To get found online and attract audiences, you need an SEO strategy that’s consistent, scalable, and effective.
Many businesses turn to an SEO agency for support since this is a complex and ever-changing area of content marketing.
When seeking out a partner, you may think a local firm is the best option. However, as we’ve learned during the pandemic, well-skilled marketers can work from anywhere. So, does the ‘where’ matter as much as ‘what’ they can deliver?
- Choosing an SEO agency based on their skills and achievements is more important than where they are.
- The state of SEO is evolving, and agencies must be aware of these changes and how to leverage emerging trends.
- There’s no demonstrable advantage to working with a local firm–experience is much more valuable than location.
The State of SEO: What We Know About SEO
Before we dive into choosing an SEO agency, let’s look at the state of SEO. Winning at organic ranking is a long game. It won’t happen magically. It requires commitment and staying up to date on changes made by search engines.
So, what do we know about SEO right now?
Google is still king. They currently hold a market share of 87.81 percent of all search traffic in the U.S. With Google still being the dominant search engine by far, most of the efforts in your SEO strategy will focus on it.
Most website traffic comes from organic search, at 53.3 percent. It beats paid search and social media.
B2B buyers start with a search 71 percent of the time. That number likely grew in 2020 when more B2B audiences shifted to digital channels due to the coronavirus.
Search queries are rarely one keyword. At 69.7 percent, most searches are four words or more, indicating that searchers are savvier and more targeted in what questions they are trying to answer.
Most keywords have low volume for searches. Ahrefs reported that 92.42 percent of keywords have 10 monthly searches or fewer. Basically, that means that less than 10 percent of the keywords you’re targeting have more than a few searches, which means there is even more competition for those high-volume keywords.
These statistics provide a good ‘where we are’ overview. And while we’re on the subject of data, what are some emerging trends in SEO?
Emerging SEO Trends
While you don’t need to be an expert in SEO trends, your agency should be. These are some of the things they should be talking about, and if they aren’t, consider it a red flag.
Searcher Intent Is Crucial
Google aims to deliver the best answer to a searcher’s query, which is the same focus your SEO experts should have. Understanding searcher intent and what Google believes best fulfills the searcher’s needs carries substantial weight in how you rank. This requires knowing your audience’s needs and pain points as well as analyzing high-ranking content for keywords that are important to your product or service. There are many SEO ranking factors, and this one is becoming more important.
Optimizing for RankBrain
RankBrain is Google’s AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm. It has a critical role in SERPs (search engine results pages). Google has never shared details on how it works, but SEO experts believe that RankBrain leans on user experience, which could mean click-through rates, bounce rates, time spent on page, and the formatting of the page (using headers, bullets, etc.).
Credible, Expert Content Will Rank Higher
Google defines the quality of content in many ways, and that impacts ranking. They refer to it as the EAT principle: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. How do you meet the EAT parameters?
- Create content consistently that addresses customer needs and their journey.
- Ensure content has good readability scores with shorter sentences, common words, and active versus passive voice.
- Support perspectives or claims with reputable statistics and data from a high domain authority website.
- Work on ways to improve the quality backlinks to your site from quality referrers.
Search Phrasing: Questions and Voice
SEO phrasing is evolving. We know that most searches are four words or more, indicating more specificity. In many instances, the search is a question, especially in voice search. Google reported that 27 percent of global searchers use voice.
What are these searchers asking? Well, it’s not purely consumer talk. Adobe Analytics found that music and weather dominate, but 47 percent of questions via voice are for online search.
In understanding this trend, it will be essential for SEO agencies to seek out question-focused keywords. They should also be aware that questions change and follow emerging or trending keywords via tools like Google Trends.
Formats of Content for SEO Are Evolving
SEO optimization is not solely for blogging or website pages. Other formats are gaining in importance. One is video. Video is becoming the most consumed format of content. You can optimize it with descriptions that provide an overview and by naturally using keywords.
In written content, length matters. According to SEMrush, content with over 3,000 words receives three times more traffic and four times more shares. That’s a lot of words, and it’s hard to believe people will read this much, considering the shortening of attention spans. If you’re going to tackle content at this length, position it as a pillar page with lots of headers and other formatting that makes it scannable.
Now that we’ve looked at the state of SEO and trends, how do you choose the best SEO agency, and does location matter?
Are There Benefits of Using a Local SEO Firm?
In the B2B world, local SEO isn’t nearly as important as it is for consumer businesses that serve customers locally. There are some exceptions in the B2B realm relating to services that have to be local, such as field services. In most cases, B2B companies are attempting to attract buyers from across the country or globe.
If you are local, can a hometown firm give you an advantage? That would depend on their experience, but just because a company is in your city doesn’t mean they’ll deliver results better than a firm a few states away. They may have insights into the local market, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to SEO intelligence. Maybe they aren’t doing much beyond adding your business to Google Maps.
Pre-COVID, a benefit may have been to meet in-person with the agency, but that’s not happening right now. We’re all comfortable with video conference meetings, and they deliver the same experience. Some might say video meetings are more effective and more focused.
What Really Matters in Choosing an SEO Agency?
What a firm can deliver, their experience, and results are substantially more vital than where they sit. When looking for an SEO agency, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Do they have experience in your industry? Industry knowledge is better than location experience.
- What kind of results can they provide? The proof is in the success they’ve demonstrated for clients or even themselves! If an SEO firm doesn’t practice SEO optimization, it would be hard to trust them to do the same for you. Case studies will illustrate the challenge, solution, and results.
- Are they thought leaders in the space? In selecting an SEO agency, review their content marketing efforts—blogs, eBooks, videos, etc.—and evaluate their thought leadership on the topic. If there isn’t any, that’s a concern.
- What methods do they use? There are lots of strategic elements that go into SEO, including on-page, technical, and off-page. You should ask them how the process goes and what tactics they use to optimize. You don’t want to get stuck with an agency with little experience in developing strategies or one that uses black hat techniques, which are risky and unethical.
- What are the costs? Budget matters in every aspect of marketing, so you need a clear understanding of the expenses at the beginning. In most situations, a flat fee per month will be more valuable than various costs that change every month.
- Do they guarantee results? Very few things in life should come with a guarantee. If an agency is guaranteeing you’ll land on the first page of Google, be very skeptical. SEO is not an exact science, and algorithms are always changing. Instead of guarantees, look at their results, reputation, and experience.
- Do they offer more than just a keyword strategy? Ultimately if you’re engaging with an SEO firm, they should do more than just create guidelines. They should be able to create a content strategy that includes SEO as well as deliver the content.
Beware of SEO Mills
One last caution on SEO agencies—avoid SEO mills. SEO mills appear to have knowledge and expertise, but what they do is take one strategy, make a few small changes, and pass it off as something specific to your company. They care about the number of customers and generating revenue. They mass produce SEO tactics that never account for who your audience and brand are.
Ready to Find the Right SEO Agency?
Finding the best SEO agency for your business has little to do with location. There are no specific advantages to going local. Instead, seek out companies with great reviews from clients, that are transparent about how they optimize, and that have verifiable results.
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