Implementing search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies within your digital marketing plan has proven time after time to provide one of the best return on investment spends within the business marketing spectrum. This is, however, all dependant on you choosing the right SEO consultant or agency to help you push new business forward.
It could mean the difference between business success and business failure
I have seen so many businesses suffer because they contracted the wrong SEO supplier. As a business owner, you are literally handing over the online brand and reputation of your business to a third party. In many cases, you have worked night and day to build up your fantastic reputation, so you need to be very careful when taking on a new SEO agency or freelancer to help you. Some of the SEO horror stories I hear have resulted in businesses closing their doors for good. One business was already turning over £300K online through their website and the SEO consultant they worked with managed to turn that £300K into just £300 by implementing the wrong SEO strategy. As a result, real lives were affected with people losing their jobs – which has a massive knock-on effect.
You need to take some responsibility
This article is not a massive dig at SEO suppliers. I have written about this subject so that you as a business owner or someone who is responsible for recruiting the right SEO agency, has a better understanding of how to choose a supplier who is going to help you secure new business.
The fact is, if you have worked with an SEO supplier who has not delivered on their promise – you must take some responsibility for not doing the right research in the first place or asking the right questions. Some SEO campaigns also fail to deliver just because the SEO consultant working on your marketing campaign cannot gain access to things they need to do their job.
First things first!
Before you even start to reach out to potential SEO suppliers, you need to understand two important things:
- How does implementing search engine optimisation into your marketing strategy help your individual business?
- What you want to achieve, along with your goals and expectations?
The reason you are looking for an SEO supplier is probably because you do not understand how to implement SEO or if you do have a basic knowledge, you do not have the resources. It is important though that you understand what needs to happen.
There is no point at all saying that you want SEO just because everyone else is doing it. The purpose of SEO is to drive people to your website who are (at least) interested in the products or services you offer.
This is achieved by ensuring your website ranks high on search engines for as many related words and phrases as possible. The more targeted phrases your website ranks for – the more people look at your site who are interested in what you do – the more enquiries you will receive.
That is a very basic understanding of how SEO will help your business. You now need to decide and set your own expectations. What is ‘it’ that will make you think this is a positive SEO campaign? I speak to hundreds of SEO suppliers and hardly anyone discusses this with their potential clients. Think about it for a moment! If you do not know what your own expectations are – how is the SEO supplier meant to know? This is often the root cause of an SEO campaign that starts to go wrong.
The one question you should never ask
There are many articles on the internet that list a bunch of questions you should always ask a potential SEO supplier and nearly every one of those tells you to ask – “Can you give me examples of results you have achieved?”
For one thing, how do you recognise a good SEO campaign? More importantly, no supplier is going to give you links to websites where the SEO campaign has gone wrong or they have not managed to deliver on their promise?
Usually SEO agencies have a core selection of case studies that they use for sales purposes. They will only ever show you the very best results they have achieved. In many cases, these results have also been secured with budget levels a lot higher than your own.
The top 10 must ask questions, along with possible answers
There is no secret recipe or top-secret sauce within the SEO industry, so if any SEO supplier cannot or will not answer any of the below questions – run a mile.
Personally, I believe that there is not enough transparency within the digital marketing industry, so I’m even going to list how I would answer these questions. This will allow you to see if your supplier’s answers are similar to mine.
Regarding the questions you should ask, you need to start by turning things on their head and asking questions SEO suppliers should not be completely agreeing with or that do not have solely positive answers, such as:
Q1. I want to be No.1 on Google. Can you guarantee this will happen?
A1. Anything is possible if your budget allows and you have the time to wait for results, since I do not control what your competition is doing and planning for the future. This means we can only monitor them and tweak your campaign accordingly.
Q2. How many keywords will I get?
A2. The days of selling SEO based on the number of keywords is long gone and should have never been i the practice in the first place. The fact is, each page on your website should relate to something people search. Over time, the more fully optimised pages your website has – the more keywords and phrases it will rank for, if Google trusts your website and brand in the first place.
Q3. Do you offer set priced SEO packages I can choose from?
A3. The simple answer is no. The reason is that what works for one website in one industry may not work for another site in a different industry. In fact, in some cases, two websites in the same industry may require different strategies. Every single website we work on needs to be treated individually, with a unique SEO strategy, based on your own business goals and expectations.
