How to Choose the Right SEO Agency for Your Startup

Aaron Marco Arias
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Choose the right partner
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16.1.2023

Looking for an SEO agency? The process can be exhausting and frustrating. But don’t worry, this article will make it easier.

In this post, we’ll share key insights that will help you choose the right SEO agency to support your startup’s growth. 

We talked to some of our most recently onboarded clients and asked them what they wish they’d known when they were looking for an SEO agency. Plus, we inquired about poor experiences with past partners, and the red flags they ignored. 

We’ll cover:

  • The pros & cons of hiring an SEO agency
  • What to look for in an SEO agency
  • Red flags you should avoid
  • 11 questions you should ask your next SEO company

Let’s dive in! 

The Pros of Working with An SEO Agency

You may still be wondering if an SEO agency is right for you. Why not hire a freelancer, or hire in-house?

So, in this section, we'll dive into the benefits of partnering up with an SEO company.

Here's what a good SEO partner could bring to the table: 

  • In-depth SEO expertise, on-demand 
  • Predictable & cost-effective packages 
  • A diverse body of experiences & references 

Let's take a closer look.

In-Depth SEO Expertise, On-Demand

A properly niched-down and specialized SEO company has the resources, expertise & processes to improve your organic positioning. Sounds quite obvious. But the fact that they do means that you won't have to recruit, develop, and manage a team of in-house organic positioning experts. 

Hiring a third-party SEO partner can be incredibly useful if you want to:

  • Focus your core team on your key value proposition 
  • Manage non-core areas in a lean way

SEO takes a long time, so we recommend you stick with your SEO provider for a couple of months. But, if you're particularly unhappy with a team's results, you can switch providers with less hassle than you'd face if you had to rehire. 

Additionally, the fact that each SEO company has a playbook of its own means that you won't have to develop and test your own SEO processes from scratch.

Predictable & Cost-Effective Packages

The right SEO services provider will be able to explain their collaboration's scope and cost upfront. This predictability will help you decide how to allocate your marketing investment for the long-run and set goals.

Additionally, you can expect your SEO agency of choice to be more cost-effective than hiring an in-house team. Especially when you consider hiring and training costs. 

A Diverse Body of Experiences & References

Agencies gather tons of insights and experiences from different clients and teams. So, when you hire a specialized agency, you're working with a team that's on top of:

  • How your industry is operating 
  • What other companies are doing (your competitors) are doing

Agency SEO specialists analyze dozens of websites every week, are in constant conversation with in-house colleagues, and test strategies across accounts. So, by hiring the right agency, you can tap into an enormous repository of first-hand experiences. 

In spite of these pros, working with an SEO agency may not be the best option for your startup, at this current growth stage. In the next section, we’ll dive into the cons most often associated with working with an SEO agency.

The Cons of Working with an SEO Agency

There could be some downsides to hiring an SEO agency. 

The wrong partner could:

  • Damage your brand and waste your time with low-quality content 
  • De-prioritize your company due to fast growth

In this section, we’ll explore these risks.

Potential Brand Damage From Low-Quality Content

If you hire the wrong agency, you may end up filling your website with low-quality, AI-generated material. This material could help you rank, but it won't:

  • Engage qualified leads
  • Position your brand as a niche authority

Instead, low-quality content could prevent high-value prospects from taking you seriously.

Of course, we're assuming you won't intervene in the content creation process. But, if your SEO agency sends you poorly-written content for pre-approval, you'll probably spend hours revising and editing it, right? So, in short: A bad SEO partner will either hurt your brand or lead you to waste your time editing low-quality material.

Client Atomization Could Hurt Your Results

We've heard of dozens of cases where agencies take on too much work and clients' results suffer as a result. 

Output quality can be jeopardized if:

  • An agency grows without proper processes
  • An agency grows too fast
  • The company's business model makes it so it can only survive by taking on as many small projects as possible
  • An agency outgrows some of its clients

There's very little a client can do to prevent an agency from de-prioritizing them. Ideally, an account representative should reach out to the client when operations begin to suffer, and offer a solution.

Options may include:

  • Continuing the partnership with new pricing
  • Adjusting scope
  • Offboarding

Regardless of how the SEO company addresses it, in these cases, clients see a halt or deprecation of their SEO efforts due to factors they can't control. 

4 SEO company Red Flags & What They Mean

If you’re interviewing potential partners, you’re probably looking for a surefire way to predict trustworthiness and performance. Sadly, that magic trick isn’t in our repertoire yet. But, in these sections, we’ll share some common red flags that our partners (and ourselves) perceived in previous partners.

Most often, SEO agencies that don’t meet the mark:

  • Overpromise results
  • Don't grow through organic content themselves

At this point you may be wondering: What does a competitive SEO company do instead?

The best SEO agencies:

  • Share their expertise
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Have a stable team, trained in-house

The Best SEO Agencies Share Their Expertise

Reliable SEO companies grow through SEO. In short, they create high-quality content and rank it. Simple as that. That doesn't mean that an SEO company with a domain authority of 72 is necessarily a better fit for you than one with a 42 DA. But, not producing any content at all is definitely a red flag. 

In particular, considering how hard it can be to get a sense of an SEO company's real output quality, strategic insights, and results. 

The Best SEO Agencies Set Realistic Expectations

SEO takes time. And months can go by before your SEO efforts impact your bottom line. 

Just like a stock broker shouldn't promise specific return rates, your SEO agency shouldn't promise instant, meteoric growth.

A good SEO strategy will:

  • Make it easier for prospects and leads to find you within 6-12 months
  • Decrease your lead acquisition cost
  • Establish your brand as a niche expert, in the long term 
  • Help you engage and nurture leads, in the short term
  • Provide you with the source material and insights to enrich all your digital channels

If a promise is more ambitious than that, you should take it with a grain of salt.

The Best SEO Agencies Have A Stable Team, Trained In-House

Agencies that simply get the clients and outsource the entire content lifecycle to freelancers usually suffer from:

  • Overly permissive QA processes 
  • Inconsistent content quality
  • Low-value strategic insights

Gravitate away from SEO agencies that:

  • Outsource all their content production
  • Don't train their team in-house
  • Don't have in-house SEO leadership

11 Questions You Should Ask Your Next SEO Company

Now you know the pros & cons of hiring an SEO agency for your startup. Plus, the signs of a good or poor-performing vendor. So, in this section, we’ll share the 11 questions you should ask a potential SEO agency.

We recommend you ask:

  • Do you have a stable team of writers or do you outsource all your content to freelancers?
  • What should be my expectations for this partnership?
  • Have you worked with similar companies before? 
  • What did you help these companies achieve? 
  • What KPIs will you track?
  • What's the reasoning behind the publishing frequency you're proposing?
  • What's your workflow? 
  • How do you handle content ideation & SEO research?
  • How could I help you do your best work?
  • Do you automate your content production? Which steps do you automate?
  • What types of SEO can I count on you for? 

Key Takeaways

In this post, we shared everything you need to know to choose the right SEO agency for your startup. There are thousands of SEO agencies out there. In this piece, we focused on the type of SEO we do best, SEO-oriented content creation. You know what you prioritize in a partner. But, when it comes to SEO companies, the company's own content, workflow, and team composition can be valuable indicators of a partner's abilities and trustworthiness.

The SEO Company for Startups

Looking for an SEO agency that specializes in growing startups? You’ve come to the right place. 

At Postdigitalist, we know that the best-performing content helps users to overcome real challenges. So, we go beyond keyword research and build unique content products that add real value. 

Our track record confirms it: Our editorial, user-centric approach to SEO content simply works. 

Curious? Book a free discovery session.