“Who’s the best ecommerce SEO company?”
This is a question we get asked often because we speak with a LOT of ecommerce companies who have realized (or been told) that one of the best ways to grow their ecommerce company is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
And while that’s often true, it’s also true that SEO has become much more competitive and expensive in the last decade as the amount of goods sold online has skyrocketed:
Because of this, the search results have became complicated, competitive, and expensive.
That’s when you may start looking for an ecommerce SEO company.
Ecommerce companies must take an investment approach to SEO, because it takes time to do everything that is needed across the various areas:
SEO takes time to work, but when it does and continues to grow it is a thing of beauty.
The goal, of course, is that a great SEO firm can expedite the process and help you grow faster. And that is true given that you hire the right company who is able to execute quickly and well against the right strategy.
So, how do you choose the right ecommerce SEO company to work with?
It starts by asking the right questions about your own company so that you know who to look for, and then how to qualify them.
By the way, at Credo we specialize in helping companies like you find and hire the right firms, so get in touch.
Let’s get started.
Questions to ask yourself
The philosopher Socrates is famous for saying:
Before you are able to hire effectively, you first need to know yourself and your business.
You’re going to ask the following questions of your company:
- How much qualified traffic (eg traffic to categories etc) do we currently have?
- How much revenue are we currently making per month?
- Which channels are driving this revenue?
- Which channels are our competitors leveraging that we are not?
- How profitable are we?
- What team do we have in place to support an agency?
- Who will be responsible for owning the relationship with the agency?
Theses are all important questions to ask in order to understand:
- a) how ready you are to engage with a firm,
- b) what kind of firm you need to engage with, and
- c) what that engagement will look like.
Let’s look at each of these.
Readiness to engage
First, let’s talk about your readiness to engage.
There are three major parts to figuring out how ready you are to engage with an outside SEO firm to help you grow your ecommerce business. These are:
- Existing sales and revenue;
- Internal agency management/support;
- Existing processes for scale.
Sales and revenue
First, you need to have sales and revenue coming into your business. If you are pre-revenue and have no funding, then you are not ready to hire an SEO firm for your ecommerce business. First focus on generating revenue and sales, then take that revenue and reinvest it into growing traffic and therefore revenue.
A good ecommerce SEO firm costs, to begin, on average $2,500 per month and up depending on the efforts required.
This usually covers some combination of:
- Technical SEO auditing and consulting;
- Keyword research and recommendations;
- Link building strategy and execution.
It is often possible to engage an ecommerce SEO consultant for less than $2,500 per month to consult with you on strategy alone. You should not expect them to also implement the strategies, such as writing content or conducting outreach for links.
Internal agency management/support
We all like to believe that hiring an agency means that they’ll just get things done and it will not involve anything from you. We also hope that this will happen with a full time in-house hire.
But if you’ve done it before, then you know this is not the case.
When you hire someone in-house to fill a role that you were previously filling, at first you get more busy because you are onboarding them, answering questions, reviewing work, and meeting with them to make sure everything is going well.
Eventually, your work goes back down to normal levels (until you hire someone else). But that can take quite a bit of time.
The same is true with any outside firm. They short-to-medium term make you busier because they need things like:
- Tool access
- Work published
- Status meetings
- Reporting meetings
While true that you are (if you have the necessary budget) often offloading a lot of the most time consuming and skill-required work (like content or technical auditing), the reality is also that they are doing things that often then require action on your side. So while you may only do 2 out of 10 things, this is still 2 more than you were doing before.
Thus, it is necessary to think hard about who will be responsible for managing the agency relationship and keeping the project momentum going. If you are already very busy and will not have time to manage them, then consider what you can get someone else to do in order to free up your time. Or, have that person manage the project and report to you on the status.
Also remember that if your budget is small and you choose to hire a consultant to consult on strategy with you, then you will become even busier since they will be giving you tasks to do. They should help you with prioritization, but essentially you are hiring someone with a skillset to help you understand what to do.
Existing processes for scale
Finally, before hiring an SEO firm you need to look hard at your business and ask if you are set up to scale and deliver on the increased orders and revenue that comes from increased traffic.
Over the years we have seen quite a few companies who begin investing in SEO, it works well for them, and then they are overloaded with orders and things begin to break.
Don’t let this happen to you.
The reality is that this happens much less for companies with larger SEO budgets than companies with smaller SEO budgets. This is because larger SEO budgets often means higher revenue and with higher revenue comes systems that are set up to scale (order intake, fulfillment, support, etc).
Before engaging with a firm, have these in place.
