What Should In-house Marketers Look For When Hiring an SEO Agency?

What Should In-house Marketers Look For When Hiring an SEO Agency?

Graphic representing what to look for from an SEO agency.

Hiring a quality search marketing agency can be one of the most essential business decisions you make. The right agency will add strategic keyword optimization strategies to your existing marketing efforts and drive your target audience to your website. Not every “SEO agency” can do that.

So, what works?

Because SEO services are a long-term investment and vital to increasing your brand awareness, ROI and thought leadership, choosing a reputable and reliable SEO partner can be overwhelming.

To help you make an informed decision, based upon the needs of your business, we’ve outlined actionable insights for selecting a reliable search engine optimization company, including what you should be looking for, common pitfalls to avoid, questions to ask and the key measurable standards to expect.

1. Clearly Define Business Goals and Expectations

A critical first step in your strategy should be to set specific, realistic and measurable search marketing goals for your company that can be achieved within a given time frame.

To avoid ambiguity, outline exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish from SEO so the agency is clear on the results you’re looking for. Do you want organic traffic to increase? Keyword-optimized landing pages? More backlinks to your site? Dev help? Be clear.

The right SEO agency will understand your company’s goals and set up a gameplan that is built to meet their audience right where they are.

Below, you can see the homepage of our analytics hub, where clients can find their campaign performance and the latest insight we have to meet their needs.

Screenshot of Directive's analytics hub.

Ultimately, look for a proven agency that demonstrates long-term results and stays transparent.

What does the data show?

Your campaigns should be built off of what has worked and how it can be personalized for you.

This leads us to definite SOS warnings you’ll want to steer clear from.

If your SEO agency is not willing to work with you to set specific goals with the “why” behind their process, they may be just guessing. And that’s an expensive “guess” that you may not want to take!

You need data-driven marketing campaigns that make sense for you and the cost you’re paying. Gone are the days where data isn’t included. Ask your agency to show you what they’ve done and how this data will make a difference for you.

2. Proven Results and Experience

It’s true, bad SEO strategies can hurt your marketing goals. Since your website is the most important asset within your business, it’s critical to choose an SEO agency that understands and will not waste your time or money.

A proven track record for delivering results is an absolute must. So, take your time, do your research, ask for referrals, look for third-party directory reviews and ensure your future partner is their own best example.

The premier SEO agencies typically have social proof, testimonials, and case studies accessible online and available for your review.

Within these materials, key content to look for are:

  1. Valid and current testimonials – Look for agencies who have testimonials where you can call past clients and ask for a reference.
  2. Strong industry-specific case studies – Look for agencies who have data-driven wins in your niche. 
    Testimonial from client who hired Directive as their SEO agency.
  3. Ability to drive results – Look for established agencies who have proven strategies that work.

3. Transparent Metrics

The next step after outlining your goals is to ensure that you and the agency have a clear method of charting progress before you begin.

As you report to your C-suite, you don’t want to waste time trying to decipher results and look at vanity metrics. 

Key questions to ask yourself in this step are, “Has the agency demonstrated transparency throughout the proposal? Have they clearly articulated how they will be helping you achieve YOUR business objectives and KPIs?”

Your SEO agency should provide you with straight-forward reporting of what they’re what’s working and what’s not.

4. Confident Communication – Strong Deliverables

The most successful SEO campaigns occur when both parties communicate effectively and frequently to foster a constructive, trusting relationship.

An above-average SEO agency makes quality communication a priority to best serve the needs of clients. They should provide updates about your performance and progress on a monthly basis, at the very minimum.

Knowing and agreeing on how you’ll communicate is imperative. It allows you to stay on schedule with the other 100 things you’re managing as well!  

Also, are the quality of their deliverables enough to match your B2B and enterprise standards? Pay attention to detail, unique assets they share, and their relationship-building style on social media.

You want a partner who is making an effort in all aspects to be the best in their field.

So, some questions to ask yourself during this time are,  “Do our communication styles match? What’s their communication and reporting process like? Do they provide updates and deliverables, and if so, how often? Do they have a timeline and execution plan? Do they understand your goals and how do they align?”

If you cannot answer these questions confidently or find issues communicating during the sales or onboarding process, then keep looking. There’s an agency whose reporting style will match yours perfectly.

5. Avoid “Guarantees” and “Quick Fixes”

I’m going to be honest. The process of optimizing all things SEO to increase organic traffic and ROI is a timely practice. SEO is an investment, so you should be looking for an agency that treats it like one.

However, getting results like “178% year-over-year increase in organic traffic” is possible.

Good things come to those who wait.

SEO isn’t a one-time fix! Any agency offering shortcuts, like keyword stuffing, talks about optimization like it’s a magic bullet or claims they have “a special algorithm” are usually misleading and should be avoided at all costs.

Other red flags include agencies that guarantee results, especially without truly understanding your unique goals.

Quality SEO specialists radiate a deep understanding of how search engines operate, have in-depth knowledge of the RIGHT keyword research and offer data-driven strategies to deliver results.

Don’t lower your standards for quick fix deliveries.  

Making the Final Decision

Overall, SEO is vital to your digital marketing strategy. Choosing the right SEO agency is too.

Finding the best search marketing partner for your company can transform your business, in ways you may not have realized previously.

I hope this guide helps you choose the right SEO agency to excel you toward your goals. If you are looking to partner with a team of creatives, marketing savants, and technical specialists who love helping in-house teams excel in competitive niches, we’d love to talk to you about all your options.  

Benita Izu

Media Relations and Marketing Intern
Benita Izu is a strategic and corporate communications major at Chapman University and is the media relations and content marketing intern at Directive. Currently, she supports the marketing team by aiding in their media efforts, content development, and outreach. As a high energy go-getter type of gal, she is passionate about marketing, public relations, and strategy and is eager to expand her knowledge of the B2B marketing field.

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