SEO services are among the most in-demand in online marketing. They allow you to increase traffic at a much lower cost than search ads (PPC). But should you seek out an SEO agency to help you with SEO? And how does an SEO agency work? What exactly do they do? Today we answer those questions and more.

What is an SEO agency?

An SEO agency, sometimes known as an SEO company or SEO firm, is a business that works on behalf of other businesses to boost traffic through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. With more traffic comes more opportunities to convert visitors into customers, and an SEO agency will use tactics like link building and content creation to achieve this goal.

A scatterplot showing tactics used by SEO agencies.

What does an SEO agency do?

When a user goes to Google and searches a term or question, an algorithm analyzes millions of web pages to return the most relevant results to the user. It presents these results on search engine results pages (SERPs) in a fraction of a second. And they’re presented according to their relevance.

The top result is what Google deems the most relevant, the second result is the second most, and so on. This is known as “ranking.”

The higher you rank, the more likely you are to earn website traffic from Google. Most searchers will click the top links, and very few progress past page one of a search engine results page. It’s the job of an SEO agency to improve the search rankings of your website for key terms related to your business.

For example, if you own an SEO agency, you want to be the business that shows up at the top of a search engine results page for the Google search “SEO agency near me,” “SEO specialists in Chicago” or “local digital marketing agency,” etc.

Google search engine results page for the query "SEO agency near me."

This process is a branch of search engine marketing (SEM) known as search engine optimization (SEO). This type of digital marketing strategy involves a number of tactics, like:

  • Link building: This SEO strategy is about building what are known as “backlinks” to your site (links from other websites to yours) to boost your authority in search engines. Guest blogging and social media marketing are both common ways to do this.
  • Keyword research: Keyword research is about discovering the target keywords people use when they search for things related to your business. With this information, you can create content that satisfies the needs of your target audience.

A step-by-step to keyword research for SEO.

  • Content marketing: When you’ve identified the keyword terms related to your business, you can create content featuring these keywords — blog posts, videos, podcasts, product pages, etc — so your content shows up on Google SERPs when people search for things related to your business.
  • Web design: Since people access the internet on mobile more than desktop, Google cares more about how your website works on mobile. It wants to provide a good user experience. SEO firms can direct web development teams to create more user-friendly mobile websites — which directly contributes to Google search engine ranking.
  • Local SEO: For local businesses that generate most of their sales at a nearby brick-and-mortar, local SEO is a crucial tactic that will help those businesses be found when someone searches for local product or service, like “plumber near me,” or “running store in Austin, TX.”

Tips for local SEO.

  • Technical SEO: SEO professionals know how to make your page appealing to search engines in particular. While much of SEO focuses on how people consume your website, there are parts of your website only search engines see. These parts are ones that SEO agencies are particularly helpful with. HTML, robots.txt files, duplicate content, and even page speed will affect how Google ranks your pages.

Should you hire an SEO agency?

For any brand, an SEO agency can make a big impact on organic website traffic. But that’s even more true for small to medium-sized businesses without a dedicated marketing team.

Enterprises have the benefit of in-house marketing teams to monitor everything related to their online presence. They have entire departments dedicated to improving search engine rankings working full-time. And that means their pages are often up-to-date and optimized exactly the way Google likes.

For businesses without these resources, it’s different. It’s almost always the case that small business websites go long periods of time without adequate optimization from an SEO professional. And, while lots of SEO can be done yourself, there are some aspects to it that are best left to the pros.

An SEO agency can help you with the technical side, like canonicalization for duplicate content, robots.txt files to direct search engines, XML sitemaps to make your key pages easy to find, and more.

The difference between a site with robots.txt and one without.

They can also set you up with tools for SEO, like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Clearscope, and WordPress plugins so you can do it yourself in the future.

If you’ve never had your website evaluated by an SEO specialist or an SEO firm, it’s a worthwhile investment. At the very least, you’ll learn what’s wrong with your web pages. Then you can decide how to move forward.

Not to mention, most SEO firms offer a free SEO audit. And with today’s technology, these audits don’t take long at all. Some are even instantaneous.

How to spot top SEO agencies

SEO works a little differently based on the industry you’re in. The principles remain the same, but SEO strategy for an e-commerce website like Amazon is going to look different from SEO for a B2B business like Salesforce. So, SEO services may vary from company to company.

Some companies offer services specifically to one industry, others may offer marketing services for one specific kind of SEO strategy, like link building. And then, for some marketing companies, SEO will be offered as only one of the services of a full-service internet marketing agency, the way content marketing, email marketing, or conversion optimization might be offered as well.

The best SEO agency for the job will be able to prove their staff is full of SEO experts. On their website, look for testimonials from satisfied customers, case studies that show how they operate, and examples of SEO campaigns they’ve run in your industry.

Get a free SEO audit

Want to see what SEO agencies will see when they evaluate your pages? Get a free, instant SEO audit below. Or schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.