Published May 06th, 2019 by Editorial Team

The Small Business Guide to Hiring an SEO Agency

Your small business has been up and running for years, but you eventually notice that sales are going down. You may feel that this is unusual since you’ve been going through tried and tested traditional marketing methods to make sure you’re still putting your brand out there, but therein lies the fault.

We are now living in the digital age, where technology has practically changed the way we live and do things. Traditional methods have evolved into more advanced techniques. Your business will have a tough time to thrive if you don’t adapt to the changing times.

When it comes to building your brand, conventional marketing no longer works. And in putting it out there, the more prudent choice is to hire an SEO agency.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the digital pathway in marketing your business through a website, regardless of size and industry. Your website is more than just your online calling card – it’s your primary digital marketing material that will increase your brand visibility and potentially grow your business. This is the reason why you’ll need the expertise of an SEO agency to effectively optimize your site for you.

Here are other benefits you can reap:

Business Visibility and Branding

People now rely on the internet in searching for products and services that they need, particularly Google, which is the market leader in search engine queries.

When they do this, you’d want your website to appear on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP) and rank for keywords that pertain to your industry.

Trust and Credibility

In the minds of consumers who see your brand on the first page of search engines for a given set of keywords, your ranking is a vote of confidence.

Ranking high means you’ve been meeting the search engine’s standards, which includes having a strong foundation for a beautiful website with a clean and effective user experience. Not to mention, informative and helpful content.


Traffic itself is not going to make you any money. However, getting lots of it is akin to setting up your storefront in the middle of the busiest part of town that’s always crowded with people looking to shop. They won’t make you a profit unless they purchase from you, but being right there in the middle of it all increases the likelihood of this to happen.

SEO works similarly in this kind of scenario. Remember, it’s better to do business on a crowded street corner than set up shop in an abandoned town. What’s more is that SEO is often more affordable than a lease in a busy part of town, and the people coming to your site are all qualified leads since they were already searching for businesses like yours before landing on your page.

One of the Best ROIs in Advertising

Your SEO efforts reward your business at a higher rate than almost all traditional forms of advertising. And since it’s an inbound marketing strategy, it allows you to market to people at a time when they’re looking for the products or services that your business offers.

You don’t have to convince them that they need your product or service; you just have to convince them you’re the right business to purchase from. Through good SEO, half the battle is won before it even starts.

Unparalleled Insight into Your Customers

With SEO generating valuable traffic for your business’s website, you can use Google Analytics as an amazing tool to give you insights into your customers. You’ll have access to metrics that offer useful information about how they search or browse, the technology they use, their location, and both the days and times they are active, among other data.

All this valuable information can help you make intelligent decisions in your business strategies.

Yes, SEO is indeed a necessity when marketing your business digitally. Now that you have a good idea of how SEO can help your business grow, it’s time to find the perfect partner that will be instrumental in realizing your goals.

How to Find and Evaluate an SEO Agency

Whether you’ve been around for years or just starting out, jumping into the digital marketing pool and swimming towards your marketing goals can be done with SEO.

To do this, you’ll need the expertise of a company that offers exceptional SEO services guaranteed to get you the leads that you need for your business to thrive.

Here are the things that you need to know when partnering up with the right SEO agency:

Step 1

Before you mount any search, you should first sit down with your team and agree on the goals you’d want to achieve with SEO. Establish the need for SEO and align it with your marketing goals. You should also determine how you’ll measure its success.


  • Get your website in front of people who are researching your product or service. You’ll need traffic from these specific groups for a more targeted approach.
  • Use SEO as a sales driving channel and boost revenue through new leads.
  • Aim to boost downloads, free sign-ups, or free trials from your offers.
  • Boost sentiment for your brand by pushing the good reviews up and the bad reviews down.


  • Focus solely on traffic. Getting loads of traffic shouldn’t be a goal in itself despite being a source of revenue if it converts well.
  • Focus on rankings alone.
  • Beat a particular competitor out for specific keywords or phrases, as this doesn’t directly drive revenue and your organizational goals.
  • Focus on vanity metrics. It’s not a good idea to look for SEO agencies that can help bring your domain authority or Google PageRank up.

Step 2

After listing down your goals, you can move on to the more important task of selecting an SEO agency. It’s suggested to list three to five to hit that sweet spot. Of course, your choice will entirely depend on your preferences.

You might go for an agency that’s within your region, so you can frequently meet the team in person or at least have someone fly to you on a regular basis. Perhaps an agency that can work remotely is fine with you, or maybe the price range is your main concern.

If it fits your criteria, include them in your list. You can start digging into references, make some calls, and set up appointments.


  • Tap into your friends, family members, personal acquaintances, and professional networks as your resources.
  • Form relationships with similar non-competitive companies, too. Finding out who they use and whether they’ve achieved success with the partnership they’ve formed is a great way to find some good people.
  • Connect with industry insiders. You can reach out through social media, read blogs, and connect with influential insiders you have relationships with or whose opinions matter to you and ask them who they’d recommend.
  • Ask the right questions such as the process an SEO agency is going to use to accomplish your goals and the reason this specific process will help achieve the bottom line.
  • Know their communication and reporting process. The frequency should be established with the metrics necessary to demonstrate progress. There should also be an explanation of how these metrics match up to your goals and how they align with your strategies.
  • Find out what the agency will do when things aren’t going as planned. It’s important to know if a contingency plan is in place.
  • Dig into how broad the agency’s understanding of Google is such as how the search engine ranks results and how they can influence these rankings.


