Should I hire an SEO Agency? (Part 3)

When is the right time to do it?

In-house or outsource?

Freelancer or agency?

What’s the right budget?

Never experienced agency, or had a poor experience? 

QUESTIONS, questions, questions!

Don’t worry, we are here to help.

First, write a brief about your SEO problem statement.

Despite running a digital marketing agency that delivers outstanding SEO results, I won’t say YES. In fact, the right answer is something that you have to figure out for yourself, but I can help you arrive at the results by asking you to answer a couple of questions.

Do you have a website for your business?

If you don’t have a website but are planning to get one made, it is a good idea to engage with an SEO agency to help out with the information architecture, layout, URL names, navigation, etc that are relevant from an SEO point of view. Also, if the content of the static pages of your website are written with keyword research in mind, you can prevent this work from becoming a double activity where you first get a website done and then hire an SEO agency

If you do have a website, but your traffic is stagnant, you need to check what is the possibility of traffic through organic search in your industry. This is possible to calculate through many free tools, it will give you an idea of where you could be if you invest in SEO. This also applies if you’ve built a new website. Many people invest a lot of money into making a beautiful website and they don’t realize that website is heavy and is harmful to get picked up by Google.

Have you tried any kind of marketing before?

SEO should ideally be a part of your overall marketing strategy because the way a typical consumer buying journey works is that multiple touchpoints are needed before the actual purchase happens. What we are trying to do with SEO is create another touchpoint that is not pushy but rather something that people find for themselves. It feeds into the natural curiosity of a person willing to make a purchase either right away or sometime in the future.

If you haven’t invested in other forms of marketing, it is probably a better idea to look at what all channels are available and work within your industry and then make a plan to test them out with limited budgets to see which ones can be good for you. Similarly, you should allocate budgets to different kinds of channels because they each work in their own unique ways.

Also, any quality agency would want to know the performance of your other channels to align the communication strategy and to make sure that they complement each other rather than come across as jarring pieces of individual companies.

According to your cash flow, can you allocate some funds for long term activities?

SEO is a long-term strategy. Anyone who tells you they’ll give (or worse guarantee) quick results is lying. There’s no shortcut to SEO, and if there is they are most probably following some shady techniques which can harm your website in the long run. So, if you are someone looking to build a brand for the long term, stay away from quick rankings and understand that if somebody is claiming that, it’s a scam.

SEO can and will show results over a period of 6-12 months. It is of course possible that sometimes for some websites some quick fixes can show quick wins. But as a rule, SEO is a long game. So, if you cannot set aside some funds to continue to do this over a period of time, better to not engage with an agency and try to do some best practices optimizations at your end or in-house. Or if you’re extremely clear of the work but want someone to simply execute it, you can hire a freelancer on a project basis.

Also, for SEO (in fact for any kind of marketing) how it works is that the more you get data, the better your insights are, and with those insights, you can get really amazing at the game. But this doesn’t happen if your investment and execution in SEO are not continuous. So, hire an SEO agency only if you’re up for the commitment.

Do you have the background (or someone in your team) to manage an SEO person in-house?

Like any other business activity, you need momentum to do a good job. That means constantly working on the problem, coming up with ideas, plans and executing them. Along with this poring over data and finding patterns and opportunities. So, if you have the ability to manage an SEO person in-house, which means you can sit with them to set goals, monitor progress, provide feedback and remove roadblocks, do it.

Do I have access to a developer?

A lot of SEO work (technical SEO) requires the help of developers. Technical SEO is all the stuff that happens behind the scenes but is equally important for ranking your website. Not every business owner is comfortable with technology, that’s why you need a developer on your team. Now if you’re going to partner with a big SEO agency, they’ll most probably help you out with the technology implementations, at a cost. But if you’re looking for something more affordable, they’ll be able to help you only with what needs to be done, so it’s great to have a developer with you (either in-house or a freelancer) who can do these executions for you. Now, these executions might not be constant, but they will be required to be done a few hours every month.

Most websites are built on popular CMS these days like WordPress, Shopify, Wix. Some SEO Agencies (including ours) have experience in working with them and will be able to make most of the changes without the help of a developer. However, any customizations or changes in the code structures of the themes used will require the help of a developer.

Are you also ready to invest in content development?

Content is an important part of SEO. Google wants to satisfy people using the service to look for answers, and good content ensures that. So, for that reason Google wants people to get updated, accurate and satisfactory answers to what they’re looking for, but this cannot happen if a company doesn’t create/update quality content regularly. A lot of websites do this in the form of blogs, portfolios, and resources that they create for their customers. However, this too can be an additional cost, depending on your industry and the amount of research it takes to create content. Now, keep in mind that content doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of articles, it can be in the form of pictures, infographics, videos, tools, guides. Any SEO agency that is invested in your business growth will recommend that you invest in quality content. Content that satisfies the user who has found you through google and is your target customer.

