Finding the right SEO agency partner for your business is hard. It is even harder if you live in a big market like Los Angeles, California.

There are hundreds of reputable SEO agencies in Los Angeles that are lobbying for the same eyeballs and SEO contracts.

So how can you differentiate the heroes from the zeros?

You can do some research on their agency reputation, or browse agency review directories like Clutch.co, TopDigital Agency, or UpCity but in most cases, you’ll end up with one or two results:

1) Heck yes! I think we’ve found our future partners!

2) Heck no! They are not touching my website!

The truth is … you can never be 100% sure if an agency can deliver on their promise. There’s always an inherent risk in putting your company’s marketing budget in someone else’s hands.

The best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge and expect to ask some hardball questions.

We put together this candid three-step process to help bring some clarity and to help you find the right SEO agency partner for your business.

Let’s get started.

STEP 1:

Define Your Own SEO Goals

What are your SEO goals? Are you looking to get more organic traffic? Do you need help with fixing technical issues? Are you currently dealing with a Google penalty?

Delivering a successful SEO outcome is a complex task and sometimes agencies can confuse businesses with different terms and jargons to demonstrate their “success.”

So before you reach out to another SEO agency, write down your own version of SEO success goals so they can’t decide what “success” means for you.

Tips: Don’t settle for ‘Impressions’ when you’re looking for ‘Engagements’. Don’t settle for 10% traffic increase when you’re paying for 10X.

STEP 2:

Ask Plenty of Questions

SEO marketing jargon can sound like a language from another planet, but don’t let that intimidate you from asking the right questions before hiring an SEO expert.

Here’s a list of the most important questions you can ask when hiring an SEO company:

What type of client experience do you have?
You need to ask this because if the agency only works with small businesses, or huge global brands, you better make sure they have the bandwidth to execute your SEO campaign at a high level.
Do you specialize in my industry?
This question is pretty straightforward. You want to work with agencies who have industry knowledge of your vertical. Hiring a big-name agency may look good on paper but if they aren’t familiar with your industry trends and competition, you’ll be wasting a ton of time trying to bring them up to speed.
Who will be in charge of my account? An intern or a trained SEO manager?
We’ve heard horror stories from our prospects who worked with big-name agencies and got an intern handling their day-to-day operations. Make sure to ask who you get for paying all that money.
What will you need from me?

Even if you hire the best SEO company, it still takes time for them to familiarize themselves with your industry and explore the opportunities within the industry.

It’s sad but true – this lack of understanding and communication can cost you time and money with a great deal of frustration.

The right SEO agency partner will take time to learn more about your business, and make sure your business goals are met.

How much work will be done in-house vs. outsourced?

Most agencies outsource their work to strategic partners or offshore vendors. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing, but make sure the agency takes full accountability when things don’t go as planned. The agency you hired is responsible for your results, not the outsourcers.

How will the SEO results be measured, and over what timeline?

They say “an SEO agency that guarantee results must either be insane or a scam.” While this statement might be true if you hired someone who claims, “I’ll have you at the top of Google within the week,” we believe that SEO agencies and SEO experts should all be held accountable when it comes to realistic goal-setting and achieving tangible results in a reasonable time frame. The truth is, no business can wait for six to 12 months just to see some traffic increase. So make sure you agree on the goals, targets, and dates, and ensure both you and your SEO agency are focused on the same outcomes.

What will I own if we part ways?

This last question is extremely important. Before you sign any SEO contracts, make sure to read each and every line. We’ve dealt with clients who ended up with absolutely nothing when they decided to leave the old agency. Make sure the contract protects your business and all the IT property you paid for.

STEP 3:

Decide Which Route Makes Sense Financially

A huge part of online marketing is deciding whether to put together an in-house team, hire an SEO firm, or learn to do the work yourself.

There is no right answer – sometimes it makes financial sense to do the work yourself, sometimes it makes sense to hire an agency. Sometimes it makes sense to use a combination of two or more options.

