How To Hire A Killer Search Agency (And Why I Decided To Work For Them)
Every business owner should know the importance of a well-developed online marketing strategy.
But you can’t execute that strategy with a bad search agency.
The key problem is that many businesses go for the cheapest option available. They don’t understand the power that organic search holds or the results that it can achieve.
Here’s the truth:
93% of all website traffic comes from search.
Google makes over 500 changes to its search algorithm every year.
The vast majority of clicks go to the websites in the top three positions in results
Image from Visigility
A bad search agency won’t get you into those top positions. And it definitely won’t adapt to the hundreds of changes that Google makes every year. But that raises more questions.
Chief among them is how do you find the best search agency for you?
I’m going to give you the answers. But first, here’s a little more about me.
How I Met Online Marketing Gurus
It was during my time working for King Content (awarded a couple times over as the best content marketing agency in the world) that I first came across Online Marketing Gurus (OMG).
At the time, my internal team’s strengths lay completely in creating SEO friendly content, but we needed a lot of guidance with pretty much everything else SEO, as well as an agency that truly understood the perfect marriage of SEO & content working together to skyrocket leads.
There’s so much more to SEO than content. King Content needed an agency to handle the technical stuff, as well as Google AdWords/PPC campaigns.
We were a small marketing team (head of marketing and an intern) with goals to hit double digit (million-dollar) growth from marketing efforts.
I needed an agency I could rely on, who were nimble & that focused on revenue results rather than fluffy metrics.
Online Marketing Gurus seemed to fit the bill.
But before I hired them, I sat down with boat loads of other agencies, ranging from your massive agencies to tiny ones no one had heard of. I gave them all the same brief - put together a 12-month roadmap on how you’ll help us grow with AdWords & SEO.
Leads per month was the main KPI for this plan.
Every single agency came back with boilerplate responses - screengrabs from SEMrush or similar tools, lots of “fluff” about why they are amazing, and very little about the actual “plan” across SEO & AdWords that’ll help us achieve this incredible growth.
They focused on the generic techniques. But they didn’t give us a bulletproof roadmap for revenue domination.
There was one exception.
Online Marketing Gurus. They were different.
They gave me a pitch that did what I actually asked them to do. A 12-month roadmap - a mix of quick, mid-term, and long term wins - and a thorough break down of focus areas across AdWords’ & SEO to dominate growth.
It was intense. It was information overload. But it was good. They had poured a whole week into doing this - all for a tiny client starting off at a couple grand a month?
This “care factor” was exactly what I was looking for.
Exactly what I had previously seen made the difference between an “ok” agency, and a phenomenal one. That pitch got them the job. And the continued quality of their results guaranteed they kept it.
I can’t quite remember the exact numbers - but it was roughly 5X the numbers of leads from Adwords (not to mention expansion globally) as well as pretty much every blog we put out ranking on page 1 within a few days. The type of results that, for me, were unprecedented. And for fellow marketers I spoke to outside of work, the success of the campaign was just baffling.
Over the next few years, I used the company’s services for King Content (B2B) and, then again for Crimson Education (B2C). They kept getting amazing results regardless of the vertical.
After two years of using their services, I made a decision.
I wanted to work with the best search agency that I could find. An agency that truly cared about customers, and wasn’t in it for the money grab. Just revenue results for businesses of all shapes and size.
Online Marketing Gurus fit the bill.
And here I am today, where I can say, hand on heart, that I work for one of the best search agencies in Australia. But I know what you’re probably going:
“What made you pick Online Marketing Gurus?”
Let’s break it down. Here are the four key qualities you need to keep an eye out for when picking a great search agency needs.
Qualities of a winning SEO company
Quality #1 - They Give a Data-Driven Pitch
When you meet an agency for the first time, their pitch says a lot about them. It shows how thorough they were with their research, and how devoted they are to helping you grow your business.
The quality of the pitch made a huge difference in my decision. And it should do the same for you. A great search agency won’t wax lyrical about the techniques that they’ll use.
Sure, they’ll tell you the basics of SEO and PPC. But any agency can do that.
What you’re looking for is an agency that focuses on the data and how it applies to your business.
They’ll tell you how they’ll use their techniques, rather than just what those techniques are.
And they’ll present data that reinforces what they say.
Image from More Visibility
They’ll also create a custom plan that’s specific to your business’ growth goals.
And if you haven’t told them what your growth goals are - they’ll ask you, and spend a great deal of time on this to get a crystal clear understanding of your goals, key challenges & more.
This is crucial because there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy.
High-quality, in-depth pitches show that the agency understands what you need and that it knows how to help your business.
Pay close attention to the pitch when looking for the best search agency. It says everything you need to know about them and shows whether they’re able to solve your problem.
Quality #2 - They Treat All Clients Equally
Another thing to keep in mind when looking for the right digital marketing agency is the way they treat their clients. Obviously, every agency will go out of its way to land and keep big clients.
But what about the little guys?
Not every agency cares about a client that’s bringing them less money. But the best search agencies treat all of their clients equally. That’s something else that, for me, set Online Marketing Gurus apart.
When I met them, I was a very small client to them. Despite this, they showed a deep passion for getting the results that my business needed.
And they followed through on that passion. They made me feel that they actually cared about the problem, as well as the solution.
That’s exactly what all of the best agencies do. They care about your goals because they know that success means you’ll grow.
And if your company grows, it’s great for everybody.
