Prepared by Tug ltd.
Author: Carlo Pandian, SEO Account Executive at Tug

Search engine optimisation is an online marketing discipline that is strongly influenced by the Google algorithm. The algorithm is constantly evolving, in order to provide better results for users.

As users are more likely to click on natural results over a PPC advert, it makes sense to invest in SEO, alongside other online marketing disciplines, to ensure your business is maximising it’s potential to drive sales through all available channels.

SEO agencies are tasked with the challenge of optimising websites in order to drive visitors from search engines, to the key pages of a site.

What should you be asking your SEO agency in 2013?

Marketing managers must be fully aware that an SEO agency has the power to either skyrocket their sales, or penalise their sites forever. They also need to know that off-page SEO activities are having a huge impact on highly competitive markets, but can be expensive when respecting the latest Google guidelines.

There have been numerous conversations regarding "black hat" and "white hat" SEO. The former refers to adopting ‘quick win’ techniques, that can ultimately lead to Google penalising their site, while "white hat" means a more long-term approach on getting results -without taking advantage of faults in the algorithm.

The following are some useful points you may want to discuss with an SEO agency you are working with, or considering working with in the future:

On page optimisation
This practice is very important for the success of a website, and usually involves a recommendations document from the agency, analysing keywords, content and current coding elements to ensure the site is easily readable by the crawlers. As well as looking at what improvements can be made to the current site, you may want to ask your agency how you can get ahead of the competition by targeting non-competitive keywords, or by exploiting some of the latest Google innovations (Schema rich snippet). There may also be an opportunity to create new landing pages targeting specific keywords.

Agencies usually provide their clients with a regular report containing stats, considerations and activities performed. It is not useful to produce a report that doesn't provide any insights to the marketing manager. Raw data such as visits, bounce rate and page views must be supported with analysis, in order to focus on areas of intervention. There may also be some data that agencies don't usually provide, probably because they are not asked. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need more data. A good agency will help create a bespoke report around you and your needs.

Domain authority is a metric by SEOmoz that is a useful insight when looking at the quality of a site. It is much more accurate then the page rank, the Google owned metric.

‘Bounce rate’ is a percentage that describes how many users bounce from a page. When a page is well optimised, and providing the user with a good experience, the bounce rate should drop. However, there are exceptions of pages that should expect a high bounce rate. Make sure you ask your agency for guidance on what pages on your site you may experience this with. It is good to keep this metric visible on your monthly reports, to assess if interested visitors come to the site, but don’t use this as a standalone way of measuring the popularity of your site.

In the last few years, marketing managers have focussed on new visits. This is because it is a commonly held thought that it is more difficult to acquire new customers than it is to retain old ones. You may want to set up related tracking system to assess this.
Ask your SEO company about how you can get the most from your reports, in order to allocate your budgets when most needed.

Social SEO
There's a slight confusion in the marketing industry about how SEO and Social work together. Marketing managers need to bear in mind that if their audience spend a considerable amount of time on social media networks, it is a good idea to be part of those platforms.
In particular, when looking for link building services, ask how the SEO team use social media, and for any creative ideas that can work together in increasing awareness of the brand, and number of natural links to the site.

Startups around the globe such as Million Dollar Shave and Adzuna are doing this very well and getting lots of links (still, arguably the key ranking factor in the Google algorithm) and social shares, via blogs and magazines.

Another important part is getting social platforms to integrate with your website. Naked Wine is an example of a site that’s able to doing this well, asking users opinions on the wine bought and using a wine related online community. If you like a type of wine, you can show this off to your friends on Facebook and may win new customers.

Thanks to cookies and analytics packages, marketing managers can easily measure the performance of their SEO campaigns. There are some grey areas that are harder to analyse, for example visitors coming from unbranded searches, and converting through branded searches. Google is also trying to hide a consistent part of the keywords driving traffic making it difficult to report.

Agencies need to have a full understanding about analytics solutions if marketing managers want to know how the website is performing. A good analytics package can also provide you with a better view on how different channels contribute to the overall sales figures.

Link building
This is a hot topic in 2013, in particular because it has been hailed as the holy grail to achieving top positions. It is also the most difficult strategy to get right.
So what should you be asking?
First of all, what type of link building techniques are they going to employ during the SEO campaign? Google asks for a variety of links pointing to your site, so you may want your agency to plan several activities ahead - from guest blogging to online PR (interviews and partnerships).
Question how these activities are performed, because if they are not done in the right way, they can actually lead to penalisations. Ask to your SEO agency to provide you with their link building guidelines and strategy.
At Tug, this is a priority for us. We are always working on establishing long term relationships with bloggers, influencers and online media outlets to promote our clients. We think that SEO metrics are important, together with improving brand awareness.

Search engine optimisation aims to help businesses meet their company objectives, in a world that is deeply influenced by technology. The first documented use of the term was by John Audette regarding his company Multimedia Marketing Group, as documented by a web page from the MMG site from August, 1997. Since then, the industry has changed greatly and we continue to see new tools and opportunities. Marketing managers are striving to understand a highly specialised and ever changing marketing discipline, but are looking to take this opportunity on board. Talking to your agency and choosing well known professionals is the key to getting your deserved online visibility in 2013.

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Tug is an award-winning, search marketing agency, and the Lighthouse is our new knowledge sharing hub. The purpose of The Lighthouse is to guide and enlighten our fellow Search, PPC, Social Media, Display and Affiliate marketing professionals. As the online marketing field evolves, we aim not only to keep up, but stay ahead in our thinking, and share knowledge with one another. Our collection of white papers provides up-to-date insights in an easy-to-digest format. Founded in 2006, Tug is an original silicon roundabout company that breaks the mould by taking a left-brain-right-brain approach to digital marketing. Our bespoke programme builds brand awareness, new media opportunities, strong ROI and business growth for clients like Aon, Wonderbra and Dairy Crest. Tug’s combination of robust planning and execution with creativity has earned us seats on the IAB and DMA search councils.
For more information please contact Hannah Melbourn ( or 0207 033 6933)

Published on: 1:02PM on 12th February 2013