What Is A Professional SEO Company & How To Choose It?

  • Last update: 30/09/2023

Hieu Nguyen

Digital Marketing Expert

Professional SEO company infographic

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps you generate leads and sales online. A professional SEO company offers SEO services to get your website on the first page of search results. Once you are there, your website will get more visitors than most competitors. These visitors will potentially become paying customers. Ultimately, a good SEO strategy correlates with market dominance.

SEO is too important to ignore, but doing it well is a full-time job. Doing it yourself would eat up the time that you could devote to solving more urgent problems; hence the viable solution of hiring a professional SEO company. Let’s dive into how a professional SEO company can help you resolve persistent issues and make SEO your strength.

SEO Company

What a professional SEO company can do for you?

A professional SEO agency builds upon a combination of seasoned expertise and the latest SEO tools and updates. Their services fall into 3 main categories:

  • Technical SEO: enable search engines to index your website properly.
  • On-page SEO: create an appealing user experience to persuade visitors to take the desired actions.
  • Off-page SEO: promote your website to get upvotes across the internet.

 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO includes a host of tasks to ensure search engines properly index your website and all features work as intended.

The SEO company will audit your website to understand the issues. The audit may involve:

  • Set up an SEO-friendly website structure
  • Fix duplicates, orphaned pages, broken pages (404 error)
  • Set up 301 redirects (crucial for pages with valuable backlinks)
  • Apply tags to relevant pages
  • Improve page speed
  • Improve mobile-friendliness
  • Implement structured data
  • Optimize for the 3 Core Web Vitals

Imagine doing all of this yourself. That would take you months of trial and error. Technical SEO can be frustrating and tedious without the right tools and know-how. With a good SEO agency, you will get a seamlessly functional website that is friendly to search engines and all devices, paving the way for more and more visitors.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO includes making changes to the web pages’ appearance and internal structure to improve rankings and user experience.

  • Keyword research
  • Create content (text, images, videos) targeting a range of customer profiles.
  • Title tags, meta descriptions, headings
  • Internal and external linking
  • Schema markup
  • UX/UI design to boost user engagement

Effective on-page SEO means a high-quality website that appeals to both search engines and visitors. This involves some technical SEO tasks, but it mainly has to do with the site’s content rather than the infrastructure behind it.

Content creation that meets Google’s standards takes the bulk of on-page SEO. To rank well, the website must provide useful and relevant content to the audience, while leading them further down the marketing funnel. The work does not stop there. The content then needs to be tagged, linked, and attributed in a way that also works well with search engines.

Some businesses opt to create their content to ensure brand consistency. A well-rounded SEO agency has content creators able to produce on-brand quality content according to a regular schedule, with the necessary optimizations.

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Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is about building your website’s reputation across the internet, of which building backlinks is the most crucial task. Some of the most celebrated wins in SEO, backlinks are links from other websites referring back to your webpages. They are badges of quality that can quickly boost your rankings. Earning them, though, involves waiting for things out of your control.

Link building refers to the strategies that reduce the uncertainty in waiting for backlinks. It entails:

  • Guest posting: reaching out to relevant, trustworthy websites to let you post some content with a link back to your website.
  • Social media: popularity on these platforms would funnel some traffic to your website.
  • Press releases: that get picked up by major news sites and hopefully channel some readers to yours.
  • Digital ads: to attract visitors to specific landing pages, super useful for time-limited promotions and events.
  • Participation in events and collaborations: within your industry to increase brand visibility, where you can ask participants to scan a QR code linked to your website.
  • Local SEO: reviews on Google Maps and other review sites.

Off-page SEO has seen numerous black-hat tactics. A white-hat, legitimate SEO agency would not make wild claims with an unrealistic budget. When you are anxious to get your brand to more customers, it would be wise to brainstorm effective outreach ideas with your SEO agency to best leverage the benefits of off-page SEO.

Why do I need a professional SEO company?

Running a business involves delegating tasks to people who can do it better than you do. A professional SEO agency is one of them.

Lack of expertise is the number one reason why businesses search for an SEO company. These businesses usually have a set of problems, such as an outdated website or drops in traffic. An SEO agency can solve these problems and set up good practices to avoid future issues.

This is what you can expect from working with a good SEO agency:

  • A website that functions smoothly most of the time
  • A steady increase in unpaid organic traffic and rankings
  • Convert a growing number of paying customers.
  • Regular analytics reporting
  • Competition monitoring
  • These insights can support better decision-making.

With that said, you want your money’s worth. Let’s compare the pros and cons of hiring a professional SEO company.

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Pros and cons of hiring a professional SEO company

Pros

  • Access to seasoned expertise with custom solutions.
  • Teams and resources to deliver the results on time.
  • A range of specialist tools (less expensive at scale).
  • Cost-effective flexibility: pay for what you need when you need it.

Cons

 

Freelancers versus SEO agencies

Should you go for freelancers instead? While freelancers charge less than SEO agencies, they are usually one-person teams, while SEO requires several skill sets. For example, technical website analysis asks for a vastly different skill set than creative content creation; a capable web developer often cannot do thorough keyword research. Good SEO needs all of them.