If you feel like you’re a single drop in the sea of an agency’s clients, you won’t feel confident about their work.
But if they focus on you the same way they focus on a large enterprise, you can rest assured that this kind of devotion will yield results.
Quality #3 - They Care About the Results (That Matter)
This is closely related to the previous point.
The best SEO agency needs to genuinely care about the work they’re doing. They need to show that they’re not in it just for the money. Too many agencies try to grab the cash and run.
They’ll use Black Hat tactics, such as creating spammy content and generating poor backlinks, to give your website a quick boost. Then the search engines catch on and your website plummets down the rankings. It may even get a manual penalty.
Great search agencies care about helping your business to grow organically. They’ll actively avoid Black Hat tactics to ensure your site’s protected. Then, they’ll use customised techniques that benefit your site and comply with search engine guidelines.
This is undoubtedly one of the most important criteria in choosing an agency.
If the agency’s primary motive is money, they’re not likely to put lots of effort into helping your business. They’ll just go the quick and easy route before leaving you high and dry.
On the other hand, if it’s the growth of your company that drives the agency, you’re far more likely to achieve the desired results. The success of any SEO and PPC campaign depends on this, so always go with the agency that cares about helping your business.
Quality #4 - They Deliver Top-Notch Reporting
If you hire an agency to grow your business, you’d expect them to deliver reports that are both useful and easy to understand.
Reports are a funny beast - everyone wants to see something. You, your boss, others in the business - so it’s critical to be able to splice, dice, and view data in minutes. Versus manipulating multiple sources of data for days if not weeks.
As a marketing person, you need to be able to turn the data into ideas for future growth.
You need to point at the data and say:
This is how much the campaign cost us
These are the specific campaigns that are working well vs not working well.
These are our positions in the rankings
These are the conversions we’re getting from our traffic
This is the return on our investment
What impressed me much about the way Online Marketing Gurus did reporting was their dashboard.
It pulls data from various sources, including social, Google Analytics, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and more, so you can have a detailed look at how your campaign is performing. Quality reporting is key.
Whoever you pick needs to go into this in a ridiculous amount of depth. Instead of presenting you with complex data that you’ll get lost in, a good SEO company ensures you’re able to read the data with ease.
This will allow you to analyse your current position and determine future steps. The best agencies will make sure that there’s no need for handholding, and that you’re able to take their reports and work with them on your own.
4 Reasons to Avoid Cheap SEO Agencies
So far we’ve established the importance of SEO. If you’re looking for an agency, money shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
Going cheap causes all sorts of problems, and here’s why.
Reason #1 - Low-Quality Backlinking
Backlinks are one of the cornerstones of SEO.
They’re among the most important factors when it comes to ranking on search engines. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that your agency achieves high-quality backlinks.
A cheap agency can’t get good backlinks.
Instead, they’ll look for backlinks from directory networks or they’ll pay people to link to your site. They may insist on a reciprocal scheme in which you link to a site so that they link to you.
Perhaps they’ll just spam a bunch of forums with your link.
Do you know what these tactics get you?
Image from AHREFS
That’s a manual penalty for bad backlinks from Google. And it takes months to get rid of those links. You have to clean up every single link that isn’t any good for your site.
By the time you’ve finished, you’ll have wasted thousands of dollars in work hours.
On the other hand, having the right amount of high-quality links will not only get you higher in search results but also establish your credibility and authority.
Always make sure to find a company that will do backlinking well.
Reason #2 - Second-Hand Content
One of the most important parts of your website is its content. It’s a clear representation of your business and it needs to reflect your brand’s message.
But that’s not all.
Good content marketing generates three times the number of leads that traditional marketing manages. And it does it while costing 62% less.
And that’s where going cheap damages your business.
Many cheap SEO agencies don’t really care about high-quality content.
Instead, they use software that spins existing content on the web into ‘original’ posts. The structure and grammar of these articles are often questionable, as they’re written by machines. This kind of poor-quality content means you build no authority. People don’t want to read bad content.
No authority means no conversions.
And guess what…
Image from Advanced Web Ranking
That’s right. You can get penalised for bad content too.
Reason #3 - No Custom Strategies
The best search agency always adapts to the needs of its clients. This is not the case with most cheap SEO companies.
Most just offer a fixed set of services at a fixed price.
A couple of bog-standard strategies isn’t enough to get good rankings.
In fact, there’s a high chance that your website might be the victim of an ill-fitting strategy. The techniques used don’t mesh with your needs, which means the rankings don’t come.
At worst, these strategies just get you penalised. The obvious result is a waste of money and a lack of desired results.
Reason #4 - It’s Not a Good Long-Term Solution
If you’re a business owner, you want your business to keep growing for as long as possible.
With poor SEO, this is pretty much impossible.
The reason for this is that cheap companies have a hard time adapting to all the changes in the way search engines work.
But that’s not all.
They also offer a limited range of services, which might work for some time but will cease to yield results eventually.
Google’s 500+ yearly changes to its algorithm put paid to that.
When this happens, your business will stagnate, or even fail.
So if you want to ensure long-term growth, invest more into the best search agency you can find.
The Final Word
Well now, you’ve heard my story and how I went about picking the right SEO company. It’s by no means a bulletproof list. However, it’s certainly enough to save you the dramas of working with agencies that are just after a quick buck.
Stay wary, take your time, and put the agencies through the paces. It’ll save you a LOT of time and money in the long run.
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