What Is An SEO Agency And What Should You Get Out Of Them

So, you’ve decided to engage an SEO agency. Congratulations! Now the real work begins.

Before you contact prospective agencies, you’ll need a solid understanding of what you’re looking for and what to expect from the agency you hire.

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What’s an SEO Agency?

An SEO agency is a marketing service provider that focuses on organic search engine optimization.

Organic SEO is the process of getting your website to rank higher in search engines by optimizing your content and on-page factors, such as:

  • Site Structure & Navigation: Search engines also look at how easy it is for users and search engine crawlers to navigate your site’s pages and content.
  • Site Speed: The faster your website loads, the more it’s considered user-friendly. Google also ranks sites that load quickly higher than those with slower load times
  • Page Layout:  A series of well-thought-out, highly relevant internal links will ensure that visitors won’t have any problem navigating the different sections of your website
  • Content-Length & Keywords Placement: Longer is better for web pages. The more in-depth your text is, the easier it will be for search engines to determine its relevance to a particular keyword or phrase
  • Technical SEO: Technical SEO refers to all of the technical aspects of your website, including things like HTML Tags, Robots. texts, page speed, metadata, site architecture, Sitemaps, etc.
  • Authority: Google is looking at more than 200 factors when ranking websites
  • Link Building: Link building is the process of acquiring links from high-quality sources. If you want other websites to link back to your website, this is what you need to do.

Through a combination of on-site and off-site factors, SEO agencies aim to increase your website’s organic ranking so that it appears higher in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

What Makes SEO Agencies Different?

What Makes SEO Agencies Different? | MediaOne Marketing Singapore

There Are Four Main Types Of SEO Agencies

of which there’s only one type of SEO agency that you want to trust with your online presence:

The “Outsource Everything” SEO Agency

This accounts for most of the SEO agencies you see around. They operate as vendors of SEO services, selling products and services that they don’t personally deliver.

They typically offer 2-3 services, including link building and on-site SEO. They’ll usually charge you between $1800-$3000 per month.

But the truth is, they don’t provide their own services but rely on subcontractors from overseas for link building, content creation, etc.

The Blackhat SEO Agency

These agencies use “black magic” to get their clients’ websites to rank at the top of search engine results temporarily. They know how to game the system, but everything they do flies against search engine guidelines and best practices.

They might get you to rank (at least temporarily), but it won’t be long before it all comes crashing down and you find yourself losing money as a result. Worse, your site could completely even get banned from search engines.

The “Stuck in the Past” SEO agency

SEO is constantly evolving as we know it.

However, some agencies are stuck in their old ways of doing things. They still use the same outdated tactics that don’t work anymore.

They’ll stuff keywords into page titles and meta tags, use link networks, reciprocal links, and so on.

They don’t know how to do SEO right, but they still think they can charge you top dollar for their services.

The Ideal/Reputable SEO Agency

This is the type of agency you want to hire. They are NOT vendors of SEO services. They don’t sell products that they don’t personally deliver. Nor do they use blackhat or outdated SEO tactics.

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They’re highly experienced and knowledgeable about the best SEO practices.

Plus, they only have one goal in mind: improving the overall quality of your website so it can rank higher in the search engine result pages for your website within a reasonable timeframe.

They’ll create customized, white hat SEO strategies to help you accomplish your objective(s).

What makes an SEO Agency Reputable?

An ideal SEO agency has a complete in-house team of marketers, content writers, link builders, website designers, web developers, etc.

They’ll thoroughly optimize your web pages, build high-quality backlinks, create fresh and engaging content for your site, improve its usability and simplify navigation.

A reputable SEO agency will also take care of your social media presence, online reputation management, and even your website’s overall look and feel.

In short, they’ll not only optimize your site for search engines but also maximize its overall business value as a web asset, including session depth, user engagement, and conversion.

Top Ten Qualities of a Reputable SEO Company

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So, what are the defining qualities of a reputable SEO agency?

