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What does an SEO company do? Do I even need SEO services? We answer these questions and more in this detailed guide.
As a senior content marketing specialist here at Blue Corona, I’ve worked in the SEO field for a while. While some things in the digital marketing industry change rapidly, (Google algorithms, consumer expectations, digital technology), one thing sure hasn’t—when I tell a business owner (or a friend, or a family member) that I work in SEO, I get the same two questions I’ve been getting since I began my career:
“What does an SEO company do?”
“Do I need SEO services?”
Seeing as SEO is such a necessity for any sort of digital marketing success I would like to set the record straight as to what, exactly, an SEO company—or at least one like Blue Corona—actually does. Below you’ll find the following:
- What an SEO company actually does (including what SEO is)
- SEO services that should be included in any SEO contract
- How to figure out if you should hire an SEO company
- How to find the best SEO company for your specific needs
- Questions you should ask an SEO company before signing a contract
What Does an SEO Agency Do? A Lot, Actually.
A lot of business owners don’t understand what goes on at an SEO agency, meaning as far as they know, I (and the rest of my team) juggle hats all day.
First, let’s clarify what SEO even is. SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the process of increasing a web page’s search rankings in order to increase online visibility.
Here’s why hiring a legit SEO agency is so important to any business: 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 47 percent of people click on one of the first three listings.
Now, I say a “legit” SEO agency because in the online world there are two general types of SEO: black-hat SEO and white-hat SEO. White-hat SEO gains search rankings based on actual hard work and data. Black-hat SEO involves shady methods that can get you to the top, but not for long—and these tactics are are usually damaging to your long-term presence (more on that later).
What goes into white-hat SEO? Well, there are more than 200 factors that go into what makes a page rank high on the search results page, but the ones that matter the most (and the ones white-hat SEO revolves around) are:
- Whether or not your website is secure (HTTPS vs. HTTP)
- Whether or not your website is mobile-friendly
- How fast web pages load on your site
- Whether a web page has the correct schema markup (type of website code)
- The quality of your web pages’ content
- The length of your web pages’ content
- Presence of social signals that point back to your website
- Presence of quality backlinks that point back to your website
- Whether or not you have optimized images on your web pages
How do we influence all these factors? Easy.
SEO Services that Should Be Included When You Sign on with an SEO Company
How we influence the factors mentioned above are with a few key SEO services. A good SEO company (like ours, for example) should typically include the following in their SEO contract:
- Website structure analysis
- Website content analysis, including conversion rate analysis
- Off-page online analysis
- Optimization of website code and structure
- Optimization of onsite content
- Optimization of off-page factors
WebSITE STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
While Google and the other major search engines (who don’t really deserve mention, though I know Bing is trying really hard) stress that they want you to design your sites for users rather than search engines, let’s face it – it needs to be structured properly for the engines to read if you ever want to get those users. Things our web team looks for include:
- HTTP or HTTPS – The “s” at the end of HTTPS means your website is secure. You need a secured site even if you don’t take credit card payments online because Google gives secure websites preference in the search results.
- Analytics setup – We look for existing analytics tracking, and if there is none, we install it so we can better track where your leads and sales are coming from. This helps provide the most meaningful results for you.
- Robots.txt – This is the file that is used to prevent search engine crawlers from crawling and indexing pages on your website that you want hidden from public view.
- Site errors – These send signals to search engines that your site is not trustworthy and thus not worthy of being a premium listing spot. Common errors include 4XX errors, duplicate page content, duplicate title tags, missing title tags, and crawlers blocked by Robots.txt.
- Indexed status – Indexed pages have been found by search crawlers (like the spiders for Google) and deemed to have enough quality for relevant search phrases. Indexed pages will show up in search results and can drive organic traffic to your site.
- Sitemap – Your XML sitemap is a list of all the pages on a website that you want a search engine to index (not to be confused with the robots.txt which tells a search engine which pages not to index).
- Page speed – User experience is important for search engines – they know that users are impatient. This is why site speed if a factor in how well your website ranks.