Let’s talk about the budget and hiring/training first.

If your digital marketing budget is less than $1,000 USD per month then you do not have the budget necessary to build an in-house team. With extremely rare exceptions, anyone who tries to put together amateur writers and SEO interns is simply just wasting their time and money.

If you don’t have the financial resources to build a team, you should definitely consider hiring an SEO consultant or agency who can get it done for you.

Hiring an SEO Expert for Your Business

The Good

Certain company may prefer to hire an SEO consultant and work with freelance writers and vendors instead of spending the money on hiring an SEO firm that may not be familiar with the particular industry and that does not fully understand the company inside-out.

The combination of hiring an SEO consultant and outsourcing writers is probably more common than you think. It is financially more feasible than building an entire in-house team and definitely more efficient than DIY marketing.

Make sure to do your research and ask the right questions when you are considering an SEO consultant.

The Bad

If you hire an SEO consultant who will handle all your SEO activities, the biggest challenge is scaling when you only have a single person doing everything.

Running a successful SEO marketing campaign usually requires a team of two or three individuals, and it can easily be more.

Think about this: What will you do if your website traffic drops and your SEO consultant is on their annual vacation?

You need a team to run a high-level online marketing campaign.

Hiring an SEO Company for Your Business

The Good

If you hire the right SEO agency partner, they understand the importance of teamwork and share equal responsibility for the work.

That’s not to say you won’t have challenges working with an SEO firm. But, if you have a team of SEO experts working around the clock, you don’t have to deal with sick days, mood swings, and vacation days, and the risk of a campaign going haywire is greatly reduced.

The team will be responsible for digging through the data, optimizing what is needed, experimenting with a new set of SEO strategies, and reporting the results to you.

All you have to do is just concentrate on running your business and let the SEO agency handles the marketing for you.

The Bad

As most of the SEO companies in Los Angeles often serve multiple clients at once, it is possible that they are unable to provide the extra attention that you are expecting.

If you give them some pressure, the agency will probably have little interest in continuing to work with your brand and goals.

Therefore, you have to make sure that there is a dedicated project manager handling your account to create a solid professional relationship where the marketing goals and needs are met.

If you are still unsure about your decision, don’t worry. We have listed some of the key points below on why you should hire an SEO expert in-house instead.

When Not to Hire an SEO Company

The road to SEO success is a long one. It is tempting to take shortcuts or easy ways out by hiring agencies that make spurious claims.

Here’s a few reasons why a company should not hire a marketing agency.

You Don’t Have Your House in Order

Before you hire a digital marketing agency for SEO service in Los Angeles, make sure you have a systematic process for handling your current and new customers.

If everything is not in order, your business will be affected in getting good results and maintaining a good relationship with the SEO agency. Do not expect the agencies to make magic out of your business if you don’t even have a solid foundation.

You Need Sales Yesterday!

As the saying goes, good things take time. The same goes for your marketing results.

Your SEO agency will have to take the time to analyze and propose to you what is the best move to make next. You can’t expect them to produce results overnight if you only engaged them for a week. Even Google takes time to crawl your page and get it ranked on the SERPs.

Conclusion

Hiring an in-house marketing specialist sounds like a good idea, but one person can only do so much no matter their experience or skill set.

You need a strong team to move the bottom line in SEO marketing. If your SEO marketing budget is substantial, I’d say an in-house team is worth investing in as it will give you the most control. Just don’t forget about the paperwork, training, taxes, benefits, vacations, and sick days for your team.

With more than 15 years in the digital marketing industry, I would highly suggest hiring an SEO agency that has experience in your industry. It makes a world of difference if the SEO agency you hired specializes in your industry.

I hope this short guide gives you some better insight into how to choose the right SEO partner for your company. You can even share your marketing goals with us at 12 Steps Marketing so we can help you reach all your goals.

Now, over to you.

Will you choose to handle the SEO marketing efforts in-house or hire a digital marketing agency? If you have experienced this dilemma before, share your thoughts and suggestions with us.

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