The Innovative Manchester SEO Agency
We are Embryo, a Manchester SEO and digital marketing agency with several years of experience in search engine optimisation. Manchester is our home, but we service many companies across the United Kingdom. Our search consultants have brought greater web traffic and paying customers to our clients’ websites with strategic online marketing tactics (SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media, and other channels).
Whether it’s improving rankings through earned link building, working on your global SEO strategy, producing engaging content, keyword research, conversion rate optimisation (CRO), working on local SEO strategies, running our well-renowned site audit, or building a pay per click (PPC) campaign, our experienced account managers know how to rank businesses well in many different industries.
The value that search engine optimisation can give to your business
If an SEO consultant posts a piece of long-form content and no-one is around, does it still make a sound? We’d argue no, especially when the ultimate goal is conversation, consideration and conversion. A site’s web pages may scream expertise, style, and that the business is the best out there, but if it doesn’t rank well on Google, then it’s (almost) digitally invisible. In fact, first page search results garner ninety-five percent of all website traffic, so organic SEO success (and to get on page one) is a must.
With Google’s search algorithm reportedly changes up to five hundred times a year (but probably more). Major updates such as Google Panda and Google Penguin prioritise ‘white hat’, higher-quality sites over those worked on by shortcut-taking marketing companies. Using keyword stuffing, low-quality content and off-page tactics like poor-quality links doesn’t work. It’s imperative you have an SEO campaign in place that takes all of these factors into account – otherwise page one success will not happen.
At Embryo, we’ve seen the success that our strategies have had, improving our clients’ website traffic, leads and conversions. We know how to give a website that edge over competitors, with the right mix of content, site structure/taxonomy, and link building strategies. Our SEO experts strip your site down to its core, find those defining keywords and ensure your site improves its profile on all devices – now that mobile SEO performance is paramount to Google since early 2019.
Which services are most requested?
Removing incorrect tactics from previous SEO companies, ensuring Google bots can travel the site with no problem
Content Writing and Strategies
Semantic keyword and competitor research, creating long form content on all key pages
outreach to websites to earn links for well-crafted content assets on a client’s site
making sure that mobile browsing experiences are top quality from speed to display to operation
Enabling businesses appear in a consistent manner across directory websites, helping Google to how to display client in local SERPs
From metadata to HTML cleanup, ensuring that Google understands the theme and topic of each web page implicitly
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
Making the most of existing and future visitors from organic, social, and PPC channels
Deep-diving into on-page and off-page search ranking factors
Our in-depth audits include:
How many pages are indexed, length and quality of content per page. Is duplicate content an issue on-site or off-site?
How many keywords does the site currently rank for?
How does Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix rate the site for speed?
Are citations healthy? Is NAP data consistent?
Are inbound links to the site from good sources? How many links point to the site?
Do all pages have unique titles, descriptions? Are they performing?
Does the site have any problems when being loaded from a mobile device? Is the content easy to read and navigate?
Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Are there any issues with manual actions, sitemaps, security problems?
Our strategies and why they work
From SEO analysis to web development, social media marketing to voice search tactics, building links and other off-page SEO strategies, the range of skills in this hungry, problem-solving digital marketing agency is varied, and comes from experienced and creative minds. Whether it’s mundane, yet crucial tasks such as periodic technical health checks for things such as crawl anomalies, or innovative strategies such as aiding clients to increase Google reviews to help with local SEO tactics (which we have seen have real ranking boosts for clients), we ensure our client’s website becomes a success.
What we are trying to say is that our strategies combine the boring but highly necessary repetitive tasks, with the fun, innovative, creative work that all websites need to reach an ever-greater audience. Unlike some Manchester SEO agencies (and marketing/search-led development teams in other cities, too), we understand the value of the ‘boring stuff’ and how it underpins any creative work that we do.
Good SEO Builds Trust
The goal of any good SEO is to draw visitors into an attractive and efficient website by building a strong foundation of authority and credibility. If you have a beautiful website with a clean, fast and enjoyable user experience, that’s great. But you need people to find it. That’s why good SEO focusses on becoming easily discoverable by building trust in search engines.
There’s a lot that goes into becoming credible and authoritative in search. Trust is gained over time through techniques such as having quality backlink profiles, positive user behaviour, and optimized content and on-page elements. By finding authority on search, your site will rank well. That means that users are more likely to trust your brand from the moment they come into contact with it.
It takes patience, commitment and hard work, but the fact is that establishing credibility and trust with Google and other search engines will do more for you than most other digital optimization. If you want your SEO to reach its maximum potential, then it’s about playing the long-game.
Working with technical SEO in mind
From sitemaps, robots.txt and 301 redirects, to page speed, site architecture and structured data markup – there are a lot of factors needed for effective technical search engine optimisation. Our understanding and expertise of best practices from years of search engine experience, and a thirst for new knowledge, allows us to prepare your website so that Google is able to travel around it as quickly as possible, yet understanding each and every page that it visits, culminating in great Google rankings.
Ensuring an excellent technical SEO profile is not the only way for a website to rank well in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. But it can form the bedrock of a successful search engine marketing campaign, allowing site architecture, content, and offsite marketing tactics such as inbound links and social media signals to work much better.
We always start to work on a new search campaign with our in-depth 150+ point SEO audit (taking in several data sources including Google Analytics), as this allows us to see which previous SEO strategies and tactics are and aren’t working.
Our audit of the website will help to determine the best way for the site to start to perform better in Google Search Console, which goes a long way to successfully improving rankings in ‘SERPs’ (Search Engine Results Pages) which then increases visitor numbers.