Can you do SEO inhouse?

Of Course, you can just make sure you have someone dedicated to the job because this can be full-time work or at least needs part-time help. Other than this, depending on the previous experience of the person working on this, you might need to support them with various courses, training materials available (there are tons). You should also have a plan for how you’re going to manage them and enable them to be successful at the job. This would ideally happen if you’re sitting with them to assess and review their ideas, tasks, and plan regularly.

In House is a good option if you have the skills needed and the time to focus on this. If not, you’ll either not do a very good job at it, or waste time that could be spent on other more valuable tasks.

Is a freelancer better for your needs?

Depending on the stage of your business, a freelancer might actually be a good option for you. Their prices will be low, however, they also might not have very clean business processes, which can make it difficult to work with them. They can be helpful when you’re starting out, especially if they are coming through a recommendation because good freelancers will give you the attention and deliver quality. The problem lies in finding the good ones 🙂

Keep in mind that a freelancer would be cheaper than an agency and if you have the capability to manage an SEO person in-house you would probably have a lot more visibility in the process and if you go for an agency, you will work with people with SEO expertise and set business processes. Now it is upto you to decide how you value each of these factors.

What are my SEO requirements?

I am going to assume that with the list of questions I gave you, you have a better understanding of whether you’re going to hire someone for your SEO needs or not.

Now, going forward we will assume that you have decided to hire someone.

The first thing that you need to clarify is your SEO requirements. 
What is it that you need from SEO, it could be any of these things..

  1. SEO for traffic: 

This is especially important if your website earns from ads, along with your other marketing channels, what you are looking for is for SEO to generate an increase in traffic, the kind that is relevant to your advertisers.

  1. SEO for E-Commerce Sales: 

If your industry has any kind of searches online where people are using the words “buy” AND “online” or any variation of this, you have to work on SEO because you cannot miss out on these people who are highly likely to buy and are actively searching for what you are selling.

  1. SEO for Branding: 

You are also going to use SEO for increasing the authority and trust in your brand. For this, you have very helpful resources that impress your buyer miles before they make any purchase from you

  1. SEO for Lead Acquisition: 

Especially for all the service based businesses, where the sales cannot be made completely online, there is a high chance of bringing people to you using SEO strategies.

  1. SEO for Reputation Management: 

You are trying to rank well for the search brand name + “reviews” or want to increase positive mentions of your company when people are looking for your brand. This can also be used to highlight positive experiences from the company and influence customers to make a purchase

Your goal can be either of these or a combination of these. 

The next thing you need to finalize is your budget.

You should ideally have a range of budget you’re comfortable with given the right partnership. However, not sure if you should stretch your budget because SEO is a long-term investment, you might panic if you don’t get results quickly (which is the norm), also a very low budget might not be enough to engage with quality SEO experts. 

The pricing and packages within the Indian SEO industry vary wildly, while you can get freelancers on Upwork, freelancers, Facebook groups for anything starting from INR 5,000. 

For agencies, a monthly retainer ship from INR 10,000 to INR 50,000 can be the price depending on the size of your business, website, and industry. Whatever is the budget that you decide for yourself, make sure you do a bit of research so that you can allocate the fund accordingly.

How to assess an SEO Agency?

If you’ve read so far, you’ve defined your SEO goals, you’ve set a budget and you’ve decided to hire an SEO agency. 

Congratulations, you are now going to enter a very confusing time 😀

You should probably ask around first if anyone you know has any recommendations, if somebody has already worked with an agency and are happy with them, why not give them a try, right? 

If this doesn’t work out, you’re gonna post on your LinkedIn or Facebook and if you do, you’re going to drown in the emails, phone calls, messages that you get for your request for the next many days

There’s no dearth of SEO professionals so getting proposals shouldn’t be a problem. 

What is actually difficult is to decide whom to go for and how to assess all these people reaching out to you. 

And let’s be honest, after a while they all start sounding similar!

As you’ve decided to do this activity, and not do more fun things instead, I want to help you.

I will give you some of the points that you can think about while making your decision. It would be better if you’re reading this before you put up your requirement on social media. 

Because if you’ve already put up your requirement, you won’t have any time to read, as you’ll be drowning in notifications!

Let’s start with the factors you’ll need to consider:

Location: 

A lot of people try to find agencies that are in the same city as them. IMO it doesn’t matter if you’re not hoping to do face-to-face meetings. Especially right now, in COVID19 times and the era of remote work, you shouldn’t limit yourself to working with agencies based in a particular city. Any professional SEO agency would have by now set proper processes to deal with clients throughout the world using many technological tools we have available today.

Features: 

Not all of these factors matter or they matter to different people in varying degrees. The size of the team, the age of the agency, their specialization if any. If you have preferences in any of these, you can either put that condition in your requirements or check out their website if they have put up those details. What I can suggest is that keep an open mind, because there might be agencies that don’t fit into your mold but are more than fit to deliver on your goals.

