Choosing an SEO agency has got to be up there on the list of things business owners dread – and with good reason.

SEO is a pain-in-the-proverbial because it’s complicated, specialist and takes time to produce results. It also represents a significant financial investment, so the pressure to get it right is massive.

If you’re a small business or SME, you maybe only have the budget for one shot to make SEO work for you. A scary prospect indeed.

If the very mention of SEO makes you want to run and hide, don’t worry – because in this article you’ll gain the clarity you need to confidently employ an SEO agency on your behalf. Most SEO guides out there focus on a thorough run-down of all the different benefits of SEO and myriad things to consider to help you choose the best SEO agency. And whilst that’s all good advice, we know most business owners don’t have the time or the energy to sit through a 5000-word long list – so today we’re making it simple for you.

What is SEO, and why do you need it?

Before we dive in, let’s get back to basics for a moment to talk about what SEO is and why you need it. Many companies are still confused about how SEO works, how influential it can be and how necessary it is for the growth of their business. This is understandable, because SEO is something of a unicorn within the digital marketing space – elusive, secretive and the subject of much speculation and misinformation.

What does it mean?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation (spelled with a z if you’re across the pond). Good SEO involves a variety of different aspects, all designed to drive traffic to your site and encourage meaningful interaction with your business by the way of sales, or activity that leads to sales. Some key elements of a successful SEO campaign include:

  • Backlink building and management
  • Keyword research, analysis and optimisation
  • Engaging, creative SEO-optimised content
  • Image optimisation, alt tags
  • Consistent, high-quality blogs

SEO Costs

Taking into account the multi-faceted and complex nature of any SEO campaign (and the requirement to get all of these elements right), it’s no surprise that services can be costly. That cost may seem high at first glance, but the potential return on investment over time is significant, too. The cost of SEO is speculative – so you’ll spend the money before you make it back, but on average successful SEO campaigns should earn you a return of at least 200%. Based on the average cost of SEO of around £2000 per month, that’s a £48,000 profit per year.

Why choosing an SEO agency feels so damn difficult

Unfortunately, the SEO space is subject to a certain amount of corruption and dodgy dealings. Because SEO is complex, takes time to work and much of it isn’t visible to the untrained eye, it’s not always easy to know who is doing the job properly. Some companies count on this to make a lot of money out of unsuspecting business owners. SEO as an industry is totally unregulated, so sadly there’s no hard and fast way to know who is representing their SEO abilities truthfully and ultimately, which agency can achieve the results you’re looking for within your business. There are however some clues.

As a rule of thumb, authentic SEO agencies will:

  • Be happy to display results from previous campaigns on their website or share them with you privately (they’ll also be happy for you to independently contact clients to verify those results, where anonymity isn’t a barrier)
  • Have a clear track record and experience to draw from
  • Be able to explain to you as best they can what they will be doing and why, or demonstrate the process
  • Be able to provide simplified and transparent reports detailing exactly what they’re going to be doing and why. They should also be happy to demonstrate this to you when asked and explain if and why they’re changing their approach in line with previous results
  • Be realistic about the time it will take for you to see results. This will depend on your sector and what you do or sell, as well as the keyword competition in your space. Bottom line: you need to know what your investment will be upfront and when you’ll be able to see a return on that
  • Be happy to provide some type of guarantee – although it’s not possible to guarantee results because you’re at the mercy of external influences such as fluctuating markets and Google, a good SEO agency should strive to make things right at every opportunity and do the best they can for your business.

This is a list of what a good SEO agency should do. They will not lure you in with a promise of getting rich quick, making ‘x’ amount of money from your website within a specific timeframe, refuse to reveal their methods or reports to track progress, or request huge amounts of money upfront.

Our one tip for SEO success

Our key tip for any business to help you choose the best SEO agency?

Don’t pick an agency who can’t rank themselves.

Think of it like this:
  • Going to a restaurant where nobody is eating
  • Have a clear track record and experience to draw from
  • Learning to drive with a guy who only has a provisional licence (or worse, a pushbike)
  • Employing a content writer with awful spelling
  • Taking style tips from a nudist

We could go on, but you get the gist. Your SEO agency should have the skills and experience to get a high ranking on Google themselves, demonstrating that they have the skills and experience to execute the same strategy for you.

Of course, this isn’t the only criteria you should consider when making your choice. But it’s a huge indicator of that agency’s own ability to perform and secure a return on your investment.

Looking for reliable, results-driven SEO that delivers tangible outcomes for your business? You’re in the right place! Our experienced SEO teams specialise in SEO support for businesses in the UK and US. No BS, no jargon, no empty promises – just transparent, honest and highly-skilled professionals producing real results.

Ready to dominate your sector? Speak to us today about SEO at