Monthly reporting, instantly
Then we report. We analyse KPIs and ROIs to ensure you’re gaining traffic, organically rank well, and see real SEO results. Whether content marketing, search marketing, link building, or social advertising is key to your online success, we will have recorded each and every action that we have made, so that there is an identifiable log of actions that create success, alongside our monthly reports which report upon ranking and visitor improvements.
While monthly SEO reports are the norm for digital marketing agencies in Manchester – and we of course create and provide these – it is our in-house workflow management system that can often provide our clients with much more beneficial information about what work is being done, why, and when. Transparency and communication are at the heart of this digital agency’s marketing services.
Some of our technical SEO strategies
Ensuring that sitemaps are functioning properly, up to date, have correct markup, and are being indexed and read correctly in Google Search Console
Creating a taxonomy and navigation structure that helps Google bots (and humans) to understand where they are within a site at any one time
Identifying any issues that the server hosting a domain may have – from speed issues to suggestions for CDNs and compression technology
Making a website load in as fast a time as possible including time to first byte (TTFB) and checking the number of internal and external requests
On-Page SEO techniques that we employ
Creating a solid set of well-optimised, ‘white hat’ metadata elements (mainly title and description)
Making sure that not only is the correct ontology used, but that keyword placement is well thought out
If long form content is present on a page, that it is potent all the way through, not just at the beginning of body content
Elements to help with page load speed such as removing bloated HTML code including inline styling and class names
Correct use of abundant, useful internal linking within the body of the content of a site, rather than only in menu items
Off-page SEO work that we do and recommend
We build useful content assets on client sites for reference when building links with outreach campaigns
We have a specialist outreach team that works with publishers, bloggers, and website owners to gain links for our clients in combination with our content creation
Part of our outreach work includes guest blogging on relevant and/or useful sites that will help to send traffic to our clients, as well as pass authority
Working with news agencies in particular, our digital PR work helps us to gain mentions and links from newspapers and other publications for clients
We employ various social outreach strategies to help us to use the power of social media influencers to drive traffic to clients
Long form content is…beautiful
There are a few digital marketing companies in Manchester (and elsewhere) that will talk ‘SEO tech’ to you, and discuss things like a free audit of your website (we do this, too, by the way), and local SEO trends, in detail. They’ll talk about their work exclusively on on-site optimisation strategies, and bring young search engine optimisation ‘nerds’ into meetings that explain the virtues of mobile search, indexing, Google’s algorithms, spiders and how they crawl websites – and everyone’s (not) favourite topics of metadata and keyword density (that old chestnut).
All of these are useful, of course. Most of these techniques are necessary, in fact. But long form content is something that many professional SEO agencies that offer ‘organic SEO services’ still shy away from – and in our book, you can’t get more organic than lots of great, well-written website copy.
This page, as you can see, is a pretty decent piece of long form copy that many would say constitutes a good read for a potential client to understand just what it is that we do as a marketing leader in the city. It also has a good use of keywords and is a pure showcase of white hat search engine optimisation. While off-page SEO will help this page to rank, the fact that we have put so much care and attention into the page, having written so much content and styled it effectively, means that readers can see the way that we convert visitors by being so verbose, yet so highly targeted, and aesthetically pleasing, too.
We’ve often been asked “What are the key benefits of using long-form content?”, and we have a great answer – targeted visitors from organic search traffic gained from ranking improvements. That’s the aim for your online presence, right?
Optimising websites for visitors becomes much easier when a site is full of beautifully-crafted content – whether that’s from a desktop search or mobile. SEO has many facets, and content will forever be the most “Google friendly” of them, which is why we are one of the very few Manchester SEO agencies that are ‘content-first’. Yes, we are great at backlink analysis, load time optimisation, are experts in WordPress, know our way around citations and local search tactics such as clever work around Google Places, but we are most happy when crawling has happened, pages have been indexed, keyword ranking software has been updated, and metrics show that our clients have increased their positions in Google.
This is what happens to websites filled with long form content on a monthly basis. It makes us happy, but more importantly, our clients are happy, too.
So, yes, as your design/marketing/web app developers/search engine optimisation agency, we will always be insisting that you add content no matter what niche/industry you are in, or whichever specific keywords you wish to rank for. We make no apology for it. There will always be competitors in your sector that yearn for increased ranking visibility, yet will not add the content that is so necessary – leaving a wonderful gap for your website to fill.
Content is what we love to do – because it works and it’s fun to write. Come and work with us to see how you can be converted into a content nerd, too.
Why You Should Work With Embryo
We are a results-getting, energetic, innovative, nimble, yet experienced search-led digital marketing agency based in Manchester. We specialise in lead generation from channels such as organic search, web design, pay per click strategies, social media and high quality content creation. We utilise the talent and experience within our agency to improve your web presence and online business. Many say it, but communication and transparency are paramount to our business and a driver of our own success.
If your website has been lost among the competition, or you don’t understand why your site ranks where it does – and you’re wondering how you’ll ever be found, then let us show you how we can win you more business.
We have small and large online marketing clients
We work with and are trusted by small and large businesses including SMEs and international brands alike. We ‘do’ reputation management for blue chips, and search engine optimisation for SMEs – and vice versa. Whilst many in the industry over-promise and under-deliver, our transparent, clear focus on producing content that earns links, with well-thought out technical search strategies means that no matter the size of your company, our methods work.
Our team is full of innovation and great thinkers, which leads to much ingenuity, no matter the size of the client that they are working with. Sustainable growth of an online campaign for any size of client comes from both the monotonous, arduous tasks, combined with inspirational ideas and leaps of faith. The difference in service to our clients big or small is not quality-based, but merely the amount of time each client pays for.
Monitoring the goals that we set and reporting upon their progress is paramount to all of our customer relationships, as are the statistics and milestones we report upon. Because of this, Embryo has become a leading Manchester SEO agency, albeit a stringent and insistent agency, especially when it comes to web content and practicing wholesome search marketing tactics.
