Growing organic traffic for your local business requires a sustained and expert approach — and a specific skill set that it’s unlikely you want to develop while you’re busy working on your business.

Hiring an SEO agency is a big decision. As SEO is a long-term strategy, you want to put your confidence in a long-term SEO partner that not only has your long-term goals in sight but can work with you to achieve them.

The best SEO agency will be one that sticks with you when things go right and when things go wrong, because you have made a mutual commitment to go on the SEO journey together, sharing the rewards and taking on the challenges.

To help you when hiring a local SEO agency for your business we explore what you need to be prepared to do, the questions you should ask prospective partners and how you can work together to have a mutually beneficial and long-term partnership.

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What you need to contribute

While you need to make sure you hire a local SEO firm with the skills, knowledge and expertise to maximise your SEO efforts, you also have some contributions to make and responsibilities to uphold to ensure that, no matter which agency you choose, you have a long and successful partnership.

Understand Google’s guidelines for representing your business

Before you reach out to an SEO company in Adelaide, take some time to read through and understand the guidelines for representing your business on Google. Get your head around the basics to create a profile that works for you and Google — at the very least you will learn what behaviour Google will and won’t accept and avoid making any violations that will land you with a penalty. You don’t have to be an expert in the minute details, but the foundation will also help you to assess whether the agencies you speak with are all they crack themselves up to be.

Own up to past mistakes

Google is known to penalise websites that don’t play by the rules. If you have made some mistakes in the past, intentional or not, it’s best to be upfront and clear with your agency from the get-go. While it can be embarrassing to admit violations of Google’s guidelines, it’s important that your SEO agency are aware of them so they can start working to reverse any damage or prevent any negative impacts in the future.

Do your best to meet your obligations

It really doesn’t matter what type of business you run, it can be frustrating when a client misses a deadline. Any good SEO consultant in Adelaide wants to achieve your goals so make sure you meet your deadlines to avoid any delays, or poor results. If you have agreed to supply information, content or other materials, make it your business to deliver it on time so your agency can do their best to achieve the results you want to see.

Set clear goals and budgets

What is it that you really want to achieve through your SEO strategy? There are a range of metrics which you can use to measure success: more qualified website traffic, form submissions, clicks-to-call or reviews, increased click-throughs or conversion rates, and so on. Make sure your SEO goals align with your business goals and that you are prepared to allocate sufficient budget to achieve them. Being clear about what you want to achieve and what you’re prepared to commit will help an agency prepare a realistic and achievable SEO strategy.

Be realistic about your expectations

While it is imperative that you are clear about your SEO goals, it is important to be guided by an SEO expert as to what is realistic. Keep in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy with many different components and is impacted by competitors, market and past experience — pushing your way to the top of internet search results takes time. Rather than seeking a definitive outcome and deadline, look for milestone goals that keep you on track to success.

Expect changes that aren’t in your control

When it comes to local search functionalities, Google is continuously changing and adding features, implementing new rules or algorithmic updates, and resolving bugs, while new competitors enter the market or up the ante on their SEO efforts.

Any proactive SEO agency will make every effort to stay on top of changes and trends, however it’s important to be realistic that this may require time as they investigate the change and develop actions that need to be taken. Exercise patience and maintain communication with your agency as they endeavour to get ahead.

Ten questions to ask prospective SEO partners

If you take anything away from this blog, let it be to not rush into anything. Remember, you have a long road ahead with an SEO agency and there will be bumps along the way.

Any good local SEO agency will offer a free consultation with the goal of getting to know you better — but this also provides an opportunity for you to get to know them, their business, if they are knowledgeable and experienced, and if they are the right fit for your business.

Asking the following questions will help you extract exactly what you need to know to make informed decisions.

1. Are your marketing practices consistent with Google guidelines?

Any agency claiming to be experts at SEO should not only know Google’s guidelines inside and out but adhere to and practice them for the benefit of their clients (and their own business and reputation). If you’re not confident an agency you are considering is well versed in Google’s relevant guidelines, simply ask a hypothetical question and assess their answer against the guidelines.

2. Do you contribute to your industry as thought-leaders?

An easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to research the reputation of an SEO expert and what contributions they make as thought leaders within the online marketing industry. Good SEO agencies are always on the forefront of trends, especially how they impact SEO metrics and performance in general. They may have a blog or contribute to one, podcast, social platforms or speaking engagements which they use to share trends, success stories, learnings or their own research.

3. Can you demonstrate what you’ve done for other businesses?

Actions speak louder than words. Ask any prospective SEO marketers to share success stories and any challenges and what that they learned from. This will give you a good insight into their performance and integrity based on how honest and open they are with their own business story. Look out for vague results and wishy-washy anecdotes.

4. Do you have any customer testimonials to share?

Even in a digital world where online marketing holds an immense amount of share, the power of word of mouth is still second to none. Ask the agency for testimonials or look to their website for a client list and contact them directly about their experiences with the agency.

