SEO Agency Deliverables: Here’s What To Expect
One of the most important questions to ask when choosing an SEO agency is what deliverables they provide. A low-priced service will deliver technical SEO fixes related to slow page load times, broken links, and duplicate content. The level above that will get you the same on-site optimization plus rewritten meta page titles and main page headers. Go up one more level and you’re getting all of the above plus basic content marketing: a ghostwritten article on your blog several times per month. At the very top of the SEO agency pyramid are deliverables that get the technical SEO out of the way during onboarding and focus the rest of the campaign on publishing (a) landing pages; and (b) thought leadership content in order to obtain the Google “News Website” bonus.
Here’s the SEO agency pyramid visualized, along with the deliverables you can expect from each tier.
While your budget may dictate which tier you end up working with, it’s important to realize the issues with Tiers 4, 3, and 2.
- Tier 4 only offers fixes to backend technical SEO issues that would prohibit your site from ranking purely on the grounds of poor site hygiene. While Site Health is improved, overall SEO health isn’t considered.
- Tier 3 takes care of Site Health and SEO Health by placing an emphasis on the keywords inside your meta title tags and on-page header tags, which puts your website in a position to rank. However, it doesn’t go the full way to lead generation.
- Tier 2 handles all technical SEO and begins to handle lead generation. However, it stops short of creating thought leadership content — i.e. the best possible response to your prospective customers’ search queries — which is what you really need to rank.
- Tier 1 does it all, with technical SEO handled up-front and thought leadership content a staple of the campaign. It also goes the extra mile to incorporate SEO into your larger marketing program, partnering with your marketing team on KPI tracking, attribution, and reporting.
The SEO Agency Deliverables You Really Want
So let’s talk about what Tier 1 deliverables really look like. I’ll omit technical SEO in this discussion as that is more of a prerequisite that many firms can do adequately.
When your prospective customer types a phrase into Google, they are looking for something specifically. They want a solution to a problem, an answer to a question, or information on a topic. An SEO agency’s job is to figure out what the searcher wants based on the keyword phrase they typed in, and to produce engaging, original content that expertly answers that query. The searcher intent behind a keyword phrase determines whether a deliverable will be a landing page or some type of thought leadership content. This is the art and science of SEO. Let’s get into each type of deliverable in turn.
Deliverable #1: Landing Pages
Landing pages are the best way to convert website visitors into qualified leads, which is why they’re a vital deliverable in an SEO campaign. First, they’re a great next click for someone who lands on one of your helpful blog posts. They are also a great way to drive sales-ready traffic to your website by targeting highly transactional keywords associated with your services, locations, and the industries you serve.
An example of one such keyword is “software development outsourcing company”. A searcher who types this keyword into the Google search bar is much more ready to buy than the person who searched for, “in-house software development vs outsourcing”. That means a more branded page that provides a clear description of the benefits of working with you, and a clear path to doing so, is appropriate for this kind of visitor.
A great SEO partner will help you identify the landing page gaps on your website, create a schedule that delivers the most valuable pages first, and work with you to integrate the new pages into your website to provide a conversion funnel for these highly valuable visitors. Once live, your partner should study user data and conversion rates to determine if your pages are performing properly. They can then tweak content or page elements to optimize your landing pages’ performance based on their findings, eliminating any unforeseen UX problems and determining what kind of thought leadership content would be most helpful for your potential customers.
Deliverable #2: Thought Leadership Content
Thought leadership content should make up the bulk of your SEO deliverables. In terms of what SEO agencies typically deliver, there are 2 types of thought leadership content: blog posts, and big picture content.
Blog posts make up the bulk of SEO deliverables. In fact, they make up approximately 50% of all deliverables in our clients’ campaigns. This is because blog posts are conversational by nature, and they pair well with keywords that indicate a potential customer is still in the research stage. A good example of a research-stage keyword is “in-house software development vs outsourcing”. This keyword suggests that the searcher is looking for advice from an expert about the pros and cons of in-house versus outsourcing solutions. This keyword lends itself to an idea-based discussion and therefore would be best targeted by an informational blog post.
