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How to choose an SEO agency (that’s right for you)

Chris Bardsley / 12 January 2021

With so many SEO agencies out there, how do you find the right one?


Choosing an SEO agency can be a tricky task. Finding one that fits the needs of your business, as well as having a proven track record of getting results, isn’t easy.

In our last blog post, we discussed the 11 key questions you should ask when looking for an SEO agency. If you’re in the early stages of your search, that’s the perfect place to start. It’ll help you whittle down your shortlist and provide insight into the SEO landscape.

In this blog post, we’re going to dive into the specifics before you appoint an agency and the key considerations you need to be aware of before officially hiring them.


If you’re already in the midst of considering SEO agencies, then we’ll assume a couple of things:

  1. You know what SEO is
  2. You know the long-term advantages that can be gained from optimising your website

We won’t waste time boring you with definitions. Instead, let’s discuss the strategic decisions to look out for when an SEO agency is pitching to you for work.

One of List & Found’s favourite questions to ask our clients is, “What does success look like to you?”

This is a question that forces business owners or decision-makers to visualise the impact of the work that will be carried out. Performance coaches might also ask their clients this, and while it may come in different guises, the sentiment is the same:

What’s the bigger picture?

This should be the key consideration before any work is started.

‘But why?’ you might ask. 

Say you own a business that sells bathroom furniture. A fair assumption would be that they want to sell more products, appearing higher in searches for generic items such as “bathroom storage,” “bathroom wall cabinets,” “freestanding bathroom furniture,and the list goes on. This might increase the number of sales generated.

But your goal might be to increase the sales of your highest-margin items, not the products that would get the most clicks on Google.

Our point being, the best SEO agencies will get to the root of your organisational objectives that impact your bottom line rather than simply increase the number of clicks to your website. Commercial objectives are the first thing you should be discussing in any strategic scenario.

The next thing? Your budget. Here’s another example.

You work for an online gambling business and want to increase the number of sign-ups to your website. In reality, you’re competing with businesses that are spending upwards of £35 per click on Google AdWords, in addition to websites that have millions of links.

With the right budget, ranking for this is entirely possible. 

But what if you’re a new business with a very small budget? In this case, it wouldn’t be realistic for an SEO agency to take on this project and get any results. A good SEO agency should never discuss or propose a strategy that isn’t achievable while aligning with your business goals.

When done correctly, you’ll see results in the short to medium term that both have an impact on overall sales and visibility on Google.


The most reliable SEO agencies don’t provide guarantees. 


This might sound a little strange when you think about it, but it makes perfect sense. Google is a search engine with an algorithm that considers hundreds of different factors before returning results for a given search query.

Nobody knows exactly what all those factors are.

Reliable SEO agencies have a good idea of what a website needs to do to rank: keywords, links, and website speed. But while agencies may be doing the best job possible, Google often updates the core algorithm that decides rankings, meaning they fluctuate constantly. And we mean constantly. 

To show you what we mean, let’s consider the Men’s Health website. Their site is often used as a source of inspiration for workout, nutrition, and lifestyle tips that appeal to many different people, not just men.

On July 22, 2018, Google rolled out an update to its core algorithm that affected websites related to health, specifically those with an eCommerce element.

How did it affect men’s health

At its lowest point, there was a 59% decrease in search positions. And for a website that ranks for upwards of 200,000(!) keywords, with around 16,000 in the top 3 positions, this was huge.

With such an established website, you’d be forgiven for expecting the website to perform well for the long haul. This shows just how unpredictable rankings can be. Therefore, any guarantees of ranking in first place are impossible to follow up on.

What you should be looking for from a reliable SEO agency is a sustained approach to improving rankings. Every client of theirs will have keywords that are integral to performance, which will likely form the basis of a monthly report.

The best SEO agencies will be able to share their story of sustained performance, with keywords rising in position and maintaining their status. 

The best way to check? Ask for a referral. A good SEO agency will always have testimonials on their website, and if they don’t, feel free to ask if you can get in touch with a current client for an opinion.

When it comes to results, always beware of short-term gains. It’s difficult to trick Google, but it is possible. There are tactics that can be employed to gain a short-term surge in performance that could propel a website to the top of the rankings in a short space of time.

But Google isn’t foolish. They’ll catch you out.

These short-term gains are not sustainable and have often been achieved by faking the credibility of a website using a huge influx of backlinks. The most reliable SEO agencies will do the opposite and provide sustained growth, growing month by month for years. 

If an agency demonstrates results that occur over an incredibly short space of time, then run for the hills!


Communication is key, especially when it comes to hiring an agency to work alongside your business. Whether that’s someone who’s running marketing campaigns or yourself directly, communicating on a regular basis is crucial to continued success.

Let us guide you through a typical scenario that we hear of time and time again.

You contact a number of agencies on a shortlist to tender (or interview) for your SEO contract. The first interviews & meetings take place. The agency sends in the big guns. Director-level staff go all out to impress you, displaying their knowledge and delivering a solid presentation. After meeting all of the potential businesses, the agency is appointed. Kick-off meetings are scheduled, and the directors are suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Often, the most experienced staff are brought in to win the job, and then it’s handed off to junior staff. Don’t get us wrong; sometimes that’s exactly what’s required. Directors are great for top-level thinking, but when it comes down to getting the work done, you want someone who’s involved in project delivery every single day. 

You need to be made aware of who will be handling your account from day one and that there is a clear line of communication between you and your account manager.

A common complaint is that once an agency is hired, communication drops off. The most reliable SEO agencies will explain how often they’ll be in touch and what type of communication you should expect on a regular basis.

It’s not uncommon to hear from your agency only 2–3 times a month. This would comprise sending your monthly report, followed by a sign-off for any content expected to go live during the month.

The difference between the level of communication outlined above and the best agencies is that they’ll get in touch without being prompted. This can be as simple as informing you of the latest Google update or a recent development in digital marketing.

By keeping you up-to-date with the industry, you can be sure that they are considering every method of success for your campaign.


Budgets play an important role in the selection of the right SEO agency, but there’s quite a heated debate surrounding the amount of time and, therefore, money you need to put into SEO before you see results.

And while there are many different pricing strategies out there, finding what fits your business and style of working is important.

SEO agencies are well within their rights to ask for contracts between 6 and 12 months long. 

Why? Well, in all honesty, it’ll probably be 6 months before you can see actual results. 

The best SEO agencies will show signs of improvement earlier than this; however, six months in, it should typically be clear that they are making a difference to your business.

Plus, contracts give agencies the opportunity to invest more time getting to know your business, developing relationships further, and increasing knowledge transfer. While there’s no right or wrong, we’d say it’s up to a business to decide what works best for them.

How to choose an SEO agency for your business

If you follow the steps above, you’ll be in a much better position when it comes to selecting the right SEO agency to work with.

Often, you’ll get a feel for the agency as soon as you meet them. Their nature and the way they communicate with you will set the tone from the outset. 

An SEO agency that can be trusted will want you to do what’s right for your business. If it’s not a fit, no worries. But often, they’re the businesses that you’ll want to deal with. 

Working with List & Found, you can expect big results, clever processes, and all your t’s and i’s crossed and dotted. We do things properly, and we’ll keep you informed (with no jargon or buzzwords) every step of the way. 

If you’re looking to get more from your website, get in touch with us via phone on 0161 820 2221 or by emailing directly to

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