Luiz Serva is not intimidated by search engine optimization.
“I’m an IT guy, so I have no problem with SEO,” said Serva, CEO of Bridgeport-based Prysma Lending Group. “But time is of the essence and it’s something I don’t have time for.”
On the other hand, Amanda Delorme recognized that SEO can require an extra level of expertise beyond traditional marketing strategies.
“SEO, in general, is a little bit more complex than a do-it-yourself task,” said Delorme, director of sales and marketing for BioClean, a mold removal operation serving Westchester and Fairfield counties. “You need a bit of a background in it.”
Serva and Delorme have outsourced their respective SEO needs to digital marketing agencies specializing in this particular practice. But finding an SEO expert can often be as challenging as using SEO to stand out in the digital crowd. Just typing the words “SEO agency” into the Google search bar produces more than 182 million results.
So how can a business choose the right agency to handle its SEO needs? According to SEO agencies and their clients in the region, there are several key considerations that need to be put into place.
Can the agency walk the walk and not just talk the talk?
Ruan Marinho, president of Develomark, the Southington-based agency that handles BioClean’s SEO needs, said it is essential that the agency has a track record of producing results.
“A good indication of a good SEO agency is analyzing their performance in the real Google search engines,” said Marinho. “If you type in ‘mold removal Connecticut,’ you’ll see our client BioClean at the top of the search engines. If you type in ‘New York SEO,’ you’ll see Develomark, our company, at the top of the search engines. If a company can’t show you their results, it is because they’re not doing it the right way and can’t publicly show their methods and results.”
Chase Hutchison, senior vice president at Brookfield-based Mack Media Group, which handles Prysma Lending Group’s SEO needs, agreed.
“The biggest thing to consider when choosing an SEO company is to see how the agency ranks itself on Google within its region or target area,” he said. “If I was searching for an SEO company to use for my business, I would Google search ‘SEO company in (insert city name here).’ Do this search three or four times, using three or four neighboring cities or towns and see if they pop up on the first page of search results consistently. If they can do this, they are probably pretty good. After all, if they can’t rank themselves consistently, how are they going to rank you and your business?”
Scott Lipow, president of the Fairfield-based agency Six7 Marketing, actively encourages prospective clients to contact his current client roster, which he posts on his company’s website.
“I tell my prospective clients to review all of our case studies and contact those companies and organizations,” he said. “I don’t give them one or two. All of our work is on the website and you reach out to anyone you want.”
For Steve Elser, vice president and director of marketing at PCSB Bank in Yorktown Heights, having an agency that can handle multiple duties has been beneficial.
“PCSB Bank uses the same company that developed our website for SEO, ZAG Interactive,” he said, referring to the Glastonbury-based marketing firm. “We felt that with the constant changes in search engine algorithms and other emerging trends in this space, it’s smarter to outsource this function rather than try to manage it ourselves. ZAG’s experience in the financial services category also helped make outsourcing an easy decision.”
Delorme appreciated being within driving distance of the Develomark agency since that offers a greater degree of comfort than dealing with a distant agency by telephone or emails.
“By working with a Connecticut company, I like to be able to grab lunch or coffee with Ruan and discuss the changes we want to make and hear his point of view,” she said.
For Kelly Campbell, head of Agency Growth Consultant LLC in Nyack, companies hiring an agency should not make the mistake of handing off the assignment and putting total faith in the idea that the agency will run with the task.
“This is a collaborative effort,” she said. “It is important to understand this is not a one-and-done thing. Any engagement with an agency has to be collaborative. After all, the business knows more about its business than anyone else.”
Campbell warned that companies need to be realistic about how SEO works, adding that they should not fall prey to slick-talk promises from agencies that might promise more than they could deliver.
“A lot of small businesses look for a magic bullet,” she continued. “They look for guaranteed organic page-one positioning. But that is a huge, huge red flag if an agency can guarantee organic page-one position. That is not possible. Google changes its algorithms on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis.”
A successful SEO campaign will use search engines to build business inquiries and, ultimately, the bottom line.
Gerry Matts, president of Matts & Davidson in Port Chester, noted that when it comes to business inquiries, “70% to 80% comes from the search engines.” But not every inquiry can be translated into new business, and Matts’ agency seeks to keep track of every SEO response that comes in.
“We have a call tracking telephone number for every website,” he said. “We follow the type of calls that come in. We want to make sure the right client comes in, and we tape every call that comes, in order to make sure how calls are returned.”
Matts added that while many SEO agencies direct their attention to Google, he also pays attention to searches conducted on the less-prominent Bing.
“Bing takes 30% of the market,” he observed. “But 30% of the market for the small business world is a lot of calls.”
Those who outsource this task need to realize it will take a little time before results can be tracked. However, if this work is being outsourced, results should become evident sooner rather than later.
“I understand SEO is not an overnight success,” said Prysma Lending Group’s Serva. “It could take six months to build up a campaign. But I have to see the return on investment.”