Let’s face it:
Whether you want to admit it or not, you already know how important your website is for attracting the right type of clients to keep you in business.
In today’s day and age, if your website isn’t performing as your best sales tool, you’re probably missing out on significant market share, which is likely damaging your bottom line.
But the challenge most businesses face is how to get the right type of potential customers to actually visit their website over their competitors’. This comes down to many factors including the design and layout of your website; how easy it is to use and naviagte; and the quality of your content. However, it also has a lot to do with SEO (search engine optimisation).
Simply put, SEO makes it as easy as possible for Google and other search engines to index your website and its content so your audience can find you.
Sounds simple, right?
Let’s break down exactly what SEO is, why it’s so important, and how to find the right SEO agency to help you rank better in the search engines to attract better quality visitors and ultimately more customers or clients!
What is SEO?
We already mentioned that the purpose of SEO is to help you rank better in the search engines.
It’s slightly more complicated than this, of course. Google, which consistently controls around 90% of the search engine market, dictates the rules of SEO. Bing and other search engines follow Google’s lead for the most part. On the one hand, Google has a proprietary algorithm for ranking that is never publically revealed. On the other hand, search engine experts can deduce the rules simply by closely watching the rankings. Let’s look at some of the main components of SEO.
The search engines revolve around keywords. When you talk about ranking, you mean ranking for certain words and phrases. For physical or brick and mortar businesses, locations are important for ranking. For example, if you offer auto services in Brisbane, you may want to rank for phrases such as “car services Brisbane,” “Brisbane mechanic,” or “Brisbane auto shop.” It’s similar for other businesses and locations. The idea is that your customers (or prospective customers) are going to use certain keywords to find your type of business. You want to be close to the top of the listings when they search. When forming an SEO strategy, it’s crucial to identify the right keywords to rank for. Once you know which keywords you want to rank for, you can’t just use them as often as possible. It has to be done in a natural way or Google will penalize you for “keyword stuffing.” We’ve all seen low-quality websites where certain phrases are endlessly repeated in an ill-conceived effort to rank. This, by the way, will turn off your customers as well as Google.
Backlinks (or simply links) have always been a crucial aspect of SEO. There are several types of links to know about.
- Incoming links. These are links that point to your site. The more authoritative the site, the more valuable.
- Outgoing links. It’s also good to link to relevant, authoritative sites in your own content.
- Internal links. Linking to pages and posts on your own site helps with ranking as well. This can also help you keep visitors on your site longer.
Links are a fairly complicated and even controversial area of SEO. It’s easy to go wrong in this area if you don’t have experience. In a way, it’s similar to what we said about keywords. Links do help you rank but more isn’t always better. There’s a whole industry that’s ready to sell you low-quality backlinks. These may help you in the short term but will ultimately get your site penalized by Google. Later, we’ll talk in more detail about what to avoid in SEO agencies. But one principle to keep in mind is to beware of anyone who claims you can rank quickly using a gimmick such as “Buy 100 backlinks for $20!” or something of that nature. Instead, you want to obtain quality backlinks from reputable sites in a natural manner.
Google wants your website to be as helpful and user-friendly as possible. This is known as on-page SEO. This includes factors such as:
- Content. Your content should be relevant and useful. If the title of your site is “Home Improvement Tips” but many of your blog posts are about dieting or celebrity gossip, your visitors (and Google) will not be happy. Another issue with content is uniqueness or originality.
- Page loading speed. If your pages take too long to load, people will get impatient and click away. This can also affect your SEO.
- Mobile-friendly. As more and more people access the internet on mobile devices, it’s essential that everyone can access your pages using smartphones and tablets. Google provides its own Mobile-Friendly Test so you know where you stand in this area. Most professional websites today use what is known as responsive design, which makes pages accessible to all kinds of devices.
- Navigation. You want visitors to be able to find what they’re looking for on your site. For this, you need a user-friendly menu with accurately-labeled pages.
