SEO strategy that keeps you competitive in your space.
Having an SEO agency on your side with experience in your industry is a huge asset and can give you peace of mind.
Do a deep dive into your prospective agencies’ case studies and previous clients. Are any of them related to your industry? Having an SEO agency on your side with experience in your industry is a huge asset and can give you the peace of mind that your SEO partner understands the unique needs of your market.
Questions to ask
- What industries has this agency worked in?
- Has this agency worked in my industry or related ones?
- Do they offer case studies with provable results?
3. General expertise and experience
Moving away from specializations and industry experience, look at the general experience of each agency. When trying to figure out how to choose an SEO agency, businesses can sometimes get so wrapped up in looking for specifics that they forget to look at the big picture.
Questions to ask
- How long has this agency been in business?
- Do they have proven and consistent results?
- Do they specialize in my industry?
4. Customer service
When you think of customer service, you probably think of sales associates helping people in a store. When figuring out how to choose the right SEO agency, customer service is all about how agencies interact with their clients and how often.
Examine what an agency’s SEO services include and see if they mention regular meetings to discuss goals, SEO results, and strategy.
You can understand an agency’s customer service record by reading client testimonials and reviews.
Look for instances in which they talk about working directly with agency representatives. Were they satisfied with their help? Did they actively listen to client concerns and questions, or did clients say they felt like they were being brushed off?
Additionally, carefully examine what an agency’s SEO services include and see if they mention regular meetings to discuss goals, SEO results, and strategy. You should also look for mentions of high employee turnover, like if the client bounced from one account manager to the next regularly.
Questions to ask
- Are previous clients satisfied with how the agency offers assistance?
- Does the agency offer SEO recommendations and then leave you high and dry, or do they help you implement those findings?
- How often does the agency communicate results with clients?
- How much employee turnover does the agency experience?
While choosing an SEO company to work with, you’ll also want to consider the agency’s location. Does your team prefer to work with an agency in the area? What about the same time zone? Location plays a significant role in how and when you communicate with your chosen agency.
Local agencies offer the benefit of in-person meetings as well as virtual ones.
Similarly, working with SEO agencies in your area or neighboring time zones means you can communicate with them during regular business hours and expect quicker response times. If you’re more inclined to partner with an overseas agency, some planning will be required to set up effective means of communication.
Whatever the choice, it all depends on what works best for your team.
Questions to ask
- Do I want to work with this agency in person or remotely?
- What time zone is this agency in?
- Do you and your team prefer to work with a local agency?
6. Technology and software
Along with their services, SEO agencies will often have software that they use to support their work. This software can range from third-party tools to white-labeled platforms to proprietary technology developed in-house.
An SEO company’s tech can be transformative for a business.
An SEO company’s tech stack matters for a few reasons, including:
- Streamlines tasks, like keyword research, link building, and more
- Tracks competitor movements, gains, losses, and strategic changes
- Reports on rankings, traffic, and even return on investment
- Aligns other departments, like sales, and marketing campaigns, like paid
Now, there are a few considerations when comparing these software options:
- Third-party tools: Ahrefs, Semrush, Screaming Frog — these are all helpful SEO tools, and just about every SEO agency uses one or all of these platforms. If they don’t, be skeptical about how they’re doing SEO.
- White-label platforms: Lots of agencies use white-label platforms. The problem, however, is updates, patches, and innovations rely on a third-party who also sets pricing, which gets passed on to your business.
- Proprietary technology: Agencies that develop SEO software in-house are often top SEO companies. With a platform built for SEO marketing (like MarketingCloudFX), tracking, reporting, and management is easy.
When comparing SEO agencies, look at their tech stacks, and ask:
- What type of tech (third-party, white-label, or proprietary) do they use?
- How much does the tech cost standalone vs. through their services?
- What pain points can I solve with this technology?
- How will this technology affect other departments and/or campaigns?
In our experience, an SEO company’s tech can be transformative for a business.
Imagine if you could remove the silos between marketing and sales, for example? Or, if you could track a user’s journey online and offline journey, from start to finish? You could transform marketing and SEO’s role in your business’s growth.
So, take the time to investigate an SEO agency’s tech, and get other team members involved too, like your IT team, to better understand how the tech could integrate with your company’s tech stack.
Questions to ask
- Does this agency use marketing technology to support its work?
- What marketing technology does the agency use?
- Is the technology white-label (subject to higher costs) or proprietary?
Finally, when you’re choosing an SEO company to partner with, pricing is a crucial factor to consider. Before setting a budget, do some research on what good SEO costs.
From our research, SEO services cost $2500 to $10,000 per month and depend on:
- The agency’s experience
- The agency’s tech stack
- The agency’s location
- The agency’s team
While you’ll see plenty of advertisements for SEO plans that cost less than that, there are serious risks with “cheap” search engine optimization. Besides wasting your marketing budget, these providers can also:
- Get your website banned from Google’s search index
- Harm your business’s online reputation
- Decrease your SEO performance via lost rankings and traffic
In our 25+ years of experience, we’ve seen first-hand the impact of cheap SEO.
Repairing the damage of these services can take months or longer. In some cases, businesses can’t even afford to get SEO help afterward because they’ve drained their budget. That’s why we can’t emphasize enough you avoid these providers.
So, research what good SEO costs and then build your monthly SEO budget.
Keep in mind, most SEO companies will have an initial cost separate from your ongoing monthly cost. This initial cost covers the cost of onboarding your business and preparing your site for ongoing SEO, like by fixing SEO issues.
As you compare SEO companies, you’ll find most agencies do not post their pricing online. A few, like WebFX, do. So, if you want an SEO agency’s cost, you’ll need to contact them and provide information about your business and goals.
Questions to ask
- What is my monthly SEO budget?
- Is my budget realistic against my goals and needs?
- How much am I willing to pay for SEO services?
Begin your SEO journey with SEO.com
Begin (and end) your search for the best SEO agency with SEO.com.
SEO.com is home to SEOs with over 25 years of experience delivering results that matter to our clients. We lean away from vanity metrics and use in-house marketing technology to offer data-driven insights into how SEO content is performing and help businesses build a custom SEO strategy that works for them.
Learn more about how you can accelerate your SEO strategy with SEO.com!
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