1. They’ll Rank at the Top of Search Engine Results

If an agency is as good as they claim to be, it should have no trouble ranking their websites at the top of Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Try searching for “SEO Agency” or “SEO Company” in your region. For example, “SEO Agency Singapore,” “SEO Company Malaysia,” etc. If the agency isn’t among the first few results that show, take it to mean they’re not good at what they do.

2. They Have an Engaging Website

An engaging website attracts visitors and persuades them to take action.

If an agency’s website is poorly designed, outdated, or doesn’t give a good first impression of what they can do for you, then don’t expect them to deliver the best SEO services either.

It’s only natural that the agency will want to put its best foot forward and showcase its skills and expertise to potential clients.

Here are some of the elements the website should have:

  • Consistent, engaging, and high-quality content on every page.
  • Fast website load times because nobody likes to wait. Plus, Google is also becoming stricter about its speed requirements, so you might even get penalized if your site takes too long to load.
  • A well-organized design that’s easy to navigate. It should be obvious where to click to get what you need.
  • Contact information, location with map, and Google map integration are must-haves too.
  • Social media pages or “Follow Us” buttons with social sharing plugins.
  • A frequently updated blog: This shows that they’re serious about their industry. Blogs also help to boost your website’s SEO ranking.
  • In short, look for a website that’s clean, simple, and easy to use. It should answer all your questions without asking you to contact the agency directly.

3. They have Many Repeat Clients

A reputable SEO agency will have many repeat clients and a long list of references you can contact directly. Some of these clients should vouch for them too.

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4. They Don’t Sell Crap

They don’t sell products like backlinks, social media followers, or whatever else that doesn’t impact the overall quality of your website.

A competent SEO agency focuses on improving your site’s content, usability, and overall reputation because that’s what really matters. Plus, they don’t sell link-building services, social media followers, youtube views, etc.

5. They Don’t Oversell

If they guarantee to get you to the first page of Google, then there’s a good chance they’re overselling.

Remember, SEO has no guarantees, and any agency that claims otherwise is lying.

4. They Have a Well-Defined SEO Process

The SEO process should be clearly outlined on their website and make logical sense.

5. They’re Clear About Their Work

There should be no hidden charges or cheap tricks. A reputable SEO agency will fully disclose all there’s to know about their work process from start to finish.

6. They’re Willing To Put It In Writing

An SEO agreement should be comprehensive and include every detail of the campaign, starting with performance benchmarks and termination clauses.

7. They Have Hundred of Testimonials

A good agency should have a list of satisfied customers you can talk to, including names, business types, and location. If these testimonials look like submissions from the same person (i.e., fake), take that as another red flag.

8. They Have a Long History

They should have been in business for at least five years and have a well-established presence in the industry.

9. They Should Provide a Wide Range of SEO Services

They offer a wide range of services, including content marketing, social media marketing, design, PPC advertising, etc. 

7 Red Flags to Watch Out For in a Potential SEO Partner

It helps to be careful when hiring an SEO agency because some will try to make a quick buck out of you by overselling. Here are seven red flags to watch out for:

