What Does an SEO Agency Do?

If you have a business, you have a website — and if you have a business website, you've probably heard of SEO. But when you try to find out what an SEO agency does, exactly, and whether you actually need to hire one, all you get is a lot of buzzwords like "conversion rate optimization." 

That's why we've put together this handy guide to explain what SEO is, why you need it, and what you should expect from an SEO team with a solid search engine optimization strategy. We answer many of the common questions we are asked by potential SEO clients who are wondering if they need the help of a professional SEO agency.

Need to know more? Give Digital Shift a call to speak with an SEO professional and get a free, no-obligation assessment of how search engine optimization can benefit your business.

What Kind of Services Should My SEO Agency Provide?

When you're shopping around for an SEO service, you want to make sure they're doing everything necessary to get you the maximum bang for your buck. While there are a lot of search engine optimization companies out there, they are not all created equal. Here are some of the services your chosen SEO agency should offer.

Competitor & Keyword Research

Efficient, thorough keyword research is one of the most essential elements of the SEO process. It's very difficult to rank high for generic, popular keywords because they're so competitive. It's far more valuable to focus optimization efforts on the exact keywords your target market in your local area are using, because not only is the competition reduced, but you're also working on getting noticed by local consumers who want what you are selling. Your SEO agency should be able to optimize your website for high-value purchase intent keywords, so you can get the right kind of web traffic without having to utilize expensive pay-per-click advertisements, such as a Google Ad, to get leads.

Technical Audits & Optimization

Technical SEO is the practice of enhancing and optimizing technical aspects of your web design to increase the ease and speed of search engine indexing, and to help indicate the relevancy and authoritativeness of your website. Your SEO agency should take the time to thoroughly SEO audit elements of your site such as title tags, meta descriptions, and image tags, and make changes to ensure they are fully optimized. They should also check for issues such as broken links or missing pages and get them back in working order.

Content Creation

Original, engaging content marketing is another essential component of an SEO campaign. This includes creating optimized copy such as blog posts, service pages, and location pages for your website that will help increase search engine rankings for the targeted keywords. For example, a roofing company site may feature a blog post titled "10 Signs You Need Roof Replacement," which improves that site's rank for the keywords "roof replacement" and other phrases that are included in the blog.

But it can't just be a mash-up of keywords that don't really make sense — Google's indexing bots are too smart for that. Content needs to be well-written and informative, which takes time and skill. The digital marketing agency you choose should have expert copywriters on their team who will write optimized content for you and post it to your site with your approval. Content also goes a long way to improve SEO. If you aren't doing much business in your city's most affluent neighborhoods or the small towns and suburbs near your main city, it's likely because Google doesn't recognize your site as a relevant response to search queries from potential customers in those areas. Optimized location pages can target customers in the areas you most want to do business.

PR Outreach & Link Building

When another website links to your site, it's called a backlink. Backlinks are a very valuable part of off-page SEO, because they signal to Google and other search engines that a real person considers your site to be a useful, trustworthy source of information. While any backlink that adheres to search engine policies is helpful for search engine optimization, high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites are significantly more effective.

Most SEO agencies offer link building services, but you should hire an SEO business that focuses on a "quality over quantity" approach and conducts ethical outreach to relevant websites in your industry. That way, you build a long-term, mutually-beneficial business relationships, and as an added bonus, you get organic traffic to your site from people who followed a link they found on a trusted website.

Business Listings & Citations

Does your company have an optimized business listing on all the relevant major business directories in your industry? If not, this is a service you should be looking for from an SEO agency. Business directories almost always include a link to your site, so they can be a helpful source of backlinks, and having a listing in every relevant directory reinforces to prospective clients that your business is legitimate and well-known.

Google My Business Management

Since it started in 2014, Google My Business (GMB) has evolved into the world's largest business citation. As such, it is a key piece of the search marketing puzzle that should not be overlooked. You may already have a GMB listing, but you can't just "set it and forget it" — your listing needs to be optimized and constantly updated with fresh content, offers, and images in order for it to be a powerful social media marketing tool that can bring qualified leads to your doorstep. It's also important to respond to questions and reviews that are posted to your GMB to encourage further engagement. Effective Google My Business management takes a significant amount of time that you likely don't have available, so it's a good idea to choose an SEO agency that offers complete, done-for-you Google My Business management services.

Spam Fighting

As a legitimate business owner, you want to play fair and follow the rules — but that doesn't mean your competitors are doing the same. It makes sense to hire an SEO company that is willing and prepared to monitor your competition and report violations of search engine policies. By preventing black hat SEO tactics from your competitors, your agency will level the playing field and make sure your rivals aren't using shady SEO practices to unfairly outrank you.

Analytics & Rankings Reporting

Sometimes an SEO consultant will expect you to basically take their word for it that their SEO efforts are working. That's not good enough. Transparent, easy-to-understand reporting is necessary, both so you can follow what's happening and so your SEO team can identify opportunities for improvement. Custom dashboards are really helpful, because you can log on and see clear results for yourself whenever you want. The key factors to look for are increases in sales and call volumes, because that's ultimately why you wanted to use search engine optimization in the first place. However, your team of experts should also be tracking SEO performance metrics such as:

  • Google Analytics
  • Keyword ranking
  • Online visibility
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Inbound links
  • Online traffic

How Do I Find the Best SEO Company?

