By: Patrick Sauriol Apr 24/2023

Lots of SEO vendors claim to the the world’s best. What should you ask them to prove that they’ve got the goods?

Businesses looking for SEO help will likely use a search engine like Google as a starting point for their search. It may be that you yourself arrived at this blog post from a search for SEO keywords like “best SEO company”. What matters is that a company looking for Search Engine Optimization help wants their website optimized to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords and phrases. Websites that have implemented a SEO strategy should see more organic visits which should get them more page views and, if the user experience is solid, more conversions. Because of the huge benefit that comes from having a smart SEO team working on your website, there is a high demand for SEO agencies that can deliver effective results. So if you’re going to pay for SEO, it makes sense to find the best of the best, right?

There are a surprising number of searches every month — in the tens of thousands, believe it or not — by people looking for “the best SEO agency”. There are lots of alternatives to that keyword phrase, like “best SEO agency in the world”, or “top SEO provider”, but the gist of the search is, amongst all of the thousands of SEO providers in business, who provides the best SEO service?

Understanding SEO 101

If you’ve landed on this page because it’s appeared in a SERP, the answer that I’m going to provide you may not fit your expectations. That said, I hope that the information that I will provide shortly will help you figure out what you should be looking for in that perfect SEO agency. The better armed with knowledge that you are, the better the chance of getting the SEO partner that you are looking for.

Let’s suppose that you’re in the market for buying a new car. You’ll have a list of questions in mind: price, servicing, features, warranty, the online reviews and reputation of the dealership, and so on. When you go to the actual dealership itself there will also be visual items you will note if you should give them your business: how clean is the lot, do they offer coffee or water for guests, is their sales staff attentive, is it well lit inside, and so on.

Appraising an SEO vendor is just like appraising a car dealership, except that most people in the market for SEO services don’t know what to look for or ask. As a provider of SEO services ourselves, we know that our business can be challenging to understand for a lot of folk. What should a company expect to receive from a monthly SEO package? What are the goals and items that the digital agency is working on delivering for their clients?

Let’s get into that now, shall we?

Do They Have Technical SEO Skills?

Technical SEO is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. It involves optimizing the website structure, page speed, indexing, and crawlability of the website, among other things. The best SEO agencies have individuals with experience providing technical SEO. These experts can audit websites and identify any technical issues that may be impacting the website’s search engine visibility. They should be able to provide recommendations and implement technical changes to improve the website’s SEO performance.

To understand the importance of technical SEO better, think of the car technician that services your vehicle. They will visually examine your car looking for weak points, worn down equipment, and places where problems are about to appear. A technical SEO person is like that but for the wellbeing of your website’s appearance to search engines.

Do They Have Content Creation and Optimization Experience?

Creating high-quality content that is both relevant and engaging is essential to SEO success. The best SEO agencies should have content writers who can create compelling content that resonates with the target audience. They should also be able to optimize content for specific keywords and phrases, driving organic visitors to your website and ensuring that the content ranks well in search engine results pages.

It can be challenging to rank your web pages in SERPs if you’re in a highly competitive online industry like legal services, insurance, education or financial services. These industries attract top SEO and writing talent because there is a high volume of people constantly looking for the services. The job of any good SEO is to find opportunities to drive organic traffic to their client’s web pages and work with the budget given to them. A financial services company with a staff of 10 people won’t have the SEO budget that a firm with 500 employees has, but a good SEO expert can find solutions that bring a return on investment to that smaller client.

Do They Conduct Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying the most relevant and profitable keywords for a specific business. The best SEO agencies will conduct keyword research to identify high-value keywords and phrases that will drive traffic and conversions to the website. They should be using tools like Google Keyword Planner, or third-party SEO software like HREFS, Mangools, or SEM Rush to identify keywords of opportunity.

Beware of SEO vendors that won’t answer your questions about their research process. A reputable SEO agency will provide you info about their research methodology; an even better SEO company will introduce you to their SEO team leader.

Lots of fly-by night individuals exist in the SEO industry. They rely on people not knowing enough about the science of search engine optimization. These folk are like the bad used car salespeople stereotype you’ve seen before; yes, they do exist in the SEO world, and they give legit SEO agencies a bad name. Sometimes the experience that the client has with these hucksters is so bad they will swear to never give another dollar to anyone associated with the term SEO.

