The truth of the matter is that most ad agencies only added SEO as a service because they were forced to by their demanding clientele. Most traditional agencies are not equipped with the tools and experience to successfully implement a good SEO campaign. Digital marketing, whether it be SEO, PPC, CRO or Social Media is quite different than traditional marketing, and though your agency might be great at the print work and media buying, they don’t have the ability to take on the Web.
These days SEO is becoming as much a catch phrase as it is a vital online marketing strategy. Today, without even fully understanding what it is, companies are demanding an SEO campaign from their traditional ad agencies, even if the agency isn't prepared.
So before you sign on with your traditional ad agency for SEO, here is a quick checklist to see if they know their SEO. The easiest way to do that is to see if they are doing SEO for themselves. Because if they claim SEO is important for you, then shouldn’t it be important for them?
1) Page Titles
Take a look at the page titles of the site. You’ll find these in the top of your Web browser. Page titles are the most important aspect of on-page optimization, and any site that has been optimized for the search engines will have a unique title for every page of the website. I have seen a lot of agencies that completely lack targeted titles, and often their title will only be the company name.
2) 301 Redirect to the www-version of the site
Another way to check their on-page optimization is to see if the non-www version of a website redirects to the www version, or vice-versa.
You can check this by simply removing or adding “www.” to the address bar of the site. If the URL changes from what you had when you hit enter, then a redirect is in place, and the site is properly optimized.
Content is the ad agency’s greatest fear. Text is drab on their creativity. It is boring, and it doesn't get read. Most ad agencies really have a hard time putting content in its place, and they prefer the “flash-and-wow” or shock and awe aspects of a site. They feel it is a chance to show off their skills and creativity.
For SEO, content is crucial. If a company is optimizing their site, they should have a good amount of content describing their services. Not only should you find content, but hopefully you’ll find a structure to it as well. Typically you should see individual pages for every service they offer. The PR service should have its own page, graphic design should have its own, and web dev, media buying, and every other service should have its own page.
This is important because it means more pages are optimized for certain groups of keywords, which is essential for an SEO campaign. Content is good, but structured content is optimized.
4) Length of Service Offered
When talking to the sales team of an agency, you need to find out how committed the company is to your SEO campaign. Search Engine Optimization is not an overnight process, and your ad agency should not treat it like one. In other words, your agency shouldn’t offer SEO services for a one-time fee. If they do, you know they are not committed to your campaign.
5) Where Do They Rank?
Do they put their money where their mouth is? They say they offer SEO, and theoretically they should be doing SEO for themselves, right? So ask them: “Where do you rank for your keywords?” If they are doing well then they should brag about it. If they avoid the question and don’t have a good answer for you, than take it for what it is. If they give you an answer like: “We’re so busy doing client work, we don’t have time to do our own marketing!” (I have heard this many times) then you may want to do more shopping for your SEO services. In the end, I think it is a fair question to ask. NOTE:Ranking for your own branded business name doesn't count as ranking well for key-terms.
SEO can be a great fit for marketing agencies that are looking to offer more digital and online solutions for their clientele. Agencies that don’t currently offer these services may feel pressure to start because of the high demand. However, one of my personal pet-peeves is seeing companies that don’t “practice what they preach.” So many of the ad agencies that are starting to offer SEO are so blatantly bad at it on there own sites, that I cringe to think what kind of work they are doing for their clients.
A Little FYI
If you are an agency looking to keep up with the digital demands of your clients, SEO.com can help. We offer a partner program where we can help you look like the hero you really are. SEO.com has partnered with big time agencies across the country to help out a wide variety of clients. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.