That’s a provocative title, isn’t it?

It blatantly implies a few things.

First, that you don’t know what you’re doing with your keyword suggestions and, second, that a good SEO agency does.

While that might sound like a harsh statement, here’s another truth to follow it up: if you hire an SEO agency that knows less than you do about keywords, you’ve hired the wrong agency.

After all, you don’t want an SEO agency that knows less than you, right? That would defeat the purpose of hiring the experts to run your SEO.

Now, you’re already familiar with the effects that a successful SEO strategy can have on a website.

Just take Moz, for example. 25% of their traffic comes through search engines

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And a lot of that traffic depends on targeting the correct keyword phrases.

There’s one more thing that the title of this article implies. It implies that a good SEO agency won’t implement your keyword suggestions.

But isn’t that ignorant of your keyword knowledge and SEO experience?

Perhaps.

More than likely, though, you hired the SEO agency for one of two reasons. Either you don’t have the expertise to run your own SEO, or you don’t have the time.

In the first situation, the SEO agency obviously should trample over any of your suggestions because… well, they’re just better at SEO.

In the second situation, you might know a lot about SEO, but you don’t have the time to do it yourself.

Which means you don’t have time to do extensive research in your niche, come up with a strategy for driving leads to your website, or spend the necessary time thinking through which keyword phrases are best for your business to target.

In other words, the SEO agency is still more qualified because they have time to dedicate to the process.

Believe it or not, you want to work with the agencies that don’t just agree with your suggestions.

In fact, here are three ways that a great SEO agency will ignore your suggestions and how their insolence will benefit your business.

1. They care about revenue, not vanity metrics

It’s easy for business people to get caught up in vanity metrics.

I do it. You do it. Every marketer does it.

We concern ourselves with traffic, rankings, and time-on-page too much, and lead generation, conversion rate, and lifetime customer value too little.

Here’s an example of vanity metrics we all get caught up in from time to time.

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Even though we often fall victim to focusing on these metrics, we also know something important about them deeper down: they’re worthless.

We might pretend that these metrics represent a successful SEO strategy — and maybe they do — but we can’t know for sure.

You know who doesn’t think about vanity metrics?

A great SEO agency.

In fact, if your SEO agency is reporting back to you with traffic numbers, ranking info, and bounce rate, ditch them. They are faking you out.

A good SEO agency will focus on how they’re impacting your revenue, the way their strategy is bringing in leads, and even how they’ve raised your conversion rate.

In other words, the SEO agency you want to work with will ask you loads of questions about your business goals and create a strategy that focuses on bringing you the results you’re looking for.

Then, they focus on marketing metrics like these.

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Watch out for the SEO agencies that are too agreeable. You say, “I’m thinking about targeting ‘content marketing’ as a keyword phrase,” and they say, “That sounds great!”

You want an SEO agency with smart individuals who have a mind of their own and focus on the metrics that will actually impact your business.

Things like revenue and cost per lead and lifetime customer value. They should have a process for proving to you (or, at least, presenting strong evidence) that their strategy is making a difference in your business’s success.

If they start showing you ranking data and domain authority and traffic generation, find a new SEO agency.

2. They know that not all keyword phrases are created equal

This represents the heart of the problem with your keyword suggestions.

If an SEO agency actually wants to help your business — as opposed to just seeming like they’re helping your business — then they will want to target the best keyword phrases for your business.

And that’s an important caveat. They shouldn’t target the best keyword phrases for your industry or the best for your city. They should target the best for your business.

Why?

Because every business’s goals, size, and position vary. So too should the keywords they target.

Here are factors that these companies will take into account when choosing keywords if they actually know what they’re doing.

  • How large your business is
  • Your current SEO strategy
  • Your current SEO success
  • Keyword competition
  • Keyword lead-generation quality

If you’re like most marketers, you’ll have a keyword phrase in your head that you want to rank for. Maybe “content marketing agency” for example.

And that’s all fine and dandy, but there’s a serious problem with your strategy. If you haven’t done some major keyword research to determine two critical things, your keyword suggestions will be a shot in the dark.

The two major things that you (or the agency you’re working with) need to determine are:

  1. The competition around the target keyword phrase compared to your current SEO success.
  2. The quality of leads that will come from that keyword phrase compared to the kind of leads you want to pull in.

In other words, these two questions: does the keyword phrase have little enough competition that you can rise through the rankings? Will the keyword phrase bring in traffic that is actually going to be interested in what you have to offer?

You might, for instance, want to rank for the keyword phrase, “Google Analytics.” But if you researched how competitive the phrase is, you’d probably change your mind.

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I’m not saying that your business shouldn’t try to tackle competitive keyword phrases, but I am saying that whether you should or shouldn’t depends on your business. Every SEO strategy should be relative to the business it’s serving.