SEO Campaigns – here’s what happens
To create the most potent search engine optimisation campaign, we first run our 159-point SEO audit with each point manually checked. Running concurrently to this audit, we will be identifying keywords and key phrases (along with search volume), and looking through Google Analytics data to thoroughly identify the existing and potential search audience.
If we haven’t already done so at proposal stage, we will run an EmbryoGraph, which compares the current site statistics (such as number of links, amount of pages indexed, domain authority) to the competition. Search competition usually comes in two forms – the competitors that rank well in Google searches for the keywords that you wish to rank for, and the competitors that you compete with in other sales channels.
As well as auditing, keyword research, and competitor analysis, we check search engine results pages for various ontological-related key phrases to create a holistic helicopter view of the industry.
No matter if you want us to run an SEO campaign in Manchester, the north west, or the UK, our research work will be very similar (and thorough). If good, solid on-site, off-site, and industry research is done, then this creates a great platform for SEO techniques to work better from the off.
2. Technical SEO.
Improving how a website is traversed by Google, how fast it loads, and how understandable each page is in and out of the context of a site menu system, is at the heart of technical SEO, or ‘on-site optimisation’ work. This work is boring, tiring, and frankly, not much fun, but is crucial to the success of a website, especially if, as in most cases, many wrongs are being corrected. A few HTML or metadata changes on a page template can have a dramatic effect on how Google robots are able to understand what the theme of a web page really is. Multiply this by several hundred pages, and rankings and visitors can soon rise.
Working from our aforementioned audit, our SEO team ensure that all online ranking factors are fixed including checking things like broken links, mobile responsiveness, conversion tracking, local SEO factors, among regular checks for the number of pages indexed, and inbound links.
3. Content Writing.
Show us a site with excellently-written, long form content on every page, and we’ll show you amazing rankings in Google SERPs. Content and SEO go hand in hand – and to us are one and the same. We are often met with widely-open mouths when we suggest the addition of “two thousand words to the homepage”. But as clients get braver about search marketing techniques, take on our suggestions, and start to rank for phrases that they never thought would gain them business from search rankings, they are usually the party pressing us to add long form content to service and product pages, too.
Content helps in so many ways, and especially content of great length that is interlinked with various key pages in the site – especially if the links are within paragraphs of text, rather than just menu options, or a link above or underneath a paragraph that is describing it. Long tail phrases are much more likely to find your site if it has well-written content that explains various aspects of your service or products. Pages with greater amounts of content are also much more likely to be linked to, or shared on social media platforms.
4. Earning and Building Links.
Even those who barely know who the best Manchester SEO agencies are have heard of link building and its largely negative connotations. Building links has a bad reputation for one main reason – the shortcuts that thousands of website owners and search engine optimisation companies deployed over a number of years. Link spamming does still go on to this day, but it is much less prevalent than it once was. We consider attaining new links as a digital PR process, usually encouraging website and blog owners to link to a quality content ‘asset’ on our client’s site.
We consider citations as part of a wholesome link building campaign, and ensure that citation listings happen near the beginning of any SEO work, unless they already exist. “Name, Address, Phone” (NAP) consistency and brand mentions are an ever-increasing Google ranking factor (and other search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo), so this part of link building is crucial to get right.
5. Workflow, consistency, and transparency.
We have created first-rate on-page SEO strategies, we love nothing more than to write lots of content, we harness the power of inbound links, but where we feel that we excel over other Manchester digital marketing agencies is in our workflow management and operations.
Through a combination of our operations manager, Cicely, and our workflow software of choice, Notion, we are able to manage client accounts with great precision. Whether building citations, creating an outreach strategy, planning for an off-page SEO review, reporting upon a recent uplift in Google rankings, or the gaining of a new link, we capture every action, and record how long it has taken. Clients are able to see, to the minute, just how much time we have spent on their account.
This makes our client services so much easier, leaving us more time to work on real digital activity. An informed client is a happy client. And an informed, happy client with improving visitor numbers is a content client.
Monthly SEO reports, whilst necessary, and indeed important, are much less reviewed at Embryo due to the aforementioned workflow management system and practices that we use to run our digital agency.
Our highly image-led monthly reports are very easy on the eye, and spend little time in complicated SEO jargon – or social media, or PPC jargon for that matter.
Clarity is important to us as a business, and we have never felt the need to over-complicate or inflate our words. Clients see right through this. Because of our close relationships with clients, all actions recorded in Notion, and useful monthly reporting, nothing makes us more happy to know which elements of our work has resulted in improved client rankings, visitors, and enquiries/sales.
Search Questions Answered:
What is SEO and how does it work? Dan: In a nutshell, SEO is making your website as appealing to Google and other search engines, as they aim to send their users to the best possible websites. Over the years people have tried to make SEO sound more complicated, and whilst there is an understanding needed at quite a technical level to delve into algorithms and other things, if you built your website with the question ‘is this the best possible website I can build, and would users have a good experience on the site?’ you won’t go far wrong, and you’ll rank well in organic listings.
Do landing pages help with SEO? Sam: They can be, but only when optimised correctly. The potential issue with landing pages is that they tend to be very similar, and very thin on content, so not providing the greatest experience in the sense of a query search. It can be tricky to get landing pages right for SEO, but when they are right, they’re no less useful than a normal page on the website.
What is image optimisation in SEO? Sam: Image optimisation is a tale of two halves, the first being focused around ensuring the image is compressed as much as possible without loss of quality. This allows the image file size to be decreased, and therefore load quickly. You should also make sure that you’re serving images which are scaled correctly.