  1. They Guarantee Page One Rankings: This is next to impossible. It’s achievable but not guaranteed, considering your competitors are also working. You can improve your ranking, but nothing is 100% certain.
  2. Their SEO Packages Are Dirt Cheap: SEO is anything, but not cheap. If it sounds too good to be true, then they’re overselling. A proper SEO campaign requires a hefty investment.
  3. They Guarantee Immediate Results: Every effort takes time, and you won’t see results overnight with SEO or any other marketing efforts for that matter. If they guarantee immediate results, then it’s another sign they’re overselling.
  4. Their Testimonials Are Generic: It’s not uncommon for agencies to post fake testimonials. If you notice all their testimonials sound alike, then there’s a good chance they’re fake.
  5. They Only Work With Small Businesses: They may be new or highly incompetent. If they only work with small businesses, they probably don’t have the experience or knowledge to handle larger accounts.
  6. They Sell One-Size-fits-all SEO Packages: Every site is different, so only hire an agency that will work with you directly, assess your site, and deliver custom SEO campaigns.
  7. They Insist on the Number of Backlinks without Saying a Word about their Quality: If the agency you’re about to hire only promises to get you tens of thousands of backlinks but never discusses the quality of those links or how they generate them, then they’re not giving you the full picture. Ask them if the links are natural, editorial, or paid for. Also, ask them how they get their backlinks and what they do to keep your site safe from Google penalties.
  8. They Think They Know What You Need: Only you know your business, and only you should decide about it. If the agency thinks they know better than you do, then that’s an agency you want to stay away from.

How Can an SEO Agency Help Your Company

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Before hiring an SEO agency, you must first understand what they can do for you. After all, they’re not magicians, but they can help drive more traffic to your website, provided you know how to make the most of their service:

The following are some of the things an SEO agency can help you out with:

  • Identifying Problems and Roadblocks in Your Campaign
  • Create brand awareness
  • Improve your Google rankings
  • Increase Your Website Traffic
  • Improve your website’s performance and user experience
  • Build your website’s credibility
  • Increase your website’s conversion rate
  • Help you sustain a share of your market
  • Measure and track the success of your campaign
  • Optimize your site for mobile devices
  • Make your website or landing page your primary source of leads
  • Increase your social media presence
  • Manage your online reputation

How to Choose the Right SEO Agency in ten Easy Steps

We can all agree hiring an SEO specialist is a big decision. It may seem that the world of SEO is a black box, but if you have patience and follow these steps to the core, you should be able to find the right candidate for your business:

Step 1: Define Your SEO Goals

Before you even think about hiring an SEO specialist, take a few minutes off and think about your business goals. What do you primarily want to achieve by the end of it all? Do you want to drive more traffic to your site? Do you want to increase sales and leads?

Defining your SEO goals will help you narrow down your search and single out the most qualified SEO agencies for the task.

You can begin by identifying which areas of your online presence needs work.

Are you satisfied with your website? Does it need an overhaul, or does it need to be redesigned from the ground up?

What about your social media presence? Is your audience aware of your company’s existence online?

You have to start with the technical SEO issues. If your site’s speed is poor, then you can forget about ranking high in Google. You have to fix broken links and 301 old redirect pages to relevant ones.

Here are a few examples of SEO goals you should consider:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Build the company’s online presence
  • Increase sales leads
  • Improve the user experience of my website
  • Develop written content for the website
  • Optimize the site for mobile platforms
  • Create more relevant backlinks to the site
  • Build online credibility and authority of your brand
  • Improve your website’s domain authority
  • Improve your website’s speed
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Step 2: Gather Relevant Information

The next step is to gather as much information as possible about the SEO agencies you consider. You can collect this information in several ways, including:

  • Reviews from other clients listed on their website
  • Reviews from independent websites
  • Their portfolio of work
  • Testimonials from current clients
  • Case studies

Before you even contact an SEO agency, you should connect with them on social media.

That should give you an insight into their personality and what they stand for.

You should do your due diligence and learn as much as possible about the company before you even contact them.

Simple, you can begin by researching them on Yelp and Google.

Next, go to social media and dig out as much information as possible. You also want to visit the agency’s website and go through their portfolio of work.

You can also contact the agency and ask them to supply this information. If they’re what they claim to be, they’ll comply.

Step 3: Identify the Techniques they Utilize

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SEO is as vast as the number of businesses that utilize it. Therefore, there is no single answer to the question, “What SEO techniques should I use?” What works for one company may not work for another.

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You have to identify the techniques your ideal SEO firm utilizes. You can do this by reading their blog or social media posts, previous campaigns they have completed, and the testimonials from their clients.

