Almost 30% of global web traffic is generated via online search usage, and high rankings have become one of the top digital priorities for companies worldwide, according to Statista.

Marketers and brands often turn to SEO agencies to help build up their search engine optimization programs. Today, agencies and brands are facing historical forces of change. Lifestyle changes from the COVID-19 pandemic have created a massive shift in how people research information. This makes an opportunity for businesses to inspect and adjust SEO for their sites and online media.

So when making these adjustments, what should marketers look for in an SEO agency and partner? What does a strong, successful relationship look like? 

Let's start with the basics.

SEO Agencies Need to Deliver for the Long Game

A standard client-agency relationship is meant to produce more than a keywords list and link strategy. The relationship involves discussions that examine content within web pages or app elements and supporting media in some cases.

Businesses with a robust YouTube presence should plan a YouTube optimization strategy. It should also strengthen website search optimization, since YouTube videos can appear in a search engine result.

Search planning with agencies should lead to a number of process steps instead of an overzealous focus on immediate rank. A big first mistake? Asking an SEO agency, "How much time would it take for you to rank us on these keywords?" That question sets up a bad expectation: that the team can achieve a certain improvement in a set amount of time. 

Your search results may get a quick boost. However, search improvements get influenced by what's implemented over time. This includes the frequency of blog content and the addition of outbound links and video.

Related Article: Alternative Search Engines: A New SEO Frontier?

SEO Agencies Must Understand Your Business

An SEO agency needs to develop a plan that fits your particular needs. Can you live up to a content-publishing schedule the SEO agency suggests? Agencies need to provide a plan that offers improvement yet fits the client's capabilities.

Thus, successful search strategy requires a significant evaluation of the keywords and phrases that bring people to your site. Your agency needs to identify content gaps in query topics.

Search engine optimization is never a set-it-and-forget-it tactic for website or app content. The effectiveness of optimization changes over time, requiring periodic reviews to determine what campaigns should begin, change or discontinue. And that comes down to your SEO agency understanding your business objectives.

Search Tactics Need to Connect to Objectives

Marketers should approach SEO agencies with a discussion framework that outlines the optimization activity relative to a business objective. The objective can be deterministic. You can ask about increasing leads from organic traffic by X% or wanting brand awareness to increase by Y%.

A good opening discussion includes determining what kinds of services are provided to deliver the reporting. This opens up a discussion on how the agency will review and interpret referral traffic. The answers may not be precise against your site structure or content media plans. Ultimately, the agency needs to understand what topics to emphasize and make your search traffic more relevant to your site or app goals. 

Related Article: How to Inspect Search Engine Crawls for Better SEO

Is the SEO Agency Keeping Up With The Times?

Keeping up with technological changes is difficult, especially during a global crisis like the current pandemic. Search-term popularity has shifted during the pandemic. "At home" or "remote work" are popular like "nearby" was when mobile phones took off in popularity. So agencies must show that they have kept up with industry news, then imagine the potential impact.

Learning Opportunities

For example, if an agency is working with a new car dealer, the agency should be aware of the microprocessor chip shortage in the auto industry that is curtailing vehicle production and affecting supplies. The ongoing crisis should trigger ideas on what kinds of recent search patterns would connect to customers considering a vehicle purchase. The agency can always use a tool like Google Trends to start.

Strengthening local search has also become a priority, since so many people are seeking needed items close to home. Make sure the agency's recommendations play into the strength of local search patterns.

Is the Agency Capable of Technical SEO Services?

According to Hennessey Digital, technical SEO is a SEO subcategory in which the infrastructure of your website or app gets optimized so that search engines can easily crawl and index the content for search queries.

During initial discussions for an SEO plan, a good agency makes a light assessment of site structure, typically using browser developer tools. The initial discussions should entail specifics of expected technical tasks the agency can do. The discussion is a good segue into creating supportive charts that relate tasks to the pages, such as that for keyword mapping.

Related Article: How to Improve SEO Through Keyword Mapping

Be Wary of Guarantees for Search Rank

The most basic and universal advice is to not work with anyone who guarantees a search rank. No one controls the search algorithms, so they can't guarantee a rank. 

Instead, evaluate how they will understand your industry and business. Their knowledge and insight guide the decisions they apply to your strategy.

They should be able to provide guidelines so that your business does not suffer from "Black Hat" SEO tactics. Black Hat SEO is a term for using tactics that violate search engine terms of service, such as buying links, keyword stuffing and cloaking. Google Bing and other search engines demote websites that use Black Hat tactics, leading to less organic traffic and increased costs in correcting the issues Black Hat tactics create.

Recognize this Isn't Exact Science

SEO is a vital digital marketing strategy. Choosing the right SEO agency team is not a perfect science.

However, the right one can have the right resources for improving referral traffic from search and increasing conversions of a website or app. The result ultimately refines your website or app with the right value for your business and customers.