Team: 

You should try to get a sense of the people you’re going to be working with. Like I have said many times by now that SEO is a long term game, what that means is that the people you choose to work with will also be your long term partners, so you want to be able to trust them, talk to them and understand them. A lot of people don’t think this is important, I do. Besides their experiences, it is also important that they are good at communicating, because being an outside partner, you’ll need them to talk to you, update you and really listen to what you want.

Methodology: 

Agencies have different processes and a lot of them give a sneak peek before you decide to hire them. Some of them provide audits, tell you their reporting frequency and offer free or paid consultations (we do too). Stay away from people claiming “too good to be true” results, as they most often are not true. Or it is possible to get those results with shady practices which will hurt your Google presence in the long term, so stay away from them!

Proof: 

Now you’ll need some proof that you’re working with talented people, they’ll either present you with case studies or give references of previous clients. They might also have done some original research or published some material which can be impressive, look at all the proof you can but keep in mind that SEO will work when it’s customized and there’s no formula here, you need people who are updated about the field, have delivered quality work and are going to work with you closely to make you a success on Google

Prices: 

Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important factors. Before you simply check the pricing and make decisions, it is important to understand how people price these services.

3 kinds of pricing models are most popular in this industry. 

  • Monthly Retainership: This is the most popular and cost-effective option, a set monthly fee for resources to be allocated to your SEO needs. Here you get the help of a team who works monthly on the strategy, execution, and analysis of your SEO. You most probably have calls and updates from the weekly/bi-monthly to assess the progress and provide inputs
  • Project-based: Here you decide on the tasks you need to get done and get quotes for that project. Works well if you’re very clear on the tasks, deliverables. Can be expensive depending on the experience level of the person who is working on the project.
  • Hourly rates: This model is ideal when you exactly know what you need, it can also be quite expensive, but if you’re looking for a consulting type engagement, this can work out well

You might also come across some agencies that price their SEO services on a number of keyword models. We don’t do this at Aarrrmor Digital because the focus of keywords can keep on changing depending on new data that we uncover. 

Lastly, you’ll also find incredibly low prices from freelancers and even agencies, I would suggest that you be extremely careful of these kinds of offers. Having worked with service providers before, you’ll know that cheap and quality don’t often go well together. And this is of course not a simple service you’re looking for.

SEO is a highly technical and creative field, which definitely requires a lot of research, analysis, and ideation. I am frankly not sure anyone who can do it, would be able to do it for extremely cheap to be able to justify what they put into the job.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

What I have talked about so far:

  • Whether you should invest in SEO for your brand
  • Should I hire an SEO agency
  • What are my SEO requirements?
  • How to assess an SEO Agency?

It is time for me to talk a little bit about me and my SEO agency.

Why choose Aarrrmor Digital?

First of all, as you must have understood by now, we believe in giving the right advice.

If something is in your interest, we will tell you. 

Because we are in this for the long haul and I believe in creating good relationships. 

And the way to make good relationships is to build trust, which we do by helping you steer you in the right direction

Over 2 years ago, when I started Aarrrmor Digital alone, I leaned on my corporate experience and my experience as the only digital marketer in an early-stage startup. Now, we have a team that brings a diversity of experiences and is known to grow small and mid-sized businesses. 

Being a growing agency has its advantages, unlike the big wigs we are able to give personal attention to our clients and our speed of execution is crazy!

For giving me the confidence to boast the way I am about Aarrrmor, is all because of my team. I don’t know what I did right to deserve working with them. When clients speak highly of my company, it’s my team they’re talking about, and I can never forget that…

Let me give you a sneak peek into our working style

First, we get a sense of your requirements. Not everybody is very clear about what they want from their SEO agency, especially the ones who’ve never worked on this before. 

And that’s okay

Working with small businesses has taught us that we often need to guide business owners into clarifying their requirements, and we are happy to do that with you.

Next, we give you a tiny glimpse into what your SEO strategy could be before you make a decision. 

If you like us enough till this point, we will make a deal 🙂

And that’s when the magic starts,

Once onboard, we do a Brand Clarification call where we try to understand your industry, business, customers from you, someone who knows this the best. After this, there is an industry and competition analysis, detailed audit benchmarking where you currently stand, collating and analyzing previous data, and identifying patterns and/or opportunities. 

Based on this step, your SEO strategy is customized to your business depending on where you are right now and where you need to be. Not only this, we work closely with you and your team to make sure SEO complements your other marketing efforts.

So, if you’re looking to engage with us for your SEO requirement, you’re in luck!

We have decided to offer 1 free SEO consultation call to 5 businesses every month for a limited time.

Want to get that consultation for your business?
Email Me or my team member Suparna at milimishra@aarrrmor.com or suparnamenon@aarrrmor.com and we’ll make it happen.

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