How to Choose an SEO Agency: 5 Simple Steps

How to Choose an SEO Agency: 5 Simple Steps

If you’re in the market for an SEO agency partner you’re likely going to see a lot of different types of partner engagements, scopes of work, expertise, focus areas, and...
How to choose an SEO agency

If you’re in the market for an SEO agency partner you’re likely going to see a lot of different types of partner engagements, scopes of work, expertise, focus areas, and more. Going through the process of trying to decide the best options while weighing each unique engagement with what you find important can be a tall order. 

If this is your first time engaging with an SEO agency, or you’re looking to find a partner with the highest ROI due to tight budgets, you want to remain focused on key performance areas of each of your potential agency partners. The mistake many businesses make when exploring options like this is that they frequently don’t know exactly what to look for. 

Wondering How SEO Can Help Your Business?

SEO is a complex marketing discipline that can be difficult to communicate to someone who may not be familiar with it. Even if you’re not familiar with SEO, you can still head into these conversations with the necessary tools to achieve your goals. This guide will help you understand what to look for in a quality agency partner and when to run away. 

1. Outline Expectations & Goals

Before doing anything, you need to understand what your goals are. Goal setting is something that good agencies will do right off the bat. If you know where you are and exactly where you want to be, a good partner should be able to reverse-engineer this and make a marketing plan that helps you achieve your goals. 

SEO goals and expectation examples

You might be looking to break into a new market, expand in a current market, or improve your general organic visibility to your ideal customer, whatever the reason, having a sense of this before you head into any agency conversations will help you cut through blanketed sales conversations. 

Having clear direction is crucial for marketing initiatives but is even more important for SEO. SEO thrives on specifics as many times we’re after individual keyword rankings that hold value for a business. To have this clarity upfront is going to make your agency search so much easier. 

Here’s some additional areas you might want to consider before reaching out to a potential partner: 

  • Specific, Measurable Goals: If you can, try to have an idea of the level of growth you’re looking for in this initiative. Define specific, measurable goals for your organic performance.
  • Target Audience and Market: Be able to clearly define your target audience and market segments. This will help the agency tailor their SEO strategies to reach the right people with the right content.
  • Competitors: Have a list of competitors and their sites ready to go as this will likely be a part of the analysis an agency will do to determine the path for the SEO strategy and get a sense of your competition and how they are marketing themselves. 
  • Budget and Resources: Determine your budget and available resources for SEO. This will help you and the agency align on the scope of work and expected outcomes. We go into more depth in the next section. 
  • Timeline and Expectations: Make sure you and the agency are aligned on when is a reasonable date to achieve your goals. Establish a timeline for achieving your SEO goals and set clear expectations for the agency in terms of deliverables and milestones.

2. Set Your Budget

Knowing how much you’re willing to invest in SEO is an important factor. There are a few things in life that you ‘get what you pay for’ and SEO certainly falls into that category. Good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good. That doesn’t mean you need to spend all of your budget on an overpriced plan. The best SEO agency plans will likely have areas where you can increase/decrease certain services so that you feel comfortable about both the price and rate of growth. 

SEO agency pricing in 2024

High price tags don’t always mean faster or better results. Higher priced packages usually account for increased content production/auditing so more can be uncovered about what type of content is resonating with your ideal customer and then the doubling down of creating that specific type of content. 

Have a budget but be flexible. There are instances where some companies can truly benefit from investing more upfront. If an upfront investment isn’t in the books, have a discussion with your potential partners about what things would look like if you were to scale your investment with results. This will get both parties tied mutually to the performance. 

3. SEO Pricing & Service Packages

Pricing and packages can be vastly different in terms of cost and scope of work. Any agency you talk with is likely going to have different pricing structures and one of those options is likely to work better than others. Depending on how you like to work, most SEO agencies will have a few different options for working together.

Many wish to operate on a retainer basis, which keeps everyone close to the project and is ultimately the best way to achieve a mutual goal. Project-based and hourly pricing are less about relationship building and more about executing a high ROI for a single or set of initiatives. 

How businesses invest in SEO

Project-Based Pricing

Project-based pricing allows you to pay a single price for a project or set or items. Depending on the type (technical, content, etc), time commitment, and revisions price can vary drastically. If you’re testing the waters on a new initiative but don’t have the expertise in-house, a project-based partner might make sense as a start. 

