Digital Marketing

How to Select an SEO Agency for Your Startup: 7 Key Criteria for Search Engine Optimisation Success

If you are looking for an SEO agency for 2023, there are a few things you should look out for before signing on the line!

SEO drives your online brand recognition, increasing traffic to your sales funnel and conversion rates. 

And there’s no strategy on the horizon at this moment in time to suggest that organic SEO is not the best long-term investment you can make to get the desired results. 

Some business owners already know the basics of SEO, its uses and terminology such as link building or keyword research. However, the industry has changed since COVID, and daily internet usage is through the roof. In addition, behavioural patterns changed, and Google had two significant updates!

So what does that mean to you

Much more competition in your niche and way more SEO-related work and optimisation to do to survive. Hiring an SEO agency is advisable to help organise and streamline operations and fix and optimise. 

So let’s get into:

7 Key Criteria for Search for Search Engine Optimisation Success

1.You Can’t Beat Experience

All reputable companies will be able to produce a list of previous companies and industries they have worked with or are currently working with. 

These are known as ‘Case Studies’. These contain details of the journey they have taken these companies on and should have references to ranking increases plus on and off-page SEO work conducted. 

If you want to increase local exposure, finding a local SEO agency is a better idea. They will understand the area and the city’s online trends as they have been monitoring them for years.

This can get you off to a good start. But you are looking for experienced companies and want to know the case studies relating to your sector or niche. 

2.The Best SEO Agencies Get Results

When you approach SEO specialists, they will likely tell you they can succeed 100 percent.

They will likely tell you they can get quick SEO results, and you should never doubt that they can.

So here again is where you want to see evidence of successful projects. We have already touched upon ‘Case Studies’, but to take it a little further in your search for results they have achieved, you can ask for a look at the portfolios.

Some reputable companies with nothing to hide will give you a verbal referral, especially if they have been working with the client for 6-10 years, for example. 

Other times they may provide you with a list of companies they have assisted. You can do some background research if you are competent at using Google Analytics.  

All you are looking for is an experienced, genuine partner to work together for the foreseeable future, that isn’t hiding anything from you. 

3.An Understanding of Broader Marketing

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking SEO is fixing up your on-page website issues and getting you higher rankings and more traffic.  

You are looking for a digital marketing partner to take you to the next level and maintain that level for years.  

Digital marketing is now morphing into areas where an SEO agency that says they can achieve all your targets should have covered. So it’s good to make a note of these phrases as they should know all about them:

  • Gaining Traffic
  • Search Engine Ranking
  • Social Media Integration
  • Brand Promotions
  • Conversion Rates
  • Website Audit Report
  • Backlink Building
  • Internal Links 
  • Sales Funnel 

That’s just for starters. You would look for a much more technical first engagement for major corporations. If they can comfortably have answers to each of those areas, you know they are competent to take on a small to medium-sized business.  

4.Ensure They Can Provide a Plan 

Not all SEO campaigns are successful, so a little due diligence and inquisitiveness can tell you if you’ve found the right company or SEO specialist.

However, you also have to put some elbow grease into this first to help them on their way; there’s no point in guesswork at this stage. 

You need to lay out clear objectives for the next year and beyond. Where you want your business to be.  

Also, if you have tried marketing, what went wrong, and what products that are the most profitable aren’t getting any traffic or interest, and as many points as possible.  

If you have a plan and plenty of advice, you should leave that first meeting with a verbal and then a written plan from them. Failure to do either of these should set off alarm bells! 

5.They Must Use SEO Best Practices

It doesn’t matter what the company is, where they are based or what they say. If they cannot guarantee they stick to these rules and provide a report that shows it, then walk away.  

Google’s algorithm is now so advanced ‘Black Hat‘ SEO tricks not only don’t work but they are found quickly and then punished by a ‘Google Penalty’.

It is understandable for a startup or small business to push for any shortcut and an SEO specialist who wants to keep your business buckle. But that is not the way it is done by reputable companies.

You need to have a marketing budget laid out and be clear about how long you are willing to go to get better results and make sure that it is all part of the plan we discussed above and they adhere to ‘Google’s Best Practices’. 

6.Real Companies Send Regular and Real Reports

It is very easy to hide behind graphs and complex statistics in a digital marketing language, especially if you know the customer is not SEO savvy.

Many below-par SEO companies used that tactic for years to keep their customers, but they had no real way of checking these reports.  

Now real SEO agencies will provide weekly reports. Some should be interactive, so you can click and see for yourself. It would help if you also were given a LIVE keyword Tracker, which means you can check on the following:

  • Where you ranked when the project started
  • Where do you rank now
  • How many places increased that is
  • The search volume on each keyword
  • And more…

This makes a huge difference in showing you transparency and plenty of data on your project daily.

If an SEO agency in 2023 is not providing most, if not all, mentioned above, then go and find one that does, as there are plenty out there. 

Good Companies Give you a Campaign Manager regardless of your spend

A real company that doesn’t judge you by how small the amount you spend with them they will still assign you a ‘Campaign Manager’ even if you start at the bottom.

Taking a startup company up to an SME is not about ignoring you as you start on the smallest package.

Having someone to go to who knows your campaign inside out is not to be sneezed at. 

Many small business owners make the mistake of approaching the biggest companies thinking they will quickly make the most money. But it doesn’t always work like that. When clients spend tens of thousands a month on marketing with them, they get priority!

Look for a local SEO agency that understands you and gives you a campaign manager. Therefore, you can communicate with them daily to help you grow organically. 


Remember, you are not approaching an SEO company for a three-month test. Organic SEO doesn’t work like that. It’s a long-term marketing strategy. An SEO agency will also work on various other forms of marketing to help gain brand awareness and exposure. Still, you must go in there with at least a 12-month mentality. So be prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. Good luck with 2023!

david harnold

David's versatile blogging expertise spans across multiple domains, including fashion, finance, and education. With 5 years of experience, he curates engaging content that resonates with his audience, offering practical advice and inspiration in equal measure.

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