Even though digital marketing is a fully established field and it seems that everyone knows how important it is to be visible on the web, SEO might still raise eyebrows. How often are people confused when you tell them that you work in SEO?

Most of the time, SEO experts are asked what an SEO company does and whether they need SEO services at all. I believe SEO is a must in any digital marketing strategy. That’s why I wanted to explain to you step-by-step what to expect from an SEO company and what it actually does.

Read on to find out:

  • what SEO is,
  • what SEO companies do,
  • what type of SEO services are included in any SEO contract,
  • how to find and hire the best SEO company to match your particular needs
  • what kind of questions you should be asking before signing the contract.

What does an SEO company do?

Many business owners have no idea what goes on on a daily basis in an SEO agency. First things first, let’s clarify SEO itself. SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization – the process of improving a site’s search rankings to increase its online visibility.

We should remember that 93% of online experiences begin with the search engine and 47% of people will click on one of the first three listings. That’s why SEO is so important to any business. After all, if you’re not visible in search engines, how do you expect to be able to generate leads and convert visitors into customers?

What about SEO agencies?

Most of the time, you can divide them into two general types: black-hat SEO and white-hat SEO. White-hat SEO experts boost search rankings with hard work and access to quality analytics. Black-hat SEO, on the other hand, involves methods that might get top results but with the risk on a long-term basis. In fact, black-hat tactics might easily bring you a penalty or a total ban from search engines.

So let’s take a closer look at white-hat SEO strategies. In general, more than 200 factors regulate a page’s rank in the search engine results page (SERP), but these are the ones that matter the most:

  • the question of security (HTTPS versus HTTP)
  • whether or not your site is mobile friendly
  • how fast pages load on your website
  • whether your site has the correct schema markup (a type of website code)
  • the quality and length of your website content
  • the presence of social signals that point back to your site
  • the quality backlinks that link to your site
  • optimized images on your pages.

Here are essential SEO services that should be included in your contract

SEO services revolve around the factors mentioned above. A reliable SEO company will include the following services in a typical SEO contract:

  • website structure and content analysis, including conversion rate analysis
  • off-page online analysis
  • optimization of website code and structure
  • optimization of on-site contents
  • optimization of off-page factors

Let’s take a closer look at each of these services now.

Website structure analysis

Google might be saying that you should be designing your website for users rather than search engines, but we all know the truth. A website needs to be structured adequately for search engines to read it quickly. Otherwise, you will never get any users to appreciate your site anyway. Most of the time, SEO experts will look at the following aspects:

  • Security of your website – HTTP vs. HTTPS is a serious matter. That additional “s” at the end of HTTP means that your website is secure. Even if you don’t take credit card payments online, you need a secured site because Google gives these websites preference in the search results.
  • Robots.txt – this is a file used to prevent search engine crawlers from indexing pages on your website that you would like to stay shut from public view and not appear in search engines.
  • Analytics setup – SEO experts will look for existing analytics tracking, and if they find none, they will install it to learn where your leads come from. That way the team will be able to deliver the most meaningful results.
  • Indexed status – indexed pages are pages that have been found by the search engine crawlers and considered to have enough quality for relevant search phrases. These pages will show up in search results and drive organic traffic to your site
  • Site errors – these are very dangerous because they communicate to search engines that your site might not be trustworthy. Common errors include duplicate page content, duplicate title tags, crawlers blocked by robots.txt, or 4XX.
  • Page speed – search engines deem user experience essential, and users are impatient these days. That’s why search engines reward pages that take only a few seconds to load.
  • Sitemap – an XML sitemap is a list of all the pages included in your website that you want the search engine to index.
  • Meta-elements – meta-descriptions, duplicate title tags, and content on your website can all impact your search engine rankings and click-through rate. Optimizing meta-elements improves your chances of being included high on the SERPs.

Content analysis

Next up, SEO experts take a closer look at the content on your website to make sure that it’s not suffering from issues such as duplicate content, missing pages, contact data inconsistencies, poorly targeted keywords, and others.

Ultimately, the content you share on your site is the most essential SEO weapon you have. It’s your content that attracts visitors and converts them to leads. SEO experts will analyze the content on your website and develop the foundation for deciding about how to structure your site in the future. Another thing SEO experts do is keyword analysis to find the best opportunities for ranking higher and becoming visible to more users.

Off-page analysis

It might come as a surprise, but success in SEO takes place mostly outside of your website. All it takes is looking at industry blogs, online directories, review sites, and similar places. If you’re really popular online and have excellent reviews, it will be easy to rank well for your keywords. However, if you’re a small company that isn’t that popular and might have more negative reviews than positive ones, it will be hard to rank high – no matter how good you are.