There’s more to SEO than what we’ve covered here, of course. There are all kinds of nuances and theories about what does and doesn’t work. However, the above are some of the main areas that can help or hurt your ranking efforts.
What You Can Expect From SEO
When you read, watch, or listen to SEO specialists, they can make it all sound like a game. In a way, it is. Experts love to study the intricacies of Google’s algorithms and find ways to outsmart the search engines. However, businesses have a different perspective. For you, all the numbers and strategies are a means to an end. You want more traffic, leads, and customers. How does SEO help you with this and how long does it take?
Benefits of SEO
While ranking better may seem like a self-evident advantage, it goes a little deeper.
- Authority. Ranking well gives your website and business credibility. While paid ads can also be a helpful tool for getting traffic, people are often more impressed with organic listings.
- Low-cost publicity. True, you need to invest in SEO whether you buy tools or outsource the work to an agency. However, it’s still more economical than paid advertising.
- Long-lasting benefits. With ads, as soon as you stop paying for ads, the traffic stops. Once you put in the work with SEO, the benefits are long-lasting. You do have to maintain SEO efforts (e.g. keep creating content) but techniques you carry out today can last for many months.
- Keep up with the competition. You don’t want your competitors to rank ahead of you for important keywords.
How Long Does it Take to See Results?
One of the first questions people ask before they hire an SEO agency is “When will I start seeing results?’ This is a natural question to ask but the answer can be a little frustrating. It depends on many factors such as your industry, location, and the type of strategies you (or the agency you work with) applies. However, you should understand that SEO is definitely a marathon rather than a sprint. It’s not likely that you’ll go from page 50 on Google to page 1 overnight or even in a week. It often takes several months to see significant results. The good news is that results improve over time. With the right strategy, you can see a steady, consistent improvement in the rankings week after week.
DIY vs. Outsourcing
Once you understand the importance of optimizing your website for the search engine, the next question becomes how do you accomplish this? There are two basic choices: handle it yourself or outsource it to an agency.
The Benefits of Hiring an Agency
There are some compelling reasons to outsource SEO rather than trying to do it yourself.
- Knowledge. Most business owners don’t have a background in SEO and don’t have time to research all the ins and outs. Consider also that Google frequently updates its algorithms so you need to constantly keep up with the latest developments.
- More time to focus on your business. Learning all about SEO and how to use tools takes up quite a bit of time. When you outsource these tasks you can focus on what you do best: serve your customers and run your business.
- Create the right strategy. Businesses often try lots of SEO approaches in a trial and error process. This can be costly and time-consuming. An agency can help you form the right strategy for your brand and use the appropriate tactics right from the start.
- They have the best tools. When you start to do SEO on your own, you’ll soon realize that you need certain tools and services. Some of these can be quite costly. You also have to take the time to learn how to use them or train your staff. In some cases, you’ll find that you chose the wrong tool for your purposes. An SEO agency has a system in place that includes all the best tools and services.
- Avoiding pitfalls. We already alluded to certain SEO tactics, such as keyword stuffing and using poor quality links, that can backfire and do you more harm than good. SEO beginners are likely to make such mistakes. It’s safer to leave it to an experienced agency. Later, we’ll cover tips to choose the right agency.
How Much Can You Expect to Pay for SEO?
The cost of SEO services can vary a great deal, ranging from hundreds to thousands per month. In order to understand cost and value, however, you really need to consider your goals, how much time the agency is putting in, and what specific tasks it’s implementing. Nor should you use cost as your main consideration when seeking SEO services. You can find many ads that promise results at a bargain rate, but, as with any other type of service, you generally get what you pay for.
Choosing the Right Agency
Now let’s get down to our central topic: how to actually select the right SEO agency that will give you the best results. This can be a confusing process when you consider how many companies out there are marketing their services. Let’s start with a few basic points.
- Shop around. Don’t simply sign up with the first agency whose website you happen to visit.
