A quick word about search marketing
Search marketing, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is a digital marketing strategy used to help websites increase their visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
- Organic search marketing includes SEO (search engine optimization) that improves companies’ ranking if they structure their websites, do link building, use keywords and meta tags, and create top-quality content.
- Paid search includes SEA (search engine advertising), also known as Pay-Per-Click, a type of advertising, which is shown to users above organic search results.
Search marketing developed after search engine platforms introduced more complex algorithms to help users find high-quality websites. The better your website is designed and filled with useful content, the more weight Google search engine and the likes give to you and the easier people can find you while browsing similar products online.
SEO and SEA are closely tied with content marketing, website design, web analytics, social media, and the customer-centric culture that has shaped the digital B2B landscape. To make it to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs), companies have to make their websites fast and easy to navigate while marketing teams make their content easy to find. Thus, search engine optimization is close to marketing and human psychology in spirit and methodology.
What will happen if you hire the wrong SEO agency?
Understanding how search engines work is challenging, especially if you are not very techy. Many companies can’t tell the right from wrong in SEO because they get overwhelmed with all that lingo, complicated link building, and multiple SEO practices. If you’re not sure what exactly a top SEO firm looks like, here’s what can happen to your website if you entrust your digital reputation to an unreputable SEM service provider.
Bad SEO - what is it?
The essence of SEO practices is to improve a website’s ranking by using up-to-date search engine methods. Bad SEO is the opposite of that intention:
- Decreasing website ranking
- Getting behind the SEO industry and tactics
- Using ineffective, outdated, “stuck in the 2000s” strategies
- Using unethical “blackhat” methods against Google’s guidelines
- Creating duplicated content and clusters of irrelevant keywords that will take you ages to locate and get rid of.
What does good SEO look like?
If your search marketing is top-notch, you’ll get:
- Improved ranking, which means you get business leads and more organic traffic
- An organic traffic boost, which means more calls and/or onsite webforms
- More calls and/or onsite webforms, which means skyrocketed sales
- Skyrocketed sales, which means higher revenue.
How to understand what you need from an SEO agency?
First, you need to consider the size of your website, your SEO and non-SEO teams, technical capabilities, urgent issues, and, of course, the budget should be factored in when determining what to look for in an SEO agency.
If you have an unlimited budget, think no more and choose among top SEO companies in the world, as the digital world knows no boundaries. As for the rest, let’s take a look at a handful of scenarios and some guiding suggestions.
- Scenario 1. You’re a small business and have implemented no SEO before. If you’re on a tight budget, doing as much as you can in-house is more affordable. If the business’s website is not complex yet, you can read up and learn how to do SEO at your scale. Then you get an SEO audit from an agency and can start working on specific complex issues.
- Scenario 2. You’re a large-scale company and have never implemented SEO before. You start with an SEO audit which will include all aspects of your business, such as content analysis, audience analysis, etc. After the audit, you will know what can be handled in-house and what should be outsourced.
- Scenario 3. Your in-house SEO capacities are not enough for a new project. Outsource it to an agency or consultant, considering the time needed for the project.
- Scenario 4. Non-SEO and SEO teams are not aligned in your company. In this case, you need to hire someone from an experienced SEM agency who is good at human psychology and knows how to bring behavioral change in people.
- Scenario 5. Your in-house team has no time for creating SEO documentation. While your SEO team is busy with their ongoing tasks, it makes a lot of sense to outsource checklists, POV documents, guidelines, etc. to an agency.
- Scenario 6. You want to bring in someone for a specific task. For example, SEO reporting is hard to set up at a high level. You’d better pay a consultant to do this for you.
- Scenario 8. You want SEO success quickly. Even companies with good SEO teams may need to consult high-level SEO services. In enterprise-level companies, implementing SEO recommendations more efficiently results in more impressive numbers of revenue.
Google recommendations on hiring SEO companies
Before checking out the best search engine optimization companies, let’s see what Google has to say about SEO practices. As the Big Tech giant behind the emergence of search marketing, Google is interested in educating users on how they can perform better in search results.
Here’s a breakdown of steps Google suggests to take before making a final judgment on your SEO partner.
Step 1. Interview your SEO candidate
Google suggests that companies looking to outsource their SEO efforts choose only among the agencies that demonstrate a genuine interest in your business. If your SEO candidate knows all technical aspects of SEO and SEM but fails to ask exploratory questions about your business, better look elsewhere.
