SEO Services: What Does An SEO Company Do?
by Mike Khorev
Do I actually need to outsource to an SEO agency? Can I just learn everything by myself? How much I considered okay to spend?
Would working with a “full” digital marketing agency be a better bet?
Those are some of the common questions to ask when considering an SEO expert or services—and all of them are valid ones—.
A professional SEO company—as opposed to a generic (digital) marketing agency, has several unique and crucial roles. To really understand these roles, however, it’s important to first understand the right concept of SEO:
What Actually is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
While we can use all the technical terms and jargon to describe SEO, in a nutshell, and as the name suggests, SEO is simply an optimization, or more accurately, a series of optimizations that are implemented to a website, so that the website can rank better on the search engine’s (mainly Google’s) search engine results page (SERP).
It’s a very common misconception to think of SEO as a secret method, a get-rich-quick scheme to somehow cheat Google’s algorithm so the site can rank higher. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead, the optimizations implemented in SEO are mainly performed so that our website can better meet Google’s (and the other search engines’) objectives, which according to Google’s mission statement is to provide the most reliable and relevant information for the human searchers.
It’s also a very common mistake to think that SEO is about pleasing the search engine algorithm. In truth, SEO is about being more relevant to your human audience.
If your content and your website are well optimized for human readers, you will be eligible for a higher SERP ranking, and not the other way around. This is a very important mindset to have before we start with any SEO efforts or work with an SEO agency or freelancer.
With those points being said, now we can be on the same page on what to expect from an SEO service.
What Does An SEO Company Do?
To reiterate, SEO is a series of optimizations implemented so our website can better meet our audience’s needs and preferences. This way, Google and the other search engines can perceive us of being relevant to our audience, and climb higher.
Based on that, here are the roles and responsibilities of an SEO agency:
1. Understand and/or Develop SEO Objectives
The first, and arguably the most important role of the SEO company is to help the client in defining the specific SEO objectives and/or goals.
Alternatively, the client might already figure out their SEO objectives, and so the job of the SEO company here is to accurately understand the client’s goals and discuss possible adjustments/realignments according to the client’s best interests.
It’s important to consider in this stage, that search engine ranking is not the end goal of SEO. It’s just a means to an end goal(s) that can be:
- Increasing organic traffic to your site, one of the most common SEO goals, but also one of the most important for any businesses
- Generate more leads, a step further from simply generating traffic, converting this traffic into qualified prospects
- Improving online brand presence, pretty self-explanatory, increasing customer awareness to your brand
- Online reputation management, establish your brand’s credibility and perceived trust to encourage future transactions. This will include ensuring your (positive) content ranks higher than the negative ones.
- ECommerce sales, encouraging sales conversions via persuasive content
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and you can pursue other SEO objectives according to your business’s overall mission.
It’s important to properly define specific, realistic, and measurable goals because they will significantly affect how you (and the SEO company) should approach the SEO strategy:
- Specific: the more specific your SEO objective is, the better you can define your target keywords and develop the right content according to the searcher’s intent (more on this later)
- Measurable: we should be able to measure the performance of the SEO services in pursuing this objective by assigning KPIs and measuring the right metrics
- Realistic: as in, achievable. If it’s a big goal, we can divide it into smaller milestones. This is useful so we can maintain the morale of our team, and for easier performance measurement.
2. Implementing an SEO Audit
SEO audit—or website audit— it the process of analyzing the current state of the client’s website, and its performance in relation to SEO best practices.
Since, again, SEO is essentially about optimizing, understanding the current state of the website is important in determining what to optimize when we execute the SEO strategy.
While an SEO audit is a very broad subject with a lot of different site elements—both technical and non-technical—, here are the important areas to focus on:
- Technical issues: covering various elements from load speed to mobile-responsiveness to site indexability. You might want to check out our guide on technical SEO checklist here for a clearer picture
- Website structure issues: mainly about indexability, like crawl budget, XML sitemap, internal linking structure, etc.
- On-page optimization state: content structure, keyword density (underoptimized or over-optimized), meta optimizations (titles, heading tags, descriptions), image optimizations, etc.
- User experience issues: heat mapping, A/B testing, conducting surveys if necessary. The idea is to keep users as long as possible in your site (maximizing dwell time.)
- Content gaps: finding gaps in your content strategy (outdated content, non-performing content, etc.) and also find keyword opportunities.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. The more experienced (and skilled) the SEO expert is, the deeper and broader the SEO audit (and possibly, faster). The results of the SEO audit will be used to plan the SEO strategy.
3. Keyword Research
Probably the most obvious role of an SEO agency, and definitely one of the most important.
Keywords are the core of SEO, and finding the right keyword to target can either make or break our SEO results.
The main idea is to identify keywords that are searched/typed by your ideal audience (your prospects), and there are three main principles to consider:
- The keyword must be relevant for your ideal audience, this is mainly identified by monthly search volume (how many times the keyword is searched in any given month).
- The keyword must also be relevant to your business. Obvious but often overlooked. For example, if you are targeting people between 20-25, then “Ariana Grande” obviously has a huge search volume, but it might not be relevant for your business.
