22 Tips for Choosing the Best SEO Agency & the Red Flags to Look Out For

22 Tips for Choosing the Best SEO Agency & the Red Flags to Look Out For

From finding the right service offerings to picking an expert team that reflects your way of working, choosing the best SEO agency for your business is difficult. That’s why we’ve put together 22 tips, including the red flags you need to look out for, when picking the right SEO agency. Read on.

Find Your SEO Agency: Key Considerations

guy thinking

You may be keen to find an SEO agency ASAP to start helping you climbing the search engine rankings. But, before you rush ahead, you need to consider a few things to make sure you’re taking the right steps for you and your business.

Step 1: Determine Your Objectives

Setting your expectations ahead of your search is crucial. You’ll need to consider exactly what you’re expecting your SEO to achieve and what return on investment you want from it. Ask yourself: are you trying to hit a quota? Are you looking to improve your site’s overall traffic, or increase conversions for a specific area of your business?

Determining your objectives should also consider if there any specific expectations from the SEO work itself. Are you looking for a specific type of content to be produced? How much? Knowing what you want to get out of your SEO provision is important for both you and the SEO agency. You want your organic visibility to have longevity, and picking the right, or wrong, agency might just be the deal breaker.

Step 2: Define Your Budget

A key consideration when choosing the right SEO agency for you is your budget. While this may seem an obvious one, it’s still a crucial step to consider. It’s important to consider how much of the marketing budget you can allocate to this area and therefore likely the size/location of the agency you can afford.

Typically, an agency is billed by hours or days. An acceptable range of time should be two days a month minimum, however various complexities and scales of project may impact this. Agencies and consultancies typically offer a day rate, which on average is between £250-£1500, with the upper end likely to be highly specialist consultants.

If you’re a smaller, local business, a huge London SEO agency is probably not going to be within your budget, but likewise you should do your research to understand what good SEO spend looks like across smaller agencies nearer to you.

Remember, the cheapest solution isn’t always best. In essence, you often get back what you pay for.

The amount you can spend could impact the amount of work you can get from your agency. But that’s not to say that you cannot have successful SEO on a small budget either! A good SEO agency will know exactly how to make the most out of your time and prioritise effectively to produce impactful SEO results. It’s all about being prepared for what this might mean for your business and SEO performance.

Step 3: Consider the Nature of Your Business

Another important factor for you to consider before you go on the hunt for your SEO agency is the nature of your business. If you’re managing a large ecommerce website for example, you’ll need an agency with the appropriate tools and manpower to manage the size of your website. On the other hand, if you’re a local business, with limited service offerings, a smaller sized agency should do the job.

Remember: There may be other channels of acquisition best suited to your business in its current form or for your specific aspirations. SEO might not be the priority for every business type, and that’s ok, just make sure you’ve considered this before you start searching.

Green & Red Flags When Picking Your SEO Agency

Picking Your SEO Agency, directions

Now you’ve taken the time to consider the crucial influencing factors in your search, it’s time to weigh up your options, considering the following:

SEO Agency Green Flags

1.    Expert Team

When looking at your options, consider the expertise of the SEO team on offer. Have they got enough experience across the team? Have they got the skills to work across different industries? An experienced and well-trained team will make the difference between a great SEO agency and a poor one. Consider whether they have experts in different fields outside of SEO too, such as a design and development team to support digital marketing efforts. You should check out their About Us page and LinkedIns as your first port of call.

2.    Good Testimonials

When you go looking online to buy something, you often check reviews out beforehand just to be sure. So why should your search for an SEO agency be any different? Spend a bit of time checking out testimonials of your agency contenders. A good SEO agency will have a wide range of up-to-date testimonials across their different offerings for you to consider. Check out their own websites and third party respected sites like The Drum. Don’t be afraid to ask for references either! A good agency will be forthcoming.

3.    Detailed Case Studies

A trusted SEO agency shouldn’t just have testimonials – they should go one step further and provide in depth case studies also. Case studies provide a great place for you to consider exactly how they’ve helped different site’s organic visibility, and whether they’re the right fit for you. Ideally, this would span across different industries and sizes of business for you to get the full picture.

Don’t be afraid to question the case studies too. Your first step should be to check the stats – are they plausible? For example, if they boast increases in the 000s of %, then it’s could well be increases from a very small start (it’s easy to 10x traffic when a website is only getting 5 people a month!).

4.    Award-winning

It’s always good to check an agency’s award cabinet too. They may claim they’re award-winning, but you should always consider how up to date these are and who has given them this accolade. Make sure they’re industry relevant, recent, and ultimately the best option for your business! Remember – not all awards are equal in value, with some awards even being bought. Here are some good ones to look out for:

  • Don’t Panic Awards – e.g. UK Search Awards, UK Agency Awards
  • Drum Awards
  • Digital Impact Awards
  • Google’s Awards
  • Campaign Awards

5.    Advanced, Multi-Disciplinary Approach

An expert agency should already have put your mind at rest that you’re in good hands, but a team with a multi-disciplinary approach is another great sign you’re in the right place. While you may not opt for an integrated search strategy (for now), employing experts who do is important.

Understanding how SEO may work alongside other acquisition channels, such as PPC for example, is critical to any good digital marketer who staying up to date with the ever-changing industry. A good agency will know this and demonstrate this.

This is not to say that you should look for an agency who claims they can do it all with one expert. SEO is an advanced discipline, so a good agency should employ specialists within their chosen field, whether that be content, outreach or technical for example.