- Consider your budget but don’t make price your only or even main criterion. After all, a bargain rate doesn’t help if you don’t see results. Unfortunately, when it comes to SEO, the wrong agency can actually make things worse for you.
- Look at factors such as experience, reviews, and the professionalism of their website.
- Talk to them! Whether you correspond by phone, live chat, or email, you should feel that they welcome your questions and provide you with clear answers. Speaking of asking questions…
Questions to Ask
Here are some of the top questions to ask an SEO agency that you’re considering.
- What strategies will you use to help my site rank better? The best agencies use a multifaceted approach. They also use a highly customized approach.
- Do you have experience working with businesses in my industry? What specific strategies do you recommend for my type of business? The best SEO firms understand that each type of business requires a different approach.
- How do you keep me informed on your actions? Do you send out regular reports?
- What type of data do you track? SEO is about more than your current Google ranking. SEO metrics such as click-through rates, site visits, bounce rates, conversion rates, and more are all relevant to your results.
- Can you provide any references or examples of businesses you worked with? A reputable firm should be able to point to companies they’ve successfully served.
- Do all of your techniques conform to Google’s rules? Some firms practice what is known as blackhat or grey hat SEO, which means they bend the rules to some extent. Such practices can harm your rankings in the long run.
- If I sign up with you, how do I contact you? It’s important to know what kind of customer support they offer.
You may have other questions as well. Just as important as the specific answers to your questions is the agency’s general attitude. Are they open and glad to talk to you or do they have an attitude along the lines of “Just sign up and trust us.”
There are certain red flags that should warn you away from an SEO agency.
- They guarantee specific results. An agency that promises to get you to the top of Google is one you should avoid. There is no legitimate way an agency can guarantee results. Such claims suggest that they are making empty promises and/or using unethical techniques.
- They brag about sending you lots of links or submitting your site to many directories. Such spammy techniques may provide short term gains but are likely to get you into trouble with Google.
- They’re suspiciously cheap. Good SEO work is customized and time-consuming. It takes research and a hands-on approach. If someone claims they can get you great results for a few hundred dollars or less, there’s something wrong. Most likely, they’re using an automated approach that’s the same for all their clients.
- They claim to have some secret technique or insider information that no one else is privy to. They may dress this up with techy jargon such as “proprietary AI software” or claim to know someone at Google. The best agencies understand that SEO is a complex, always-changing science that involves many tactics. There’s no secret formula.
These are some of the most common warning signs of an untrustworthy SEO agency. You also have to use your instincts. Consider how you feel about their website and when you talk to them. As noted under the section on asking questions, be wary of an agency that isn’t forthright about disclosing their methods and talking to you.
Do Your Preparations
The whole idea of outsourcing suggests putting your trust in an expert. This is certainly the case, especially with a technical area such as SEO. However, if you want to see the best possible results you have to do your part as well. This starts with having an idea of what you want to accomplish. You might think that you simply want better rankings. This isn’t actually the case, though. What you really want is to rank well for keywords that generate targeted, high-converting traffic. To get this, you need to clarify a few points:
- Identify your target audience. This is something every business needs to do as a matter of course. However, it’s especially crucial when you want to attract search engine traffic. If you choose the wrong audience, you may get website visits but poor conversions.
- Set goals for your campaigns. You may want to get opt-ins for your email list, get people to download a free trial of your software, boost direct sales for your product pages, or increase brand awareness.
- Know your budget. No matter what you’re shopping for, it helps to have an approximate budget in mind.
Even the best SEO agency can only work with what you give them. That’s why you should identify your goals and target audience before you even contact any agencies.
Choose Your Australian SEO Company With Care
Your search engine rankings have a lot to do with the quality and quantity of your website traffic. A site that ranks well for carefully chosen keywords will bring you qualified leads that help your business grow. The right SEO agency can help you achieve your goals. The wrong one, on the other hand, can actually harm your site while draining your budget. Don’t be in a hurry to sign up with an agency. Check out as many businesses as possible. Look at their credentials, ask them questions, and request proposals.