Auditing Your SEO Agency

SEO is a shady business. No way around this – it has a low barrier to entry, generally a long time to see results and the ever present answer to nosy clients – “this is part of the secret google algorithm, we’ll see results in 6 months”.

So let’s say you just heard this from your SEO agency – “we recommend this because of the secret algorithm”. But you as a steward of your business, you have your doubts. So… how do you go about auditing your SEO agency?

In this article we’ll break down the facts & myths of SEO work, and give you some solid tools to be able to confidently rate and judge your SEO agency’s work.

And you my ask – what makes me qualified to write this article?

I’ve worked on both sides of this aisle, for large international agencies as well as in-house for a fortune 500 company managing our agency partners. So I’ve seen my share of great, as well as questionable agency tactics.

And most importantly I think this knowledge will benefit the SEO industry as a whole, because educated clients are more likely to work with truly talented agencies.

Myth 1: “You’ll see results in 6 months”

So this is a common answer when agency’s sign you up for 6 month or 12 month contracts. They’ll say “we need 6 months to show results”. While it might be true that it may take 3 to 6 months to get page 1 ranking, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to evaluate their work sooner.

Movement on distant rankings

Depending on the size and authority of your site, it may take Google up to 2 weeks to index your pages, and thats on the long end. So if your SEO agency is publishing blogs or landing pages – you should see them pop up somewhere in position 50 to 100 within a couple weeks on your keyword tracking tools. After that every week or two you should see steady improvement in those keyword rankings.

While you’re not going to see page 1 rankings right away – you should see gradual improvements from position 60 to 50 to 40 and so on…. generally this trend should be positive every couple weeks when your rankings update, and this will send you a signal if the SEO tactics are working, or they’re just stalling for time.

Keyword selection

When starting work with clients with a low domain authority, it’s important to select keywords that are appropriate for their competition level. We wouldn’t start targeting keywords like “sales crm” for a brand new startup SaaS – this would be a waste of our time, and their budget.

Instead we’d recommend keywords where we can win in the next couple months, something long tail and with less competition like “cloud sales crm for dog groomers”.

This tactic helps clients see results quicker and justify spend for SEO. If your agency isn’t considering your domain authority, or the competitiveness of your target keywords – they may be wasting your time.

Myth 2: “Our efforts are maintaining traffic from last quarter and we’re holding steady”

So this is a common one when it comes time to reporting. Granted it’s true that SEO is a slow burn, you should never be in a situation where the team you hired to grow traffic is maintaining traffic. That just means their strategies aren’t working.

With a couple exceptions:

  • Your industry just saw an influx of competitors who are all doing SEO.
  • Your company is a massive enterprise that just maxed out all possible keywords ( at this point just focus on CRO )

In all other cases your SEO agency should be showing quarter over quarter increases in organic traffic. It’s true you may see fluctuations week to week, or month to month due to algorithm updates or competitors. But if you’re traffic is flat 3 quarters in a row, that just means they’re not being effective.

And let’s make one thing clear – maintaining organic traffic is not a real SEO service, once you’ve acquired certain positions they’re yours ( atleast until someone beats you ) and the goal of an SEO agency is to keep growing.

That’s why it’s more expensive than PPC – if you wanted to pay to maintain traffic you’d just buy these keywords.

Myth 3: “We’ve increased traffic to your homepage”

This is a case when an SEO agency may take credit for work done by your other marketing channels.

To be fair – this one can be a toss up, and this depends on which keywords are targeted to which pages on your website. I’v

In most cases your homepage will be optimized for conversion and branding but not SEO – your H1 will usually be your brand name and you word count will be pretty low to manage an effective SEO strategy.

So when you see an increase in homepage visits – this is usually attributed to the general growth of your brand, which might be through PR, display or any other channel.

However – in cases where this is due to SEO, you should see a corresponding increase in keyword rankings to justify this increase in traffic.

Myth 4: “We don’t do linkbuilding, its blackhat”