Is Your SEO Company Doing Its Job?
Updated February 14, 2020 – Resources for those who desire to learn more have been added.
SEO Consulting Company Responsibilities
A professional SEO company has several important roles and responsibilities to help their client’s website. This article will discuss roles, responsibilities and types of SEO services provided by an SEO agency.
Your responsibility as the person in charge of hiring an SEO company is to have an understanding of search optimization so you can talk intelligently with a prospective search optimization company.
Google’s article Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide is a great place to start.
Table of Contents: SEO Company Roles & Responsibilities
- Asking the right questions
- Page Sections to be linked to from above Table of Contents
- Navigation & URL Structure
- Layout / User Experience
- Website Speed & Other Technical Factors
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
- Current Keyword Rankings Report
- Poor Quality Backlinks
- Build Good Quality Backlinks
- Size of Website
- Backlink Comparison
- Google Analytics & Metrics Analysis
- Page Sections to be linked to from above Table of Contents
Learn more about the different types of SEO services.
Roles & Duties of SEO Companies
1. Understanding Client Goals & Objectives
Prior to starting any optimization work, the SEO agency needs to understand what it is the client wishes to achieve.
The most common SEO goals stated by clients are:
- “I want to rank better.”
- “How do I rank better?”
- “I need more traffic.”
- “How do I get more traffic?”
- “I need more sales.”
- “How do I increase my online sales?”
- “I want greater online visibility?”
- “How do I get more people to know about my product/service?”
The approach an SEO consulting company might take to achieve a client’s goals can only be created once a clear understanding of objectives is achieved. It is from this understanding that an SEO expert is able to strategize and implement an effective SEO plan that will meet the client’s needs.
If you do not know what you hope to achieve from search engine optimization, then please take a moment to understand common goals for SEO.
Rand Fishkin’s article The 6 Goals of SEO: Choosing the Right Ones for Your Business will help.
2. Website Audit: Identify State of Current Website
Navigation & URL Structure
The website navigation (menu) is critical to the potential success of a website. Both website search engine rankings and conversion rate are directly impacted by the menu items. If too many options are available, a visitor may become confused by the menu’s complexity and simply leave for an easier to use website. This relates to the user experience (UX).
A simple, intuitive menu structure encourages greater use and engagement by the visitor. Google is aware of metrics like ‘time on site’ and ‘click through rate (CTR)’. All other things being equal, a website that has more time spent on site by a visitor or a greater number of clicks to other pages on a website, will rank better and likely receive more traffic than a website with lower time on site and CTR.
It is important to identify whether a client’s website is using sitemaps because they help search engines crawl (visit pages of) a website, which helps to have more pages indexed (included in the search engine). Most important are XML (eXtensible Markup Language) sitemaps. An additional option is an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) sitemap. If a website does not have a sitemap (preferably the XML sitemap), the website is not properly optimized for search engines.
A professional SEO company must review the quantity and quality of a website’s existing content. What text/copy is being used on the various website pages? How are the website’s pages connected/related to one another? Much of the success of search engine optimization depends upon the quality and amount of text on a page and the number of pages (size) of a website.
Another part of an SEO company’s responsibility is to understand the competitive landscape in which a client is competing. Typically, larger websites (those with more pages) will rank better than smaller websites. And, larger pages with more content on the page will out-rank thinner pages with little content. Content management is critical to the online success of a website.
Layout / User Experience
The user experience of a website is critical to its success. If a visitor lands on website and does not like the way it looks, they will leave for another website. If a website is difficult to use, a visitor will not spend time trying to figure it out.
As previously mentioned, time on site and click through rate are important factors to Google and toward ranking well. The user experience, therefore, is critical for rankings. Additionally, a desirable website design with attractive images and use of color, will encourage more conversions (taking a desired action such as filling out a form or making a purchase).
Website Speed & Other Technical Factors
Higher rankings and more traffic are the primary reasons why a client hire’s an SEO expert, therefore, the expert better know how to look at the technical elements of a website that are important to ranking well. Among these success factors are elements like the load time of a web page (website speed) and whether a website is mobile friendly (responsive). There are several technical aspects related to a website’s code, template and plugins/extensions that must be analyzed and understood in order to optimize a website for better rankings.
For more information, please see ahref’s article How to Do a Basic Website Audit to Improve SEO and UX (in 10 Steps)
3. Keyword Research: Identify Terms for which a Website Should be Ranking
To achieve superior rankings, an SEO marketing agency must know what keywords to focus on in order to properly optimize the content of a web page. Keyword research helps identify terms that have high search volume and a likelihood of the visitor taking a desired action (conversion) such as completing a form, making a call or placing an order.
There are several on-page optimization opportunities. An experienced SEO professional will know all on-page elements to optimize in order to improve rankings. Keyword stuffing (listing the same word or phrase over and over again to the point that the readability of a page is poor) is not proper on-page optimization.
