How to evaluate your SEO agency
So, you’ve made the commitment to invest in your dental practice and hired an SEO agency to get you ranked on Google. Fantastic – you will be getting leads in no time, and you will start to see your website rise slowly to that precious number 1 spot everyone craves.
But how long do you have to wait before you see results? How many leads will come in? How can you guarantee the quality of these leads?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an interesting world, as it attracts a lot of unethical characters due to the nature of the work. As a dental practice manager, the odds are, you’re not going to understand the world of SEO… and no one expects you to! In fact, SEO agencies don’t want you to! Quite often, their ideal client is one who has no clue what’s going on and just sits back and hands them money each month in the hope that results come in.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably engaged the services of an SEO agency but are not happy with the results. Are you receiving endless excuses and “technical reasons” for why things are not working? Are you starting to wonder whether they have the ability to bring you leads at all?
This guide should help you evaluate your SEO agency and gain insight into what sort of service and results you should be getting, so you know what to ask for. No matter what level your technical knowledge of SEO is, this article should help you understand the processes of a real SEO expert/agency and the deliverables you should be receiving.
Does the dental SEO agency explain the process and activity road map to you?
The first thing you should check for is transparency. Your SEO agency should be there to help you achieve results, so your business relationship should be open and honest. A common answer is that the knowledge is “top secret”, and their methods have been built up from years of experience. This is often another way of saying “I actually have no idea what I’m doing, but if I try to sound smart, perhaps it will work.”
Your dental SEO agency should be sharing tips and tricks with you so that you can help with the SEO process and provide insight into your industry. You should not be kept in the dark with the work that has been done – this should be presented clearly to you, along with an action plan of what’s to come.
It makes sense with any marketing plan to make a forecast for the next 1, 3, 6 or 12 months so that the end goals are clear and KPIs are set along the way.
Is the agency able to present you a data-based forecast? Are they able to set the right expectations?
There are two types of SEO agencies you need to be wary of; those who promise certain results, and those who won’t give you any sort of indicators at all.
The “guaranteed results” type:
Have you been promised a certain amount of leads, or a guarantee that you will reach the number 1 position on Google within 60-90 days? If so, this should ring alarm bells immediately. There is absolutely no way an agency can guarantee this at all. The ones who operate like this are usually performing black hat SEO techniques, and you could end up receiving a penalty from Google. SEO is a long-term investment, so don’t let anyone tell you anything different.
The “there’s no guarantee in marketing” type:
Whilst on some level, this is true, your dental SEO agency still needs to produce some sort of deliverables. You will often hear things like “our techniques are so advanced, they would be very difficult to explain”, or “we could present the data to you, but it doesn’t make sense to non-professionals, but just know that it’s helping your SEO”.
These are just excuses and a way of trying not to be held accountable for not achieving results later.
How should an SEO agency plan our work?
A professional agency will plan out their actions well in advance and will be able to provide you with some sort of forecast. A quality dental SEO agency will initially do an SEO audit of your website to see how things are first and then perform keyword analysis on your site, and your competitors, to devise a strategy that will help yield results in your local area.
Performance targets should be set based on these results, and not just random figures plucked out of thin air. You will receive benchmark targets and measurable KPIs so you can genuinely see how the agency is performing.
Is the agency willing to give you a timeline?
No one can promise to achieve results by a specific date, but an experienced dental SEO agency should be able to give you a timeline based on previous experience. Ask to see case studies from previous clients in the industry to see how long their work took, as yours would then be comparable.
The SEO agencies who promise too much too quickly will be doing something unethical to get you there, and you will be punished by Google later. Those who say it could take more than a year before you see results are just looking to milk as much money from you before you realise they cannot do their job!
Does the SEO agency produce a monthly or quarterly report?
Your dental SEO agency should be producing you a report at least on a quarterly basis. Enough work is done each week that a monthly report should not be out of the question.