Freelancers can be great for getting things off the ground –building a website, writing some blog posts, designing a logo set, and doing a website audit (assuming you manage to find good freelancers). However, as soon as your company has a proper website, we recommend going for a full SEO team. You would enjoy a cohesive work process, adequate resources, and manpower to produce real and timely results.

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How to choose the right professional SEO company?

A good SEO company is at heart a good service company. They should inspire trust, be responsive to your needs, and uphold professional integrity. Here are the steps to choose one.

Clarify your goals and budget

Without an actionable goal and budget, can a business do anything? Clarifying your goals and budget would make the process of finding the right SEO company faster and more satisfying. Consider these filters:

  • Budget
  • Goal and time
  • Specialization
  • Location

Budget

How much are you willing to spend on SEO? See our pricing guide below. An SEO package often starts from USD$2000/month, although some companies are willing to do it from $500/month.

Goal and time

What does your business want to achieve, and when? Often, businesses have a set of problems, or they need to improve results.

What is the role of SEO in your overall marketing and business plan? A small e-commerce business will take SEO much more seriously than a convenience store at a high-traffic street corner.

Specialization

SEO is broad. Do you want help with e-commerce SEO, mobile SEO, or link building? It is best to clarify the specific help your in-house team needs, and the workload you are willing to delegate.

Location and time zone

Can your team work with communication delays due to different time zones? Good SEO agencies are able to work around this. Do you speak the same language as the SEO agency, or do you have any team members? While globally oriented SEO agencies have an English-speaking staff, the language and/or cultural barrier remains. You will need cross-cultural communication skills and sensitivity to navigate potential misunderstandings.

Location and time zones are more than just pricing concerns. Are you considering entering a local market? Then you will need insights from a local SEO agency.

Shortlist good SEO companies

You may find them through referrals, search engines, social media, and industry events. Look for these features:

Certifications and awards: industry recognition such as Search Engine Land awards and Global Search awards.

Reviews and case studies: Check their case studies and Clutch reviews. How experienced are they in your industry? How did they work with companies of your size? Particularly when you are an enterprise – the SEO company should be able to adapt to your complexity and scale.

The team: do they have the resources to deliver timely results?

Transparency: do they have a pricing structure with measurable deliverables? Do they answer your questions thoroughly?

Communication and cooperativeness: how responsive are they? This indicates their capacity when the work begins – crucial for your deadlines. Note that a busy agency does not mean a no-go – it is a sign they are trusted by many clients. The sweet spot is that they are busy but have some capacity for you.

Always look for specific and proven information. In reviewing case studies, do more than just check if the former client was in the same industry as you. Also, look for:

  • Goal: what were they trying to achieve, and did they?
  • Metrics: did the chosen metrics align with their goal?
  • Time: how long was the project? When did they see the results?
  • Results: check their websites and rankings. If the case study is ongoing or recent, you can check their website.

You may want to reach out to former clients and ask about their experience with the agency:

  • How long did you work with them?
  • Did you achieve your goal?
  • How responsive are they?
  • How did they respond to unexpected issues?
  • What is one thing they could do better?

These are the tips to shortlist good ones. Now, how to choose the right one? Ask them these questions.

Questions to ask a professional SEO company

Here are some questions to ask and the common answers you may get.

What monthly deliverables can I expect? 

Some agencies provide transparent pricing tables with standardized deliverables. The agency should be able to identify measurable, verifiable metrics, such as impressions, clicks, visitors, rankings, or published content. However, they should also be willing to tailor to your particular needs.

How do I know if progress is being made? 

This is a better question to ask than “When will I see results?”. No trustworthy agency can guarantee that the strategies will work 100% within the given timeline because SEO is a long-term game that is always evolving. The best to expect is a close estimate and constant adjustment.

Will the goals be enough to beat my closest competitors? 

Competitive analysis and monitoring are part of SEO, so they should have strategies to close the gap between your website performance and your competitors.

Who is the point of contact, and how often do you keep me updated? 

The point of contact is often the account manager who should set up a reliable process of documenting, communicating, and reporting. If you are an enterprise with a complex process, they should be able to adapt to it.

What tools do you use? 

Agencies should be transparent about their main tools and how they will use them, including Google tools, Ahrefs, Semrush, and more.

What are certain tactics that may fail in my industry/market?

This question means to test if the agency is the real deal. Good SEO agencies constantly experiment, troubleshoot, and adapt. They are not ashamed to admit challenges, and they can detail how they have tried to work around them. This is an essential part of their professional journeys.

These questions will lead to even more questions. If you have done due diligence about your goals and budget, the inquiry will go much smoother.

How much should I pay for professional SEO services? SEO pricing factors

To see satisfying results in SEO, set aside a budget of around $2,000 per month, ongoing for 4 to 6 months.

An SEO package (= retainer) costs somewhere between $500/month to $5000+/month (in USD). A project may start from $2,000. The average hourly rates range from $50 to $120+.

Here are the pricing factors.