Q4. Will any future Google updates affect our online exposure?
A4. I do hope so, as it should always affect it in a positive way; the update will get rid of a few sites who are not focusing on business development and who are playing the manipulation game. The only reason your site would ever drop in online exposure during a new Google update is because the SEO consultant working on your website has done something they shouldn’t.
Now here are some positive response questions you should ask:
Q5. How are you going to get my website ranked?
A5. Before I can answer this question, I need to look at the SEO history of your website, what your competitors are doing and understand your industry. Once I have completed this, I am able to tell you exactly how we can deliver the desired results.
Q6. What’s more important – rankings or revenue?
A6. What I think is important is irrelevant. The important thing is, what’s more important to you? As your preferred new SEO supplier, it is important for us to understand what you are trying to achieve by working together.
Q7. I will need you to list each individual SEO task each month, so I can see what I’m getting for my money. Can you provide this?
A7. This is standard. This is a two-way thing. As such, it is important that full transparency happens on both sides. That way, there are no misunderstandings along the way. You will be aware of what we are doing, why we are doing it and what impact it has had.
Q8. Will you be implementing any technical changes to our website?
A8. You wouldn’t put petrol in a car with a broken engine so we would never move forward without ensuring the search engines can crawl your website without picking up on any issues.
Technical SEO changes are a must and one of the first things that need to be looked at during a successful SEO campaign. These changes will be made by our in-house technical team if complete access is provided, or we are happy to document any technical change requests for you to pass onto your own web developer to implement. We do however need these changes actioned in a timely fashion.
Q9. Can I speak and meet with the people who are going to be working on my business?
A9. Not a problem at all. When would you like to arrange a visit to our office, so you can meet our team face to face?
Q10. How long will it take to secure results?
A10. SEO is a never-ending process, as there is always a way to increase exposure month on month. Timescales are all based on your expectations and budget levels. If these two are in line with each other, you will start to see improvement within the first three months (this does depend on the level of your active competition).
By the time you have gone through these questions with a potential SEO supplier, you will get a feeling about whether you can trust and work with the agency or individual based on the answers they provide.
I have, however, seen a lot of SEO agencies who could talk the talk but failed to deliver. I suggest that you request to speak to the owner or director of the agency and not a sales person, for obvious reasons.
Tracking the performance of your SEO campaign
Assuming you have managed to find a new SEO supplier you can work with and trust. The next step is for you to understand how you can track the performance of the campaign. I would always suggest that you keep an eye on the impact of the campaign individually so you can relate to what you are being told and what is being reported on.
How you track the performance will depend on what your individual goals, objectives and expectations are. Below are the main three steps you should be tracking:
- Rankings – Does your website rank for terms related to your business?
- Traffic – Are more people looking at your website because of the increased rankings?
- Conversions – A conversion is classed as any contact a person browsing your website has made with your business. This could be either via email, telephone, through a form on your website, live chat or even a sale if you run an ecommerce website.
Conversions can only be achieved by ensuring that the people visiting your website want and need the product or service your business provides. Traffic (driven through organic search) can only be achieved if your website is ranking terms that satisfy the intent of the person performing the search. Rankings can only be (ethically) secured by putting the best interests of your business first, having a business development mind and thinking logically.
You can track your rankings through online rank tracking software, such as RankWatch (starting at £19 per month). Manually searching Google yourself is not recommended, as the results you see will be personalised to your search history and will probably not be a true reflection on where others see your website ranking.
You can track your traffic by simply logging into your Google Analytics account. This is a free tool provided by Google and I suggest you set this up under your own account and just grant your SEO supplier access. This way, you retain complete control of all your analytical data.
Regarding conversions, if you are already in control of this, you will be aware of how many new leads you are receiving. Working out where these leads have come from, can be a little trickier, which I will discuss in a future post.
My site is ranking but I’m not receiving any new leads
This is something I hear a lot. There are many reasons this might happen. Mostly it is because your site is ranking for untargeted terms. Another reason might be that the content on your website does not build trust or sell your business.
Using the three-step tracking process above, you will soon be able to understand what is causing the issues within your SEO strategy. Your supplier should, however, be calling you up to discuss this before you even notice you have a problem. Always keep in mind; sometimes things do happen that are out of our control but there is always a solution to any problem and communication is the key to a great relationship.
Source: Mark Preston