But SEO isn’t only about creating content. If that were true, every business would rank for their ideal search terms, increase traffic, and boost online visibility.
This is where award-winning SEO agencies, like Digital Authority Partners, come into the picture.
We help your brand stand out from the crowd through a combination of technical expertise, content strategy and visual media assets that are guaranteed to improve your online visibility.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has existed for as long as search engines have existed. At the most basic level, SEO is the art and science of making a website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) to drive more “free” traffic to a website.
“Free” is a misnomer. SEO requires investment, but you don’t pay-per-click as you do with PPC or “paid” traffic. SEO results in “organic” rankings and traffic. With PPC you buy top rankings. With SEO you earn them.
Search engines create a map of the internet using “web crawlers”. Web crawlers find and index pages. Crawlers examine content, images, internal and external links.
Search engine algorithms consider a number of factors attempting to return search results most relevant to user’s queries. Some of the most important factors outside of relevance are expertise, authority, and trust. In short, the search engine’s goal is to provide the best user experience. SEO is the practice of increasing the relevance of keyword related content and communicating the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of your site in order to rank higher.
For example, an eCommerce store selling pet supplies might want to rank for keywords like “healthy dog food” or “cat scratching post for small spaces.”
Search engines like Google have historically had an adversarial relationship with search engine optimization agencies. Early SEO agencies tried “gaming” Google’s algorithm. Resultingly, Google developed sophisticated ways of identifying and filtering out attempts to artificially boost rank and relevance.
Sneaky tactics like keyword stuffing, high-volume-low-value content, and link farms aren’t just outdated. They’re bad practices that will likely get your content de-indexed and unranked. Google’s changes have been good for everyone. Users get better results. Businesses must produce better content which leads to more positive user experience. Agencies benefit from providing the strategies, guidance, and content to achieve all this.
Why Is SEO So Important?
Long term, SEO produces higher returns from better quality traffic at volumes comparable to or exceeding pay-per-click.
SEO costs more initially, but as the site’s authority and relevance gains steam, it becomes easier and easier to maintain, eventually providing exponential returns for the same amount of investment — up to twenty times or more the traffic than paid search engine marketing or “pay-per-click” (PPC) for the same investment.
Consider — less than 20% of searchers click on paid search results in the US. Most searchers know PPC is “buying” your click — buying space at the top of a SERP. This behavior shows that search engine users trust SEO algorithms more than paid content to provide the solutions they need.
Think of SEO as a giant ship. It takes a lot of fuel to get it moving, but once it has momentum, it’s nearly impossible to stop. With the help of a good search engine optimization agency, a website can dominate its niche and make it hard for competitors to catch up.
Consider the following facts and figures:
- 93% of all web traffic passes through search engines.
- Of those searches, 75% of users never make it past the first SERP.
- 67% of all searches never make it past the first five results.
First page rankings get far more traffic than other ranked pages. Essentially, the first three rankings get the most traffic with the top ranking getting around four-times the traffic of position two. Page two search results result in less than 6% of all clicks.
Other benefits of SEO include:
- A lower cost with a higher return-on-investment than traditional (non-digital) marketing activities like broadcast and print advertising.
- The ability to gain a competitive advantage, regardless of the size of the company or its standing within an industry.
- The ability to track and measure progress, continually refining the strategy to achieve greater and greater results at less and less expense.
Common SEO Issues Agencies Help Resolve
Search engines consider over 200 factors when ranking sites. Sites that optimize more of these factors rank higher. Common issues keeping sites from ranking higher are:
Search engines want happy customers. Happy customers ultimately result from positive user experiences. Clicking a page and having it take 20 seconds to load is a poor user experience. In fact, Google reports that the probability of a “bounce” (immediately leaving the page) increases exponentially with longer page load times:
- 32% more likely to bounce back at three seconds of load time.
- 90% more likely to bounce back at five seconds of load time.
- 106% more likely to bounce back at six seconds of load time.
- 123% more likely to bounce back at ten seconds of load time.