Most businesses initiating a partnership with an SEO agency will start with a site audit. This is pretty standard as it’s a way for the SEO team to get a view of technical barriers holding back a website. This should be an expected add-on if you’re just starting out with a new agency. 

Monthly Retainer

When you’re dealing with a retainer, the set of tasks are usually set upfront and a team will execute on these every month. Retainers are the best way for both parties to work together. While it’s usually a larger investment, having a retainer gives you a dedicated full team of marketers who have your back and eyes on your site and performance. 

If you’re looking for the fastest results and highest potential for ROI, having an agency on retainer is the best option for a company looking to blow past their competitors and achieve better organic visibility. 

Hourly Consulting Rate

Depending on your goals, and budget, hourly consulting could be your best option for breaking into the SEO growth mode. Most of the time, hourly consultants are charging anywhere from $50 to $200 an hour, depending on experience and expertise. 

4. Comparing Agency Options

When comparing agency options, you should focus on three key things, techniques, team, and work history. If you find yourself trying to decide between multiple agency options, you should take a step back and outline the positives and negatives of each option as it relates to these key performance areas. 

SEO Techniques & Implementation

When interviewing an agency, you should uncover how they implement key strategies to ensure it’s in-line with Google’s guidelines. Try to understand how they handle organic ranking shifts, algorithm updates, how do they create helpful content, how do they optimize for AEO, and why these matter for your business. 

Team & Company Culture

We’re all humans and want to work in a positive work environment. Take time to meet the people you will potentially work with. Are they a good culture fit for your company in the same respect that are for the agency? When you find an agency that fits into your business like a puzzle piece, real action can take place and winning just becomes a weekly event. 

Portfolio & Work History

Expertise is everything when it comes to SEO. Having an expert on your side to navigate the ever-changing landscape of organic visibility is crucial especially in competitive markets. Understanding the companies they’ve helped and their related successes are important. Agencies that list case-studies are a good place to start, this should give you insight to the techniques and team members that helped execute these wins. 

5. SEO Agency Warning Signs

Guaranteeing a Specific SERP Ranking

In SEO, nothing is a guarantee. Competition is fierce and space on the first page is coming at a higher ‘price’. An agency that promises rankings isn’t being truthful because no one can assume a rank and hold it just based on good-will or black-hat tactics. 

Promising Immediate Results

Anyone who’s spent any time in the SEO industry knows that these things take time. While some results may come faster than others, SEO is known as the long-term play. Agencies promising to get you to the top of search results are likely misleading you. This isn’t to say that these results aren’t achievable, but going from not ranking to ranking number one is a steep, slow hill to climb. 

Setting Unreasonable Expectations

If an agency comes in and is setting unrealistic expectations right out of the gate, you may want to run the other way. For example, if the agency or SEO company you’re talking with says that there isn’t any need for you to be involved this should raise concern. The best agencies involve and educate their clients so they have input and can help drive the direction of organic improvements.  

Suspiciously Low Pricing

Is it too good to be true? Then it probably is. When it comes to pricing some agencies are high, and some are way too low. SEO is like tattoos, you get what you pay for. You wouldn’t go to the cheapest artist and expect the best artwork. SEO pricing is commonly related to the amount of effort needed and expected timeline. For many engagements, SEO is a long-term investment and those who see success are those who have consistently participated in high quality content publishing and resolution of technical barriers. 

Why hire an SEO services company?

Hiring an SEO company can be a critical move to getting your organic presence off and running. You have so much to worry about with running your business that spending time on SEO in addition to everything else could do more harm than good. Sometimes its better to leave it to the professionals, who only spend their time thinking about SEO and are rooted in industry news and best practices. 

NoGood is home to a team of SEO experts who have helped bring some of the biggest brands into the organic search spotlight. If you’re looking for a team of vigilant SEO professionals, we’re NoGood for that. Talk to us today and make a plan for crushing your business goals. 

Ryan Sylvestre
Ryan is a Growth Marketing Manager who focuses primarily on SEO with experience in content strategy, link building, HubSpot, and conversion rate optimization.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check our other articles