Your goal and timeframe

We believe that any question about pricing is not just about the money. Rather, it is price – time – quality.

In a perfect world, we can have it all. In the real world, the best scenario is we can have two out of three. If we want a low price and high quality, it will take time. If we are rushing for results on a small budget, we will have to forgo quality.

SEO experience

You can expect a huge price increase from SEO experts with 4+ years of experience, compared to the juniors. If they have worked with many clients in your industry, expect to pay more for their industry expertise. In return, enjoy their nuanced grasp of your competitive landscape and thought leadership content with high conversion rates. They can save you time and money from experimenting with tactics that tend not to work for your particular case.

Industry competitiveness

SEO costs more for highly competitive industries and less for lower competition. Why? Because your SEO effort will need to beat the stellar performance of forerunners and competitors. Since SEO is a long-term game, the odds favor websites with a longer history. But, all the more reason why we need to start early to maximize the benefit of seniority!

Local or worldwide services

Are you aiming for a local market or an international market? Going global will scale up keyword research, competitive analysis, and web building. For instance, your website may need multiple language versions to ensure a smooth user experience and compete for language-specific keywords.

The location of the SEO agency

Location-based price differences have more to do with operational costs and salaries, rather than expertise. SEO agencies in the Asia-Pacific region tend to command lower prices than U.S.- and Canada-based companies, because their costs of doing business tend to be lower.

No matter where you are based, choosing the agency’s location should start with your goal: do you need local expertise to navigate the specificities of the local market? Just as your company wishes to enjoy custom SEO strategies, marketing to international customers would also need a localized strategy.

We mention that SEO is long-term. It will bring few, if any, returns under four months, so be prepared to be patient. See how to calculate organic search ROI assuming lifetime value.

Is it worth paying for professional SEO services?

Yes, SEO is worth it – if you partner with a trustworthy and capable SEO agency and implement the right strategies.

SEO is not just cost-effective, it is the trump card of all digital marketing channels. Here’s why.

SEO works for the entire marketing funnel.

A comprehensive SEO strategy can attract an interested audience and build consumer trust with frequently updated educational content. Optimized landing pages and well-designed product pages can convert them into paying customers. These tactics are all part of SEO.

SEO costs less than other marketing channels.

Thanks to the compound effect of searches, the better your web pages are, the higher the rankings, and the more leads and customers you will get. Compared to running ads or email marketing, SEO can stretch your marketing budget. The data has proved this. In SEO, you do get what you pay for.

Good, sustainable SEO becomes more effective over time. 

A well-optimized website will accumulate traffic and leads in the long term without additional costs. Your website performance sticks with you forever.

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The success factors in working with SEO agencies

We have compiled the favorable conditions that likely set businesses up for success in an SEO partnership.

You have a budget for SEO, but investing in an in-house team would be too costly.

We have seen many companies hiring one Digital Marketing manager and expect them to deliver results with free tools. They likely see no results that stick.

SEO is a team effort. You need at least:

  • 1 SEO analyst
  • 1 content writer and/or graphic designer
  • 1 web developer

An in-house team requires salaries, benefits, and management. An SEO agency can take care of that for you so that your budget can be dedicated to producing real SEO results.

You have a basic understanding of SEO to make the best of professional SEO services. 

SEO can get technical very quickly. To be able to judge if an SEO agency is any good, you need a basic understanding of SEO. This basic grasp can enable you to set realistic business goals and choose the correct metrics to measure those goals.

Moreover, with some SEO knowledge, you are much more equipped to evaluate an SEO agency. Over-promising, under-delivering, and black-hat tactics are common pain points here. Having a good SEO foundation can help you minimize these problems.

There are a host of SEO educational resources online, from blog posts to videos and courses. For example, check out our complete SEO guide. We also offer a customizable SEO course for those who want to build a strong foundation.

A good SEO agency is often willing to educate their customers on SEO processes because your basic understanding would make their job easier. Also, knowledge is power – if your SEO agency is considering questionable tactics that may harm your website, you can nip it in the bud.

You understand that SEO is a long-term strategy. 

For many implementations, expect to see results in at least a few months. The best SEO results are cumulative, gradual improvements that align with seasonal trends and can be explained with analytics, not temporary highs and lows that no one knows why. To build a long-term SEO strategy, choose agencies that offer customized, well-rounded services that can be scaled up or down.

For example, sustainable results are harder to come by if your strategy only aims for content creation without optimizing the website or implementing social media outreach. A good SEO company should have a range of digital marketing services, saving you the effort of finding another one when you want to scale.

It is true when businesses first work with an SEO agency, they would want to sign up for a short-term contract to test it out. If they are happy, they can add on more services. Even so, talk to your SEO agency about a long-term strategy. Knowing that you aim for the long term, they may be able to advise you on avoiding certain implementations that would obstruct you from scaling up.

One last tip about finding a professional SEO company

Look beyond rankings. While achieving top rankings is an essential aspect of SEO, it’s not the only metric that matters. Ensure that the SEO agency can draw a clear line between better ranking to user experience, conversion rates, and overall ROI.