Most business owners believe that agencies should be responsible for everything, and do not want to delve into the nuances of search engine promotion. But how then to control the work of agencies in order to be sure of the result and not risk your money? To do this, you need at least a basic understanding of SEO, communicate with the contractor, find out and, most importantly, understand the details of the work.
The specialists of the Rush Agency told the stories of three entrepreneurs – their clients – whom life made them understand in search engine promotion.
Roman Danaev, owner of the car loan service Carplus.co.uk
Trust but verify
I have been running the company for 5 years. Initially, we did SEO on the old domain. I remember hiring an agency that had its own farm of sites. They promoted the resource in the search results by linking from their sites to our site. This was the scheme by which they worked with all clients. Then I had a basic understanding of SEO, I trusted the specialists, I was confident in their professionalism, I did not ask questions. Moreover, after six months, the indicators have increased significantly.
But then Google rolled out a new algorithm, and everything collapsed: traffic dropped by 90%. Instead of the usual 100–120 leads a day, we started getting 10. At that moment, I practically lost my business, my income dropped enormously. The agency said that the new algorithm is to blame, and soon they will fix everything. But weeks passed, and nothing changed. As a result, we turned to another agency, but everything was the same with them: they constantly asked to wait, sent incomprehensible reports, but there was still no result.
100% guaranteed result – 100% fraudulent
When the agency does not take any action, it is bad, but when it gives a 100% guarantee of the result, it is even worse. Once, when we were looking for an SEO contractor, we went to a company that guaranteed to bring the site to the TOP-3 for certain requests in a year. Otherwise, it would work for free until the resource is in the TOP.
The offer is too tempting, but it became obvious to me what the situation looks like in reality: during the year the agency will receive money every month and promise results in the future, refer to a guarantee. They would kill a year for this, get no results, and blame Google and the EAT factors. And then they were engaged in sluggish “free” work.
How SEO work is being done now
We are in constant dialogue with the current contractor: we discussed the progress of the project at the start of cooperation in detail, and now we contact every few days to agree on copywriting, revisions, etc.
The other day they prepared a large file of recommendations for me. I plan to set aside some time over the weekend and read it carefully. It is important for me to delve into what is recommended, and only then entrust the developer for implementation or discuss something further with the agency. Small edits can be sent to the developer right away so as not to slow down the work, but I myself am interested in significant improvements myself.
Alexey, founder of toy aggregator
SEO experience helped to identify substandard work
I once worked with an agency and at first everything seemed to be going well. They conducted an audit, made recommendations, and we quickly implemented edits on the site. From the second month, the purchase of links by filters and monthly reporting began. However, there were no further recommendations from specialists. I constantly had to write and ask: “Maybe we can do something else?” I continued to deepen my knowledge and, finding something that can be applied on the site, asked: “Can we apply? Will it give any result? ” To which the agencies replied: “Well, yes, we can probably do it.”
That is, they took money for the purchase of links, which I myself could buy on the same exchanges. At first I thought that they had cunning filters or that they select links in a special way. But when I checked their accounts on the services, I realized that nothing of the kind had been used. Without them, I would be doing the same thing, and the effect would most likely be the same.
Your own knowledge is not enough to lead the project yourself
Of course, knowledge in SEO is necessary and important, but it will not go far. 15 years ago I helped a friend with the creation and promotion of a website for the sale of heaters. I studied SEO myself, understood, implemented. It was easier then: it was enough to create a website and purchase links to get a result. Then I worked with my design blog for 3 years – in it I embodied a successful promotion experience. After I started to develop my own aggregator, I have been working with it for 10 years.
Until recently, I did everything myself. I communicated with the agency, but did not stop deepening my knowledge in order to control the specialists and know how to do it. I read articles on 1ps.ru, SeoPult, as well as bloggers Sergey Koksharov, Mikhail Shakin.
As a result, I realized that there are a lot of nuances in search engine promotion: professional specialists study and test more deeply, identify factors that you never thought about. And how many more articles, hidden sources and subtleties that you will not learn about until you come across it in practice. So I realized that my knowledge is at the level of a self-taught amateur. Top agencies run many projects, which means they have more experience.
How the SEO work is being done now
Now I get quite a lot of unconventional recommendations. Analysis of competitors, their features, which of them is higher in the search results in terms of a large number of key queries, etc. It became clear that the current contractor understands his business. I also look at how employees behave in communication and work. I’m used to being in a dialogue mode with the agency, and it’s good when you can communicate directly with the optimizer.
Dmitry Strelkov, founder and CEO of the boutique of elite alcohol Decanter.ru
To hire a contractor, you need to understand SEO
When we created our business (it was 2006), the question arose of where to get clients. At that time, we were conducting contextual advertising, but contextual advertising is money. No money, no clients.