Web crawlers can actually test your site’s performance and assess whether it will load quickly. If your site takes longer than two seconds to load, you are probably losing SEO points. Search engine optimization agencies improve page performance and speed up your load time.
Google frequently rolls out core algorithm changes. In 2021, it released three core algorithm changes. In 2020, it made over 4,500 changes and has increasingly made more changes each year since its release. It’s difficult for businesses with limited time and resources to account and respond to these changes. Agencies have to stay current because their success depends on it.
In 2016, mobile search surpassed desktop searches for the first time. Today, mobile search accounts for 60% of all web traffic and as much as 72% for certain industries.
2016 was also the year that Google began moving to “mobile-first indexing.” This means that the first version of your website the web crawlers see is your mobile website. If your site does not work well on mobile or tablet, or it loads slowly or lacks content, you will lose rank, even if your desktop website is comprehensive and lightning-fast.
Again, this plays into user experience. Sites not optimized for mobile when users are searching on mobile devices create poor user experience.
When a website moves to a new URL, the original URL can be routed to the new location by means of a 301 redirect. When properly executed, the search engine web crawlers can still find the website, and your domain doesn’t lose rank.
If improperly done, when a user clicks on a link they may see nothing – a 404 page. Clearly a bad user experience.
Search engine optimization agencies often find that website rebuild projects have neglected redirects. This leads to a proliferation of “404 Site Not Found” errors. When crawlers encounter redirect errors your site gets penalized.
Search engine web crawlers read all the content on the internet. Think about that for a minute. That’s a lot of content. But these are powerful algorithms. Not only does it note all the content on the internet, it also notes whether that same content appears in more than one place.
This is an easy trap for a website to fall in — it repurposes content across platforms, resulting in duplicate content on different websites. The problem here is that search engine algorithms may interpret duplicate content as plagiarism. The result — a big hit to your site’s rank authority.
In addition, many websites find that they have the same content on different parts of their website.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways SEO agencies prevent your site from being penalized for duplicate content, without removing the content. One way is to use the “Canonical” tag to indicate the primary source and differentiate it from duplicates and republication.
Search engines index the entire public-facing internet but that’s only partially true. It keeps an index of the entire public-facing internet that crawlers can find.
Web crawlers have to find every page of your website in order for all that good content to count toward your SEO. And for all their sophistication and speed, search engine web crawlers prowl the web more or less the same way humans do — by following hyperlinks.
When sites balloon to hundreds or even thousands of pages — local landing pages, blog pages, etc. — it’s easy to miss a page. In order for search engine crawlers to make a complete index of your website, your website must be “crawlable.”
One way a search engine optimization agency can do this is to interlink your content so that there are no dead ends, no blog pages or white papers on lonely unlinked islands of the internet.
In addition, they should submit an XML sitemap to the search engine.
This sitemap contains a complete directory of your site pages, including pathways that the crawlers can follow to note every page on your site all at one go. It’s a foolproof way to make sure that none of your content goes to waste by being ignored by search engines.
Meta content is invisible to users but shared directly with search engine web crawlers. Meta content appears in the header of HTML pages.
While users won’t see meta content when visiting the page, it provides the crawlers with valuable information about your site.
Optimizing meta content is a great way to improve your search rankings. Why? Because meta content helps Google algorithmically understand better what your website is all about.
Meta content search engine optimization agencies optimize include:
- Title Tag. This is the clickable text that appears on search engine results pages. People actually see this content when your website appears in SERPs. It also appears at the top of the browser tab.
- Meta Description. This text appears below the title tag in SERP results and is another opportunity to attract traffic and gain relevance for your target keywords.
- Robots Meta Tag. Instructs crawlers which of your pages to index.
- Alt Text. Descriptive text that can be added to images.
- Canonical Tag. Indicating the original version of written content to avoid getting penalized for duplicate content.
- Header Tags. Assigns headers importance in the order of H1 to H6.
Remember, search engines may choose to show the meta content you create in search results, may choose to use part of it, or none. You can’t choose – but having good meta content on your page increases the likelihood that search engines will use it.