- Meta elements – Duplicate title tags, meta descriptions, and site content can all negatively impact your site’s search engine rankings and click-through-rate. Ensuring your meta elements are optimized will better your chances of being found on the SERPs.
- Conversion rates – we look for bottlenecks in the user experience and content that might be throttling leads. For example, we will A:B test different contact forms or links to find out which ones work the best for your company.
Once all the technical stuff has been taken care of, we move onto:
This is where I and the rest of the SEO team come in. By checking out the content you already have on your site, we can diagnose a number of issues related to:
- Voice search compatibility
- Poorly-targeted keywords
- Poorly ranking content
- Duplicate content issues
- Missing pages
- Name-address-phone number inconsistencies (for local SEO)
- And more
Ultimately, your website content is the most important thing you can have—it’s what will attract visitors and convert them to leads. So once we get an idea of the content you already have, it will help us decide how to structure our plans for your website moving forward.
We also perform a keyword analysis to find the best opportunities to rank higher and connect with more customers.
Much of your SEO success takes place off your website, on review sites, industry blogs, online directories, and more. The good part about that is that if you’re really popular online or have lots of stellar reviews from past customers, it’s easy to rank really well for your treasured keywords. The bad part of that is most small companies aren’t that popular and many may have more negative reviews than positive, no matter how good their services are.
So, once we’ve strip searched your entire website we turn our attention to what people are saying about you. This includes finding mentions of your site across the web and seeing how we can adjust them to your advantage. If we see negative reviews, we’ll show you how to respond to them and hopefully make amends with the customer. Our goal for you is to have a reputable online presence that users trust and we use the following tools to get there:
- Increases in organic traffic
- Content focused on locality
- Unique title tags and meta descriptions for each product and service area
- Consistent NAP across every listing
- Authentic reviews, marked up with schema
- Reputable directory listings
- A mobile responsive website
- Authority building measures
You’d be surprised—little things like those listed above can make an astounding difference when you’re trying to extend your web presence online.
OPTIMIZING CODE AND SITE STRUCTURE:
Sometimes your site code and structure is in a good place and only needs a few minor tweaks. (Let’s be real—there’s ALWAYS something else you can be doing to outperform your local competitors.) When the SEO team at Blue Corona optimizes your site code and structure, you can rest assured knowing you have experts handling the job. But more importantly, we will:
- Structure your site’s navigation so it’s easy for people to find exactly what they want
- Clean up the code in your site so it runs faster
- Eliminate errors Google picks up when it crawls
- Add an XML sitemap so Google’s crawler can quickly visit the different pages
- Add internal links to pages within your site so users can flow to the places you want them to go
OPTIMIZING ON-PAGE CONTENT
Content is king. When it comes to maintaining your website, it’s not a one and done job. You don’t just create landing pages, put them live, and that’s that. In order to consistently drive organic traffic to your website, you need to constantly be creating new content AND optimizing existing pages on your website. The SEO team at Blue Corona will:
- Remove or rewrite duplicate content
- Place keywords in your page titles to help Google rank your pages
- Add well written, keyword rich copy to underperforming landing pages
- Create new landing pages to draw in other visitors
- Add images, format text, and change colors to move more visitors to convert
OPTIMIZING OFF-PAGE FACTORS
Your off-site presence is just as important as your on-site factors—which is why we will work to:
- Use local SEO tactics to improve your position in the search results for local terms
- Find directory listings of your business online, verify them, and update them to make sure they contain accurate information
- Seek out new, valuable directories to add your site to
- Submit press releases about new services your company is offering and other newsworthy items we come across
- Discover noncompetitive blogs in industries similar to yours for whom we can write guest posts in exchange for links
Search engine optimization is more than just making these changes to your website. What’s the point of making changes if you don’t analyze the data. At Blue Corona, we track, test, tweak, repeat! #TTTR That’s our motto, and we’re sticking to it. Throughout this process we will:
- Monitor rankings, traffic, and conversions on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
- Use the data we’ve gathered to determine which of the above items will help your site the most
Should I Hire an SEO Company?
If you meet any of the following requirements, you need to hire an SEO company, no ifs, ands or buts.