Then I turned to an SEO specialist I knew for help. He told how you can advance in search engines and what is needed for this. As a result, we brought him in to work on the project.
The SEO specialist was doing something. Some things were clear, some were not. I am an adult boy, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, so I myself partly became an SEO specialist – this was necessary for the business. Due to a large number of iterations, replacement of specialists and communication with different teams, the same expertise in search engine promotion was gained. I understood the main thing: there is no recipe for guaranteed success in SEO, so in order to hire an SEO contractor, you need to evaluate what is being offered to you, whether these steps are adequate and what result they will bring.
If SEO is a black box for a company, problems can arise
Let me give you a second example, which once again confirms the importance of having a basic knowledge of SEO. How is the work on a project usually organized? The contractor guarantees promotion to the TOP by keywords. The list of keywords is relevant, everything looks nice. As a result, the agency will really bring the site to the TOP, the resource will occupy the first line in Yandex and Google. There is only one problem: in reality, there is no traffic for these keywords, no one is looking for them.
Such situations clearly show: a business owner must understand the mechanics of search engines, the general principles of ranking, the differences between black and white promotion methods. For example, be able to drive requests into Yandex.Wordstat, see their frequency and make sure that there is traffic. This will make it possible to correctly assess the adequacy of the proposed measures and not waste the budget.
How SEO work is being done now
Before that, we worked with an SEO agency for 4 years. They did not hang up noodles, they were simply tired, the effect of novelty disappeared, they supported the project, engaged in shamanism: here we will twist it, here we will move it. And mainly those things were moving that do not matter to the user. At the same time, monthly reports were sent, and there – like on a roller coaster: something fell, something took off. As a result, we changed the contractor.
The number of communications has increased, the work has become more intense. This required the involvement of both product resources and development. Now we are working closely, arguing, experimenting. This is a great joint work, but we were ready for it.
Now my knowledge is enough to work with a competent contractor, so I do not plan to deepen it. Since SEO is a key aspect of a business, fundamental issues still need to be monitored. And I entrust regular work to professionals. I hope that with the further scaling of the business, an in-house specialist will appear, to whom I can delegate all the issues related to search engine promotion.
What business owners need to know about SEO and agency work
The business owners we interviewed told about their vision of working with the agency: how deeply the customer should delve into search engine promotion, how to control the contractor, what the agency should be responsible for, and what the customer should be responsible for. We have collected all their answers and made a checklist. Study and don’t waste your SEO budget!
- The client should be responsible for the overall vision, and the agency should be responsible for the implementation of this vision.… For example, a customer wants to increase traffic by at least 30%. The contractor breaks down this task into 100 subtasks and sets a deadline for each. Moreover, he explains to the customer how these tasks correlate with the overall vision.
- The customer should be responsible for making product decisions, the agency for SEO… When a business owner begins to engage in SEO himself and propose solutions to his problems, and the contractor becomes hands and stops thinking, nothing good comes of it.
- The customer must clearly describe the desired result, and the agency must clearly show what the customer will receive in the end.… If the business owner does not understand what he wants from the agency, and the agency does not always explain exactly what the result will be, this leads to mutual dissatisfaction. To avoid this, it is important to constantly communicate with each other.
- SEO work should start with site audit… It is important to evaluate what contractors study on the site, what recommendations they give. Ask for one or several weeks what they have already done, what they plan to do next. If the recommendations are adequate, keep working. On average, evaluate the result after 4 months. If the traffic starts to increase, good. If it does not grow and experts have stopped giving recommendations, most likely you are paying for “water”.
- The business owner should understand SEO so that, if necessary, check the current processes and metrics for promotion… On the other hand, trust must remain, so as not to unnecessarily slow down the agency’s work.
- On the side of the business, there should be a specialist who will work in conjunction with an external contractor… An SEO contractor is not 100% immersed in business and looks at everything through the prism of search engine promotion. But sometimes SEO tweaks can negatively impact the UX of the site or other aspects of the product, resulting in lower conversions. Therefore, there should be a specialist on the side of the business who will connect the SEO needs and the needs of the business. If there is no in-house specialist, this function should be performed by the product or the person who performs his functions, up to the founders, owners, managers.
- Hiring only in-house specialists is not very promising… One of the main things for any SEO specialist is to see it, the ability to test hypotheses on various projects, test new tools and adopt effective practices from colleagues. Working with one project, they a priori cannot possess the knowledge accumulated by large agencies.
- All edits offered by SEO specialists need to be made promptly… The faster you implement them, the faster you will get the result from the promotion.
- Concrete results are more important than reports… Agencies can write huge progress reports, but the most important indicator is the result. For example, clear statistics: before the site was in such and such a place in the search results, now it is in such and such.