5. Are my goals realistic?

Prior to any initial meeting or discussion, an SEO agency should have invested some time in researching your business and industry — enough to have a relatively clear understanding of whether or not your initial goals are realistic and attainable. They should be able to commit to providing a more definitive answer once they have been engaged to oversee your SEO needs. Be wary of anyone that promises you the world as they could be overpromising just to win your business.

6. What is your SEO process?

A well refined approach to SEO strategy comes with education, experience, wins, losses and importantly, learning. A good SEO company will have a watertight process and should be able to clearly articulate how they intend to go about delivering results for you.

7. What will you invest in researching my business, competitors and market?

A good SEO agency won’t hurry to issue you an invoice — they’ll be straight into researching your business, audience, competition, goals and the market you’re operating in to gain the insights required to put forward their recommendations and form the basis of a smart SEO strategy.

8. What will you need from me?

Get a feel for how the agency works with their clients, what they expect from them and the deliverables that are required of you. Establish how they communicate with their clients, the frequency and what works best for you both — do you prefer regular meetings, not to have any involvement or would you like them to educate you as much as possible along the way? Use this conversation to discuss realistic costs and what will work within your budget.

9. Who is responsible for and will work on my SEO strategy?

A winning SEO strategy requires expert knowledge — often from a diverse team of people — so don’t be shy in asking who it is that will be managing your strategy, account and execution, and working in partnership with you to achieve your goals.

10. How and when will you report back to me about campaign progress and success?

Regular reporting should be backed up by being transparent and clear — regardless of whether the results are positive or not. You should only want to work with a local SEO agency that tells you how it is, not what you want to hear and does it in a way that is meaningful and easy to understand. And of course, uses the data and turns it into insights to improve the SEO strategy for your website.

Things to avoid

While you’re busy sussing out expertise, skills and strategic approaches, be sure not to overlook some common red flags.

Cold calling

While many good local SEO agencies do legitimately advertise their services, the best win the vast majority of their work from word-of-mouth, referrals, happy clients, industry peers and the reputation they’ve worked hard to build. Rather than reacting to a cold call, you’ll be much better off in the long run if you research prospective SEO partners yourself.

Committing to fixed packages

Every SEO strategy is unique. Every website has different issues and businesses have different goals, so SEO strategies should be tailored for each website. Steer clear of cookie-cutter SEO packages as they don’t allow the flexibility required for a customised approach so will be unlikely to achieve your goals.

Being locked into long-term contracts

If an agency is working with you to achieve realistic goals and you’re seeing progress and results, why would they need to lock you into a long-term contract? If you aren’t getting return on your investment with them but you’re locked into a contract, you won’t be able to seek a better service elsewhere.

Guaranteed results

While agencies can generally put together a strategy to deliver results and sometimes forecast how long it may take, any SEO agency that guarantees specific outcomes is in way over their head. When it comes to SEO, there is no way to accurately predict results nor the exact time it will take to achieve them, particularly with constantly changing algorithms. Let your decision be guided by their experience, the length of time they have been practicing and the results they have delivered for other clients.

Poor communication

Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour and if an agency isn’t meeting your expectations of professional and accessible communication at the beginning of the relationship, chances are they never will.

Unethical business practices

If you get the impression that an agency is willing to enter into practices that violate Google’s guidelines, then steer clear — while it might get you a quick win on the board this behaviour can damage your website performance and brand well into the future.

How to maintain a successful partnership

Working with an Adelaide local SEO agency should be a long-term partnership. Like any relationship, it will take work. Here’s some tips to ensure the longevity of your working relationship and the ongoing success of your SEO efforts.

Ask questions

There’s no such thing as a silly question. Seek clarity, explanations and answers — a good SEO agency will want their clients to understand what actions they are taking to achieve their SEO goals.

Communicate openly and respectfully

You and your agency should be working together as a team for the collective benefit of your business. Always maintain open communication, reach out with concerns, seek clarification where you don’t understand and question anything that doesn’t feel right. Seek clear and transparent reporting, look for progress against agreed milestones and calmly discuss any bumps along the road.

Be accountable and seek accountability

Both agency and client will have tasks to complete as part of the SEO journey. Take actions, meet your deadlines and own your part in the process. Likewise, if you feel the agency is meeting your agreed expectations, raise your concerns and give them the opportunity to rectify the problem.

Invest in developing your own knowledge

There’s no harm in upskilling yourself along the way. Taking the time to understand what your agency is doing and how your results are tracking will leave you more empowered on the SEO journey and feeling more like a part of the SEO team.

In it for the long haul

You want to find a local SEO agency that is in it for your business as much as you are — one that will be around through the thick and thin of this long-term digital marketing strategy, one that has the skills and expertise to turn clicks into conversions and shoot your website high up the search results pages. The best investment you will make is in finding the right partner to guide you on the SEO journey so take the time to consider your options, do your research and secure your long-term success.

As an experienced Google Ads agency and SEO company in Adelaide, Online Path is well-placed to help you achieve your goals by developing a smart SEO strategy that works. We have a wealth of experience in digital marketing in Adelaide and proven results to back it up.

If you are hiring a local SEO agency, contact us today for an obligation free chat about your SEO goals.

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