Trying to find the Best SEO agency in Sydney or locally in Australia is a tough and tedious endeavour akin to making your way across a minefield.
For starters, there are just so many people and agencies calling themselves SEO experts nowadays.
These so called SEO agencies are all claiming to get your business to the top spot on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Added to that, you are constantly bombarded with emails of similar claims with pricing ranging anywhere from free to thousands of dollars per month.
How on earth could you possibly tell the good from the bad and choose the right SEO agency that will help your business accomplish its marketing objectives?
Never fear, in this guide, we show you how to do just that. We will highlight all aspects in choosing the right SEO agency, the warning signs of a bad SEO agency and questions to ask to help you choose your next local SEO partner in whether you’re in Sydney or anywhere locally in Australia.
We will reveal to you industrial secrets and highlight some of the key questions to ask SEO companies to choose the best one for your marketing objective and how to weed out dodgy SEO operators locally and from overseas.
*** BONUS – This is quite a lengthy article. We highly recommend reading through it because if you're about to spend thousands of dollars a month on something, then it makes sense to take 10 minutes to learn about it.
However, if you're short on time, you can download a summary of this article and a checklist below to determine the best SEO agency for your business.
Why Are There so Many Dodgy SEO Agencies
To be fair, there are not as many dodgy SEO agencies as there are scams involving SEO. Many of the so called SEO agencies are in fact not real SEO agencies but are scammers out to get your private information or hard earned money. Labeling themselves as an SEO agency only provides them with an outlet to carry out their attack.
This can be contributed to:
- SEO is in demand and a necessity in today's online world
- SEO takes time to see results.
- Many business owners and directors are clueless about SEO.
- It's low stakes high reward
SEO is a Necessity and in Demand
Any growth or in demand industry with high initial costs are prone to scammers and SEO is no different.
SEO just works and below are the statistics to support that:
- 93% of online experiences start on a search engine
- 75% of users don't scroll past the first page of a search result
- 70-80% of users prefer organic SEO rather than paid ads
With these stats, it's no wonder businesses want to have their name pop up on the first page whenever someone searches for their products and services online.
Unscrupulous operators realise the huge demand of SEO for every company needing an online presence so it essentially provides them with an endless supply of targets.
SEO Takes Time
SEO takes time. Specifically, good SEO takes time to see results. This is because:It takes time for search engines to index and rank your website compared to your competitors.
Your competitors may already been doing SEO for years, which gives them an advantage to rank higher which means it will take longer to overtake them.
Researching, planning and creating unique, engaging content and getting links to them takes time. Establishing yourself as a credible company takes time in the real world as do online.
Dodgy SEO agencies can't be proven in the short term unless you are experienced in the field of digital marketing.
After the realization a few months later, the scammers are long gone with your hard earn money or private details.
Don't worry because we will let you on some telltale signs of dodgy SEO practices later on.
Many Business Owners are Clueless About SEO and How to Differentiate Between a Good and a Bad SEO Agency
As a business manager or owner, time is a scarce commodity. There are a hundred and one things you need to make a decision on everyday. So how on earth can you make time to learn something completely new and constantly changing.
SEO can be complex topic for many business owners. Most owners will know that SEO will get them to the top page when people search for them but often do not know the process and work required to achieve it.
Differentiating good from bad SEO is not as simple as choosing an apple in the supermarket but there are definite signs.
'Managing and running a business is difficult enough as it is without SEO.'
It's Low Stakes High Reward
Setting up a fake email address claiming to sell SEO online while spamming thousands of Australian businesses are a low stakes high rewards venture. They only need to scam one or two for it to be worthwhile. Obviously, it’s profitable enough to be working because we are still being flooded with phishing spam everyday. In fact, a study shows over 60% of our emails are unsolicited or spam.
Healthcare and dating scams are the most prolific but SEO scams for businesses doesn’t seem too far behind.
The 3 Stages of Finding the Best SEO Agency
In order to choose the best SEO agency for your business, we established a 3 stage process as outlined below:
Stage 1: Weeding out Scammers: This stage is used to weed out the scammers and fraudsters. You will learn telltale signs of a bad SEO and common tactics scammers used to steal your private information or hard earned money. Any agencies offering you SEO from this stage, you should run away from and do not reply to their emails or calls.
