Top 10 Qualities in Your SEO / Digital Marketing Partner

Chris Wheeler, Metalfrog Studios Limited

We thought it might be useful to create this guide to the top 5 qualities you should look for in an SEO or digital marketing partner. We hope it assists.

1. Years of SEO Experience

Anyone can set-up an 'SEO agency' overnight and call themselves an 'SEO expert'. This does not necessarily mean they know what they're doing. There are hundreds of elements which go into the wider bigger picture of doing SEO and it takes many years of experiencing what works and what does not to truly do a good job.

Every website needs different SEO tactics to succeed. An SEO professional with many years of experience will be able to look at any website and know exactly what needs to be done for it to gain more search engine traffic, while someone new at SEO will try the same things on every site, which will only have a limited effect, if any. As we have mentioned many times before, this is about your competition. Understand this and your tactics will succeed.

2. An Understanding of All Three SEO Levels

Search engine optimisation involves three levels:

Technical (the structure of a site, which can determine how easy or difficult it is for search engines to crawl and index your content)

On-page optimisation (the use of such elements as keywords and HTML tags in ways that help increase search engine traffic to your site)

Off-page optimisation (such as link building).

"You don't want a one-dimensional SEO," says Taylor Pratt, vice president of product marketing for Raven Internet Marketing Tools. "You need someone who will approach their strategy from all three angles to maximise success."

If search engines can't access all the content on a website, or some content is buried too deeply in the site, then any other efforts made on the URL will be useless in terms of SEO success.. This means that all SEO consultants or companies should understand all technical limitations and issues that search engines may have, and they need to be able to articulate those to the developers of your website so that the issues can be minimised.

3. A Proven Track Record of SEO Success

It's easy to talk a good game in SEO. There are tons of blog posts and articles that describe various SEO processes one can use. But it's another thing to have happy clients. Anyone looking to hire an SEO consultant or company should definitely check at least three fairly current references to discuss how the SEO company helped them succeed. More than that, ask for the search positions ranked. In Google you can physically search on date ranges and see when the website ranked and for what, even after the project has finished. Also, if there was a contract and it was terminated early there is often the reason that the customer was 'informed' of 'issues' by a potential new supplier wanting business, or by reading outdated information concerning techniques. Not all relationships end well. Often this is the client's 'fault' as much as that of the service provider. 

4. Marketing Knowledge

Once you get beyond the technical issues of a website, SEO is a lot like traditional marketing. Content needs to be written in a way that outlines the benefit to the user while leading them to a sale. And it all has to be done in a way that also appeals to the people at the other end of a search engine who are looking for what your company has to offer. However, writing is carried out in conjunction with the search ranking competitive space for your URL on your key phrase.

5. A Well-rounded Perspective and Knowledge

"For years, I thought I could ignore subjects outside the hyper-focused SEO arena," says Rand Fishkin, CEO & co-founder of SEOMoz. "If it didn't have to do with ranking web pages in search engines, bah humbug! That attitude was foolish and wrong. Today's SEO needs to understand all of marketing at a deep level, the psychology of the human race, the specific culture to whom they're marketing, the social media landscape, web analytics, web design and development, viral marketing, content, product, business models and more. When we disconnect SEO from these other critical practices, we make short-term decisions that can ultimately hurt more than they help."

But on point 5 we have also seen (in recent months) Rand and Google disagree. So even with his knowledge, experience and understanding of the subject, opinion is still a factor in the process of SEO and ultimately digital marketing.

6. An Understanding of the Big Picture

Does the SEO consultant focus on conversions (converting a visitor to your site into a customer), or are they more concerned with search engine rankings? Ideally, the focus of any digital marketing strategy should be to accomplish a goal (like increasing conversions), not to achieve a certain rank. This cannot always be the case however (see improvement piece below).

7. The Capability to Fit in With Your Company's Culture

SEO professionals must interact with many areas of your business including IT, marketing, customer service, analytics, and sales. The ability for them to work well with members of these teams is essential. The personality, integrity and communication style of the SEO professional you employ should ideally fit with the organisation and its team or progress is likely to be not as positive.

8. Excellent communication skills.

Speaking of communication style, an SEO professional needs to be able to clearly communicate why a change must be made to your website in terms that everyone understands, not using jargon!

A typical SEO professional cannot do everything themselves. So, they need to be able to communicate why a certain change needs to be made in terms that everyone understands. Getting a point across clearly and concisely is vital. A general business knowledge, years of experience and life skills will add to the mix for you. We're all learning - this is a 'tech' business. So, it is likely that the longer we've been learning the more knowledge and understanding we will be able to share.

9. A passion for execution.

SEO professionals love getting results for their clients. It’s what makes us tick. You will see whether you are the right fit for yours by looking into their eyes and gauging their passion.
A great SEO consultant and digital marketing professional loves to carry out their work efficiently and methodically. If their spirit is broken by negativity or impatience or doubt it is typical that the project is doomed to failure.

10. Curiosity.

While knowledge is certainly important, curiosity is essential, too. Finding an SEO who can recite the IP addresses for all of Google's crawlers is great, but one who's deeply curious and constantly investigating how that crawler works is even better," Fishkin says. "I've often met SEOs whose knowledge was fantastic, but at some point in their career, it ceased to grow. I'd rather have a fresh mind that's hungry and growing than a grizzled vet whose thirst for new knowledge died in 2006."

We concur with this. Our job is both analytical and forensic in its processes. It relies on many skill sets to succeed. We are not afraid to talk about experimentation. We have to be flexible in our approach. Now, more than ever before, the work we carry out in one month is not likely to be totally replicated in month 2 and so on. Likewise, we do not bind clients to long term contracts. We can only talk about improvement and planning. But, with this in focus we do succeed in any case, as our benchmark is defined from the onset of the project.

We concur with this. Our job is both analytical and forensic in its processes. It relies on many skill sets to succeed. We are not afraid to talk about experimentation. We have to be flexible in our approach. Now, more than ever before, the work we carry out in one month is not likely to be totally replicated in month 2 and so on. Likewise, we do not bind clients to long term contracts. We can only talk about improvement and planning. But, with this in focus we do succeed in any case, as our benchmark is defined from the onset of the project.

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