Many of our clients have questions about search engine optimization (SEO), whether they should invest, and how to know if it’s working. Since so much of it happens behind the scenes, it can be hard for non-experts to wrap their heads around it.
At Heights, one of our favorite partner agencies is Sebo Marketing, an expert in SEO, Google ads advertising, and conversion rate optimization. We spoke with Heather Bowers, Director of Partnerships, to help answer the most common questions about SEO. What follows are her words, edited for brevity and clarity.
What is SEO and Why Should We Care?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is used to improve the quantity and quality of web traffic that comes to your website from search engines. The goal of SEO is to get more potential customers or clients visiting your website and reaching out to you.
At the end of the day, SEO should help grow your business.
How Do We Start Thinking About SEO?
The first step is thinking about keywords or phrases that you want your website to show up for when people are searching the internet. Remember, SEO will capitalize on people who are looking for information about your products or services.
These keywords or phrases might be on your homepage, a blog, or other internal pages of your site. But they should be somewhere. You’d be surprised by the number of times people want to rank for a specific term but it doesn’t exist anywhere on their website!
How Do We Know What Our Keywords Should Be?
If you’re stuck and not sure what your keywords should even be, there are a few questions to ask yourself (or your team):
- What do you want to be known for?
- When should someone think of your business?
- Who are the competitors in your market?
- What keywords are they ranking for?
Working with a partner like Sebo, you can then take those potential keywords, research which make the most sense to work towards, and evaluate based on company priorities.
What is a Realistic Timeline to See Results from SEO?
It can be hard to set blanket expectations for clients because there are so many factors. What I prefer to do is set up expectations for individual keywords. Even for the same site, there could be keyword A vs keyword B, and the time frame is going to be completely different.
Some questions to consider:
- What is the competitiveness of that keyword?
- What’s happening in the specific SEO arenas for the keywords?
- Does the site already rank for the keyword and we want to improve it, or are we starting from scratch?
That said, on average we try to start with keywords that will allow clients to begin to see changes within 90 days. Keyword position or the number of keywords they rank for will continue to get traction over the next 5-6 months.
One thing to caution clients on is assessing the average position for your site as a whole. This is a terrible metric to judge your overall SEO health, but it is a common one people lean on. As you are adding new content to your site, that content is not going to rank well, which brings down your average position. So while it’s a good long-term strategy, adding new content will put you in a constant state of flux.
Can We Do SEO Ourselves?
Well sure, there are some elements of SEO that you can do on your own. For many people, they think first of “on-page SEO” which is essentially writing content that includes keywords. You can write content until you’re blue in the face, but if no one else is talking about that content or linking to that content, it doesn’t do that much for you.
Which is why you need “off-page SEO” which involves getting people to talk about you and your content. A big component of our work with clients involves getting those backlinks to their site. We do an analysis where we scrub the web to see if there are any mentions of their brand that don’t have a link. We do manual outreach to help get those linked.
(For example: if Storybrand referenced Heights Strategic Marketing on their website, but didn’t hyperlink the name of our company, Sebo would send an email to Storybrand to ask them to add the link in.) Most of our clients don’t want to do this part, and quite frankly it’s not usually a good use of their time or expertise.
Ok, I’m Sold on Outsourcing. When Should I Invest in SEO?
As soon as possible, and the sooner the better!
Essentially, when you have a decent website that can convert traffic. If you’re about to do a website overhaul, wait until that is complete. And if you have people coming to your site that just aren’t converting, fix the website first. But once those boxes are checked, it’s fair to consider SEO.
Remember that SEO is a longer-term strategy. You’re not going to get more leads next month, or potentially even in three months. Instead, think about it as planting seeds for next season.
Consider the process. First, you have to put content on your website. Google then has to come and crawl that content (follow every link on your site) and store it on their servers. Then when people search for it in their search engine, they rank the content. This could be a 3-month process from writing to ranking! So obviously, the more content you have, the more words you have, the sooner the better. But you’re always going to be adding content to the site that will impact your SEO.
What Should Clients Know About SEO Before Hiring an Agency?
We already discussed the timeline and the patience factor of SEO being a long-game. That is huge.
But also, I think that it’s important to have very honest conversations about content creation. Some clients have tons of content, so our conversations are more about optimizing vs. creating. But with other clients, we have really struggled to get the content written that includes the keywords we’ve decided on together.
Content for the sake of content isn’t helpful. We want it to be strategic and targeting keywords that will bring potential customers or clients to your site. Depending on the size of the budget or the size of the team, these conversations can be surprising to clients, but are very important to setting up a good relationship.
What are Signs We’ve Found a Good SEO Agency to Work With?
There are a few things that we highlight at Sebo, but of course we’re not the only agency out there.
We have a very transparent reporting structure. Our clients own their own data and reports. There is nothing hidden from them in the process.
We know which clients we can help and set good expectations. Like I said earlier, SEO is a long-game. I have had potential clients come to us looking for leads this month or next month. We counseled them against SEO work because it didn’t meet their needs.
We do high quality work. Being the cheapest option is not our goal. I’ve had potential clients say they got a quote from another agency that could do much more for much less. And the question becomes, what is the quality of the content they’re writing? What’s the quality of the sites with backlinks? Tons of duplicate content on low quality sites that aren’t relevant are not beneficial. But the agency can appear to have done their job.
We specialize in SEO. We are 1 of only 200 Google Managed Agency Partners in the US. Google itself is a living, breathing, evolving entity. We have someone on our team whose core responsibilities are to sit in on calls with Google and relay it back to our team. We specialize because we want to be really good at what we do and it takes concerted effort to stay on top of the changes.
If you’d like to know more about how Heights partners with agencies like Sebo, or how we incorporate SEO into our overall marketing strategy, schedule a discovery call with our team.