According to Google, SEO agencies can truly help only if their take on your business is holistic. Good SEO cannot be purely technical and mechanical. It should include the knowledge of your target audience and their ways of finding you, your marketing channels, USP, ICP, your competition, and the website’s function (lead generation from onsite forms, blog, etc.).
Step 2. Talk to past clients
Now, you need to make sure that an agency not only cares about your success but can also deliver it in terms of search marketing. Checking reviews and references is a common practice when choosing a service provider. A good SEO doesn’t just improve your website’s ranking but also educates your team on how SEO works.
Google recommends asking specific questions on an agency’s work performance:
- Do they deliver it on time?
- Are their suggestions actionable and helpful?
- What are their results in numbers (their rankings on major keyword terms before and after a company acted on their SEO recommendations)?
- Do they explain how search works so that you could now create content with SEO in mind?
Step 3. Request audit
By that stage in your qualification process, there are fewer candidates for larger enterprises or just one for SMEs. And you should request a paid audit from them. By giving restricted access to the company’s website, you expect an SEO candidate to examine it from technical and search viewpoints.
A search and technical SEO audit is not something that can be easily handed around as ‘free audit.’ So don’t be fooled by false promises. At the very best, you will get a generic, automated report. A proper audit is usually paid for.
An audit report should include not only suggested improvements and estimates but also estimated impact on your business and an implementation plan. Each suggestion should be corroborated with Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Step 4. Make your choice
After you make up your mind and get ready to hire, make sure your entire company is on board with the whole SEO outsourcing process. As practice shows, implementing SEO recommendations is much more difficult than finding the best SEO services. Outsource only what you have enough resources for.
List of the world’s best SEO companies and services
As a B2B lead generation agency, we often consult and partner with search marketing consultants. Now we want to share our Top 10 of Best SEO Companies and Services with you.
Sure Oak, a full-service SEO firm in Brooklyn, NY, is focused on SEO and content services but also helps with link building, web development & design, paid search marketing, and social media advertising. Boasting Mercedes-Benz, The Gap, and American Red Cross among its clients, Sure Oak promises a holistic approach to SEO, just as Google recommends. The agency offers custom solutions so there is no pricing page on the website.
Based in Krakow, Poland, Delante is an international SEO/SEM agency that came 8th in the 2020 world’s best global SEO agencies. Keeping their client focus on small businesses (60% of all clients), Delante can also cater to enterprise and midmarket (20% and 20% respectively). While Clutch points out the agency’s hourly rate of $99, Delante has no fixed rates on their website.
Located in Milwaukee, US, Rocketclicks is a digital marketing firm that splits its web market solutions into paid and unpaid options (SEO PPC). After a personalized audit, Rocketclicks builds and helps implement a search marketing strategy. Clutch indicates that Rocketclicks charges $150 to $199 per hour.
A digital marketing agency from Pennsylvania, US, WebFX enhances its SEO services with lead generation, content marketing, email marketing, paid ads, and UX and Web design. Based in 1999, WebFX has developed its own analytical and automated tools. Also providing custom-made solutions, WebFx nevertheless quotes their baseline prices: Local SEO from $350/month; email marketing services from $300/month.
Specialized in SEO and paid media, Titan Growth is a California agency that uses its own patented technology, TitanBot, to quickly analyze clients’ websites and create personalized strategies. According to Clutch’s overview, the agency’s price tag ranges from $100 to $149 per hour. But overall, Titan Growth has no fixed prices.
Based in Colorado Springs, Social SEO is a digital marketing agency that has had over 20 years in all types of marketing (social media, search engine, Amazon, influencer) and various services (video, web design, graphic design, SEO). Each new project has its price calculated.
Working from Lehi, UT, Boostability offers affordable SEO services to small and medium businesses, thanks to its technology platform. Promising top-ranking positions in Google within 6 months, Boostability also does CRO, website design, and content creation. Price rates start from $500 per month.
As an Internet marketing agency working from Dallas, TX, Thrive offers full-service marketing solutions, including SEO, PPC, link building, Google Analytics services as well as content creation, social media marketing, web design, Amazon marketing, reputation management. Promising affordable prices, Thrive doesn’t disclose its quotes.
Directive is a performance marketing agency located in Irvine, CA, that offers search engine optimization among its other services. Since prices are calculated for every client individually, only Clutch gives ballpark figures for Directive’s pricing, ranging around $150-$199 per hour.
Need help in choosing SEO services?
The SEO market has no shortage of SEO services, regardless of your location. Even the smallest businesses can find something affordable. In your are looking for a search engine optimization company, keep in mind that implementation is usually the most difficult part of your website’s SEO.