The second half is ensuring that images have appropriate file names and alt text. For example, an image with a file name of ‘IMAGE1.PNG’ and an alt text of ‘IMAGE1’ isn’t useful for search engines, nor people using accessibility software. The filename and alt text should accurately describe the contents of the image – for example, ‘red-car.png’ and ‘red car on a road’.
Is HTTPS better for SEO? Dan: Simply, yes. Having your site on a secure server (which is what HTTPS signifies) is a sign to Google that users on the site can trust you. Most websites can obtain a free SSL certificate, and it’s quite easy to implement. This would be one of my first port-of-calls when looking at a new site from an SEO perspective.
What is on-page optimisation in SEO? Sam: On page optimisation is ensuring that various signals on the pages of a website send the appropriate signals to Google that help to improve rankings. Whether this be great content, improved page titles with reference to the topic written about, or inter-linking content are just a few examples of on-page optimisation.
Is SEO or social media a more important marketing priority? Sam: Digital marketing is working together more than ever before and having a well-rounded strategy including different channels – including SEO and social media – is the key to create the greatest amount of online visibility. Whilst some industries will suit one digital marketing discipline or the other more, it largely comes down to where you audience is looking for your services. Paid options when applying social media marketing also mean that if you’re looking for a quick short-term return this could be the better option – again, depending on your product or service.
What is the best tool to check a website rank? Callum: SEMrush – it can tell us not only where a site is ranking, but the changes in rank over certain periods of time, search volume, visibility and estimated traffic. But what is it that makes SEMrush the ‘best tool’ to track website rankings? Because it’s an ‘all in one’ platform. SEMrush has it all in one place, so any SEO or marketer can check everything, anytime, in the same place. From website audits to keyword suggestions, SEMrush can do it.
What is enterprise SEO? Sam: “Enterprise SEO” is typically mentioned when working with large companies whose websites run into thousands of pages, and in some cases, millions. For this you need a solid SEO campaign managed by an experienced team of people who understand how the strategy can scale and have a positive effect on the website as whole. Managing even thousands of pages individually isn’t realistic, so every decision needs to be based on how it will effect everything, not just a certain area.
How to write meta descriptions for SEO? Callum: Meta descriptions are not as important to successful SEO campaigns as people may think, but they are important to write correctly, so that they entice users to click on an organic listing following a Google search.
How does link building help SEO? Callum: One of the biggest rewards in gaining an increased number of links pointing to your site is gaining Google’s trust. By earning/getting links from relevant and/or high in authority websites, Google will see the trust other sites have given to your site and will start to trust it themselves. The ultimate result of this is Google ranking your site higher for various keyword phrases in its search engine, usually resulting in higher traffic.
Although it sounds easy enough, gaining and earning links has become considerably harder to do over time. Owners of websites are evermore so reluctant to link out for a number of reasons (most ill thought out). And Google loves anything that is hard to do. In terms of SEO factors. the harder something is to do, the more Google places emphasis upon it within its algorithm.
How long does it take for SEO to work? Sam: This is entirely dependent on many different variables including the industry you’re in and the competition level of your target phrases. As a benchmark, you should expect to see some progression by month three of your campaign, and start seeing solid results at around six months.
How do I become an SEO professional? Dan: Practice. Practice. Practice. Not one SEO in the world knows everything, and if they claim they do then block their email address/phone number immediately. The industry is constantly changing which makes things difficult and Google constantly tweaking their algorithm is another factor to consider. To get to ‘the top of the game’, constant practice and research is needed. Testing things is also vital – it’s not uncommon that a great SEO devises a new campaign they’re over the moon with, and it falls flat on its face. Being wrong is not a mistake, being wrong and then employing the same tactic again is when it becomes truly wrong. Everyone will get something wrong (or ‘break’ a website for example). Just make sure you learn from it.
How many keywords should I use? Sam: The days of Manchester SEO companies (and agencies from other locations) offering services that includes a set number of keywords are over. Whilst it is OK to have some phrases you want to rank for, you should instead be focusing on writing excellent content, and increasing overall visibility.
What are the best practises for on-page SEO? Dan: Here are my top 3 tips for on-page SEO:
1. Don’t spam it.
Make sure your content reads naturally. Don’t mention the keyword/phrase you are targeting fifty times in a 300-word paragraph. Google knows what you’re trying to do here.
2. Title Tags.
Keep title tags simple. I’d always recommend following the following format:
‘Product/Service | Brand Name’
I could write a hundred different tips here, but to sum it up in one, it would be: Build your site, and produce content so that reads naturally. If Google can see you’re trying to incorrectly manipulate the rankings, it may work in the short-term but don’t expect this to last very long.
What should I do to get traffic on my site? Dan: Employ the best specialist SEO agency in Manchester (hint!) and save yourself the headache! If you did want to do this yourself, the best way to get traffic to your site is to ensure that you’re adding value with your site. Look at it like this, if you were a user looking to buy a product/service or gather information about a specific topic, would you be happy with your experience on your own site? If not, then make the necessary changes. If you are, Google will have no hesitation in sending your site traffic. Obviously, obtaining backlinks and other factors contribute to the levels of traffic your site will receive, but as a general rule of thumb, this is a good one.
What is Google Analytics in SEO? Callum: As SEO’s, we want as much data as we can get from the sites we work on – from organic traffic to returning users – to help us mould our next campaigns to improve rankings. One of the main reasons we use Google Analytics (GA) is to make sure what work we do is working through iterative reports over time.
What is W3C validation in SEO? Sam: Google understands correct W3C validation as promoting a good user experience, and from various tests that we have done and seen, we think that it is a ranking factor in its algorithms. Google specifically states that broken HTML could result in drops in a website’s crawl rate.