- According to your (or your client’s) budget, available time, and objectives among other factors, the competition for the keyword must be manageable. This is usually determined via keyword difficulty metric—or other similar metrics— in your respective keyword research tool.
In this step, typically the SEO company will utilize the help of keyword research tool(s) and will provide a list of possible keywords to target sorted by priority and competition difficulty.
Also, in conjunction with the SEO audit discussed above, the SEO company will assess the client’s current keyword rankings, as well as the competitors’. There might be keywords the client is already ranking for, and will only need a slight nudge to get that precious #1 spot, then this keyword might be prioritized.
Similarly, there might be keywords the client’s competitor(s) are already ranking for but the client hasn’t—or keyword gaps—. These keywords can be good opportunities to pursue.
4. Content Marketing Strategy Development
A good SEO company will know that SEO and content marketing are inseparable: good content needs SEO to generate organic traffic, while we can’t optimize for keywords without relevant, high-performance content.
With that being said, developing a proper content marketing plan is also one of the main roles of the SEO company, which will involve activities like:
- Figuring out the ideal audience’s possible search intent(s) for each target keyword.
- Finding topic ideas according to the search intent. For example, if the main intent is informational, then an educational topic might generate more traffic.
- Planning when to publish the content and in which channel(s)
- Planning how to promote your content. Often overlooked, but content promotion is just as important as the development process.
Again, the main focus here is to develop content that is relevant and valuable for the human audience, not only optimized for the search engine’s algorithm.
The SEO agency will develop a working strategy to capture and drive potential leads to your site when they are (proactively) searching for information, trends, best practices, or any relevant search for the niche.
5. On-Site Optimization
As previously mentioned, SEO is simply a series of optimizations implemented on a website and can be divided into two categories: off-site optimizations (that is, any optimizations performed outside your website, mainly about getting more backlinks), and on-site optimizations—essentially optimizing everything on your website.
Here, we are mainly discussing on-site optimizations, while we will discuss off-site optimization in the next section.
On-page optimizations can be further divided into two sub-groups:
- Non-technical: mainly about optimizing your content ac.1cording to content optimization best practices. It is important to note that today in 2020, content optimization is much more than simply optimizing for the target keywords, but also involves things like improving readability, layout, and structure (user experience optimization).
- Technical: Optimizing various technical factors of your site. Again, you might want to check out our technical SEO checklist here to get a better picture. However, here are some important areas to focus on:
- The loading speed of your site. Research results have suggested that more than half of visitors will bounce the website almost immediately when the page loads more than 3 seconds.
- mobile-friendliness (or mobile-responsiveness) of your site. A major ranking factor today.
- Whether your site is crawled and indexed properly.
- Optimize media and all the elements within your content (videos, audio, menu bar, etc.).
- Test everything regularly, performing A/B test and test the website performance on as many devices as possible.
On-site SEO must be performed continuously while the website gradually climbs the SERP until it finally appears on the first page—and preferably top 5 or top 3—.
6. Off-Site Optimization and Link Building
As mentioned, off-site SEO is any kind of optimizations that are done outside the website itself.
In general, the objective of off-site SEO is to improve the search engine’s and the audience’s perception of the site’s relevance and quality, and nowadays, this can be achieved in several ways:
- Getting mentioned on social media, both in quantity (a lot of people talking about the brand) and quantity (relevant influencers mentioning the brand).
- Getting good reviews on relevant review platforms (Google Maps, TripAdvisor, etc.), especially for local businesses
- Getting links especially from reputable and trustworthy sites—backlinks or inbound links—.
- Getting our content shared on social media
You get the gists.
The most important of them all, however, is backlinks. Think of backlinks as votes of confidence of the internet. When a site links your content, they are saying you are a reliable and trustworthy site for their audience—and this will be noticed by the search engines—.
On the other hand, it’s important to understand that today, the quality of the backlinks is more important than quantity. In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks at any given period of time can get you penalized by Google.
Thus, it’s generally sufficient just to get 2 to 3 high-quality backlinks each month, but it can be easier said than done.
The focus of the SEO services should be about getting these relevant contextual links on authoritative sites on your industry/niche.
7. Further Optimizations: Conversion Rates, Landing Page Optimizations
As discussed at the beginning of this article, SEO service doesn’t end with simply ranking on the first page of the SERP, but in the end, it must contribute to generating revenue via conversions.
The SEO company must also work on monitoring and improving conversion rates of the website by optimizing landing pages, maintaining a positive brand presence and online reputation, and so on.
Various tests (A/B testing, surveys, interviews, etc.) might be conducted to improve the overall performance of the site, and also to improve content optimization regarding user experience.
End Words: Monitoring and Evaluation
Since SEO is not a short-term process, and we’ll need to invest 6 to 12 months—at the very least—before we can see significant results, consistent monitoring and evaluation of the SEO campaign’s performance is very important.
This is not only about monitoring the website’s ranking for the target keywords, but also many different metrics and backlinks profile analysis. Adjustments to optimization approaches and even the whole strategy might be necessary depending on the site’s performance and the competitors’ approaches.
This is where having the right SEO services for IT, Tech, SaaS, software and startup companies to help you is very important, so you can have the right partner to deal with all the complicated metrics and data input.
June 6, 2020