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They don’t necessarily have to get to the nitty-gritty details of their techniques, but you should at least get a general idea of what they are capable of.

How do they track and measure their campaign? Typically, the SEO agency you hire must track the following metrics:

  • Your search engine ranking
  • Organic traffic
  • Leads and sales
  • Backlinks
  • Pages per session
  • Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)
  • Average page load time
  • Bounce rate

Step 4: Understand their Pricing Structure

That is one of the most important factors to consider when hiring an SEO agency. You have to pay attention to two major pricing structures: cost per hour and monthly retainer fees.

Hourly rates typically range from $50-$150, depending on the competence of your SEO agency. The monthly retainer fee typically ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.

The best SEO agencies are usually not the cheapest ones. However, you have to be careful with your selection because some agencies overcharge their clients. Others offer subpar services.

You usually get what you pay for, so be prepared to spend more than $1,000 per month.

Step 5: Know their Work Ethic

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The best SEO agencies are always the ones that work the hardest. That means they will do everything within their power to generate high-quality backlinks and improve your site’s rankings in SERPs.

The SEO agency you hire should be hungry for results. They must constantly be monitoring their rankings and adjusting their strategies accordingly.

They should keep you updated on their progress and constantly brainstorm new ideas to improve your campaigns.

They should communicate effectively and always make sure they meet their deadlines.

Step 6: Are they the Right Fit?

After you have found some potential candidates, it’s time to narrow down your list of choices. However, before you start making comparisons, make sure each firm meets the following requirements:

  • They have a thorough understanding of your industry and what it takes to rank for specific keywords.
  • They can provide case studies for their previous campaigns.
  • Their strategy must align with your business goals.
  • They are accessible over the phone, email, or chat 24/7.
  • They are available on weekends.
  • They can respond to your messages within five hours.
  • Their success rate is high enough that you feel comfortable hiring them.
  • They offer a money-back guarantee for unsatisfactory results.

Step 7: Visit the Agency in Person

Step 7: Visit the Agency in Person | MediaOne Marketing Singapore

Most business owners usually overlook this step. But it’s good for relationships.

It’s one thing to talk to an SEO agency over the phone, but quite another to get to meet them in real-time. Many SEO agencies work from home, so you never know who you’re talking to until you meet them in person.

Even if you have already narrowed down your list of choices, it’s still a good idea to visit all potential partners face-to-face.

Visiting the agency in real-time is an excellent opportunity to meet the team you’ll be working with and know who handles what.

Moreover, there is also where the agency walks you through some of their tactics.

You should also be able to tell if the agency is passionate about what they do or if they’re after a quick buck just by the way their office is organized or how they interact with potential clients in real-time.

Step 8: Consider Your Budget

Spending more doesn’t always mean you will get the best results.

With that said, you have to consider your budget limitations before hiring an SEO agency.

After all, not everyone is willing to shell out thousands of dollars per month for SEO services.

If you don’t have enough money to hire an SEO agency, perhaps you should consider hiring a freelancer SEO expert instead.

You can also outsource your SEO campaigns to reputable firms in developing countries like Singapore.

Step 9: Start Small

It’s not always easy to determine if what an agency is offering is worth every penny you’re paying them.

That’s why it’s best to start small, making one campaign your test run.

You want to see how the agency runs its campaigns before handing over the entire project to them.

See if they’re generous enough to go the extra mile or beyond the scope of their work. Are they money-driven or determined to see your business succeed?

If you notice that they’re simply out for your money, then it might be time to look for another SEO agency.

Step 10: Go Beyond SEOWhat Is An SEO Agency And What Should You Get Out Of Them 1

SEO is not a standalone activity. It helps to look for an agency that can help you improve your site’s overall performance.

For example, some firms are great at link building but have no idea how to earn media coverage. Others are good with creating content that would perfectly work with social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

You want an agency that can meet all of your digital needs, not just SEO.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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