After a year-long SEO campaign with a full-service agency, your company’s blog should be full of helpful posts that corner the market on the most valuable keywords your customer types in when they are researching their problem. If your SEO partner does their job well, your blog will position you as the expert in your industry and drive website visitors to the place they are ready to go after they’ve completed their research: your landing pages.
Big Picture Content
SEO works, but it doesn’t work alone. Your SEO agency must work closely with your marketing team to integrate SEO with your other marketing tactics and channels. This often means producing content that is highly beneficial for branding and conversion, but has less of a direct impact on search rankings. This kind of big picture content includes:
- White papers
- Case studies
- Research reports
- Lead nurturing email campaigns
Some of the above content—like case studies and research reports—are also valuable for SEO because they can be keyword-optimized and published directly on your website. Other types of content—email campaigns, webinars and podcasts—won’t have much SEO value, but will help you nurture the leads you captured via SEO and turn them into customers.
Your SEO agency partner should know how to leverage thought leadership content for your customer, Google and your other marketing channels. While SEO is what they do best, they should have some fluency in how to create and position marketing content beyond SEO to create a seamless customer experience across all your platforms.
Deliverable #3: Marketing Automation
The difference between a solid SEO agency and a truly excellent one can be seen in its reporting. I’m not talking about how pretty the charts and graphs are (though that helps), but the quality of the data from which those reports derive. At the start of the campaign, they should organize a technical meeting between your company and theirs where the parties discuss the current systems in place for tracking the campaign’s results. Which results you track varies depending on your goals and KPIs, but at the least, it should include rankings and qualified leads. The outcome of the meeting should be that both parties agree on how success will be tracked and what the criteria are for a renewal at the end of the contract period.
In order to set up proper KPI tracking, your SEO agency needs to do the complex work of considering marketing attribution, i.e. how much credit each marketing source gets for the results you see during the contract period. I go into greater detail about this art in our post about SEO automation, but generally speaking, you want to be able to consider the value you’re getting from the current campaign in the context of the lead generation systems you had in place before your SEO agency came along.
A best-in-class SEO agency will lightly use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, but go further by regularly using data from Hubspot, SalesForce, and other marketing automation systems and CRMs.
Breakdown of SEO Deliverables for a Year-Long Campaign
Your SEO agency should suggest a different proportion of the above deliverable types depending on your goals for the campaign. For instance, some of our clients come into the relationship with good technical SEO and landing pages and mostly want to optimize for higher-in-the-funnel research keywords. For these clients, blog posts make up a larger portion of their campaign. Other clients aren’t attracting many leads to their website in the first place and need a set of basic landing pages along with a stronger emphasis on SEO health, which may include UI/UX consulting.
The typical breakdown of SEO deliverables in a year-long campaign looks something like this:
Vetting Your SEO Agency’s Deliverables
You and your SEO partner should work together closely to determine what deliverables are needed, and in what order. Most agencies organize their deliverables through an editorial calendar, which is a robust planning tool that keeps track of all past, present and future content. At the same time, your calendar should be agile enough to pivot with your business needs and evolving goals.
Here is an example of what an editorial calendar looks like at our agency:
When your SEO partner presents deliverable ideas to you to weigh in on and approve in the editorial calendar, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
- Why was this type of deliverable selected for this keyword?
- What’s the searcher intent behind the keyword?
- How will you create the best piece of content on the internet to target this keyword?
- What important content points or elements need to be on the page?
- What’s the main call to action for this page?
You are the expert in your industry. Your SEO partner is an expert in SEO. Together, you should be able to arrive at answers to the above questions that make sense to everyone on both teams, which is the first step in a profitable SEO campaign.
Finding The Right SEO Agency
When searching for an SEO partner, it’s important to ask questions about their results, deliverables and the structures of their team. If they have a history of running profitable SEO campaigns with the above deliverables, they will likely make a great addition to your marketing team.
First Page Sage has been helping clients in a variety of industries for more than a decade with strategic, high ROI-generating, adaptable SEO agency services. Contact us with any questions you may have about choosing the best partner for your enterprise.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.