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September 12, 2008
Avoiding SEO Brain Freeze Part 8 - Best Practices for Working with an SEO Agency

If you've read the entire SEO Brain Freeze series up to this point, no matter how easy and organized I've made SEO sound, you may have decided that you don't have the time nor inclination to implement your own SEO campaign.

This article is for those of you who either tried to do it yourself and weren't happy with the results, or for those of you who decided you'd prefer to hire an expert SEO agency to do it instead. If you've already talked to a variety of agencies, you may already be confused. It often seems as if they're all selling different services.

Choose Your SEO Agency Wisely

The first thing to note is that not all SEO agencies are created equal. Not by a long-shot. There are tens of thousands of companies and individuals offering SEO services. Some have been practicing their craft for over a decade, and others have just set up shop. While it's true that SEO can change rapidly, there's something to be said for experience. Those in business for a long time have seen all sorts of problems that a website can have, and have been through hundreds of search engine algorithm updates. They know what to do and how to react for any given situation. Conversely, newbies to the biz may understand the fundamentals, but may get hung up on less important details, or get unnerved by search engine changes and react too quickly, rather than waiting for things to settle down.

Beyond experience is specialization. SEO takes on many forms and not every website needs to implement the entire spectrum of SEO in order to gain targeted search traffic. Some SEO agencies (such as High Rankings) specialize in on-page SEO factors. These include technical issues that may impede search engine visibility, as well site architecture issues and helping to define which words to use within each page, plus recommendations on where to put the keywords once they have been determined.

Other SEO agencies specialize in link building and/or social media optimization. While many websites can benefit from a full package of SEO services, many may only need certain SEO tasks and not others. The only way to determine what each website needs is for the agency to perform an audit of your website. You'll want to avoid any SEO company that only offers a specific package of services, regardless of what your website may or may not need. There's rarely a one-size-fits-all SEO package.

Let Your SEO Agency Do Their Job

Once you've carefully selected your SEO company, then let them do their job! (This is why it's so important to choose one you trust and believe in.)

Remember that your SEO consultant is the expert. Don't tell them what you need; that's their job. Do tell them everything you can about your business and its target market. Do provide them with any statistics you have gathered, and all the information regarding your web server, your content management system, anything you've previously done concerning SEO, any previous companies you may have hired, and the like. But don't tell them the SEO strategy you want them to take. That is something they will determine once all the facts have been gathered and they've had enough time to carefully review your website.

What You Can Expect

Your SEO agency should be able to explain in detail why they've created the SEO strategy they chose, and how it will benefit your business in the long run. It's a good idea for you know and understand their thought process so that if you ever decide to take the work in-house, you'll be familiar with the big picture.

You'll also want them to provide you with some sort of schedule of deliverables, so that you know what they're working on each month. An on-page SEO campaign may consist of a site audit, keyword research, site architecture recommendations, keyword phrase mapping, title and meta description creation, page copywriting or copyediting, as well as recommendations for new content that might be helpful to bring additional targeted visitors to the website.

Off-page SEO work may consist of an audit of existing links and what might be done to make them more effective, creating social media accounts to better get the word out about your website to appropriate online venues, and/or working with your PR firm to ensure that your efforts are well-coordinated.

Keep Up Your End of the Bargain

While hiring an SEO agency will take a huge load off your shoulders, you can't just let them do all the work. There will still be lots to do on your end; most notably reviewing and approving what they're doing. You know your business better than they do, so it's important for you to review things like the keyword research to make sure that the terms they want to target are relevant to your industry and exactly what your company offers.

Unfortunately, this is where many SEO campaigns break down. The agency upholds their end of the deal, but then things get bogged down in the approval process on the client's end. There's nothing worse than paying for an SEO campaign that never gets implemented, and yet it's something we see time and time again. Before you sign a contract for SEO services, be sure that you have someone dedicated to the project who has the authority to make decisions that affect your website.

Once you've done all of the above, you'll be well on your way to a fruitful relationship with your SEO agency, and better yet, you’ll be well on your way to increased website traffic, conversions and sales!

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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