I assume you're looking for ways to increase your business's online visibility and search engine rankings. Hiring an SEO agency to do the work has many benefits. Still, it's not a decision that you should make without considering some key factors.


Hi, my name is Evan Ernst. A digital marketer for two decades and founder of Ernst Media.

Don't worry. I'm not going to promote any of the services we provide. The purpose of this post is to help you get a better understanding of:

  • When is a good idea to hire SEO professionals?
  • What should you expect from an agency?
  • How much you'll have to pay for SEO services?
  • What to look for when choosing SEO experts?

When my brother Nick and I started this business, we didn't have a team. We often had to outsource the work clients hired us to do. We collaborated with different agencies and weren't always satisfied.

My point is...I can put myself in your shoes. So, let's get into it.

When and Why to Hire an SEO Agency?

Whether it's the right time to hire an SEO agency largely depends on where you stand in your business journey. I'll break it down from the perspectives of a solo entrepreneur versus a more established business looking to scale.

For the Solo Entrepreneur

You likely have plenty of responsibilities. At the same time, your budget is tight, and every dollar counts. In this phase, I'd suggest focusing on building a solid foundation for your SEO efforts. Get educated about basic keyword research and on-page optimization, and strat creating high-quality content.


You can check our blog post to get familiar with the different types of SEO keywords.


Once you start to see some traction in terms of website traffic and revenue, DIY SEO might no longer do. Spending too much time trying to figure out how to get higher in the search engine results pages. Leaving more important tasks behind. It slows down your biz growth. I've been there.

At this point, you might consider hiring an SEO specialist.

The investment will seem significant at first. But, if you choose a good SEO company (more on that later), the long-term benefits for your business will outweigh the initial costs. Preparing and executing advanced SEO strategies requires knowledge, experience, and paid marketing tools.

For the Business Ready to Scale

If your company is generating steady revenue and you're looking for growth, it's time to consider professional SEO services. Doubling down on a strong online presence has been a game-changer for many businesses.


A recent statistic by SEO Tribunal shows that 97% of people learn more about a local company via the internet.


What I'm saying is that, regardless of the industry or business size, your customers' journey starts online.

You need to get them on your website as early as possible. And I'm not talking about just optimizing your product/service pages for search engines. I'm talking about educational content creation that improves conversion rates.

The old saying, people buy from people they know, like, and trust, is still true.

A seasoned search engine optimization specialist will not only get you more traffic. They'll get you the right traffic and make sure your website can handle it. They'll spy on your competitors and keep you ahead in the online race.

Now, let's see what it takes to get those results.


What Does an SEO Agency Do?

When you opt for professional SEO services, the agency will perform different tasks to help you achieve your business goals. Below is a brief overview of the steps Ernst Media takes when we bring new clients on board.

Most SEO agencies would typically do something similar, although you don't have to sign up for a full package.

what are the seo services provided by agencies

Kickoff Call

This initial meeting sets the stage for collaboration. First, we'll discuss your business objectives and target audience. Then, you'll share your budget and expectations so we can prepare an SEO strategy that aligns with those.

SEO Audit

That's an examination of the current state of your company's website to identify areas for improvement. We'll check for any issues that might hold you down from appearing in the search results. In other words, where the time and efforts should be focused.

Competitor Analysis

Evaluating your competitors' SEO efforts is also a major part of the game. It helps us figure out:

  • Where and how you can outperform them.
  • Where you need more effort to keep up.

Keyword Research

Finding the terms used by your target audience when using search engines is the foundation of SEO campaigns. But before turning on the keyword research tools, we take a step back.

We'll look at the keywords you currently rank for and see if we can boost anything. That's done in Google Search Console. I share more about the process in this article.

Content Strategy

You've heard the cliche "Content is King," right? That's still the case, but there are over 1 billion websites on the internet today. Hence, mediocre content doesn't stand a chance. A good SEO agency will develop a strategy for creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content.

On-Page Optimization

This is done to enhance your existing web pages for better user experience and search rankings. We normally optimize title tags and content structure, add more relevant keywords and internal links, etc.

Technical SEO

Google is getting really picky. How long does it take for your site to load? Is it mobile responsive? Are there any crawl errors? There are tons of technical requirements that you're probably not aware of. The job of an SEO professional is to dive deep into these to make sure your site is search engine friendly.

Off-Page SEO (if needed)

Off-page SEO means one thing - link building. When authoritative websites link to you, Google sees your content as valuable. While backlinks have always been a big ranking factor, in my 20+ years of experience, they aren't always a must.


What is the Average Cost for SEO Services?

The average cost for SEO services will always vary. The main factors determining what you'll be charged are the scope of the project, the competitiveness of your niche, and your location. Here's a breakdown of what you might expect from an SEO agency (not a freelancer):

seo agency cost and pricing models

Project-Based Pricing

Prices for one-off projects, such as an SEO audit, on-page optimization, or a specific campaign, could range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. That means you're not opting for all the services I discussed in the previous section.

SEO Hourly Rates

The average hourly rate is between $100 and $500. It depends on the work you need to be done and where the agency is based. SEO companies in California and New York, for example, charge nearly double compared to their colleagues in Florida.

We charge at the lower end despite everyone being a senior level SEO expert. That's because our team consists of people from all over the country. We're 100% remote, which is cost-effective for both us and our clients.

Monthly Retainers

Many agencies offer SEO service packages paid monthly. In other words, you'll get a number of tasks that must be performed every calendar month. Typically, you'll get a $3,000 to $5,000 bill for those and up to five figures if you're in a super competitive industry requiring link building.


How to Choose an SEO Agency?

While many digital marketing agencies have become proficient in search engine optimization, not all of them deliver on their promises. Over the years, we've had many clients who knocked on our door after being disappointed by another SEO company.

So, here is some food for thought.

how to choose an seo agency

Look for Genuine Feedback

Customer reviews on a company's Google Business or Trust Pilot profile are helpful. However, similar to Social Media reviews, these aren't verified and are often fake.

In fact, fake reviews are a billion-dollar industry, so don't count entirely on them.

The same applies to feedback left on the company's website. Everyone has them because everyone can put a stock person photo, 5 stars, and a few sentences together.

Look for video reviews. It's easier to tell if someone is genuine when you see their face and hear them talk. Another thing you could do is ask for references from past clients, ideally established businesses.

We started asking some of our clients to send us video testimonials. Others, we direct to industry associations like Design Rush, where reviewers are verified.

Avoid Agencies Offering Only Packages

Some folks prefer being charged an equal amount every month. Nothing wrong with that. It's easier to keep the marketing budget in check. The problem is that many agencies offer only packages. And those packages include services your project might not need.

We signed up a client from Texas towards the end of 2023. He was paying a local agency $1,000/month, and the package included things like "Managing and Hosting a Website."

It was a simple WordPress site hosted at WPX, which costs about $100/annually. These guys offer great free customer support, so there is nothing to manage. Yet, the gentleman was charged every month for things the agency didn't do.

Evaluate Their Behavior During the Initial Call

A good agency will ask about your business goals so they can come up with an SEO strategy based on those. They'll be transparent about their methods and never promise guaranteed results in terms of search rankings.


It's Time to Wrap It Up

Here are the 4 questions you should ask yourself before hiring an SEO agency:

  • Is it the right time to opt in for professional services?
  • What SEO services do you really need at this stage?
  • What is the pricing model that works best for you?
  • Did the agency rep sound like they care about your goals?

In case you need more info about SEO strategies or digital marketing in general, I'm always happy to help. Don't hesitate to give me a call or send a message.

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