How does social media help SEO? Sam: Social Media can help SEO, but probably only indirectly. A page on your website which performs well on social media is more likely to gain organic backlinks too, which in turn could result in higher rankings for that page. One often forgotten factor is also engagement. If social traffic to a particular page is well engaged, again this could have a positive effect on your rankings as Google will interpret that page as being valuable to users.
Does Adwords affect SEO? Dan: This is a tricky one. Google’s answer would be a categorical, ‘No!’ However, several studies have shown a correlation between budget spent on paid ads within the SERPs and organic ranking improvements. Some argue the more you spend with Google on their Adwords platform, the higher you rank organically – as a sort of ‘reward’ from Google.
Personally, I disagree with this thought. I think it’s simply a case of that if a business is spending a large amount on a PPC campaign, they probably also have the budget to have employed good quality SEO services, too.
How to write SEO content for a website? Sam: The first step is to stop writing content for search engines and start writing content that your target audience is going to engage well with. Look into the successful competition – how have they structured their content? Be sure to include mentions of key subject matters, as well as semantic phrases which are associated with the subject. For example, if you were writing about servicing a car, you should look to include words including engine, oil, checks etc.
What’s your favourite SEO method? Callum: Long-form content based around questions which attract highly engaged visitors to the website. This content should ideally cover all steps of your customer’s buying funnel.
Dan: I love long-form content. It works an absolute treat, and conforms with exactly what Google wants. Content written by industry experts which increases signals regarding expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Long-form content combined with a few links from high quality external sources will get you where you need/want to be in terms of rankings.
What is an SEO-friendly URL? Dan: A URL that a user would be able to work out what the page is about from viewing the URL alone. This isn’t strictly a ranking factor but will improve the likelihood of people remembering it, obtaining backlinks, and people sharing the URL on social media.
How does Google’s mobile-first index change SEO? Sam: Google used to crawl the desktop versions of websites, and from that rank them on mobile device searches, whereas now they’ve switched it around and they crawl the mobile version and rank the desktop from what they find. The main way it has changed SEO is that now you need to provide a great experience to mobile users, especially when it comes to speed, design and user engagement.
Can you explain PPC vs SEO? Callum: The main difference between SEO and PPC is that traffic coming from search engine optimisation work – and therefore appearing ‘organically’ in Google rankings – is free, with traffic coming from pay per click (PPC) being paid for. Adwords (the ‘PPC’ advertisements listed Google search pages) are almost certainly always going to be shown before organic listings in search engine results pages (SERPs), because paid search ads are how Google makes much of its revenue.
Improving search engine optimisation features on your site can result in search traffic that costs nothing to receive, so if you have no budget for paid search, than SEO is perhaps the main way you will receive web visitors. If you use PPC, put simply, you effectively bid against other advertisers to appear in various positions – and in various frequencies – above organic Google listings when users type in searches and receive results pages.
I’m an experienced marketing manager that understands the basics of digital marketing and search engine optimisation – but what should I be looking out for when working with an SEO agency?
Well thankfully, gone are the days where larger companies, or small businesses for that matter, employ heads of marketing or digital marketing managers that are happy with (or even suggest) using ‘black hat SEO’ tactics such as spammy links to fill out their link profile with the same anchor text over and over. Even grey hat SEO services are now rebuked by employees who would have previously entertained anything for a quick fix. White hat SEO – as Google’s algorithms have improved from what they were even a few years ago – is now (thankfully) the ‘norm’, with most people that control digital marketing budgets. Added value is what clients are looking for – they understand that ranking for their key search terms comes from unique content, social shares, ‘link juice’ (not just ‘lots of links’) that is guided towards content pages for a target keyword (or a cluster of keywords) – not just an alt attribute here, and tweaking of meta tags there.
This has changed how search agencies like Embryo work with what are now much better educated clients in local and international markets. Our conversations are now a lot more about a client’s target market, their content strategy (including the creation of LOTS of high-quality content), indexing issues, making pages and menus more user friendly – and (thankfully) not just about nofollow links and trying (and failing) to convince them about the wonderful value of outbound links.
So, as an experienced, professional marketing director/manager, you should be expecting conversations about your company goals (that include your SEO goals), and how you want users to feel and act when they reach the pages of your site. Conversations should start off at the ‘global’ level and gradually get deeper into the technical details, if you want to know them at all. For example, you may mention that speed of page loading is important to you as you have seen the website slow down over time. To us, we know that this could be remedied by various means (e.g. a caching plugin if you use WordPress), but talking about such things early on in a conversation will not allow us to garner what is almost always useful information that can transform how your website performs in each search engine’s rankings.
If it’s early on in the conversation, and an prospective digital marketing/SEO supplier is talking about a ‘canonical link element’, IP address, ‘featured snippet’, or what they have seen using site explorer, then this will stymie a deeper conversation – which could be vital.
By understanding your global goals, and how your own role works within your company, there are many things that can be ascertained to accelerate search engine success. For example, you may work with a third party that is responsible for your business’ information architecture, or have a free tool deep within the site on a specific page that is giving server errors – or additional resources that the company has, but are hosted on another domain that is not indexed and needs moving across to your main domain. From having this type of exploratory conversation and conducting what we call ‘original research’, so many content ideas can be formed that can give you and your marketing team ideas that will propel the site to greatness in the coming 12-months – alongside us fixing site issues concurrently.
Which Tools Does Our Agency Use?
The tool suite at our SEO agency has seen many changes in the past few years. We always like to stay ahead of the curve, using free and paid search tools to manage and monitor things such as backlink portfolios, changes in search queries, organic visibility – and plenty more.
Our main SEO tools are SEMRush and Ahrefs.com, two of the heavyweights that help with a successful SEO strategy. We are also users of the excellent Screaming Frog (as do many leading SEO agencies) to help conduct client audits.