- I want to grow my business
- I currently don’t know how my website is contributing to my bottom line
- I want to be found in a newly expanded market area
- I want more people to call me than my competitors
- I want more leads
- I want more sales
- I want to differentiate myself from my competitors
- I want to ensure my company’s future
- I want to outrank my competitors in the search results
How Do I Find the Best SEO Company for My Needs?
Good question. An SEO partnership is long-term, so you need to be sure of who you’re picking. Remember those black-hat techniques I mentioned at the top of this article? You’re going to want to avoid those.
Not all SEO companies or content marketing firms live up to their promises of more traffic, better rankings (Note: rankings aren’t the real measure of success), and more leads. Avoid any SEO company that promises anything like the following:
- Overnight rankings
- Doubled traffic
- Instant leads
- Search engine submissions
- X amount of backlinks
- Any sort of ROI projections
If you want promises like that, you can find them—but you’ll regret it later when the results aren’t what you signed up for.
Signs of Black Hat SEO
A red flag should go up anytime an SEO expert makes certain claims or promises about results in X amount of time. The SEOs that give our industry a bad name are famed for what we call “churn and burn” practices, which often involve gaming rankings by:
- Buying a ton of links from random, crappy websites
- Using a computer program to generate hundreds of pages of garbage
- Using duplicate or scraped content
- Submitting fake press releases in order to spam links
I won’t say these things don’t work, because in some cases they do. The problem is they’re locked in a never ending cat and mouse game as Google slowly shuts them down, one by one. If you haven’t used black hat SEO tactics on your site, don’t start. But if you have, we recommend working with a trustworthy SEO company that can help clean up your website. Don’t risk the chance of getting a Google penalty.
A word of advice—do not do business with anyone that insists on retaining copyrights to any and all meta data they create, edit, or analyze for you. If they retain or have this right assigned to them, they can legally bar you from using it, or totally strip your site should you choose to leave them for another company. With Blue Corona, everything we work on throughout our relationship is yours now, and yours forever.
What to Ask Any SEO Company Before Hiring Them
Before you hire anyone, make sure you look at SEO company reviews. If numerous people have had issues with a vendor, there’s something going on. Ask up-front for examples of reviews and case studies that prove success. You should also additionally ask the following questions:
- What’s in my current contract? Re-read the contract. What does it include? When does it end?
- What’s the process if I cancel? Sometimes you won’t gain access to your website or you’re tied into a contract you didn’t know had an end date.
- How will we communicate and how often? Set expectations early, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
- Do I have full access to my site and Analytics/Adwords accounts? It’s helpful to know who has FTP access, CMS access, Analytics access, and AdWords access.
- Will I own my website? Many SEO companies have website ownership clauses built into their contracts. For example, some will build “free” websites, but if you leave your contract early you lose all rights to it (We, of course, don’t do this. When you buy a website from us, it’s yours from day one).
- Do you provide guarantees? A good SEO company doesn’t. Because of all the moving parts and because each website is different, it’s impossible to guarantee results. If you talk to a company that does, you need to back away as quickly as possible!
- Have you done work like this for companies similar to mine? This is crucial. Different industries have different nuances and SEO requirements, which means you need to find an SEO provider that knows your specific industry backwards and forwards.
- What contracts and options are available? How do I determine the right budget? It depends on your starting point, goals, competitive landscape, and internal capabilities. No one size fits all—there are no cookie cutter solutions, at least not from the best companies.
- What are all your fees and payment options? Be sure you know every single aspect of how you’re going to pay for what SEO costs. Otherwise, you might have work withheld because you “didn’t pay.”
Work with Our SEO Company to Grow Your Business
So if you’re trying to choose the best SEO company (or best local SEO company), you have to ask yourself—how do I want to appear on the web? Do I want people to think of my company as a scam because my marketing people are a scam? Or do I want my site to be a reflection of my business? If you’re interested in the latter, contact us and our SEO experts today.
About The Author: Katie is an Organic Team Lead at Blue Corona. Outside of content creation and SEO, Katie enjoys stuffing her face with nachos, online shopping, and binge-watching Netflix.
View more blogs by Katie Birkbeck