When you're looking for an SEO expert who can help you achieve your SEO goals of increasing call volumes and sales, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. You need the help of an experienced SEO agency that is capable of designing custom SEO strategies to address the unique needs of your unique business. Check out their client case studies and online reviews to find out more and make sure they are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

What Are the Warning Signs of Black Hat SEO?

The term "black hat SEO" refers to unethical practices in the SEO industry that violate search engine policies and attempt to gain an unfair advantage. Some shady SEO agencies will use dishonest optimization techniques to impress you with big gains early on, but the advantage quickly fizzles out. Even worse, your website could be penalized or suspended by major search engines, which is very difficult to recover from.

First and foremost, you should be wary of any company who claims they can get you the number one ranking on a Google result page in a short amount of time. A legitimate SEO agency will never offer you this guarantee, because there are too many ranking factors at play and Google's algorithm is constantly changing. Watch out for these other signs of shady black hat SEO tactics as well:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Plagiarized content
  • Hidden text that is the same color as the page's background and therefore "invisible"
  • Targeting keywords that aren't relevant to your industry and funneling the clicks to an unrelated page
  • Paying for backlinks or using link building schemes to create tons of low-quality backlinks
  • Cloaking to create misleading redirects in an attempt to keep actual web visitors from seeing poorly-optimized content


What is SEO, Anyway?

SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. It is the process of managing your online visibility and optimizing your website so it appears at or near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) in response to search queries that are relevant to your business. An effective SEO strategy combines on-page techniques to directly optimize your website with off-page tactics that influence your search engine ranking.

Google and other search engines always try to respond to a search query with the most relevant, authoritative websites on that topic. In order to determine which websites are trustworthy, search engine bots "crawl" through sites and index them based on clues such as the quantity and quality of information, the presence of relevant keywords, and the number of other authoritative websites that are linking to a site.

Search engine optimization is used to indicate to search engines that your site should be highly ranked for the keyword phrases that are relevant to your industry and services. That way, when a potential client in your service area enters a search query related to your business, your website will appear high up on the search engine results page, and you'll get more web traffic from people in your local area who need your services and are actively searching for someone to hire.

Is SEO Really That Important?

If you're not familiar with the ins and outs of search engine optimization and how dramatically it can affect your bottom line, it can seem intangible and unimportant. But, once you've seen the effects of a solid digital marketing strategy, you'll understand exactly why it's so critical to rank highly in organic searches.

In the past, when someone needed a service-based business or was in the market for a product, they would ask their neighbors and friends for recommendations. That doesn't happen so much anymore. Now, consumers turn to Google instead and trust it to recommend the best options for hire or purchase. In fact, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation from someone they know.

But just being online isn't enough. Your website needs to rank as highly as possible on SERPs if you want to get noticed by prospective customers and experience long-term, sustainable growth for your business. About 70% of clicks go to the first five organic search results, and less than 1% of searchers will click a link on the second page of results. If you search keywords that are relevant to your industry and area, and then have to scroll past many of your competitors before you find a link to your website, those competitors are scoring attention from all the new prospective customers in your local area while you sit around waiting for the phone to ring or wishing someone would walk through the door — and that's why SEO is really that important.

Why Does SEO Take So Long?

If you've tried a few search engine optimization techniques in the past and been frustrated because they didn't seem to have any immediate impact, there's a good reason for that. Google is constantly updating its search engine algorithms to improve ranking methods, and sites need to be constantly re-indexed to reflect changes to your website design. Search engine indexing bots are relatively fast, but when you consider the sheer volume of web pages out there, it's a little easier to understand why indexing takes so long.

The exact length of time before you start seeing the results of your SEO efforts varies based on a number of factors such as the effectiveness of your strategy and the level of competition in your area. However, most business owners will get noticeable results after about three to six months. Keep in mind that the effects are cumulative, so your 12-month results should be a marked improvement over your six-month results.

Do I Need an SEO Agency?

Wondering if your business website needs search engine optimization services? Organic SEO solutions from an experienced digital agency are an absolute must-have for any business owner who wants:

  • Qualified lead generation for clients and customers who need your services or product right now and are ready to pay.
  • Sustainable, consistent growth that you can build on year after year to create a reliable income stream.
  • Increased revenue — which pretty much speaks for itself.

SEO specialists who know what they're doing and have a firm strategy that they can customize to suit the unique needs of your business can offer you an excellent return on investment. In a year or two, your search engine optimization should pay for itself many times over. If you have more clients than you can handle and would prefer that no one else finds out about your business, you don't need an SEO agency. But if you're looking for the advantages we've outlined above, you need the help of an SEO firm that can help you reach your target audience.

Still Looking for an SEO Agency? Put Digital Shift to the Test!

Now that you know more about what an SEO agency does and the types of services they should offer, we invite you to book a free, no-obligation, 15-minute chat with one of our SEO specialists to find out exactly what we can do to increase your qualified leads and help you bring in more revenue. Tell us about your pain points and overall goals, and we'll point out what's working and answer all of your search engine optimization questions.

At Digital Shift, we want to see your business succeed. We have been operating since 2007, and have spent years developing and honing a proven, effective SEO strategy that can be adapted to perfectly suit the needs of your unique business. You focus on the work you want to be doing and, as your digital marketing ally, we'll make the most of your online presence by increasing visibility and improving your search engine rankings.

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