What Do SEO Firms Do?

It’s a pretty common conversation. A prospective client tells us that they’ve been working with an SEO company. They tell us they’re paying a monthly fee. We ask what the company does for that fee.

“I don’t know,” comes the answer. Or maybe, “They just do SEO.”

If you’re paying someone for SEO, you should know exactly what they’re doing for you.

On-site optimization

Improving your website’s ability to communicate with search engines is legitimate SEO work. Some of the tasks involved in this:

  • Identifying the best keywords for your website and making sure that they’re being used on the site
  • Optimizing or replacing content on your website’s pages
  • Fixing metadata, such as page descriptions
  • Improving page titles
  • Making changes to speed page load
  • Creating and submitting a site map
  • Making sure that the site architecture is clear and suits your business goals

Improving web design doesn’t necessarily have an impact on SEO, but outdated technology can interfere with your website’s performance, so rebuilding your website may be worthwhile in terms of SEO.

These are things you do once. Updating your website regularly as needed is valuable, but there is no reason to change page titles every month, or to change meta descriptions repeatedly. Optimizing content on your main pages can be done whenever there are changes that require re-thinking that content, but it’s not something you should pop in and do every week. If you’re paying a monthly fee for this kind of work, it should either be a payment plan for actual website changes or a retainer covering these one-time or occasional services along with other things.

Off-site optimization

You should submit a site map to Google and other search engines if you have not been indexed or if you make big changes at your website. Submitting sites to search engines repeatedly is pointless. If you add fresh content regularly, they’ll come and look on their own without being told. If you don’t update your website, there’s no reason for them to come and look again.

Link building is valuable. If your SEO company says that they do this, find out what they mean by it. Are they leaving spam comments on other people’s blogs or submitting your site to irrelevant directories? That’s likely to do you more harm than good. Are they creating thoughtful profiles for you in local business directories? Good for them.

Guest posts with links back to your website can be valuable. Influencer marketing campaigns or connecting with the press to encourage links and citations? These can be useful, but they should be strategic initiatives, not random scattershot. Articles at article farms? No longer useful.

As you can see, off-site SEO is complicated. This is not an area in which you want to just fork over the money and hope the firm you hire knows what they’re doing. If you don’t have good evidence that they know what they’re doing, make sure that you know exactly what they’re planning to do before you commit to it.

Ongoing content marketing

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing says, “Content isn’t king… it’s air – we need it to survive.”

Blogging (or whatever you choose to call regular infusions of great original content into your website) is the absolutely most effective thing you can do for your online presence. Content marketing doesn’t stop at blogging, though. Here are some things your SEO firm might be doing for you:

  • Blogging
  • Creating ebooks or other lead magnets to download in exchange for contact info
  • Producing videos
  • Creating infographics
  • Optimizing videos, infographics, and other shareable content
  • Representing you in social media, a forum, or other community with excellent content
  • Writing and promoting guest posts
  • Using analytics and other data to guide content marketing strategy

The content your SEO firm produces must be both high quality and aligned with your business goals and strategies.


These activities are worth paying for and will get good results for you. Often, when we hear that someone has been working with an SEO firm and they don’t know what that firm is doing, they’re paying a small amount. Spending a couple hundred dollars a month for someone to “optimize keywords” or “keep you ranking on Google” may sound like affordable insurance. But it’s not insurance. You should actually be receiving some SEO services. The firm you employ should be able to tell you what they’re doing.

If you’re paying someone for SEO, you should know what you’re getting for your money. It should include some of the valuable activities listed above. Paying a small amount for no action is still paying too much.






2 responses to “What Do SEO Firms Do?”

  1. Nick Stamoulis Avatar

    The number of website owners who don’t know exactly what their SEO firm is doing for them is astounding to me. I would never fork over money to any service provider if I didn’t know what they were doing! Every website owner should have a basic understanding of SEO and receive reports from their SEO provider regularly that outlines the work that has been completed.

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar
      Rebecca Haden

      I agree. It also makes sense to have goals, and to agree with your SEO firm on what metrics you’ll use to measure success. Average rankings for specific keywords from the Google Search Console or increases in search traffic seen in Google Analytics are good KPIs.

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