That’s why SEO experts also check what people are saying about your brand on the web by finding mentions of your site and seeing how they can be adjusted to your advantage. For example, if negative reviews pop up, SEO experts will show you how to respond to them and build a reputable online presence that gains consumers’ trust.

To do that, SEO agencies count on increases in organic traffic, developing content focused on locality, creating unique title tags and meta descriptions for every product you offer, making sure authentic reviews are marked up with schema, helping you develop a mobile responsive website, putting your company in reputable directory listings, and using other authority building measures to boost your reputation on the web.

Optimizing the structure of your site

An SEO also takes a closer look at your site code and structure to see whether there any places where it could be optimized to help you outperform local competitors. First, they examine the site’s navigation to make sure the users can easily find what they’re looking for.

Next, it’s smart to clean up the code to make sure that the site runs smoothly and quickly. It’s also a good idea to deal with errors Google might pick up when it crawls the site. SEO teams usually add an XML sitemap to help Google crawlers quickly visit different pages and make sense of them. Finally, the team adds internal links to pages within your site so users can smoothly flow from one page to another.

Optimizing your site’s content

To drive new traffic consistently, you need to continually create new content and optimize the existing pages on your website. SEO teams can help you do that by first removing or rewriting duplicate content and placing keywords in your page titles to help Google instantly see what your page is about.

You will also get help in adding well-written, unique and keyword-rich content to landing pages that don’t perform well and creating new landing pages to draw in new segments of your target audience. It’s smart to add new images, change colors, and format text to boost conversions.

What about optimizing the off-page present?

Here’s what SEO teams are likely to do. They use the local SEO tactics to boost your position in search results for local terms. They will also browse the web in search of directory listings for your business. They will verify them and update everything to make sure that information is accurate.

The team will also look for new valuable directories where your site should be added. Smart SEO teams also look at non-competitive blogs in similar industries to find guest posting opportunities that bring in quality links to your site.

When to hire an SEO company?

If you’re not sure whether your website is contributing to your bottom line, it’s a good idea to hire experts and check it. SEO also helps to grow your business and find newly expanded market areas. If you want more leads and sales – and who doesn’t want that? – you also need SEO. Finally, SEO helps to outrank competitors in search results and differentiate yourself from competing companies that offer similar services.

How to choose an SEO company?

That’s an excellent question because an SEO partnership is generally long-term so you need to make sure that the company your picking is reliable and trustworthy. You don’t want to team up with a company that uses black-hat SEO techniques that might jeopardize your position in search engines.

However, note that not all SEO companies out there deliver to their promises. In fact, if you meet up with a company that promises to double your traffic overnight thanks to some kind of secret proprietary methods, considered that a red flag. Making promises like that in the world of SEO is impossible.

Practices to watch out for

If an SEO expert promises specific results in a particular amount of time, you might be in trouble. In general, agencies that make sure promises might be using black0hat techniques that game rankings by buying a lot of links from random websites, using duplicate or scraped content, employing a computer program to generate hundreds of pages of useless content, or even submitting fake press releases to spam links.

In some cases, these techniques might work. But the problem is that they’re not going to work for you long-term because they stand against Google’s guidelines. And every time Google rolls out an update, you risk that your site gets a penalty or even gets banned from search engines. Don’t risk that and do business with SEO agencies that are honest and transparent about the techniques they’re going to use to boost your position online.

Here’s what you should be asking an SEO company before signing the contract

Before you hire an SEO company or consultant, you need to ask them several questions:

  • How often do we communicate and how?
  • What is the process you’re going to use?
  • Will I have full access to my site and its analytics account?
  • Do you provide any guarantees?
  • What if I decide to cancel?
  • What are the fees and payment options?
  • How do I determine the right budget for my project?
  • Have you ever worked with companies that are similar to mine?

If you ask these questions and get reliable answers, you can be sure that you’re partnering up with a trustworthy company that will help you boost your online plant presence.

Key takeaway

When choosing to invest in an SEO campaign, you need to know why you want to appear on the web and how you want to do it. You want your brand to be the reflection of your business: reliable, trustworthy, and successful. If you’re interested in building that type of reputation, you can only rely on white-hat SEO strategies provided by quality SEO experts.

Have you got any questions about hiring an SEO agency or about SEO in general? Reach out to us in comments; we’re always happy to help out organizations looking for quality SEO services.