A great SEO agency knows this.

For example, marketers often have short and broad keyword phrases they want to target. SEO agencies know that long-tail keywords can sometimes be the more beneficial for business.

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And a good SEO agency will tell you this.

Take the specificity with which Moz approaches its SEO strategy as an example of the importance of keyword research.

They determine what they’re top referring keyword phrases are so that they can better target them.

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And they also determine which keyword phrases statistically produce the highest conversion rates.

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This information tells Moz which keyword phrases are most beneficial to its business. Your keyword phrases will be different.

A great SEO agency will connect these dots for you and help you separate the tempting keyword phrases from the beneficial ones.

3. They want to be successful despite your suggestions

Like I mentioned earlier, a great SEO agency will have a mind of its own.

They will listen to you, maybe even smile and nod. But in the end, they’ll be less concerned about your SEO suggestions and more concerned about your business goals.

Why?

Because they want to benefit your business.

Sadly, many SEO agencies simply want to prove how effective they are to their clients without any real evidence of their effectiveness. They want to show you metrics that don’t actually make you money, and they want to talk about how helpful they are.

But a great SEO agency will listen to your business goals and help you accomplish them.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. SEO is traditionally a top-of-the-funnel strategy, so how will an SEO agency connect their efforts to my revenue?

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Well, that question makes the difference between SEO agencies you should and shouldn’t hire. An SEO agency that doesn’t connect its efforts to your business goals is unworthy of your attention.

A great SEO agency will have processes in place for measuring and iterating their strategy for your business and for connecting their efforts to meaningful metrics.

They’ll also want you to succeed as fast as possible. Which means that they’ll target keyword phrases that promise the fastest and highest ROI.

The struggle these agencies face is that ranking on the first page of search engines is almost always a long-term game. Only 5.7% of pages rank in the top ten results within one year of their existence.

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And the older your web page, the higher chance it has of ranking.

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This illustrates the keyword balance that a great SEO agency has to strike to benefit your company.

Namely, SEO takes a long time, but you want fast benefits. This means that the agency has to do keyword research to determine which keywords have the right amount of competition and produce the right kind of traffic.

And only some agencies will go this far for you.

More often, SEO agencies will just do something instead of the right thing.

The ones you want to work with are the ones that want you to be successful and will ignore your suggestions to make that happen.

How to know if you’ve hired the right agency

But how do you know if you’ve hired the right agency?

On the outside, they all look the same. They all increase your rankings, they all help domain authority, they all ensure that you’ll love them if you commit.

But which ones are the real deal, and which ones are just great fakers?

There are two things you need to do to answer that question.

First, you need to understand what your business objectives are.

What is your reason for hiring an SEO agency? What are you hoping to get out of it?

Are you hoping to increase revenue, rankings, domain authority, or generate leads?

And believe it or not, there’s a right and wrong answer to that question.

Here are the wrong answers:

  • I want to increase my domain authority.
  • I want to rank #1 for [insert target keywords].
  • I want to generate more traffic to my website overall.
  • I want people to see my website on Google.

Here are the right answers.

  • I want to increase my businesses revenue.
  • I want to drive traffic to this specific lead-magnet.

In other words, instead of telling the SEO agency what to do, tell them what you want and then let them figure out the best way to go about it.

They’re the expert, so let them do the heavy lifting.

The second thing you need to do to determine that you’re working with the right agency is to ask them the right questions.

Here’s a list of questions that will reveal if you should work with them.

  • What strategy will you implement to help my bottom line?
  • What’s your top priority with your SEO strategy?
  • What do you need to know from me before getting started?
  • What kind of results have you seen with other clients?

If all of their answers to these questions revolve around vanity metrics and they avoid talking about your bottom line, don’t work with them.

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Instead, find an agency that doesn’t shy away from the metrics that matter and that actually has a process for connecting their efforts to your revenue.

Conclusion

Here’s the question you have to answer: would you rather have a phenomenal SEO strategy that leverages the best possible keywords or an agency that agrees with your opinions?

Because you can’t have both usually. The agency that agrees with everything you suggest will be the same agency that supplies a feeling of success without the real thing.

They’ll show you vanity metrics, and they’ll probably get you to rank for keyword phrases that are useless to your revenue. They’ll only care about making it seem like they’re good at what they do.

I’m sure, of course, you’d prefer the alternative.

To find the perfect SEO agency for your business, you need to do two things:

Determine what your business objectives are (these should be bottom-line focused) and ask the SEO agency the right questions to determine if they’re a fit for your business.

If they’re actually interested in your success, then they will ignore your suggestions in order to benefit your business. And their insolence will help you win.

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