Search engine optimization services are some of the most highly sought-after in online marketing. They’re highly effective at boosting traffic at a fraction of the cost of pay per click (PPC) search ads. But how does an SEO company work? And what do they do? Should you hire one? Today we answer those questions and more.

What is an SEO company?

An SEO company, sometimes known as an SEO agency or SEO firm, is a business that specializes in increasing organic traffic through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. More traffic means more chances to turn visitors into customers, and an SEO company will use strategies like keyword research, content marketing, and link building to achieve this goal.

What does an SEO company do?

When someone searches a question or term in a search engine like Google, 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.

Google search engine results page for the query "canonical URL tips."

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 company 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 New York” 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.

Link building strategies for SEO.

  • 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 marketing campaigns that satisfy the needs of your target audience.
  • Content marketing: Content creation is a key component of SEO. When you’ve identified the keyword terms related to your business, you can create high-quality 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. This not only involves working as a creator, but a strategist, too, to determine the best type, format, and angle of content to satisfy user intent.
  • 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. That’s why mobile-first website design is so important. SEO firms can direct web development teams to create more user-friendly mobile websites — which directly contributes to Google search engine ranking.

Mobile-first indexing vs. desktop-first indexing process.

  • 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 products or services, like “plumber near me,” or “running store in NYC.”
  • 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 companies 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, a search engine optimization company 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 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 company 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.

Technical SEO factors like mobile friendliness, page speed, etc.

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 the best SEO companies

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 real estate company like Zillow. 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 lead generation, email marketing, or conversion optimization might be offered as well.

Top SEO companies will be able to prove their staff is full of SEO experts. On their website, look for testimonials from satisfied customers to prove a positive track record, case studies that show how they operate, and examples of SEO campaigns they’ve run in your industry.

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