Stage 2: Separating the good and the bad SEO Agencies: Here, we learn to identify the bad SEOs. These are not scammers per se but you will find little value in using these agencies if at all. They rely on locking you in with bold promises but lack the experience to truly make you rank well for your industry related keywords. A lot of overseas and a surprisingly large number of local companies fall under this category.
Stage 3: Shortlisting and choosing the best SEO agency – You should choose your SEO agency from theis shortlist. However, there will be some that are better than others and you will learn the questions to ask and what answers to look for to find the best SEO partner for your business .
Stage 1 : Weed Out Dodgy SEO/SCAMMERS
They Are Emailing You From Free Email Account Such as Gmail
Dodgy and scammy agencies often use any free online email services such as gmail, outlook or yahoo mail to target unsuspecting business owners. This is because it provides a free and easy way to get in and get out.
All scammers like to take the easy approach. Setting up an official company website via .com or .com.au domain and fill it with relevant info will be too much like work.
A free email address means once they are caught or are blacklisted, they can easily switch to another free email account. Furthermore, without a proper company setup, there are no trails once they scam you of your hard earn money or private data.
No reputable company will operate under a gmail account so if you see a 'company' approaching you via anything besides a .com or .com.au email account, flag it as spam. Don't even reply to the email because replying means they can use whatever you say against you.
Refusal To Do a Live Meeting or Telephone Call
Scammers like to hide behind a screen of anonymity. If an agency put forward a SEO proposal and will not take a telephone or live meeting then chances are they do not like to be put under scrutiny for being a fraud and most are not legit.
The reason why scammy operators shy away from live phone interviews and meetings is because they often need time to research how actual SEO works (like reading this article).
Like many scammers, the more questions you ask them, the easier you can spot their flaws. Which is why they will not often take your call.
Do They Guarantee #1 or First Page Results Within a Short Time Frame?
SEO takes time. How long you say? While SEO is different for every company the typical time frame for SEO results to show is after 4 months. In competitive industries, SEO make take over a year to show some results.
How can an agency readily promise number #1 rankings in a month ( for high volume search keywords ) when the industry average is 4 or more?
Any agency that promises first page or even #1 position on Google within a very short time frame is preying on the 'instant gratification' psyche and definitely do not having your best interest in mind. Steer clear like you would any 'get rich quick' schemes.
In fact, if an agency guarantees #1 ranking altogether, you might want to double check their legitimacy as will be explained below:
Readily Promise Number #1 Ranking on Google
You may come across ads or emails with bold headlines such as promising number #1 ranking results. If an agency claims such bold statements, you may want to take things with a grain of salt.
For starters, It’s relatively easy to get on the first page or even number #1 ranking but for only for terms that no one searches for or unique such as your company name or a long-tailed search phrase.
For instance, consider the following search
- Buy iPhone online
- Buy pink and purple iPhone case with sparkling diamonds
Average monthly search for the first one is in the thousands. Average monthly search for the second is not likely to be many
The second search will be much much easier to rank for but it will have no traffic. When an SEO promises first page results, they often mean search terms that has very little search volume or a variation of your business name.
Another scenario where you can easily get on the first page or number #1 position on Google is by spending money via PPC.
Google ads a PPC or what we called a paid per click advertising platform will almost always get you on the first page but it will cost you money for every click you get. It is different from SEO because traffic is paid. SEO traffic comes naturally. SEO results are long term while PPC results will cease once you stop paying for ad placement.
If any SEO agency in Sydney or within Australia promises first page or number #1 ranking results, your follow up question should be ‘do I get to choose my search terms or keywords`.
Have a 'Work For Free' model
A 'work for free until we rank you on the first page' is another common technique used to dupe business owners and managers into shelling out private info or phishing scams.
Reason – As stated above, SEO is something that takes time and tremendous amount of effort. What's more, Google themselves stated 'Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings'.
So, if something that is in demand and valuable, takes effort but with no guarantees to achieve results – why would anyone do it? Companies are paying millions of dollars to gain top positions on search engines for their desired keywords, SEO agencies that don't have the confidence to charge what they're worth are often not worth it or they have other ulterior motives.
Agencies that use these too good to be true or overly aggressive models are why SEO gets its bad reputation and the reason why this guide exists.
Stage 1 Summary
Having common sense and avoid too good to be true scammers is probably the main objectives at this stage.
