If you want to outsource SEO, you’re not alone. Half of B2B marketers report outsourcing at least one marketing activity with content creation being the most popular, according to CMI’s 2020 data.
An important aspect of content creation is SEO—if you’re creating content, it needs to be SEO-optimized. However, 32 percent of B2B organizations report having zero full-time content marketing employees putting SEO on the backburner. This makes outsourcing SEO for your content marketing necessary.
What’s more, the benefits of outsourcing are many. Not only does an outsourced team allow you to scale your SEO efforts, but it often reduces the organization’s costs while ensuring that they’re getting expert support.
Before you start your search for an SEO agency, it’s important to remember that not all agencies are created equal. If you’re looking to outsource SEO for your content marketing, use these five questions to evaluate every agency properly before signing a contract.
1. Do They Specialize in One Area?
Some agencies specialize in one aspect of SEO. Their focus might be on on-site content optimization or link building. Others agencies claim to “do it all” and agree to any work you give them. There are benefits and drawbacks to working with both.
Working with a specialized agency may seem limiting, but a company that’s focused on just one or two aspects of SEO often truly understands what they do—and they do it well. An agency that claims to do everything well might only offer subpar services. Remember, the jack of all trades is also a master of none.
That being said, some large agencies may have the resources to handle all aspects of SEO with specific departments that have mastered certain tasks. However, these agencies are often significantly more expensive than boutique agencies. This means you may not get the attention you want or need. Worse, if the results aren’t what you expected, you may have drained your budget and have minimal options for recourse.
While one isn’t better than the other, it’s important that you’re clear on the specialties of each agency you’re interviewing and how that fits with your needs.
2. What SEO Strategies Do They Use?
Not all SEO is created equal. White hat SEO refers to practices that are ethical and approved by Google, while black hat SEO is considered spammy. Many of Google’s algorithm updates are meant to crack down on black hat SEO techniques and the agencies that use them. This means hiring an unethical company could potentially hurt your rankings if your website is penalized. Recovering from a Google penalty can be incredibly challenging.
White hat agencies follow along with the latest Google updates and best practices, using only these to ensure your content and website starts ranking in Google. In many cases, a white hat agency will also be more expensive than one that uses questionable tactics. A few strategy red flags to look for when interviewing an agency includes:
- Under-charging and over-promosing: Good marketing costs money—bottom line. If it sounds “too good to be true” it probably is.
- Quantity over quality: Google consistently reports that quality is always more important than quantity for SEO.
- Automation with link building: Depending on how they do it, this often means they’re spamming editors and websites, which means you’ll get links on low quality sites that don’t look good for your brand.
Keep Reading: 5 Local SEO Solutions for Your Small Business
3. How Do They Measure Success?
Metrics are a critical element of any marketing initiative. There are dozens of metrics related to search optimization, from the number of inbound links achieved to keyword ranking fluctuations. When looking to outsource SEO for your content marketing, it’s important to consider how the agency will report this data back to you. With the right data, you can easily review whether their work is helping you reach your goals or not.
Here are a few questions to ask about how they measure success:
- Do they send a monthly report with key metrics? Will there be annual strategy reviews?
- What tools do they use to measure success?
- Which metrics do they track? Which metrics are most important to them as indicators of success?
Ask your would-be agency if they have any case studies or client success stories. They should be able to provide reports on the before, during, and after of the other SEO work they’ve done, which can help you gauge how they measure success. This will also give you an idea of what to expect when they work for you.
4. How do they partner with your team?
The SEO agency you decide to work with plays a role in your overall marketing ecosystem. Whether they work with your other teams or not, they’ll need to be aware of key aspects of your brand, like voice, tone and messaging. As Chris Wilks and Kyle Smith, marketing leaders at BrandExtract, says:
“Even if your website has excellent content and is optimized properly, without a brand behind it, it’s far less likely that you’ll be found in search engine results pages (SERPs).”
Consider how the agency will work with other teams within your organization. For example, do they suggest getting feedback from your sales and customer success teams for content ideas? Are they able to communicate with the social media team to coordinate content and promotional calendars?
Consider how you need the agency to integrate into your organization before interviewing so you know what to look for and ask.
Keep Reading: The Big SEO Checklist for Content
5. Do they offer technical SEO back-end support?
Not all agencies offer this, but if you think you need this technical support, be sure to ask. A small boutique agency that doesn’t offer these services likely has trusted people within their network they can refer you to or bring in.
Outsource SEO for Better Content Marketing—But Find the Right Agency
Selecting an agency to outsource SEO for your content marketing is like hiring an employee. They need to work hard as your partner, use ethical practices and be the best at what they do. Go into the review process knowing what you need so you can be prepared with the right questions. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for red flags so you don’t sign a contract with someone who won’t provide results or worse, hurt your website. With the right agency, you’ll see results that lead to better brand authority, higher Google rankings, increased traffic, and ideally, more leads.