Type of firm needed
Now that you’ve done some deep soul searching on your own company and asked yourself the tough questions around revenue, team, and internal processes, it’s time to talk about the type of firm that you need in order to drive the growth that you are looking for.
Important: this point goes hand in hand with the next point around the type of engagement, so be sure to continue reading all the way to the end.
There are really three main types of SEO firms that you could hire:
- Full service;
Each is better for a different reason.
Full service firms/agencies are your one-stop shop for all of your digital marketing needs. They are often larger than specialist firms in terms of headcount, which means that they are able to tap into economies of scale and can often offer you a better hourly rate than a smaller firm or solo consultant.
That said, you will also be one of many clients and will likely be assigned an account manager who is responsible for communicating between you and the specialists doing the work. They will often also include senior strategists and specialists on calls as work is delivered.
A consultant is a solo practitioner who is usually hired to help you audit your SEO program, build SEO processes, and work with your team to get things done internally to drive organic growth.
Consultants are best leveraged when you need audits done and then guidance for your team as they implement the strategies and fixes put together by the consultant.
Sometimes you need a specialist to help solve a specific problem. Different individuals have different specialities, and so depending on your problem you will need to seek out different specialists.
For example, maybe your company is looking to expand internationally and you are trying to figure out your international SEO strategy. In that case, hire an international SEO specialist.
What engagement makes the most sense
As you can see, “who is the best ecommerce SEO firm?” isn’t such an easy question because every business and team are different.
At the end of the day, you need to know your business, your team, and your experience with SEO before making a decision about what kind of firm to hire and for how long.
Once you’ve decided that, now you can go about asking the right questions to make sure you’re hiring the right firm.
Vetting an ecommerce SEO firm
Now that you’re (relatively) clear on figuring out the kind of firm and engagement you need to support your efforts and goals, it’s time to ask some serious questions of the firms you contact to make sure they’re the right fit for you and your business/team.
Let’s get into it.
Are they ecommerce specialists with prove-able results?
There are a lot of “SEO agencies” out there on the internet, and because of that it can be hard to know who to hire.
Sidenote: this is why Credo exists. We can help you hire the right one. Contact us here.
There are many flavors of agency, and many are willing to sign any kind of client.
It’s important that you find a firm who specializes in working with ecommerce businesses and understands the complexities of the business model and the ecosystem around the industry and building a business. Whether you use Shopify or Magento, they should have the knowledge of working with that platform and each own’s special shortcomings and advantages.
Along with this, you should ask them for case studies and why they think those projects were successful. If you really want to vet them well, then also ask them about projects that were not successful and why they don’t think they succeeded.
Think of this like an interview and watch for the typical “try to spin it positively” types of answers.
Do they have experience in your vertical?
In the SEO world, we like to think that category expertise doesn’t really matter. But the truth is, if you have the choice between hiring someone with experience in your vertical and someone with out, you will on average get much better results by hiring the person who does have experience in it.
Because they already understand what it takes to succeed and who the big players are and their strategies.
You may pay a premium for this knowledge and expertise, but you’ll also be expediting your results and have a higher chance of success.
How does their team work and does that jive with yours?
One of the biggest reasons why we see projects fail to produce results is a misalignment of culture. (We’ll get to the second reason in the next section).
Just like hiring someone at your company, hiring a firm can greatly affect your company’s culture and its results.
Hopefully you’ve established your company culture and core values, and so when hiring a firm you should also look at and ask about their culture to know if its jives with yours and the team who will be interfacing with the firm.
For example, is your company a traditional 9-5 company where employees don’t check email after hours? If so, then a firm that works late and emails at 10pm with “a quick question” may not be a good fit.
What will they “deliver” to you?
The second biggest reason we see an engagement fail is because of a lack of alignment on what will be delivered and when it will be delivered.
It always pains us when someone comes to Credo and tells us that they previously engaged with someone and were expecting them to do everything, but the person simply delivered recommendations.
Similarly, sometimes a company needs strategy and consulting but the firm only delivers work and doesn’t explain what they are doing or why.
Either one is fine, but the expectations need to be aligned.
How you vet a firm for this is to simply ask them: “What will your deliverables be?”
If they are good, they will tell you exactly what they are proposing to do *and not do*. They will make it clear if they will be delivering work or advising you on the work to be done in alignment with the strategy.
If it’s not clear what they will be doing for you, do not sign a contract. Keep having the discussion until it is clear, or find another firm.
Now that you’ve finished, what else have you learned about hiring an ecommerce SEO firm that others should take into account?