6.    Custom Proposals & Bespoke Strategies

A good SEO agency will provide a custom proposal for your business and individual needs, and in turn, should provide a bespoke strategy for you also. Understanding the industry you function in, your audience, and ultimately your goals will allow a good SEO agency to create a tailored strategy to help you achieve these goals.

7.    Good Average Client Retention Rate

If you’re looking for a good and trustworthy SEO agency, then make sure to ask what their average client retention rate and duration is. A good SEO agency should be maintaining relationships for two years and above.

  • They have good SEO themselves!

This could be easily overlooked, but a green flag for an SEO agency is one that does good SEO themselves! Check your agency out on SEMrush or a similar SEO tool. Do they have lots of keywords that rank well for their own business-generating terms? If so, that’s a promising sign.

  • Thought Leadership

The SEO world is constantly changing, and you want an agency that keeps up or even leads within the industry. Check your agency’s blogs and social channels to see if they’re demonstrating they’re on top of it, providing thought leadership in the field.

  1. They Work with Organisations of Your Size

It’s important that your SEO agency of choice work on organisations of your size. If you’re too small a business for your chosen agency, you run the risk of only having juniors on your account, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re too big for your chosen agency, you may get those who are out of their depth working on your SEO. A good agency should qualify you appropriately.

holding red flag

SEO Agency Red Flags

The first red flag to watch out for is an agency that guarantees you certain rankings. SEO can be fickle and complex, so if you’re looking to rank first for a keyword with a high search volume and an agency has guaranteed you that you will, it’s time to look elsewhere.

With a number of external factors to consider, such as constant changes to the search landscape for example, guaranteeing your desired place in the search engine results page is impossible. An agency promising this suggests that they don’t understand the nature of SEO.

1.    Employs a ‘One-size-fits-all’ Approach

Another alarm bell when looking for an SEO agency is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to their digital marketing. SEO has to be bespoke to your business and website in order to see success. A rigid packaged approach, with capped keyword limits for example, is a red flag and shows an agency that hasn’t taken the time to consider what will work for your business, your site, or your industry.

2.    Churns Out ‘Basic’ Audits with Scaremongering

Be wary of agencies who just send you a colourful third-party audit export without their own analysis or context. For example, let’s say an agency reaches out and shows you a report with over 100 critical errors on your site that need fixing immediately.

An expert analysis would find that actually, these critical errors are short meta-descriptions on outdated blog content, which though not ideal, are certainly not critical not a high priority for your SEO. It’s easy for SEO tools to spit out an audit with loads of high priority ‘errors’ when the reality is quite different!

3.    Signs of Outdated, or Unethical, SEO Techniques

A trusted and well-respected agency should be transparent, and should certainly be using up-to-date, industry-recognised SEO techniques. Unethical SEO practice includes techniques like buying links and website cloaking, which, when employed, can lead to manual actions from Google. Not only this – but it just doesn’t work! This agency will not get you the results you desire.

Some unethical SEO techniques include:

  • Cloaking
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Buying links
  • Hidden content

     5. Lack of Time & Communication

Another red flag to watch out for is lack of communication from your agency during the sales process. Whether that’s through lack of time with the right people or slow communication, an agency who avoids questions or won’t dedicate time should be avoided.

    6. Does One Area of SEO – Calls it SEO

An agency that only focuses on one area of SEO, such as technical SEO or offsite SEO, but labels it as ‘SEO’, should be avoided.

We’re not saying you should avoid a technical SEO specialist or someone that provides one area of SEO as a service – no, we’re talking about those who package up one area and label it as their SEO service.

SEO is made up of multiple elements, including onsite, offsite, technical, and content. If your SEO agency is only focusing on one area, and neglecting others without a strategic explanation, it’s likely that your SEO is not working as hard as it should for you. When searching for the right SEO agency for you, ask about their specialist areas.

   7. Lack of Data-driven Decisions

Watch out for agencies that don’t use data to drive decisions when it comes to your website. Data insight is invaluable to businesses working across all fields, and this has never been truer for marketing. If your agency avoids using data to make informed choices for your SEO and makes random decisions in the hope of increasing your visibility, it might be time to reconsider.

8. Too Cheap

There certainly are some great value agencies out there, but past a certain point, your SEO simply won’t be getting the time it deserves. Make sure you know not only the cost but how much time you’re paying for also while searching for the right SEO agency for you.

9. They gatekeep their experts

A bad sign to be aware of when looking for your SEO agency is if they gatekeep their experts. If you’re only dealing with a salesperson and have had no exposure to the experts behind the scenes – be cautious!

10. Missing a ‘Meet the Team’ page

Though only a small detail, it can be quite telling. An SEO agency that doesn’t have a Meet the Team page on their site should be approached with caution – what are they hiding? A good, trusted SEO agency will present the team that will be working on your account up front.

1.    Outsourced services

A huge telltale sign that an agency should be avoided is if they outsource, particularly overseas. You may find that their development is outsourced elsewhere, and not in-house, for example, meaning communication can be slowed and less control is present.

2.    They’re too reliant on AI

As AI becomes increasingly utilised across industries, it’s important to remember to ask your prospective SEO agency what their AI usage policy is. If an agency is too reliant on AI, not only does this demonstrate a reliance on tools rather than their own knowledge, but it can pose problems if this contradicts your own company’s AI policy.

Put us to the Test – Speak to the SEO Experts at MRS Digital

Still searching for the right SEO agency for you? Look no further. Here at MRS Digital, our expert SEO team employ industry-savvy techniques to help your organic visibility soar. Don’t believe us? Check out what our clients have to say and get in touch today.

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