Hire an agency? Take it in-house? What’s the best way to ensure a successful approach to improve the online presence of your company? These decisions can be tough, and there isn’t just one right answer. Of course, coming from an agency myself, I would love to be able to say that agency relationships are always successful. Unfortunately they aren’t. Unsuccessful engagements can happen for a number of reasons, but a good agency understands that their success relies solely on your business and website’s success.
It goes without saying that there are tons of sketchy and inept SEO/SEM agencies out there. Some rely on black hat tactics that could result in penalties down the road, some try to intimidate their clients with technical jargon in order to avoid accountability, some don’t understand your business and some simply overcharge for their services. In addition, technology and binding contracts can keep clients feeling as if they’re being held hostage by their agency.
With that said, there are just as many competent and ethical agencies willing and able to help. But in order to provide top notch service and deliver results, there are a few things that can be done on the client side to ensure a successful relationship.
A Few Tips
- Communicate Objectives: besides increasing traffic, what do you really need? Have you identified your key performance indicators (KPIs)? It sounds obvious, but more visits aren’t necessarily going to impact your bottom line. What are the specific actions (conversions) you want visitors to take once they get to your site? What are the conversions that are most profitable? What is your lifetime customer value? What are your goals in terms of cost per acquisition?
- Understand Resource Limitations: realistically, what are the resource limitations you are likely to face in undergoing optimization efforts? It’s important to understand what you’re up against so expectations can be set internally. From my experience, higher-ups are always eager to know if SEO “really works” but if it’s not communicated that additional resources will need to be applied, you might face disappointment and frustration within your organization. These limitations typically fall into three categories –
- Technical: will your CMS or ecommerce database impede the ability to implement SEO best practices?
- Human: do you have people to write content, make site changes, champion results, etc?
- Financial: do you have the financial resources to dedicate to paid search? To transition to a new CMS? To hire new folks?
- Provide Data: I know you have it somewhere. SEO’s love data. Almost everything in the online world can be measured and tied to ROI, so provide all relevant revenue data. Even offering offline data to better understand if a dip in online revenue is due to a site performance issue or if this is a larger, company or industry wide problem or trend.
- Personality Fit: make sure you like the people you’re going to work with. It’s critical to be on the same page with both the agency (think corporate values) but also with your account manager (communication style, for example). Furthermore, choosing an agency with that additional value add in terms of strategic partnerships and ability to connect with prospective customers, press coverage and speaking opportunities will help to further a successful engagement beyond the realm of SEO related progress.
- Educate Yourself: don’t just take your agency’s word for it. Attend webinars and conferences, read industry blogs, and informational articles on sites such as SEOmoz, etc. Developing a deeper understanding of how specific practices will impact your business will take your efforts to the next level.