I was checking out Google’s auto-complete function recently to see what sorts of queries people were typing in about SEO – so that we could create some blog articles to address those topics.
Initially I expected to come across some technical questions, but when I saw this very basic one come up I thought it was an important one to address: ‘How do I know my SEO is working?’.
It paints a pretty bad picture about the state of the SEO industry in Perth (and wider Australia) – that so many people would be typing that question into Google, that it would become a top auto-complete suggestion. Imagine having to ask that about other business services you pay for – ‘how do I know my cleaner is cleaning the office?’ or ‘how do I know my accountant is paying my staff?’ You wouldn’t – their results are self-evident. So why are the SEO waters so murky?
It’s true that SEO can be quite a complicated and technical minefield. However, if an SEO agency is worth their salt they will be able to find a way to explain their strategies and tactics to you in plain English, and importantly show you how they fit in with your business goals and wider Marketing initiatives.
Important note before we proceed: You need to be patient with SEO
The main results you want to see from your SEO investment are obviously:
- Higher rankings for important service or product keywords (not just branded ones)
- More traffic
- More leads coming through your website (more calls, emails or contact forms)
- More online sales (if you have an online shop)
- Bottom line: a return on investment.
However, it’s important to note that you have to be patient with SEO. In order to really see these kinds of results it can take 6-12 months.
But that doesn’t mean you have to wait a whole year to find out if your investment is going to pay off. If you notice a few of the below early warning signs from your SEO agency it could be time to cut your losses and move on to someone better (like us!).
Some early warning signs your SEO provider might not be helping you
They never asked about your business goals
It’s easy to get caught up in keyword rankings and rely on these as a measure of success. In fact, that’s what makes it so tempting to go with a provider who offers you a ranking guarantee. However, there are two important issues with having only rankings as your SEO goal:
1. Rankings are not the end goal
Rankings are a means to an end, not the end goal. Think about why you want to rank higher. You want to be more visible to people searching for your core service or product keywords, so that they will click through to your website, be exposed to your brand, find what they are looking for, consider you in their buying decision and ultimately choose you and give you their sale!
Your end goal will therefore depend on your business goals and the KPIs you have for your website. This might be more sales, phone calls, leads, exposure, interactions, subscribers and so on.
So rankings are just the first step in that process. Your SEO agency will also need to ensure that your website is optimised well for conversions. This means increasing the percentage of traffic that turns into sales. You don’t want that traffic coming in from your increased rankings to just bounce back out if they don’t immediately see and understand what you’re selling, and why you’re better than your competitors. A good SEO agency will spend time on improving your website content and call-to-action in line with your business goals.
If your SEO agency hasn’t asked about your business goals then how can they possibly be working towards achieving them?
2. Beware caveats involved in ranking guarantees
The important thing to note in the process above is you want to rank for ‘core keywords’ that will convert into sales and a return on investment for your business.
Ranking guarantees always come with caveats, and often that means you don’t get a say in what keywords the SEO provider will try to rank you for. Often they will go for very low competition / low search volume keywords (such as your product/service + your suburb e.g. ‘SEO agencies Victoria Park’).
While it is indeed good to have some of these highly specific keywords included in your keyword mix, you will probably already be ranking pretty well for them all by yourself, and you are not necessarily going to boost your visibility or traffic numbers by focusing all of your budget on these keywords. You need a better mix of high traffic ‘research keywords’ as well as low traffic ‘converting keywords’ to really have a robust SEO strategy in place.
It’s important to note too that Google is very vocal about their condemnation of SEO companies who promise ranking guarantees.
They’re not tracking any ‘conversions’ on your website
Further to the above point – even if they have asked you about your goals it doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t tracking these using some sort of Analytics software on your website (such as Google Analytics).
The only way an SEO agency can provide you with meaningful reporting and deliverables is if they have a way to collate data and compare your results month-on-month or year-on-year to show their progress.
Again, depending on your goals and KPIs this will include things like:
- Organic and referral traffic
- Clicks to email form your website
- Completed contact forms or quote request forms on your website
- Newsletter subscribers
- Blog shares or comments
Has your SEO agency asked for access to your Analytics (or set it up for you if you didn’t have it before)? Have they set up tracking for your core KPIs? Do they report on them to you each month?
They have no recommendations to improve your website
As I mentioned before, getting more traffic to your website is only half the battle for a good SEO company. The other half is ensuring that traffic converts into sales once it gets there.
If your SEO agency hasn’t asked you for access to your website, hasn’t completed an audit or presented you with any recommendations for improvement, it probably doesn’t mean your website is perfect as it is, it means they’re not doing their job right.
There are two types of audits a good SEO agency will carry out. The first is a technical SEO audit of your website, making sure everything is set up in the best way to ensure search engines can easily find, crawl and index all of your important content.
The second is a content and conversion review, making sure that the real people who visit your site (not just search engines) are presented with your key messages, USPs, products and services in the best way possible, making it a breeze for them to make the decision that they want to spend their money with you!
They don’t ask for your input or feedback
SEO isn’t a standalone exercise, it’s a branch or your overall marketing and sales strategy, and it should work as such.
To get the best from your SEO you should keep your agency in the loop about your other marketing and sales efforts – your core messages, your PR, your advertising, your customer service issues and initiatives. It all overlaps and your SEO agency should be finding ways to leverage those other branches to benefit your online marketing.
A good SEO agency needs you to work with them – a two way street – and if they’re not asking you to participate and share then they’re not getting you the best possible results.
They have nothing to show on a monthly basis or their reports mean nothing to you
Have you heard from your SEO account manager since your initial set up? Do they report to you at least on a monthly basis? What do they include in their report? And do you understand it?
SEO is not just a once off exercise to add some keywords to your site here and there, there should be a reason you are paying your monthly fee, and you should be clear on what you’re getting for it.
Not only should your SEO agency be improving your onsite optimisation, they should also be making improvements offsite, building quality links pointing back your website using tactics like writing and marketing content on your behalf; guest posting on quality websites to market your brand and build your authority; improving your local SEO by building your NAP (name address & phone number) footprint with high quality directory listings and a myriad other possible strategies.
And when reporting to you they should be extremely transparent in demonstrating how they used your time and budget that month, and what results they have achieved. Your report should include things like:
- A rundown of the activities they carried out on your behalf that month
- Details of your website traffic and how it compares to the last period and/or the same period last year (particularly for seasonal businesses)
- Details of your conversions / KPIs and how they compare to the last period and/or the same period last year (particularly for seasonal businesses)
- An overview of how your overall visibility is tracking for your keyword list, as well as a detailed breakdown of where you are ranking for each keyword
- How they plan to use your hours in the coming period.
Is your SEO agency falling short?
If you feel like your SEO agency is falling short in a number of these important areas it could be time to ask for some more transparency. If they’re not willing to or are unable to give you more clarity then it could be a detrimental sign that your SEO investment isn’t going to pay off and it could be time to cut your losses and give us a call!