We are delighted to be able to interview James from Bristol based SEO company Valued SEO.
He is kind enough to breakdown what to expect when hiring an SEO agency as well as some top tips for what to look for when deciding on any digital marketing services as a small business.
James: Thanks for having me! So there are a number of decisions to make before even looking for an SEO agency. As we are focused on small businesses then the most obvious decision is what is your budget for SEO services. Unlike PPC and social ads, where you can see near enough instant results and turn them off and on as required, SEO is a long process where you may not see results for a long time (if ever!). So it is important to be comfortable with the upfront investment that is needed.
Depending on the size of your business you may also want to consider carrying out some of your own SEO before hiring an agency or freelancer. For very niche websites, making small changes such as title tags and headings on page can make a big difference. There are lots of guides online for how to do this and for wordpress sites simple plugins such as yoast and rankmath can help guide you through this process. While this wont fully replace the need for professional SEO services, they can help where your budget is low.
James: So to start off a few warning signs. If the agency you are looking to work with give ranking guarantees, particularly vague ‘rank spot 1 within 4 weeks’ then run. If its too good to be true then it almost certainly is. There are no guarantees with SEO as search engines control the rules!
Be prepared to hear the following words ‘it depends’. While annoying it is also accurate. With my services I always carry out detailed research and audits as the first stage of any potential project. These allow me to evaluate where the current business is and what the long term strategy should be. In my experience, whatever the size of business these take at least a day. So any ‘instant report’ should be queried. SEO isnt a one size fits all process so get a breakdown of the short and long term strategies the agency is suggesting before signing a contract.
If possible find out who will be working on your account and who the point of contact will be. Far too often, even at large agencies, work will be outsourced to cheap freelancers or intern level workers with little to no experience. So while you may be paying agency prices you may not be gaining that standard of service.
My number 1 tip though is ask them to breakdown the work that will be/has been carried out each month. The amount charged for administration such as reporting can be excessive and may not be needed. If you are comfortable with google analytics and basic rank checking tools then you can track results for yourself and save money on fancy but ultimately useless reports. Quarterly or even 6 month reports may be enough for your business particularly if small.
Where possible find out previous clients and check thier organic growth for yourself. Tools like SEMrush can give you a very quick idea of organic growth. If they have not grown or show very low levels of traffic then consider if this is the best agency for you.
Also great to look for
James: This one is tough to answer as it varies so much based on the size of the site and how competetive the niche is.
Generally speaking you will struggle to find agencies in the UK which will charge below £1500 per month. While this may seem a lot for a small business to consider paying for seo services, if done correctly the long term benefits can outstrip this cost. Freelancers can offer a services at lower rates due to lack of overheads. Just make sure you check out thier individual exprience and previous clients before signing in.
Again, make sure you are recieveing value for this payment. Ask for a breakdown of the actual work carried out each month rather than a report of data.
I offer a pay on results service for some small business. This is quite rare as it shifts the risk onto my business in exchange for long term gains. This service doesnt work for everyone however. I choose the clients I will work with carefully making sure that I believe I can achieve results which generate a real gain for the client. I reject more clients than I sign on with this approach!
SEO is a long term strategy and should be viewed as an investment. I would look at the strategy as 3-6 months being short term, 6-18 months as medium and 18+ months as long term.
When deciding on the length of a contract make sure you are comfortable with the total spend and be prepared to not see any results in that period if a short contract.
If you do commit to an agency, give them a chance! Demanding instant results or expecting the world from a low value contract wont help you in the long run. So trust thier expertise!
James: There are definite advantages to each which I got into more detail about on your SEO Bristol page. But really it comes down to what you feel is right for your business. Freelancers may be considered more of a risk as they may not have the contacts, developed systems and full agency processes. However, if you find the right one then you can get a bargain of a service from a high level contractor and get the best of both worlds.