When people today want to purchase a product or service, they usually start online. Recent statistics show that in a single month, 81% of consumers searched online for a product or service to buy, and more than a quarter of searchers clicked on the top-ranking result. Click-throughs drop dramatically from there, with the tenth result getting a click-through rate of just 2.5%.

Staying at the top matters, and it’s difficult if not impossible to do alone. Why else would search engine optimization (SEO) spending have more than doubled in a single year? It’s important to keep up, but it’s even more important to make the right choice. Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking for the best SEO agency for your company.

Identify Your Goals

If your only specified goal is to “improve your SEO,” you’ll be vulnerable to every subpar agency that gets clients by promising vague results. Get more specific and you’ll be able to connect with top-notch SEO agencies that can develop customized strategies to suit your brand.  Do you want to rank for particular keywords? Improve site time or reduce bounce? Encourage purchases? 

Choose Your Services

Are you just looking at how to hire an SEO agency that will get you to the first page of Google’s search results, or do you also want a company that can do your web design and development for you? Would it help to have an agency that can also handle your social media marketing? Bundling related services like these can help you keep your marketing and branding consistent. 

Ask for Recommendations

Once you know what you want, you can start asking around for suggestions. Talk to business owners that you know and find out who’s getting great results on Google, then ask them how to find a good SEO company. You can even ask competitors how they get their ranking — though you may want to do so anonymously.

Check Local Listings

Especially if you have a local business and want to rank high in local searches, maybe even landing in Google’s 3-Pack, consider finding an SEO agency that knows your region. Sometimes it takes a neighbor to know the market, particularly when it comes to ranking for locally relevant keywords and understanding what kind of content will get a response. 

Have a Conversation

Never hire an SEO agency without talking with them first. Remember, you’ll be putting your website and its success in their hands, so you want to be sure that they value dialogue and collaboration. Ask them questions and make sure you’re comfortable with their answers. 

Remember that the best SEO agency won’t say that they’re the best or make any kind of promises, like “first-page ranking in a year.” Instead, they’ll tell you about the strategies and tools they use to improve your technical, on-page, and off-page SEO.

Make sure to ask about what metrics they use to track results. The best SEO agency will make all of its decisions based on what’s working and what isn’t, and how your key performance indicators are faring in light of any changes to your SEO strategy. 

Most importantly, only make a final hiring decision when you feel comfortable that you’ve found the right SEO partner. The best SEO agencies will be able and willing to answer as many questions as you have, and they won’t pressure you to commit until you’re confident.