SEO Agencies Care About?
Search engine web crawlers assign site relevance and authority based on the content and structure of your website.
A site has good on-page SEO if its top keywords feature prominently in the places search engine web crawlers assign greater value, including the URL, headers, title, and meta tags.
Any keywords featuring prominently in the written content help on-page SEO, but beware of “keyword stuffing.” Early SEO scams involved copy/pasting the keyword ridiculous numbers of times to boost rank. Search engine algorithms can detect this kind of trickery and penalize sites. After a point, using your keyword too many times will actually hurt your SEO.
Another aspect of on-page SEO is the number of pages and sub-pages, as well as the sheer number of words and images to be found on the website. Search engine web crawlers have always taken a “more is more” approach to assigning authority to websites. It interprets more content and a bigger site index as more authority. But remember, the algorithms can also detect keyword stuffing and other forms of junk content.
On-page SEO also involves making sure your images have keywords as well. Search engines are already evolving image recognition, but for the time being, photo’s alt text is the place for you to add keywords to your site to boost its relevance.
As the name implies, “off-page SEO” refers to SEO tactics that take place outside of your website, in other parts of the internet.
What’s out there on the internet that could help your site? The most basic answer is “backlinks.” Backlinks are hyperlinks that point back at your website. Not links from your website to other sites, but links to your website from other sites. Someone who is not you must decide to link to you.
This is one of the earliest characteristics of the Google algorithm. Remember, search engine web crawlers make a map of the internet, including the interlinking of sites. In the early Google algorithm, a link from one domain to another domain counted as a “vote” for the authority of the target domain. The linking domain must obviously think highly of the target domain — why else would they link to them?
Of course, this was rife for exploitation. SEO agencies simply bought other domains and linked to their client websites, creating “link farms.” Google’s algorithm had to be upgraded to detect these “cheat links.”
Nowadays, only legitimate links can confer SEO authority. The more authoritative the site linking back to you, the better. If the New York Times links to your site from nytimes.com, expect to see a much bigger boost in domain authority than if you get a backlink from Bob’s Pool Service (although the latter doesn’t hurt).
There’s more to backlinking than just having the links, though. Links have keyword optimized “anchor text” — traditionally the blue underlined text. It will help your SEO if the anchor text contains keywords you want to rank for.
In short, off-page SEO relates to a series of signals Google gets about the overall digital presence of your company. These signals help Google, particularly when ranking your pages and articles at the top of search results above all other competitors.
The most common off-page SEO signals include:
- Your social media presence
- Guest Posting
- Brand Mentions (Magazine coverage)
- Press Releases
Technical SEO is like on-page SEO in the sense that it happens on your website. But involves aspects of your website users can’t see. Web crawlers look at your website not only like users, but also like developers — down to the code level. If they don’t like what they find, you could lose rank even if you have great content and tons of backlinks.
Technical SEO encompasses the basics. Is your site SSL-encrypted? Is it mobile-device-friendly? Does it load quickly? These are non-negotiable features that many users will notice. If you don’t have them, web crawlers will interpret this as a lack of domain authority and rank your website lower.
Technical SEO also encompasses whether the search engine web crawlers can make sense of what your website is about. Ways to help them along include:
- Proper header nesting.
- Including an XML sitemap.
- Including structured data, a type of markup language that acts as Cliffs Notes for the web crawlers to interpret your site.
Types of SEO
Local SEO is one of the most powerful forms of SEO. Local SEO is when users enter search criteria that indicate they are looking for something local. Signifiers that trigger local search algorithms include phrases like “near me,” “close by,” or the name of a city, zip code, or street.
Local SEO is powerful because when local algorithms get triggered, they might place a site with lower overall authority above a site with higher authority, simply because it is more locally relevant. This is how a local service provider might rank above a national service provider, provided that the local provider has invested in local SEO.
Strategies for local SEO include adding locally relevant content, adding locally relevant anchor text in backlinks, and optimizing your local search engine business listings like Google My Business.
