Scrabble pieces on wooden desk spelling 'SEO'

Unlocking Success: How to Choose the Perfect SEO Agency for Your Business


In our digital age, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential for any business that wants more online visibility. 

Have you tried implementing SEO but reached the point where you need expert help? Do you need a long-term SEO marketing strategy based on your business goals? An SEO agency may be the partner you need.

Trouble is, choosing an agency is not simple.

Will they understand your type of business? Can you trust them? And what sort of results can you expect?

Keep reading to learn:

  • how to determine what SEO services you need 
  • how to find and evaluate agencies 
  • common mistakes to avoid 
  • red flags to watch out for 
  • what to expect when working with an agency

Define your SEO requirements

If you have a clear idea of what search engine optimization help you need, the process of finding the right agency will be easier.

What are your SEO goals?

Think about why you need an SEO agency. Identify your main goals to make it easier to choose the SEO services you need. You may want to:

  • Increase traffic to your website from online searches
  • Get more conversions such as sales or donations
  • Improve your visibility online

Different services map to these different goals.

SEO services

Dealing with Technical SEO issues is usually the best first step. After that, an agency may recommend one or more other SEO services. It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the options.

On-page optimization includes making sure:

  • your website is easy to navigate
  • it has useful content
  • internal links are used well
  • your website has great meta tags

Keyword research is finding the right words to attract your ideal customers in online searches.

Backlink building is getting links to your website from other reputable and relevant websites.

Local SEO is aimed at increasing local traffic and visibility. 

Learn about other options on our SEO Services page.

Budgets and timelines

Do you have a budget for your SEO project? A firm can customize an SEO strategy based on this.

When do you want to see results? While we all like quick returns, it’s good to know it can take 3 to 12 months to see meaningful results from SEO.

Finding potential SEO agencies

Once you have a clear idea of what you want from an agency, how can you find one?

Word of mouth is a reliable method. Ask colleagues, business partners or friends for recommendations.

When searching online, a general search like “SEO agencies” will produce a long list. Focused searches give shorter lists, like “Ethical SEO agency for healthcare” or “SEO companies in Vancouver”.

Use social media to learn more about potential candidates. Do they post regularly? Is their content useful and professional, or is it scare-mongering? Do they seem to operate ethically?

How to evaluate agencies

Due diligence is vital when evaluating SEO agencies. You could be working together for months. Also, unfortunately, there are many dishonest agencies.

How can you tell if the agencies on your list have the necessary experience and expertise? Will they be easy to work with?

Here’s a handy evaluation checklist:

  • Do they have experience in your industry?
  • How much experience do they have with the SEO services you need?
  • What SEO tools and technology do they use?
  • Do they offer technical SEO, on-page optimization and off-page services? You’re likely to need all of these at some point, so make sure they’re available.
  • Look at testimonials and case studies on their website. An agency’s portfolio gives an idea of their capabilities, experience and successes.
  • Do they commit to providing regular reports on SEO performance?
  • Do their reports only provide surface-level analytics? Or is data analyzed and interpreted to shape future strategies?
  • Does the agency stay up to date on search engine guidelines and algorithm changes?
  • Are independent reviews available outside their website? For example, do they have good Google reviews? You can use reviews to reach out to previous clients of an agency to ask for direct feedback. 
  • Do they follow ethical (“white hat”) SEO practices?
  • Do the agency’s values align with yours? Do you like the way they communicate? Culture fit may be hard to define, but you’ll know when it feels right. At Out-Smarts, we commit to integrity, excellence, and ethical conduct in all aspects of our business, as outlined in our code of ethics.

Beware! These are red flags!

  • Suspiciously low pricing.
  • SEO shortcuts.
  • Guarantees of ranking high in search results.
  • Guarantees of search traffic numbers.
  • Promises of quick results. Google search engine optimization is long-term in nature, and ‘quick fixes’ seldom have a lasting impact and may in fact hurt your ranking over time.

These red flags could show the agency is dishonest or uses “black hat” SEO practices (which can result in a Google penalty).

Key considerations when choosing an SEO agency

Once you’ve evaluated a few agencies, it’s time to get to know them and make a final choice.

Get quotes to compare overall pricing. Is the pricing structure easy to understand? Are payment terms clear? Is the contract length well-defined? Beware of unusually low prices.

Find out if you’ll get a digital marketing strategy tailored to your business needs. The agency should ask you detailed questions.

If your market is limited to a specific geographical area, ask about their Local SEO services.

Ask about key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure SEO performance.

Ask about regular consultations to review the action plan and build the relationship. Will you have a primary point of contact?

Check for transparency. Is the agency open about the methods and strategies they use? Do they do the work or is it outsourced?

Wondering whether we could be the right agency for you? Book a complimentary consultation call to get your questions answered.

Common mistakes to avoid when looking for an SEO company

Finding the perfect SEO partner for your business takes time and effort. We’ve looked at some of the ways to evaluate and choose an agency. Now here’s a list of mistakes to avoid:

  • Choosing an agency just because it’s cheap. Ultra-low-cost agencies may underdeliver or use underhand methods which could haunt you later.
  • Choosing an inexperienced agency. A theoretical understanding of SEO is a good foundation, but real-world experience is necessary.
  • Opting for an agency which uses unethical tactics (“black-hat” SEO). Ask these questions to find out more:
    • “Do you agree with paying for backlinks?” The right answer is NO!
    • “Do you pay for social media followers?” The right answer is NO!
    • “How do you include SEO keywords in website copy?” (Keywords should be included in a natural way)
    • “Do you use comments on 3rd party blogs to gain backlinks? If so, do you ensure the comments are honest and on-brand?”
  • Not doing enough research. Unless you’ve received a recommendation from someone you trust, thorough research is necessary to find a reliable SEO agency which is a great fit for your business.
  • Believing unrealistic promises such as top rankings. Search results depend on many factors, including how hard your competitors are working on their SEO!
  • Ignoring experience and expertise. Engaging an agency with a proven track record may be a larger investment, but your SEO will be in safe hands.

Working with an SEO agency

When working with your chosen agency, make sure you have regular consultations to review the action plan and performance. Ask about the work being done. Trustworthy companies are transparent about their methods and strategies. Adjustments to your SEO campaign should be made as needed.

How can you find out if the work is making a difference? The reports you receive should include metrics like organic traffic, keyword rankings and ROI. You can also monitor traffic and keyword rankings yourself using Google Search Console. Traffic can jump up and down unexpectedly at times, so focus on overall trends.


We hope this article helps you choose a reputable, experienced search engine optimization agency which is a great fit for your business! It takes time to do research and narrow down the list, but the ultimate benefits make it worthwhile. The right company will be an important and trusted long-term partner in building your business.

At Out-Smarts, we consider ourselves part of our client’s marketing team and we value our many repeat clients. Interested in finding out whether we could be the perfect SEO partner for you? Schedule a free consultation today, we’d love to chat.