Other tools that we use from time to time include Batch Speed which allows us to test multiple domain names at the same time, using Google’s Page Speed checker. Batch Speed checks a set of websites for both desktop and mobile browser scores – and as any good search engine optimisation agency will know, making a mobile site, mobile-friendly is of ever-increasing importance. We of course use the Google Search Console on a daily basis when looking at things such as increased visibility, linking sites, links pointing to a site with nofollow attributes, and checking everything is OK with an XML sitemap file.
We help to produce our local SEO services by using the excellent Bright Local as part of our work around adding location elements to a site to increase performance on Google Maps in particular. We do occasionally use the Whitespark Local Citation Finder tool when working on improving local search.
When it comes to spending time looking at things such as external link analysis, organic traffic, link equity, a quick top 10 organic search result export, branded key terms – or preparing to start organic backlink generation/acquisition for a targeted outreach campaign for a new client, then it has to be Ahrefs that is our go-to, due to it’s simple-to-use interface across several disciplines (namely links and organic traffic reporting).
When checking for general site issues and errors, such as incorrect use of heading tags, core term focus keywords (for a particular page), ensuring image formats are kept to our own internal standards, ensuring no silly mistakes such as non-visible text is shown – essentially, anything leaning towards the more technical parts of SEO, then we use SEMRush. It is probably open in a browser at all times by each of our search team, such is its usefulness.
The more links a page has, the more organic traffic it gets. Yeah, er, of course!
Seventy percent of searches are over three words in length. Longtail.
Sixty-eight percent of online sessions start with a search engine. Not Freeserve?
Voice search tends to trust sites that have a very strong domain rating (DR) score in Ahrefs. Trust.
Around seventy five percent of local searches done on a mobile are visited within a business day. Bricks and mortar.
Just less than half of position #1 pages have reciprocal links. See, they aren’t that bad!
A typical voice search result is likely to be in the top three for that search in a Google SERP.
Around thirty percent of keywords that break the ten thousand searches per month barrier contain at least three words. Verbose.
Pages that rank in the top ten are on average around two years old. Room for maneuver!
Around a measly five percent of pages will rank in the top ten for a given keyword in their first year of existence. Give it time.
The average link costs around £300 in 2020! Things were different in my day!
Featured snippets are where voice search answers are sourced from almost half of the time.
Blogs and infographics have now been taken over by video in terms of leading content strategy media. Make up!
Organic search is responsible for just over half of website traffic. SEO is the future.
Average video lengths of leading videos is around fifteen minutes. Short and sweet.
Mobile website traffic is now over fifty percent of all traffic. Responsive.
A position #1 listing on mobile gets just under thirty percent of click-throughs which is about fifty percent higher than a desktop #1 position. Small is beautiful.
A typical page that ranks #1 for a keyword will rank in the top ten for around one thousand other keywords. Content REALLY is king!
SEO is responsible for one thousand times more traffic than organic social media! Influencer.
The phrase “near me” is one of the fastest growing searches over the past three years. Google local FTW.
HubSpot says that SEO leads have around fifteen percent closure rate across all sectors. B2B.
Featured snippets occur less than fifteen percent of the time, although this is growing. Short and sweet.
Around a third of searches relate to a location. There’s no place like home.
HubSpot say that sixty percent of marketers consider inbound traffic from SEO activity and content gives them the best leads. Magnet.
Google creates its own version of meta descriptions over sixty percent of the time. Correction.
Less than ten percent of searches are question-like. What?
Over ninety percent of keywords are searched for less than one hundred times per year. Lonely.
A guest post costs on average around £60 in 2020. Bloggers sure know their worth these days!
Around seventy percent of all search engine clicks go to the top five organic positions. First page is everything!
Store pick-ups from initial online searches is growing rapidly, with forty five percent of internet shoppers using this method. Click and collect.
YouTube rankings are strongly linked with likes, shares, and view counts. Comments too.
Typical top ranking pages earn around ten percent new links per month. Speculate to accumulate.
A site in position #1 for a Google search receives the most traffic for that search only fifty percent of the time. Coin flip.
Over twenty five percent of the top ranking sites don’t have a meta description. Not so descriptive.
Google will soon serve at four billion searches per day. We’re gonna need a bigger rack!
Less than one percent of Google users click on a site listed on to the second page of results. It’s cold out there.
More than two thirds of web pages have no links at all! Sad.
HD videos are now seen as crucial. Seventy percent of leading videos are HD, with this number increasing rapidly. 1024!
Over ninety percent of web pages get zero traffic from Google searches. Content is king.
Why it’s better to choose an agency for SEO than to go ‘in-house’
If you’ve made it this far, then you probably don’t need to be told how important SEO is. For businesses of all sizes and across sectors, the move towards increased digitization has meant that business owners have needed to pay more and more attention to how their business performs online. And SEO is one of the best ways of organically improving your website’s visibility and traffic.
But investing in an agency to take over your SEO can be daunting – we understand that. After all, if you’re not someone who understands much about SEO, it can be difficult to trust an agency. So why not simply hire in-house SEO to perform the search engine marketing you need?
Well, a lot of people do. But it’s not always the best choice. While there are some great benefits to having a dedicated in-house SEO team, the fact is that hiring an agency is still the way to go. Here at Embryo, we understand that as a business owner you need to make the most of your time, money and resources – and hiring an SEO agency allows you to do this.
Hiring and training an in-house SEO team takes time and resources
One of the best things about hiring an agency is that you don’t need to worry about the recruitment process. A good SEO agency can start improving your online presence and visibility with full efficiency from day one. This is what they do, after all.
