I was prompted to write this blog due to a recent experience with a client where they had been essentially giving their money away to an agency every month for over two years, in exchange for ‘SEO services’ however, they were certainly not receiving any SEO services. The very fundamentals needed to carry out SEO were not there, there was no tracking, no reporting, no content creation – nothing. It was very clear that no work was being done on the website each month.
Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve come across this in my career. It is very frustrating that this is happening, businesses are putting their trust and hard earned cash into the hands of people who are promising they can do SEO but are quite frankly taking advantage of them.
So, if you’re paying an agency or freelancer for SEO services, what should you be seeing in return? What are you getting for your money? We’ve listed below some of the fundamental areas of work that should be carried out under these services, of course each section will have a much more comprehensive list of activities but see this as a broad overview.
What is SEO?
Firstly, it’s important to note exactly what SEO is and what is the purpose of SEO. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an ongoing service whereby activities are carried out regularly to drive traffic to a website, organically. These activities can be very broad but essentially consist of technical SEO and content creation. This work is most often carried out by a digital agency or freelancer who specialise in SEO.
SEO is the process used to increase your website traffic and rankings so when customers are searching online for a service or product that you offer, your website is served in the search engine results. SEO does not guarantee a certain number of sales, or conversions or an amount of return on investment. Nobody can promise these things (and if they do, be wary) however, when done correctly SEO will improve your website’s visibility and in turn you should naturally begin to see more enquiries because your website is becoming more popular.
Furthermore, SEO is not an overnight success. It takes work and time to build up your website’s authority to become a well performing website in the search results. Do not be disheartened if you don’t see results in the first month or two. It can take around six months to see a positive incline of results, especially if your domain is newly registered.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect to happen when you appoint an SEO expert to work on your website.
Before any SEO work can be done to your website, it is important that the fundamentals are in place and your website is prepared and capable for organic search performance.
A thorough SEO audit will assess the structure of your website and will identify any errors, or foundational problems which could affect the website’s organic search performance. The audit findings are usually presented as a report along with suggestions for improvement. Examples of findings can be vast such as making changes to the sitemap to rearrange the hierarchy of pages, adding new landing pages, including headings and making sure they’re used correctly, checking the site speed and how well the mobile responsive function works. This report of recommendations will go on to become the list of actions for the month or two of work.
SEO is strategic, there needs to be an objective, a goal to work towards such as improving a particular area of your business or increasing visibility for certain pages of your website. Keyword research is the starting point for achieving these goals.
Your SEO agency needs to know what your customers are searching for so they can ensure that the right language is being used to attract these customers on your website. The internal language and terms for products that your business uses could be very different to what your customers are calling things. Your customers are likely to search by their problem but they don’t know what the solution is yet. An online search could be for example ‘how to get more traffic to my website’ but the answer is ‘SEO’, the user hasn’t searched for SEO because they don’t know that SEO is the solution to their search query, they have searched for the problem they have but with relevant content, they will be guided to the solution.
Keyword research is incredibly valuable, when your SEO expert has researched what keywords are being used they can also see what traffic is available for these keywords and how competitive they are. If a keyword has low search volume but is not competitive then that could be an opportunity. Trying to compete for words that are very high search volume and very high competition is not a great strategy, in the early days of SEO at least, as you are likely to be lost amongst vast competition. Keyword research then paves the way to a content plan.
Your SEO must have a clear understanding of your business, brand, target audience and your objectives.
Once you have your keyword research a content plan can be created to map out what pieces of content can be created and when. It is best to post content consistently, so if you start off posting every fortnight try and keep that schedule up. Posting lots of content one month and then nothing for six months is not going to work for your SEO. Ideally, you want to be posting at least every couple of weeks. Content needs to be keyword focused, relevant and of good quality. It needs to be written for humans, not robots and so keyword stuffing is not an option. Content mainly consists of blogs which is why it is very important to have a blog/news section on your site if you want to have SEO. Depending on who you appoint to work on your SEO, they may write these blogs for you – or they may ask you to write them and they will optimise them for you, or it can be a joint effort.
In addition to onsite content creation, it is often helpful to create guest blogs for other websites which you would like to have linking to your own site. These ‘backlinks’ are incredibly valuable for creating ‘link juice’. When Google sees other websites wanting to refer visitors to a website they will deem this as a valuable resource which will in turn be favourable to your site’s rankings.
Technical SEO is the general term given to activities that are carried out on-site to improve a website’s ability to perform in search engines. It ensures that the website is fast to load, pages can be crawled by search engines and that the pages can be read and understood by search engines, the site is secure and the data is structured clearly for search engines.
Technical SEO is an incredibly important part of the ongoing work of SEO and includes tasks such as adding meta data to pages and posts to aid how your website is displayed within the search results, identifying and fixing 404 pages (page not found), improvements to site speed,
A lot of technical SEO is done behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean your agency shouldn’t be telling you what activities they’ve been working on.
Reporting and Setting Goals
The most important thing for any person carrying out SEO services, is to be able to monitor and track what efforts are working and identify what isn’t so that adjustments can be made accordingly.
SEO is an ongoing process, it needs to be given time to work and there will be times when there are fluctuations in performance, this could be because of a Google algorithm update, a change in user behaviour or simply that the competitor websites are being more aggressive with their online marketing. The important thing is to be able to see this data and analyse it.
Google analytics tracking code should be stored within your website’s pages so as visitor traffic can be monitored and analysed. In addition to Google analytics, most SEOs will utilise specialist SEO software to analyse web traffic and rankings in greater detail such as SEMrush or Agency analytics as a couple of examples.
Setting goals for certain actions on your website as well as event tracking are hugely valuable. Goals can be set to be triggered when users carry out certain actions such as signing up to a mailing list, clicking play on a video or completing a contact form. These goals can be monitored to see how well the website is working and how users are engaging with the site.
You should receive regular reporting from your SEO expert to show you how much traffic you are getting to the site, demonstrate what is working and what needs to be improved and how they intend to action these for the next period of work.
To summarise, SEO is not a one off action that will magically make your website appear number one for every search term or will it guarantee that you will generate a tone of sales and leads. It will however, increase traffic to your website and attract the audience that you wish to target which in turn, should lead to an increase in enquiries.
SEO is incredibly effective and will give long lasting results as long as you keep at it. When you appoint an agency or freelance SEO expert to carry out SEO services for you, the items listed above should be the type of work you expect to see in return for your investment.