The first 3 months in an SEO contract is a little bit tricky, as that’s when all the groundwork needs to be done, but there should be deliverables still produced. These can include things like:
– Website audit
– Competitor analysis
– SEO strategy for future months
– Keyword research
So, even if KPIs cannot be easily determined in these first 3 months, you should still receive these deliverables and a clear plan/strategy about how your dental website will improve its rankings in the following months.
It’s also important to really check the content of the reports you get; some SEO agencies do indeed produce reports, but they are of no substance. A “report” that just states a list of things the SEO agency supposedly did that month is not really going to be helpful to your long-term strategy. The reports should ideally show some stats – the increased traffic to your website and perhaps the change in rankings for different keywords.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that these figures may not seem impressive at these early stages and is by no means a reflection of the SEO agency’s work. A plan of action for the next month could then be determined based on these stats and a strategy developed to help you achieve your targets and improve your progress in keyword rankings, leads and conversion rates.
Is the agency proactive, or do they just do as little as possible?
Another sign of a lazy or incompetent SEO agency is one who doesn’t actually do anything until they’ve been asked. If you are constantly reporting back to your dental SEO agency that you’ve noticed errors or you’ve dropped in traffic, and they only react once they’ve been told, this is a bad sign.
A professional SEO agency is one who is proactive and is consistently keeping on top of your goals, communicating with you throughout the whole process. In an ideal relationship, you won’t even notice any errors, as they will have taken care of them before you notice!
Does the agency give you access to all your data?
A common scam at the moment are agencies who keep your data hostage! They take control of your website files, your Google Analytics, Google Ads and Webmaster accounts and they won’t let you have access… usually for “security” reasons.
This is just a way of trying to extort money from you when you want to cancel the contract. They will often charge you a “release fee” for you to get access to your data, and that fee is not cheap!
Your dental SEO agency should allow you to have access to your data at all times; the accounts should all be in your name, and therefore your IP. A sure-fire way to achieve this would be for all the SEO work to be carried out from your own account and give the SEO agency access. That way, should the relationship break down, it’s very easy to remove their access without any risk of data loss.
Your dental SEO agency should also have no problems presenting any of the data to you whenever you request.
Who is working on your project?
You cannot always expect the Managing Director of a dental SEO agency to be handling your account, but at the same time, if you’re paying for a service, you want it to be done correctly! You have every right to check who is actually performing the tasks on your website and ensure that they are competent. Many agencies will use a cheap (or unpaid!) intern to produce the work and leave them to it. It’s fine if a junior is carrying out the simpler tasks, but their work needs to be overseen by a senior staff member with a track record of success. Ideally, you will have some juniors working on things like keyword research whilst the experienced dental marketing consultant devises you a winning dental SEO strategy.
Always insist on having an account manager who is experienced and explains things in a simple, non-jargon manner, so communication is very easy.
Does the agency follow white-hat practices for link building?
Many agencies produce “reports” showing the thousands of backlinks that they have produced for the company. This may seem impressive, but it is actually what is going to damage your dental practice’s reputation. These backlinks are often generated by bots and use “black hat techniques” which receive a penalty from Google. If you’re not careful, your dental practice website could be wiped off Google completely for these!
Backlinks should only be generated from relevant, high-quality websites; 10 quality backlinks are worth a great deal more than 1000 spammy links.
Does the agency track conversions?
At the end of the day, you’re hiring a dental SEO agency because you want more website traffic and leads for your dental practice. You should always be able to determine your return on investment (ROI) – i.e. what you’re getting for your money!
Your dental SEO agency should be able to provide detailed results on exactly what leads you’re getting and from where. In turn, you can then determine which channels are working better for you and put more money behind these. You can then also calculate how much each lead is costing you and whether the SEO services you are receiving is right for you.
Should you fire your SEO agency?
If you’ve read this article and too many of the negative things sound familiar, then you have some thinking to do. A lot of “SEO experts” or SEO agencies out there do not know what they’re doing but are simply offering this service as a quick way of making money.
Your dental SEO agency should be an extension of your business; one who supports you with strategic digital marketing decisions, can provide advice and help you grow your business. If your dental SEO agency is not doing this, then you need to fire them!