Everybody knows how laborious, frustrating and time-consuming good recruitment can be. You need to know exactly what you’re looking for and interview carefully to ensure you don’t make any bad hires. The perfect employee rarely falls into your lap, and when you’re trying to build an entire team the process can easily take months – and that’s just to hire the team, let alone train them.
And you will be hiring an entire team. The days of one-man SEO are pretty much over. An effective and impactful SEO campaign requires a range of skills and specialisms to tick all the boxes and deliver results. Putting a well-managed and fully-functioning team together is a huge investment – not just of money, but of time and resources too.
Hiring a full team of talent is always going to be a struggle, and this is where most businesses trying to implement in-house SEO end up failing. Recruiting and retaining marketing talent for an in-house SEO team can be difficult because the majority of this talent tend to prefer going down the agency route anyway. Career-wise, being able to work on a range of different clients and campaigns is more valuable and provides a richer experience. This makes forming a long-term and well-oiled in-house team incredibly difficult.
And this is before we even talk about training your team up. A lot of businesses who choose the in-house route do so because they want an SEO team perfectly suited to their needs as a business, rather than the more general approach they (wrongly) think they’ll get from an agency. But training an entire team of new talent to the point that they understand the needs of your business, its objectives, its branding and messaging, its tone, infrastructure and more? Well, that’s going to take a lot of time, even when you’ve laboriously built a team of talent that you’re happy with.
Hiring an SEO agency, on the other hand, means hiring a team of career professionals and specialists with all the skills, experience and talent needed to bring success to your campaign. Going in-house means you have to build a team around the skills your brand needs, but agencies tend to consist of larger teams. This means that they’re able to assess your needs and match you with the services and talent they have on offer and ready to work from day one.
Opting to use an SEO agency is more cost-effective than building an in-house team
Building an in-house SEO team is going to cost time and resources, but it can also cost a lot of money too. Recruitment costs can often be high (and even higher when employing specialists), and this team is going to be salaried. That’s not even to mention the wide range of tools you’ll need to secure to support your team and facilitate their success.
But why is hiring an SEO agency more cost-effective? A lot of people initially balk at the costs of hiring a reliable and trusted SEO and digital marketing agency. But the fact is that you’re often going to be getting a more streamlined and focused service from an agency compared to an in-house team – especially a newly built in-house team. You’re getting more bang for your buck when teaming up with a good SEO agency, essentially.
This is because agencies employ a wide range of fully-trained and experienced people with a wide range of skills and talents. Their job is to simply match the specialisms at their disposal with your campaign to produce the best results possible. Need a full technical SEO makeover or a dedicated and extensive long form content marketing campaign? Agencies have these skills ready to be deployed from day one of your campaign.
This cuts out the costs and time of hiring and training a team for yourself, just to get things off the ground. Building the perfect team isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t cheap. SEO also exists in a mercurial and fast-changing landscape – it’s difficult to predict and snags and unexpected turns should be, well, expected. Your campaign will have surprises along the way.
Why is this a problem and what does it have to do with the costs of hiring an agency for your SEO? A lot of businesses who opt for the in-house route end up building a bloated team, or a small team that can’t guarantee to meet every problem your campaign comes across. This means that most businesses rely on hiring specialist agencies alongside the in-house team anyway in order to provide the broadest skillset and tools for your campaign. This can become incredibly expensive, believe us.
Hiring a dedicated SEO agency, on the other hand, means bypassing recruitment, training and salaries in favour of a retainer that will be used to meet your needs as efficiently and effectively as possible. A broad range of skills and experience ready to deliver results. When your campaign hits a hitch, an agency will simply reassess and delegate your resources as needed.
It’s also important to note one of the biggest hidden costs of building an in-house team – the various (and expensive) tools your team will need to do the job. SEO is technical and in-depth, and it’s crucial that SEOs have everything they need to vault over problems and roadblocks, and to even simply perform the most basic tasks.
For effective and impactful SEO, you’re going to need a range of different tools. These costs might seem negligible at the time, but they will soon rack up and take a chunk of your resources each month. For a lot of businesses new to SEO and attempting to build their own team, these costs can come as a bit of a surprise.
An agency, on the other hand, comes with all these tools already at their disposal. They employ their team full time and work on a range of different campaigns constantly, so the tools are used every single day – and you don’t need to consider these costs. It’s part of what you pay for when you hire an agency. Agencies come with the best tools already bought and paid for.
Won’t an in-house team understand my business’s needs better?
In a way, yes. After all, a team you have built and employed specifically for your business works on your campaign each and every day. This certainly provides a level of insight that can be hard to match. But this doesn’t mean that a good SEO agency can’t provide everything you need.
There’s an idea that agencies are impersonal, providing a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their clients. And for some of the… less recommended agencies, this can be true. But a good agency will become a valued partner, integrating with your business and providing a seamless service with full communication.
For example, here at Embryo, we pride ourselves on the relationships we’ve built with our clients. With full transparency, good communications, and a commitment to delivering results, we’ve run hugely successful campaigns for clients across a wide range of sectors and industries. The good thing about SEO is that the longer you work on it and the more patience and effort you give it, the better and stronger your results become.
When working alongside a trusted and reliable agency, this also means that as time goes on, your relationship and partnership is only going to strengthen too. For Embryo, we aim to become a simple extension of your business that basically feels like an in-house team anyway – that’s the goal.
Yes, it’s true that agencies work on a wide range of different campaigns at the same time – but this is actually one of the greatest advantages agencies have over in-house built teams. In-house SEO teams tend to suffer from what we call tunnel vision – a tendency to become so enveloped and focused on their business and its needs that they lose a valuable outside perspective.