Don't be fooled by too good to be true offers. Being on the first page of SEO or Bing is lucrative business. Thousands if not millions of people visit their websites every month. If companies are paying millions to get their business on the front of the internet via search engines, do you really think you can do the same with only a few hundred dollars from someone off the Internet with a gmail email account?
Stage 2: Filtering the Good from the Bad
After you weed out the fraudulent and scammers in stage 1, we can begin stage 2 testing.
Stage 2 SEO agencies while not flat out scammers are often inexperienced or use shady SEO techniques.
Surprisingly, we found a lot of overseas companies and plenty of local companies fall under this category.
However, companies under this stage you are safe to take calls from or even set up an initial meeting.
Below are some common signs
Pricing Too Good To Be True
Similar to stage 1 'work for free' models, these plans are designed to trap to you a contract or worse.
What's an example of pricing too good to be true you ask?
Considering that good SEOs easily charge $100 per hour. Anything less than $1000 per month (for small to medium sized businesses) are unlikely to yield measurable results.
Is $1000 too much to pay? Well, that's something only you can answer. Consider it this way – if for every $1000 you spend, you get $2000 in return or $10,000 in return. Will that be too much?
Good SEO is an investment not an expense.
However, if you find $1000 too expensive, we recommend that you abort SEO altogether and search for an alternative marketing solution rather than waste money on bad SEO.
SEO Agency Chooses Keywords for You
As per stage 1, it is not hard to rank for obscure or long phrase keywords. Any agency that chooses keywords for you without consulting with you and showing proof of monthly search volume is not an agency you want to work with.
Ideally, the SEO agency will talk with you on what keywords your business is ranking and its estimated monthly volume. They will also talk about how competitive each keywords are and what are some easy win keywords that has low competition and high search volume.
SEO Agency Sets the Number of Keywords
If an SEO agency says they can get you to rank for 50 keywords – your follow up questions should be 'can I choose them' and 'how many hours will you spend on each keyword or search term'.
Setting a high number of keywords do not mean anything if none of them have the search volume to back it up. One high search volume keyword may take 10 times longer than 50 lesser searched keywords to rank for so you can see why agencies promising high number of keywords is not necessarily a good thing.
Promising Hundreds or Thousands of Links
Links are very important metric affecting SEO and as such many SEO firms may try to sell you on the idea that more is better. This is not necessarily the case. You see, not every link is the same.
Links coming from relevant industry or well established websites are worth more than inbound links from irrelevant sources. So one relevant high authority link can have the same value as hundreds of irrelevant links.
Links can quite simply be classified as good or bad. Good links will provide value for your SEO while bad links will harm it.
High valued links are often difficult to obtain that's why agencies promising hundreds or thousands of links are going for low valued links that provides no value to your SEO campaign and oftentimes are detrimental to it .
This case is especially true when a SEO agency’s main strategy of link building is by submitting it to hundreds of online directories. While it is worthwhile to submit to a few local directories when starting out, the risks outweighs the benefits in a long term SEO strategy as many online directories carry a Google rankings penalty.
Stage 2 Summary
Just because we weed out the scammers in Stage 1 doesn’t mean we can let our guards down. In this stage, we separate the good from the bad SEO agencies. We reveal the signs of a bad SEO and also some things they promise that are of little value or actually detrimental for your business such as promising a large number of low volume keywords and setting those keywords for you or promising a large number of (bad)links that they use to try and hook you in.
Stage 3: Choosing the Best SEO Agency
The best SEO agency in Sydney or locally in Australia belong in this stage and they should be in your shortlist for agencies to hire. However, there are some that are better than others. Below are the questions to weed out the good from the great.
Do They Lock you in a Contract
We get that SEO takes time but is it really in your best interest to be locked in a six months or yearly contract?
An SEO agency may get you to sign a long term contract because they say that you will not get the full benefits otherwise. While this is generally true, there are so many other factors involved such as:
No Results – Obviously, you want to see some results. What happens if after a few months have passed and there were none and you want to change providers?
Communications and Customer Service – You may not like the agency's way of communication. Their customer service may not be up to scratch.
Change of Circumstance – Perhaps you want to focus your budget on another aspects such as Google Ads. If you are locked in you will have to see things through good or bad.
Budgeting and cash flow Issues – You may run into cash flow issues and want to postpone the campaign until everything's back to normal. A locked in contract will not allow that.
