Should You Hire an SEO Agency? Here Are 3 Things I’ve Learnt
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services are in high demand in Singapore, with over 480 and 720 monthly searches for the terms “seo agency” and “seo services” respectively. If you add “seo agency singapore” and “seo services singapore” to the list, you’re looking at a whopping 35,040 searches a year on average (as of the date of this post).
With the huge and growing demand in the SEO services industry, let’s explore what an SEO agency does and whether you should hire one for your business.
New to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? Check out our detailed guide on what it is here.
What Does an SEO Agency Do?
An SEO agency typically starts off with an SEO audit of your website. This is done to see where you’re standing in terms of your website’s ranking position on Google. The good ones will also take the extra effort to learn more about your business and marketing objectives in order to recommend the best plan of action i.e. prioritise optimising for keywords with the highest returns on investment (ROI).
The SEO audit consists mainly of the following:
1. Competitive keyword ranking analysis – to see how you’re fairing against your competitors in terms of visibility (total number of keywords you’re ranking for and the click through rates)
2. A technical on-page SEO audit – to check for slow page loading issues, duplicate content, crawl-ability/accessibility of your website to search engine spiders, and a hundred more potential issues your site may be having that could hinder your rankings
3. Off-page SEO audit – to check your domain authority, quality vs quantity and diversity of backlinks, any low-hanging fruits, bad backlinks that could result in a penalty, etc.
4. Any manual penalties – checking Google Search Console to detect any ranking penalties
They will then propose a set of keywords you should focus on optimising your website for.
Depending on how large your website is, the entire project fee may vary from a couple thousand to tens of thousands and the duration of the contract may span from 6 months to a year.
This is what SEO agencies are expected to be doing. But while many SEO agencies in Singapore claim they are white-hat, many do completely the opposite of what is stated in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
What I’ve Learnt
Training more than a thousand marketers in search engine optimisation (SEO) and auditing over a hundred SEO campaigns have taught me three things:
- If you don’t know what you’re getting, others will get the better of you
- It’s hard to fully trust someone else
- Sometimes it’s better to do it yourself
1. If you don’t know what you’re getting, others will get the better of you
A past SEO course participant’s website I audited showed evidence of their SEO company embedding a hyperlink (backlink) to another of their client’s website. This was done without client A’s consent in efforts of ranking client B. What’s worse was that they used Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to push the backlink 5000 pixels off the screen. Meaning it wouldn’t be visible to the user’s browser, but Google would be able to detect the link.
2. It’s hard to fully trust someone else
You will come across SEO agencies in Singapore who guarantee number one rankings or your money back. These agencies usually engage in shady link building methods such as harvesting link farms or private blog networks that could potentially get your website penalised by Google. i.e. removed entirely from the search engine results pages.
Here’s an example of a shady backlink from a private blog intended to increase Google rankings for their target keywords.
The words in red are exact-match anchor text promotional backlinks which, when clicked on, links to the following shopping page.
Totally against Google’s Link Schemes.
3. Sometimes it’s better to do it yourself
I’ve seen many cases where SEO agencies and consultants had failed to deliver their milestones they had promised after securing the deal. Even I have been guilty of this, due to sudden increases in workload and lack of manpower resources. As such, it is better to take your SEO campaigns in house if SEO is one of your highest ROI marketing channels.
Should You Hire an SEO Agency?
If you’re referring to the typical SEO agency that guarantees you number rankings yet refuses to be transparent with what they’re doing behind the scenes, then no.
But if you’re strapped on budget for manpower resources and have trouble finding an SEO specialist with the relevant technical and creative skills, it may be better outsource your on-page SEO campaigns to a reputable digital marketing agency.
Here are some agencies that offer SEO services for you to check out:
My advice would be to leave your off-page SEO strategies to your in-house content marketing and marketing communications team to handle your link building campaigns or engage a content marketing and PR agency.
What Can You Do in the Meantime?
If you’re about to hire an SEO company or still considering what to do with your marketing budget at this point, here are 4 things you can consider doing in the meantime.
- Stay updated to SEO news and keep abreast of SEO trends
- Ask the right questions and do your homework before hiring
- Get hands-on and do it yourself
- Attend an SEO course to know what you want and what you’re getting
Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a SkillsFuture Singapore WSQ-Accredited Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and SEO, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing.
I found it interesting that you recommended people to hire an SEO agency for just on-page SEO, and do the off-page SEO by yourself/through a PR agency. I’ve previously thought of offering SEO services to people but what put me off was helping with link-building, as doing it properly is very time-consuming!
I was also quite amused by your story about how one SEO company used CSS to hide a backlink to client B’s website on client A’s website. That’s so sneaky.
Yes exactly. I once had a digital marketing agency submit a guest post placing a questionable link to a well-known global brand. Turns out the agency was engaged by the in-house/external SEO team to submit an article to at least 3 different websites.
Google is also using less and less of link signals. Sure enough link building is important at the start. Big brands don’t need link building. And your target clients won’t have big budgets to pay you for time-consuming link building tactics either. That’s why there are so little white hat link building services in the market and it is why i recommend building it yourself or a PR team.