This can become a problem. SEO is, after all, incredibly fast moving and is always changing. While the principles of good SEO always remain the same, the subtleties of its execution require professionals who stay on top and keep industry news and updates at the forefront of their mind. A good SEO agency will already be fully committed to this – their success depends on it.
That’s because SEO agencies don’t just do work for one business – they work on campaigns for businesses of all sizes across a range of different industries and sectors. This gives agencies a wide and broader experience, building insight and understanding that they can bring to your SEO. In-house teams can become a little bogged down by the goings on of your business and their ultra-focus on your needs can actually become a detriment.
Hiring an agency means partnering with those on the cutting edge of the industry. SEO agencies need to stay up to date with the latest industry trends, techniques and technologies and they bring this to your campaign. Here at Embryo, for example, we’re constantly keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry and blogging our thoughts and insights when it comes to SEO. Most in-house teams lack this wider perspective.
While building your own in-house team means you have completely unfettered communications and benefit from a team that is fully embedded with the goings on of your company, agencies bring their own benefits. If you want a cutting edge approach, broad experience and insight, and a more full skillset, then you can’t beat hiring a top-performing SEO agency.
A good agency can offer you more than just SEO
As we touched on above, a lot of businesses who opt to create in-house SEO teams try to build a small and lean team of specialists. Unfortunately, SEO and digital marketing is so broad and far-reaching that the only winning formula is one that includes a wide range of different skills and talents – something that small in-house teams often lack.
SEO isn’t just one thing. If you hire ace technical SEO specialists to streamline and fix your website, they might not be able to handle your content marketing needs. If you hire talented content writers to boost your website, what happens when you need them to build links? And if you recruit great link builders, they might not be able to promote your site sufficiently through different channels like social media and paid advertising.
Any modern SEO campaign requires a multi-faceted approach to not only deliver the greatest results, but to even simply make the most of the hard SEO work that’s being done. SEO requires content marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, thorough web development and design, and more to have the best impact possible. Building an in-house SEO team with all these skills is both incredibly difficult and expensive – which is why it is very rarely done.
On the other hand, a dedicated SEO and digital marketing agency will come equipped with a team of talented professionals skilled in all things needed for a successful campaign. Here at Embryo, for example, our team consists of specialist content writers, SEOs, PPC and social media advertisers, web developers and more. While small in-house teams can get a lot done, there are always going to be gaps in their knowledge and talents.
Over time, the needs of a campaign can shift and change. While you might start off needing a full website makeover and audit, there will come a time when focus needs to shift towards content marketing and filling your website with quality content to capitalise on this work and boost your results. When your website is covered in fantastic, user-driven content, you’ll want to start promoting this through the avenues of pay per click and social media advertising. You’ll probably reach a point where your current website can’t support everything you want to do, and you’ll need a full rework – or even a new website built from scratch fitting all your requirements.
The good news is that decent SEO agencies come prepared with everything you need for a range of different possibilities and outcomes. Which means that their services can change alongside your changing needs, adapting to provide you with exactly what you need from month to month. This is the kind of broad reach that in-house teams simply can’t match.
SEO agencies are more flexible than in-house teams
As we just touched on, SEO agencies are able to adapt their services to meet your needs and deliver results, giving them a flexibility that in-house teams struggle to achieve thanks to a more broad range of skillsets. But there’s another big way in which agencies offer a more flexible and varied approach compared to in-house teams – scalability.
Scaling an in-house team – either up or down – is entirely achievable, but is very expensive, difficult and time-consuming. An agency will allow you to scale your retainer as and when you need. You don’t want to become stuck with services you don’t need, or to become restricted and choked because you’re not getting everything you need.
What happens when you’ve got a campaign you need to ramp up and push with everything you’ve got? A small in-house SEO team will struggle to provide the manpower you need and manage the situation. You might end up with an overworked and stressed team trying desperately to provide everything you need – and that’s when mistakes happen and standards slip.
Alternatively, what if you find yourself needing to scale back? Businesses live in a fast-moving landscape and, unfortunately, problems can arise. You might find yourself needing to cut back due to budgetary constraints. Even temporarily, this can be difficult to achieve with an in-house team – especially if you know that you’ll need to resume full capacity at some point in the future.
The alternative is to partner with an agency and benefit from a completely scalable range of services. If you need to change your budget out of necessity, an SEO agency will be able to accommodate you. If you need to cut back, just lower your retainer with the knowledge that you can increase it again when needed. If you need to double down and invest heavily for a period of time, just increase your retainer to meet your needs – your agency will thank you for it and be more than happy to deliver what you need.
How do I know if I can trust an agency with my online marketing?
There are a lot of business owners who shy away from hiring an SEO agency because of a matter of trust. An in-house team offers full accountability and unfettered communications, it’s true – and, unfortunately, there are some less recommendable SEO agencies out there that give the rest of us a bad name. Some businesses have a bad experience with an agency and opt to avoid them in future – but you might be missing out on all the great benefits of working with an agency.
It can be difficult to know if you can trust an agency – a lot of it comes down to reputation and experience. It’s also true that, most of the time, you get what you pay for – if an agency’s prices seem a little too good to be true, then the likelihood is that they probably are.
What are the hallmarks of a great agency you can trust? Well, a lot of it comes down to communication and transparency. If all an agency is offering is one single, barebone monthly report to keep you up to date, it’s hard to track what you’re getting for your money. On the other hand, an agency that keeps in touch throughout the month, takes on feedback and works alongside you will quickly feel like just an extension of your own business.
For example, here at Embryo we make sure that we create strong bonds and build our relationships with our clients, never keeping them in the dark and offering full transparency when it comes to what we’re doing for them. This has allowed us to make our clients incredibly happy, and we’ve grown a reputation for being trustworthy and reliable – you know what you’re getting for your money when you work with Embryo.