Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-growing beast that gets more complicated with every passing year. We have Google updates, new forms of social media and thus new advertising avenues, growing user standards, complex AI, the list goes on. All of these contribute to the densely tangled web of SEO best practices. It also means that it’s becoming less realistic for business owners to manage their own pay-per-click (PPC) and SEO accounts. But with a flooded market, how do you choose the right SEO agency for you?
SEO, PPC, and marketing agencies are popping up like weeds, but they are not all built equally. The skill set and knowledge base of these companies varies widely, and you can’t be sure that you’ll get a good return until it’s too late. So we’ve put together a small guide on selecting your next SEO agency, hoping to steer you away from the fakes, the duds, and the woefully underqualified.
- SEO experience specific to eCommerce
- Only you should own your SEO accounts
- Full transparency in your reports
- Clearly outlined responsibilities and expectations
- Understandable and clear contract terms
- The platforms and channels you need
When you see this, you’ll probably think this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised! The reality is that eCommerce SEO is a LOT different from other types of sites. There are different metrics that need to be measured, different goals to be set, and an active finger on the pulse of eCommerce market ebbs and flows.
Seasonality, for example, is going to be much more important to you than it would be for a dentist office website. You’ll want to make sure the agency you hire has explicit experience in the eCommerce arena, and will know how to prepare for holiday seasons, industry-specific seasonality, and changes in the economy.
Take a look at their client list. Most SEO agencies have these listed on their website, but if they don’t, ask for specific examples.
Property Ownership & Data Holding
In Google, you have an account; this account can have multiple properties. For example, if you own multiple businesses, you would have a property for each, all within the same account. The property allows you to separate your data from your other ventures. Unfortunately, some SEO agencies operate in a way that leads to your property being held under their account.
What does this mean for you? It means if you ever decide to leave that agency, they own your data. The property may have your name on it, and it may be paid for and maintained with your money, but if it lives within the SEO agency’s account, then you risk losing all historical data and settings if you go your separate ways.
In addition, it makes it next to impossible to be able to fully trust the reports you receive. Because their account presumably holds properties belonging to all of their other clients, you can’t have full admin access. That would grant you access to the other properties as well. It also means your developers won’t be able to have admin access either.
This may not seem like a critical issue, but it can be quite insidious if you ever have doubts about the efficacy of your SEO agency. With no option to view the setup, payments, and results for yourself, you are stuck trusting that you’re getting the whole story.
For some companies, this is the only way they operate, claiming it to be an industry standard. That’s not the case; if the SEO agency you’re talking to won’t provide you with full access and, more importantly, ownership of the account, turn and run.
Sort of an addendum to the previous point, reporting transparency is critical to ensure your money is being used honestly and ethically. Your SEO agency should be able to provide you with detailed breakdowns of how much of your monthly fees are going to the maintenance of your ads, versus the operating costs of the company.
You want to be able to see spend amount, return on ad spend (ROAS), cost per conversion/cost per click, keyword performance, and click through rate. If you don’t understand the metrics that you’re being presented with, the agency should be able to clearly explain what they are, what targets you should be aiming for, and how to get there.
Ask for samples of reports that they’ve given to other clients. Of course, you don’t need to know the business name or details, but being able to review a real report will let you know what you should be able to expect to see if you hire them.
Scope of Responsibilities
Transparency with ads is paramount, but it isn’t the only important piece of your SEO portfolio. Find out what sorts of areas the agency will support for you on a regular basis. Your SEO needs to be monitored and maintained in several areas:
- Google Analytics: Provides insights into your site traffic, user behavior, and key performance metrics as a way to assess the effectiveness of your ads, branding, site performance, and your user demographics.
- Google Merchant Center: Facilitates the submission and management of product data, ensuring accurate and comprehensive information for Google Shopping ads and organic search results.
- Google Search Console: Monitors, optimizes, and troubleshoots your site’s performance in Google Search, providing valuable insights into indexing status, search queries, and technical issues.
- Google Tag Manager: Simplifies and streamlines the management of site tags and tracking codes, enhancing data accuracy for analytics and SEO purposes.
- Social Media Pixels: Track user interactions on a website originating from social media platforms, providing valuable data to optimize content and engagement strategies for improved search engine visibility and ad management.
- On-Page SEO: Optimizes individual site pages with relevant content, proper HTML tags, and other elements to enhance their visibility and rankings in search engine results.
- Technical SEO: Optimizes the technical aspects of your website, including site structure, speed, indexing, and mobile responsiveness, to improve search engine crawling and enhance overall website performance in search results
Now, your SEO agency isn’t necessarily going to manage all of those. Things like on-page and technical SEO are often handled by your friendly neighborhood developers in close collaboration with the SEO agency. The important thing is to know what they will cover for you so you don’t assume your analytics is being monitored when it isn’t.
Clearly outline these and any other avenues of SEO that the agency will, and will not, manage for you.
Like any other contract for any other service, make sure you are fully aware of what you’re signing up for. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications, explanations, and revisions where necessary. Your agency may or may not be willing to make changes to the contract for you, which is perfectly fine. Just be sure you know what you’re signing up for, how long you’re under contract, any fees for breaking the contract, and whether the contract auto-renews.
Just like the reports, simply ask for a sample. This should be simple and easy for the agency to provide for you. Be suspicious if they won’t produce a clear answer here.
Despite the examples given in this guide, there are more SEO and PPC avenues than just Google. Confirm with your agency where they are willing and able to get you set up. Is Bing an option? Do they work with social media platforms? What about newer platforms like TikTok?
Keep in mind that if you want to move into one of these new platforms in the future, they may not be able to help with that.
This one can be trickier to confirm. You’ll essentially have to ask, and feel out whether you believe their response. Are they saying yes to everything just to close a sale? Or are they being honest about their own limitations and how much they are willing to work with you to introduce new setups.
SEO and PPC can make or break your visibility and your bottom line, so don’t be afraid to do your due diligence when seeking out an SEO agency. Have a clear understanding of what you expect to get out of the relationship, and what you’re willing to pay for it. At Glendale, we can help with your technical and on-page SEO, and Google accounts, but we do not manage Google Ads accounts . If you are looking for assistance, reach out and we’ll let you know if we can help!