Holding Your SEO Agency Accountable

Patricia Hursh January 16, 2012

Accountability in B2B SEO

To some B2B companies, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can seem like a mysterious practice.  The fact that the industry has those so called “Black Hat” SEO agencies making ridiculous promises can make understanding SEO even harder.  So how do you know you have chosen the correct agency to manage your B2B SEO?  Hold your B2B SEO agency accountable with these 3 simple steps:

  1. Make Appropriate Keyword Choices
  2. Track More Than Just Rankings
  3. Determine ROI

Appropriate Keyword Selections

Your B2B SEO program should be built on a foundation of research.A major portion of that research will be used to select keywords for which you would like to have increased visibility in the search engines.So you know the criteria your SEO agency used to choose your targeted keyword phrases?

It is important that your keywords match the intent of the searcher – your target audience.  When a search is conducted using the keywords or phrase you are optimizing for, they should be looking specifically for your company’s services.

Do those same keywords have reasonable search volume figures (the average number of monthly searches for that keyword or phrase)? A B2B Search agency should determine appropriate keywords based on search volume, level of competition and applicability to your service offerings.  Search volume and PPC competitive data can be found by using a keyword research tool such as the free Google Keyword Tool.  In addition, your B2B SEO agency should analyze your online competition and thoroughly understand your services.  This information, when considered collectively, will allow them to determine the best keywords and phrases to target as part of your SEO program.  Don’t sit on the sidelines for this crucial step of your SEO program!  Ask questions and make sure you are fully informed on why keywords are being chosen.

Not Just Rankings…Show Me The Traffic!

As part of your B2B SEO program, your search agency should be tracking the results of their efforts.  This means considering more than just rankings. While better rankings is the first step in achieving SEO success, it is not a 100% reliable data point due to factors such as localized and personalized search.  What appears in the search results on your computer at the office could be completely different from the search results on your home computer so you can imagine the discrepancy your target audience could see if they are located in other states or even other countries.

A more accurate measurement for SEO success is an increase in organic traffic.  This can easily be monitored in any analytics program.  (This assumes your company has set up analytics tracking as detailed by the analytics service provider) If your B2B SEO agency has taken the steps to properly select target keywords and phrases for your SEO program and have correctly implemented your SEO campaign, your analytics should reflect an increase in traffic from search engines.  Not only should this statistic be on the rise, you should see traffic coming directly from your selected keywords and phrases.

They Say I Can’t Track ROI?

A huge challenge in tracking success for your B2B SEO program can be in determining if you have received a Return on Investment (ROI).  While analytics can provide a great deal of insights, tracking organic traffic to the end conversion is not always possible for B2B companies due to long and complex sales cycles.  How do you hold your Search Marketing Agency accountable to ROI when nearly all end conversions take place off-line rather than on your website?

Goal conversions!  Most B2B companies can determine the value of a lead and use this to measure the success of off-line marketing efforts such as print and television advertising.  Your analytics program should be set up to track the actions of your users such as filling out a contact form, downloading a whitepaper, reading a case study, and signing up for a newsletter.

While these actions do not convert a user into a client, they do become more engaged with your company and can be considered a prospect.  If you assign a value to each action that provides a different type of prospect, you can begin to analyze whether or not your B2B search agency has provided you ROI on your SEO investment.

You can also hold your agency accountable to traffic quality by using this metric.  Targeted keywords and phrases that are driving high quality traffic will be reflected in goal conversions.

B2B Search Agency Accountability with Proper Expectations

While you may not know how every detail of your SEO works, you can hold your B2B SEO agency accountable to delivering results.  A great B2B search marketing agency will start every project by setting proper expectations.  From those expectations, there should also be consideration for program goals.  What will the benefits be to your company?  How will you track success?  Be sure to insist that your agency reveal the data and reasoning for selecting your keywords.  Demand to see more than just search rankings as an indication of success.  Determine if you are getting ROI by tracking activity on your site and assigning a value to prospects.  Make yourself an informed client and you will have no problem holding your agency accountable!

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Patricia Hursh is the president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing. Today she leads the Client Services division of the agency. She specializes developing digital strategies and full-funnel marketing solutions for B2B companies. Patricia leads multi-functional teams to ensure bottom-line business results for SmartSearch Marketing’s clients.