It also involves increasing your number of citations — mentions of your business that point back to your Google My Business entry. This helps you rank highly on the Google “Map Pack,” some of the most valuable real estate on a local SERP.
Are national brands shut out of local SEO? Not at all. National brands can take advantage of local SEO by creating localized landing pages and Google My Business listings in every city they want to rank for. Smart SEO agencies take advantage of every avenue to rank and drive traffic.
General or National SEO refers to the art of ranking for generic terms which are not specific to a local business.
There are many examples of National SEO. The simplest one is the page you are on. If you are reading this article, it is because Digital Authority Partners, as a company, invested in SEO for the term “SEO agency.” This term is not tied to any specific city (we have offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Diego) and it attracts potential leads for our company regardless of the location of the user searching for this service.
If we wanted to rank for “SEO agency in San Diego” the strategy we would employ would be significantly different than if we want to rank for “SEO Agency.” That’s the easiest way to differentiate between the two SEO approaches.
Another great example of National SEO is how eCommerce websites are ranking for their ideal keywords. If you want to rank for terms like “running shoes”, “argyle socks” or “red shirt”, as an eCommerce company, you will invest in SEO strategies designed to help you get more online visibility for generic terms like these. And that is the definition of National SEO.
Usually, a National/General SEO strategy is significantly more difficult to implement simply because there’s a lot more online competition for these terms, as the national traffic volume will, naturally, be significantly more than any local search result volume for a keyword.
On-page, off-page, technical, and local SEO are the main pillars of a robust SEO strategy. However, some specialized forms of SEO may be appropriate to consider depending on your specific circumstances.
- App Store Optimization (ASO). According to Google, most people searching the Play Store don’t know what app they’re seeking. 40% of Play Store users search apps by function. Optimizing app marketplace descriptions is one way of being found.
- YouTube SEO. Owned by Google, YouTube results are displayed in search results with increasing frequency. Especially for “how to” related content. Optimizing YouTube listings can increase traffic significantly. YouTube users can find your content more easily. YouTube also recommends related videos to keep people watching. Optimizing YouTube copy can help you show up as “Recommended Videos.” Google might even suggest your YouTube video right at the top of the SERP as an organic video result in a special section. YouTube optimization is another way to get to the top of a Google SERP without buying your way there.
- Image SEO. Did you know that approximately 20% of Google searches happen in the Images section of Google search results? That is a lot of searches. Luckily, most of the efforts tied to ranking a page (content, backlinks, internal linking) are factors Google considers when ranking your images as well. But there are also specific tactics tied to improving the visibility of your images. That includes the description you provide for an image when adding it to the content management system of your choice, and the field called “Alt Text”.
Alt text is the text alternative of an image written specifically to help search engines understand what that image represents. Making sure you include the keyword you want to rank for in the Alt Text field, alongside an ADA compliant description, is incredibly important to making sure that your image ranks highly in google search results.
How Can I Work with a SEO Agency to Build an Effective SEO Strategy
SEO is both simple and complex, with many moving parts. SEO requires careful planning and organization and regular production of high quality, search optimized content. Agencies consider the following when defining your SEO strategy.
Benchmark Your Current SEO Performance
In order to get where you want, you have to know where you are. What keywords do you currently rank for? How is your current content performing? Are you ranking for the right keywords? What keyword opportunities are you missing out on?
Agencies audit your keywords and content, looking at analytics like organic traffic, click-through rate, bounce-back rate, page speed, backlinks, and domain authority over time.
These benchmarks play an important role in establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) a few steps down.
Analyze Competitors’ SEO Strategies
SEO is inherently competitive. Someone will rank first for the keywords your prospects are searching. Will it be you or will it be a competitor? The goal is to outrank competitors for keywords that drive business. To do this effectively, you need to understand the challenge. What actions have your competitors taken to boost their ranking, and how can you do better?
Take stock of the top-ranking websites in your niche for each specific service or product they offer. How big is their site map? What is their content strategy, and how much content is on each page? How many backlinks do they have? Do they have local landing pages and Google My Business (GMB)? How many citations point at the GMB for local SEO?
