5 Principles to Mitigate Agency Cost in SEO

There’s a conflict of interest, called agency cost, between who represents a company’s marketing and the SEO.

The business hopes to improve organic results at the lowest price. A naive SEO minimizes work done yet tries to get paid for as long as possible until their contract ends.
Good SEOs though will legitimately have more knowledge on doing their job well. A manager must therefore align their interests. To start, NEVER trust an SEO that…

  1. shares positive reporting without deliverables. While a good SEO relies upon analytics, tangibles like best practices, sheets describing changes and so on should be expected. Organic metrics will fluctuate, sometimes positively, despite a lack of effort!
  2. promises specific keyword rankings. While it’s reasonable to expect a general improvement with enough time, say a 3-6 month runway, getting particular is like predicting the stock market.
  3. has no long-term, overall (yet often subtle) successes. This may not be dramatic, say a modest 10% organic traffic boost. This includes more & better keyword rankings, alongside conversions, that move directionally. If this doesn’t feel significant, then your business isn’t a good fit for SEO.
  4. works exclusively on some aspect (ex: backlinks). Nothing singlehandedly defines SEO. Fixation only makes it easier for the conman to scale their business. Applying best practices, across many areas, defines great SEO. Furthermore, if their ideas are hard to understand then distrust them!
  5. operates alone! SEOs can’t work independently for long. They should integrate smoothly with your marketing team. They NEED everyone’s help to succeed.

These evaluate the SEO, but the principal must contribute too:

  1. Pay for real expertise.
  2. Develop a stable relationship over the long run (i.e. years).
  3. Trust, but verify, through gradually improving organic KPIs.

Like any relationship, this requires compromise. Nonetheless, both parties should want stability to affect change. However, know that organic results always reflect the health of the whole business… it can’t overcome a decline!

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