Ask these questions: what software tools do you use for your SEO research? Ask to see what a typical report given to a client looks like. Don’t be afraid to ask for three references to see what people have to say about the SEO services you’re thinking of paying for. Reputable companies won’t make excuses and avoid giving you answers.

What About Link Building?

Link building is the process of acquiring high-quality links from other websites. The best SEO agencies should be thinking about how to link build for your website. Having a strong and diverse (meaning just not one interconnected series of blogs) backlink profile will help your pages rises in the search engines. A strong SEO agency with backlinking ability should be able to identify relevant websites that can link back to the client’s website, foster and build link placements, and monitor the link profile for any potential issues. A clean (i.e. not spammy and low quality) backlink profile is a strong signal for Google.

On this point the car analogy is financing options: no good dealership is going to use high pressure tactics and confusing numbers to get you to sign on the dotted line. If it feel wrong in your gut, your gut is probably right and you should walk away. Same thing with a SEO company that tells you not to worry about backlinks or where they’re getting them from. You deserve better than that lame answer!

What’s Their Analytics and Reporting Look Like?

SEO agencies should be data-driven and use analytics to measure the success of their campaigns. They should give you a monthly update on what has happened with their SEO efforts: you’re your website traffic is performing, what your keyword rankings are, are optimized pages going up in the SERPs, and other important metrics. They should also be providing recommendations for improvement, making new goals for next month or quarter, and constantly trying to improve results.

As I mentioned earlier, ask for a sample report. The SEO agency should erase any sensitive info from the report like the client name, but providing a sample of what you would expect to get for your own SEO retainer is bare minimum. Better still, ask what kind of monthly update or one-on-one communication you will get when you’re an SEO client. It should be something like a monthly phone call that provides clarity on what’s in the latest report, ideas on what will be worked on in the following 30 days, and where you are in the big picture of the SEO strategy.

Are They Interested in Communication and Collaboration?

Effective communication and collaboration are critical to the success of any SEO campaign, much less for any SEO agency claiming to be the best of the best. You should have a dedicated account manager who can communicate effectively with you, answering your questions. More importantly, you should feel that you can ask ANY QUESTION, even if you feel it’s a question that you should already know the answer to. No question is wrong to ask your account manager. Let me say that again: NO QUESTION IS WRONG TO ASK!

A great account manager will develop a relationship with you. They’ll begin to understand your website’s SEO needs. They will provide regular updates on the progress of your SEO campaigns. They won’t hide challenges, difficulties or problems that the SEO campaign faces – and that is a good thing. A great account manager will theorize and suggest tactics to try to overcome the SEO obstacles.

No one claiming to be a great or world’s best SEO expert will ever say that they can rank you number one for a search term, no problem. Run away very fast from that someone if you ever get pitched that snake oil.

Can Their SEO Team Adapt and Innovate?

The SEO industry is constantly evolving. True world class SEO agencies are constantly adapting to the ever-changing flux of the search engine algorithms. The best of the best SEOs aren’t afraid to try new strategies, test things out, and be innovative. They have content writers who will also be not afraid to look for new and creative ways to improve the client’s SEO performance. This requires a willingness to experiment, take risks, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.

Ask the prospective SEO agency that you are considering using what they do to keep at the top of their game. Are they hosting or participating in SEO industry events? Do they have teachers or authors of SEO books on their staff? Do their staff have personal recommendations and accolades on their personal LinkedIn profiles? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions and proof of why they claim to be one of the world’s best SEO companies. Any company that talks the talk will have proof of their claims.

What It All Comes Down To, or the SEO TL;DR

If you are looking for the Rocky Balboa of SEO companies, now you have a guideline of items to consider and questions to ask. You’re looking for an SEO agency that has a combination of technical expertise, content creation and optimization skills, keyword research abilities, link building proficiency, analytics and reporting skills, communication and collaboration skills, and the ability to adapt and innovate as new SEO trends arise.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the best of the best to provide SEO expertise for your online business. Just make sure to invest your time in grading the SEO provider so that they pass your appraisal process.