Web tools can tell you all of these things. In some niches, outdoing your competition may be easy. For others, it may be a long haul—but with enough effort, it is always possible to outrank the competition through persistent work with an experienced SEO agency.
Set Your Goals and KPIs
Once you understand where you stand relative to your competition, you know where to begin.
Now you need to define where you want to go. Do you want to be #1 and get traffic for your top services? A few products you offer? What are your expectations around traffic and conversion volumes?
It’s time to establish “mile markers” for tracking your progress. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) shows how you’re progressing toward your goals. KPIs that show positive or negative SEO trends include:
- Total Organic Traffic
- Organic Traffic per Page
- Non-Branded Search Traffic
- Branded traffic
- Organic Conversions
- Geography of Traffic
- Organic Click-Through Rate
- Referral Traffic
- Referral Conversions
- Time On Page
- Pages Visited
- Bounce- Rate
- Backlinks from Authority & Relevant Sites
In addition, either at this stage or, preferably, before you even define the KPIs for your SEO efforts, define your SEO budget. Usually, what we have seen is that companies who dedicate a budget of $10,000-$20,000 a month reap the most benefits for overall visibility in Google search results.
Define Your Primary Keywords and Pillar Pages
Keywords are essentially questions people ask en route to finding and choosing your business as a solution to their problems. Prospects fall into three basic categories. Top-funnel prospects have little or no interest or awareness of you. Mid-funnel prospects are in the consideration and comparison stage. Bottom-funnel prospects are ready to purchase. Prospects have different needs and questions at each stage. Good keyword strategy anticipates prospect’s questions and optimizes at every stage. Early on, devote the most resources to bottom-funnel prospects with the highest buyer intent.
For instance—someone searching for “movers” might just be price shopping. “Movers who accept last-minute bookings” shows more buyer intent.
Each primary keyword will be assigned a “Pillar Page” — a content-rich page specific to that keyword. How much content needs to go on the page? Preferably more content than your top competitor’s pillar page. With good technical SEO and backlinking, you stand an excellent chance of outranking the competitor’s pillar page.
Find Long-Tail Keywords and Define Cluster Content
Pillar pages are broad topically related keywords that anchor topic clusters. For example – shoes. From pillar pages you’ll create cluster content such as men’s shoes, women’s shoes, kids shoes, colorful shoes, etc. Within your clusters you’ll develop further topically related content clusters like trendy fall shoes for women, best women’s dress shoes, casual shoes for women, best women’s running shoes in 2025, where to buy women’s flats, etc.
We call this “cluster content” because it clusters around the pillar content as subtopics. Cluster content looks like a “mind-map,” springing off of the core keyword as related keywords. Planning cluster content around long-tail keywords will help build out your content strategy.
SEO is mature and generic keywords in most markets have already been optimized. Ranking for keywords without a specific topic cluster strategy is nearly impossible. The topic cluster is a collection of usually 10-20 content assets designed to prove to Google that you are a subject-matter expert on a specific topic in a specific industry.
Audit Your Site’s Existing Content
Your SEO agency might not have to start from scratch with your content. Take an inventory of the content assets you already have. Can any of them be repurposed into pillar content or cluster content? Perhaps expanded to fit your new content volume goals? If you repurpose older content, beware of losing ground by creating duplicate content.
Build Out Your Topic Clusters
Once you know which clusters still need content, start developing that content. From your pillar and cluster planning, your SEO agency should have an itemized list of content assets, as well as some idea of how much content is needed to outrank your nearest competitors.
Find and Fix Technical SEO Issues
Technical SEO issues hide in plain sight. To tighten up your technical SEO game, your SEO agency should go down the checklist:
- Check your site speed. Do you have any options to boost the performance even more?
- Pay special attention to your mobile optimization and mobile loading speed. Search engines check the mobile performance first.
- Make sure your headers are properly nested and responsive.
- Pay attention to your meta content and make sure it is helping, not hindering, your SEO.