In addition to on-page optimization opportunities, an effective SEO company will know what off-page optimization factors positively influence rankings. The most important part of off-page SEO is building links, referred to as backlinks, to a client’s website. Backlinks are considered by many SEO consultants to be the most important aspect of search engine optimization and critical to achieving higher rankings. Because backlinks are so important, it is often an area that is abused or done incorrectly.
Acquiring backlinks should be the natural result of writing intriguing, quality content that is of interest to readers. When a website contains useful information, other website will be more likely to reference the information by providing a link to the page from which it originated. Wikipedia, for example, obtains much of its information from other websites and provides a link (reference) to the source of the information. When these backlinks contain the desired keywords in the anchor text (the backlink’s clickable words, typically underlined), this helps improve rankings.
Another primary area of off-page SEO is social media. While high organic rankings can generate significant traffic to a website, so too can social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Current Keyword Rankings Report
A professional SEO consulting company should analyze a website’s current rankings to help establish a strategy of the keywords on which to focus. The likelihood of improving rankings and traffic are greater with keywords/terms that are already ranking, therefore, this is a very good starting point from which to begin website optimization.
To learn more about keyword research, see MOZ’s article Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
4. Backlinks: Analyze Current Backlink Profile
Poor Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are considered by SEO consultants to be the most important element that help rankings. An SEO company should be analyzing the backlinks (backlink profile) to a client’s website. Poor quality backlinks can hurt a website’s rankings by impinging upon the credibility and authority of a website.
When a backlink comes from an unrelated website, it may send a mixed-message to Google. If, for example, a client’s website is about automobile repair, it should have backlinks from other auto related websites. Links from un-related websites may dilute the search engine’s understanding of what your website is about and, therefore, may hurt rankings for automobile related keywords.
A professional SEO agency will help remove poor quality backlinks.
Build Good Quality Backlinks
As eluded to above, good quality links to a website should come from other topically related sites. In addition to being related to a client’s site, the backlinks should come from credible websites with high page and domain authority. Links, for example, from the Huffington post are very good because this website is highly respected. Links from high quality websites reflect well on the website to which they are linking.
To learn more about backlinks and the value different links provide, see Cyrus Shepard’s article How Google Evaluates Links for SEO.
5. Competitor Analysis: Identify Client’s Website Ranking Potential vs Competitor Websites
Size of Website
The number of pages a client’s website has compared to its competitors helps determine the level of competition in which it can succeed. Typically, the more pages a website has, the greater the likelihood it can out-rank a smaller website. When an SEO agency understands how a client’s website size compares to its competitors, a more effective SEO strategy can be developed. It would be a waste of time and money for an SEO company to go after keywords for which its client’s website simply cannot compete. There is little likelihood that a website with 100 pages can rank as well as a competitor with 500 pages.
Backlinks, which are links from other websites to your website, are the most critical element of ranking well in search engines. Why? Well, the premise of Google’s search algorithm is based on the value of “word-of-mouth.” Much like the concept of a positive referral from a friend or family member, links from other websites is valued by Google in a similar fashion. The more backlinks, the more positive referrals a website is receiving and, in Google’s eyes, the more valuable the website must be to users and, subsequently, the better the website will rank in search results.
Because backlinks are the most important SEO element, it is an area that is often abused by SEO experts. SEO professionals who practice website optimization on behalf of clients should not be practicing backlink manipulation. Google views manipulating backlinks as outside of their guidelines and, as such, is considered black hat SEO, which are SEO techniques that are outside of Google’s Guidelines.
6. SEO Reporting: Monthly Review of Analytics & Company Goals
When a website installs Google’s Analytics code on their website, Google can measure the website’s metrics. The analytical data provided by Google is valuable to website owner’s and SEO experts because the data provides insights into how a website is being used by visitors. By understanding how visitors interact (or don’t interact) with a website, adjustments can be made to improve the site.
If one web page, for example, is being viewed the most on a website and for the longest amount of time, these two metrics provide insight into what content is being read the most by visitors. On the other hand, a web page that is not being viewed can be enhanced with additional informational content to improve visitor interaction.
Website Metrics Analysis
A professional SEO company will use website metrics to improve the overall conversion rate of a client’s website. While better rankings and more traffic to a website is the first responsibility of an SEO agency, an SEO expert should go beyond this first basic responsibility. Providing professional SEO services goes beyond rankings and traffic to improving the overall usage of the website by visitors. Website optimization also includes improving measures like overall time spent on a website, increasing the number of pages visited and other metrics that improve a visitor’s level of interaction with the website. The goal, after all, is a greater conversion rate, that is, more conversion of visitors (i.e. Online sales or form completions).
An SEO Company has many roles and responsibilities to its clients. The primary goal of search engine optimization is to help websites rank better, achieve more online traffic and convert more visitors to customers. In order to achieve a client’s goals, a professional SEO consulting company must first understand what it is the client hopes to achieve. A website audit is the typical starting point for beginning website optimization. By correcting technical errors identified in the site audit, other aspects of SEO can have a greater impact. Keyword research, backlink profile review and competitor analysis are three important elements of establishing an effective optimization strategy. Finally, monthly analytics reviews identify what aspect of SEO are working as well as keeps the client abreast of performance.