  • Fall for guarantees. Since Google changes its algorithm regularly, there are no guarantees when it comes to ranking on SERPs. An SEO agency doesn’t have control over the search engines or what the competition is doing. Remember, it takes time to rank in organic search.
  • Think ranking number one in paid is the same in SEO. Many people have a tough time telling the difference between paid and organic search engine results. Consequently, some SEO companies sell AdWords or SEM services where your paid ad will sit in the number one position and make it look impressive.
  • Fall for gimmicks. Some SEO agencies may look good on paper, but upon closer inspection, they’re just all show and no substance. Avoid being blinded by those who boast about unique tools that cut them above the rest.
  • Rush into your decision. Indeed, an SEO agency can be very helpful, but don’t be too eager to start your campaign and immediately hire one. Take your time and do your research. It’s all going to pay off in the end.

Step 3

You’ve gone through your references, referrals, and trusted networks to finally find that one agency that could be your partner in realizing your business goals. Now, you can move towards hiring your choice. Sign them up, brief them about your brand, align your goals, and have them start working on your SEO needs.


  • Establish a contract structure that runs on a monthly basis and at a fixed length of time. Expect to make an upfront payment and an ongoing monthly fee, so make sure that the payment and service delivery processes are agreed on by both parties.
  • Request for an SEO audit. Some do this to help businesses figure out what they’re doing well and where they can make improvements in their SEO practices.
  • Avoid long-term contracts. Be wary of companies that lock you in for longer than 12 months since they might be doing this, so you can’t just drop them if they fail to deliver the kind of services expected of them.


  • Start anything without a contract. A contract is a binding instrument that aims to govern your rights and the agency’s duties in delivering the services you’ve both agreed on. This is important in protecting your company and employees from any losses.
  • Base your decision solely on price. Remember, you get what you pay for, so it’s best to avoid those that offer dramatically low prices. Chances are, the quality of work may deliver subpar results.  

7 Red Flags to Watch Out For

Now that you’re working with your new SEO agency partner, you’ll have to find out if they’re worth keeping or you have to cut ties when the contract ends. This requires an observant eye when it comes to how the company handles your needs.

Here are the red flags you need to be aware of:

  1. Poor line of communication

    One of the priorities in keeping a partnership working is a clear and strong line of communication. This is where the foundations of solid relationships are built on.

    If your agency partner fails to establish this early on, it’s going to be a disaster moving forward.

  2. Lack of transparency

    The agency should be open to sharing their process and all the data that don’t go through filters in their systems. Analytics and AdWords account information should be shared. And if you have questions, answers are backed up with real data and statistics.

    The bottomline is, the truth should always be on the table. Be wary if you get nothing but good news. There will be times when things go wrong, but that’s alright, as long as there are transparency and trust between the two parties.

  3. Skipping out on competitive analysis

    Keeping tabs on the competition is a crucial part of running a business. There are tools that can help see how your website is doing against your business rivals. If they’re doing things right, it’s your responsibility to know and emulate them.

    Conversely, if they’re doing things wrong, you should do everything to avoid making the same mistakes while capitalizing on the opportunity to be better than them.

  4. Both your ranking and traffic drop

    Ranking and traffic drop for a variety of reasons. It’s not a good thing to obsess over them, but you should keep an eye on these metrics since your site may be algorithmically penalized due to bad SEO practices. 

    If this happens, you need to start asking questions.

  5. You start ranking for the wrong keywords

    It’s standard procedure to already know what your target keywords are in relation to your industry. Moreover, you should have an idea of how your long tail keywords are driving traffic or ranking on SERPs based on Google Analytics.

    If your organic keywords change and begin gaining traffic from wrong keywords, it’s time to be wary. Perhaps you stopped ranking for previously high-ranking keywords, making this problematic for your website.

    Remember, your goal in growing traffic is to earn targeted leads. If it comes from random or suspicious queries, it could be a sign of bad work by an SEO agency.

  6. You notice an increase in suspicious linkbacks on your link profile

    One of the metrics that you need to look out for is your link profile, which is made up of links directing to your site.

    Google favors links from a variety of websites and high domain authority sites. If something goes wrong with your link profile, it means your site may be in trouble.

  7. Optimized anchor text from backlinks

    Optimized anchors consist of an anchor text made up of your keywords. After Google’s Penguin update, the search engine penalized the sites that showed signs of anchor optimization, making it a major no-no in SEO.

    Let’s say your site is and you’re trying to rank for the keyword ‘cheap Toyota car parts. When you gain a backlink, and the keyword is cheap Toyota car parts, that’s anchor optimization.

    When researching your link profile and find that you’re gaining a considerable amount of such optimized links, this would only mean one thing: your SEO agency’s efforts are leaning towards the more devious side.

Choosing the Right SEO Agency is a Critical Business Move

Growing your business in this digital age may appear to take a lot of work, but with the right SEO agency, you’ll be in good hands.

Like with any business partner, having one with the right attitude, expertise, and transparency are crucial in making that decision. Remember, the SEO team’s success is your business’ success, too.

With this guide, you’ll know how to make the right decision and be on your way to boosting your website’s metrics needed to rank high in SERPs. Everywhere!

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