- Add structured data markup to your site.
- Consider submitting an XML sitemap to the search engines to make sure your site is completely indexed.
Master Off-Page SEO
Getting relevant, high-authority backlinks is one of the most challenging aspects of SEO because you can’t control who links back to your site. Content that adds value to sites linking back to you along with solid processes and effective ways of approaching potential link partners is the key to successful backlinking strategy.
Link building might involve reaching out to the target websites asking to be a guest blogger for the opportunity to place a link on their site. It might also involve building “Skyscraper” content or “Ultimate Guide” content that attracts backlinks.
Be careful, though — scammy, spammy, black-hat tactics hurt your SEO.
Analyze and Refine Your Strategy
Once your strategy is in place, monitor your KPIs. Build on what works. Trim and revise what isn’t. SEO strategies continually evolve.
Roles of an SEO Manager at a SEO Agency
An SEO manager is a marketing professional who assumes responsibility for your website’s SEO strategy, including planning, implementing, and managing that strategy. SEO managers are responsible for:
- Keyword Strategy. SEO Managers look at user personas, scenarios, competitors, and analytics to develop short and long-tail keyword strategies. Good keyword strategies address user’s queries at each phase of the sales funnel. They’ll also develop keywords for near and long-term results identifying low-hanging-fruit along with more competitive long-term goals.
- Content Strategy. Large volumes of original content is interpreted as a sign of authority by search engine web crawlers. One of the most powerful ways to expand content volume and authority is with strategic content. SEO managers compile lists of desired content assets based on keyword strategy and competition.
- Link Building. Relevant, high-authority backlinks act like votes attesting to the validity of your content. The more legitimate sites linking back to you, the better. Good SEO managers pursue legitimate opportunities to gain links from other high-authority websites. Backlinks can also drive significant traffic.
- Technical SEO Audit. SEO Managers ensure sites are mobile-optimized, fast-loading, and fully indexed, with good meta content, proper site architecture and other technical SEO factors.
- Local SEO Implementation. Includes optimizing Google My Business, and Bing Places along with local keyword targeting, local citation optimization, and local backlinking strategies.
- Web Analytics. SEO managers install and track web analytics to monitor key performance indicators demonstrating SEO is working. It can take time before SEO results in increased revenue or new business. KPIs provide alignment and direction. SEO managers take action on KPIs moving the wrong direction and capitalize on those moving positively.
Why Should I Bring in a SEO Agency?
You wouldn’t build your own house or fix your own computer, would you? If you have the budget, hiring an agency just makes sense. Agencies are in the trenches of SEO daily. The experience gained from working with many clients in a range of industries can prove invaluable. Agencies can quickly diagnose and address SEO problems and put you on the path of profitability faster. Agencies give you a team of experts specialized in various aspects of SEO for typically less than the cost of hiring in-house specialists. Outreach specialists at agencies may already have working relationships with high-authority publishers in your industry which increases the change you’ll get backlinks. SEO agencies are highly likely to boost your chances of SEO success faster and more efficiently.
In-Depth Knowledge of SEO
SEO exists in a complicated and ever-changing landscape. Even if your in-house team knows something about SEO, they may have gaps in their knowledge — technical SEO but no off-page SEO, for example. If your team doesn’t constantly stay abreast of SEO best practices, what they think they know about SEO could be outdated — even counterproductive.
Bringing in an SEO agency means you will have access to the most current best practices, as well as the ability to implement a comprehensive strategy and to quickly pivot based on feedback.
Experience Helping Businesses Like Yours
If you do your homework, you can select an SEO agency that not only has a track record of success, but also a track record of success in your industry, helping other businesses like yours. Nothing teaches like experience.
Deliver More at a Lower Cost than In-House
While it might seem more cost-effective to perform SEO in-house, doing so could divert substantial organizational resources from other key tasks. For a comparable expenditure of resources, SEO agencies deliver better results.
SEO takes time, but by starting off on the right foot with an expert, most organizations can expect tangible rewards of SEO faster.