You might be a professional agency trying to figure out the best way to offer your SEO services, or an amateur comparing SEO firms to one another in an effort to find the best deal. Either way, it pays to know what to look for in an SEO package--and what's included in a service package that can get you the ideal results.
Take a look at any existing, reputable agency's SEO program, and you'll see a few hallmarks in common:
- Onsite optimization. For starters, an agency should be capable of making onsite fixes that ensure your site is indexed properly. As Digital Monopoly explains it, "Onsite optimization involves optimizing on-page factors such as your page titles and content to be more relevant for your target keywords. It also entails addressing any technical issues that could be hurting your rankings."
- Content creation. Content and SEO are two sides of the same coin. Every agency should have a plan for how to produce onsite content regularly.
- Link building. External links are the only way to boost your domain authority reliably. There are many potential strategies to use here, but every agency should at least have a plan to build links pointing to your site. In the words of WordStream, "links are a signal to Google that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation. Therefore, sites with more backlinks tend to earn higher rankings."
- Reporting. Whether it's automated or guided by an account representative, every package should also include some kind of SEO reporting, so clients can see the progress and health of the campaign.
These are absolute musts. They're the fundamentals of any SEO program, and if even one of them is missing, you probably won't see very good results. Of course, you can supplement any missing piece with work of your own or the work of another agency, but all these variables need to be in play if you're going to be successful.
These are extra perks that may be nice to have, but aren't strictly necessary to have a sustainable SEO campaign:
- Keyword research. Clients can do their own keyword research, but it's often helpful for the agency to step in and make live recommendations--especially if those keywords are going to go through changes in the future.
- Website monitoring. Some agencies actively monitor their clients' websites, noting extreme changes in traffic, or proactively taking care of outages.
- Reputation management and local SEO. Local SEO requires a slightly different process, but not all agencies are willing to do it. Local SEO tactics are also tied into online reputation management, which can help you boost the power of your brand.
- Conversion optimization. Your inbound traffic is only valuable if and when it converts. That's why some agencies use conversion optimization strategies to boost your onsite conversion rate.
- PPC and peripheral strategies. Some agencies also like to include other marketing and advertising strategies as part of a complementary, comprehensive package; for example, they might offer PPC ad management, or design work.
These aren't the limits of the perks that you can offer, but they are some of the most common.
Within each of the categories offered above, you'll also need to account for variables, including:
- Volume and frequency. You're producing onsite content posts, but how many are you producing? Most agencies will offer different packages based on these numbers, such as one per month, one per week, or three per week.
- Quality and dedication. You may also find different levels of quality or dedication. For example, low-level packages may have content written by non-native English speakers, or you may not have access to a dedicated account representative.
- Price. Of course, the more intensive a package is, the more it's going to cost. High-quality, high-volume packages are going to be on the high end of the spectrum. If you're a prospective client, you'll need to compare packages between providers to figure out what's truly fair.
- Personalization. Most agencies allow at least some degree of personalization. If a client asks, they may be willing to hybridize elements of two of their most popular packages, or come up with a new kind of package on the fly.
Choosing the Best Package
If you're looking to choose the right package for your brand, the best thing you can do is talk to an account rep from a reputable SEO agency. They'll be able to help you assess your needs, and may have a recommendation for which plan will serve you best.
If you're an agency looking to offer a range of different options, use these core fundamentals and variables to generate three or four main packages (with room for clients to experiment, or mix and match). You don't want too many options, or clients will only get confused and frustrated.
In either scenario, this doesn't have to be a permanent choice. Pick what seems to fit right now and be open to making a change in the future, when you have more experience and information to work with.
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.