As you can understand, a bad SEO agency will negatively impact your company's search engine rankings. You definitely want the flexibility to see see some initial results, re-negotiate terms or even leave rather than being locked in a long contract.
Are They a Local Company?
Since in this article we are looking for the best SEO agency in Sydney or locally in Australia, it stands to reason that an SEO not operating in Australia should be excluded. A local company provides many benefits such as ease of communication and local know how.
For many small to medium sized companies, their client base may only be within a certain city or region.
Having a local partner means they know the local conditions better such in-depth knowledge of your competitors and operations. They will also have good connection with other local companies and make it easier for them to reach out to them for industry related backlinks.
Backlinks if you don’t know already are one of the main factors for good SEO rankings.
'Hiring a local SEO company can be advantageous if most of your clients are locally based '
Is the Agency Currently Working With Other Companies in the Same Industry as Yours
SEO at its core is ranking your company higher than your competitors. As such you can see why an agency currently working with many of your competitors may not always have your best interest at heart.
Who will they give priority to? Will they limit your results so they can get better results for your competitor? Will they reveal your secrets to gain a boost to the competitor?
Given an agency will have many or even hundreds of clients. It can be unrealistic for one to only focus on you out of your entire industry. How comfortable you are with them also working with your competitors will depend on your individual tolerance and how far you are currently ranking.
How Many Other Companies is Your Consultant Working With
Through your agency you will most likely be assigned a single consultant to handle your SEO. One thing you need to ask is how many other SEO jobs do they have on hand? Reason is you do not want them to be too busy as good SEO takes time.
As a general rule, you do not want your consultant to be working on more than 10 clients at the same time otherwise they are spreading themselves too thin.
How Will They do SEO?
This is quite a broad question but SEO generally begins with a website audit or competitor or keyword analysis and research.
A SEO agency that doesn't begin with some sort of audit or research do not truly understand your current position to beat existing competition.
Do They Have Detailed Case Studies of Their Process and Results?
With so many SEO companies nowadays, you really need one who can walk the walk and talk the talk. A detail case study of SEO means you see them in action and you can more accurately judge the quality of their work.
Don't settle for just a logo of clients or written testimonial.
Do They Help You to explain their reason behind each SEO activity?
No successful SEO campaign is ever achieved without collaboration from the agency and their customer. The best seo agency in Sydney or in fact within all of Australia will know their stuff but they will not know all the in and outs of your own business and industry – only you do.
How Often Do They Keep You Updated?
Reporting can vary between agencies. Typical reporting occurs every two weeks or end of month. However, you may want to contact the agency for urgent matters.
Do They Do Other Forms of Digital Marketing?
SEO does not work independently. It works best when combined with an overall digital marketing plan involving:
Website Design and Optimization – A fast, clean website is one of the fundamentals of good SEO.
Content Marketing – Good content are an essential part of SEO to get traffic, mentions and backlinks.
Social Media – Social media indirectly affects SEO and are used to spread good content around and redirect traffic to your website.
Public Relations – PR can also indirectly affect SEO with mentions on popular and high authority websites and publications.
Email Marketing – Email marketing provides one of the best marketing ROI. A good SEO plan will definitely involve email and content marketing.
Do They Tailor Approach to Your Business and Industry
You cannot apply the same SEO techniques and expect the same results for every business.
How SEO is applied will depend on a number of things including if a business is new, if your clients are local or international and your current ranking position among many other things to consider.
An agency that can tailor your SEO strategy is one that will ultimately achieve the best results in the least amount of time.
Are You Satisfied With Their Initial Meeting
After stage 3, you will most have a shortlist of capable SEO agency candidates.
Do they tick all the boxes of this article and how satisfied are you with the initial meeting?
Stage 3 Summary
This stage provides technical questions to separate the best from the good. We look at some deciding factors such as if they will lock you in on a long term contract, their current work load and if they are working for your competitors as well as you. We see if they can walk the walk with a case study request and finally score them based on their initial telephone conference or meeting.
Choosing the best SEO agency in Sydney or locally is not easy. It incorporates many stages of selection including weeding out bad SEO agencies and scammers, shortlisting the good candidates and finally choosing the best one for your business objectives.
Choosing the best SEO agency is a tedious task but if you look for common sign and ask the right questions you are well on your way to finding a partner you can count on in a long term and mutually beneficial relationship.