You’ve decided it is time to start optimizing your site, but where do you start? It could be time to enlist the help of an SEO agency.
Finding the right partner is more important than ever with constant changes to search engine algorithms and a shifting landscape due to the introduction of AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard. You’ll want an agency that has the foundational knowledge of SEO and is prepared to evolve with new technologies.
Let’s begin with the basics.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing a website or web page to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages for engines like Google or Bing. The organic search channel can help you capture cost-efficient, highly-qualified traffic. It can also help you learn more about your audience and competitors. If you aren’t showing up in search results, someone else is.
You can learn more about the different types of SEO and some of the commonly used acronyms of the channel on our SEO Acronyms and Terms page.
Once you are more familiar with SEO, or if you already are, let’s explore how you can find the right partner.
What is the value of an SEO RFP?
An SEO Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document that invites formal bids from potential SEO providers to provide their services.
This step isn’t always necessary, but may be a procurement requirement at your organization. If it is, it is best to send the RFP to a number of providers, as this gives you a full range of SEO approaches to objectively evaluate the agency you will be working with.
Including 5 to 10 agencies should give you a diverse set of approaches to find the right fit for you. RFPs also create structure to open-ended challenges. Making the RFP clear is critical to the success of your SEO program going forward.
What Should be Included in an SEO RFP?
General RFP tips
We have a full overview of RFPs for digital work where you can learn about some of the basics. This is a good starting point when preparing to send out an SEO RFP.
Project scope and objectives
The project scope outlines the specific tasks and deliverables expected from your potential SEO partner. It should set clear boundaries and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the project's goals and desired outcomes.
Including the objectives provides a broader context for the project and helps align the SEO strategy with the overall business goals. This also sets all parties up for success, as everyone will be able to align on the KPIs that will impact your bottom line.
Additionally, including some information on historical SEO efforts can help agencies understand where you are in your SEO journey. This can help prevent overlaps with what has been done in the past.
Technical requirements highlight any specific technical aspects that need attention for the successful implementation of SEO. This can help you determine if a responding partner has experience with your specific tech stack, even if you are a custom platform.
Technical requirements can also help the responding agencies help you identify if you do need support with technical SEO efforts if you aren’t sure what you need exactly.
This may include aspects like website architecture, page load speed, mobile-friendliness, URL structure, structured data, and more.
Including reporting expectations in the RFP ensures transparency and accountability in the SEO project from the start. It helps define the frequency and format of reports, key performance indicators (KPIs) to be tracked - even if you don’t know exactly what they are yet - and the level of detail required in the reporting.
Clear reporting guidelines enable monitoring of the SEO campaign's effectiveness, allow the ability to identify areas for improvement, and facilitate communication between the client and the agency.
Timelines will provide a schedule for the SEO project, including key milestones and deadlines of major initiatives. It helps in managing expectations, coordinating efforts, and avoiding delays.
At the same time, the timelines should allow for flexibility. Clear check points should be mapped out for when performance is evaluated, and strategic shifts can be made if needed.
The timelines included in a RFP will allow potential partners to evaluate their capacity to meet the project's deadlines and ensure alignment with the client's desired timeframe.
The budget range or limitations in the RFP helps guide potential SEO partners towards more realistic recommendations that align with your specific financial constraints. It helps filter out proposals that might exceed the budget.
Providing a budget range also enables participants to tailor their proposals accordingly, suggesting different approaches based on available offerings.
It is also important to note what value is expected to be achieved. This should focus on revenue, profitability, growth, or other bottom line metrics. This can help potential agency partners to set a budget based on the desired rate of return.
This may exceed expected budgets at times, however, the proposed strategy should show that the return will exceed the cost.
Including selection criteria in the RFP helps streamline the evaluation process, and sets the expectations for what is needed from potential partners. It can include details such as experience, expertise, references, pricing, methodology, and any specific requirements.
Clearly defined selection criteria facilitate an objective evaluation of proposals and ensure that the chosen SEO agency aligns with your expectations.
Additionally, sharing how many initial participants are invited to the RFP, how many get through to the next stage(s), and how many stages there are can help participants determine if this is a good fit from the start.
There may be situations where an agency does not have the capacity to support, and they should be transparent about this from the start.
Common SEO RFP Mistakes
RFPs can be complicated and time intensive. Making sure you avoid these common pitfalls can set you up for a successful experience.
Sometimes you feel you know exactly what you want. That is great! You might not need to go through a full RFP process, unless it is a business requirement.
You can potentially save a lot of time by simply requesting pricing and some general agency information. An RFP is most effective when you approach agencies with a problem the company or industry is facing. This allows the responding agencies to show their expertise and you may receive some strategies you had not previously thought of.
Too simple or too complicated
Find a nice middle ground that allows creativity and thoughtfulness to shine through, but put some guardrails on the request.
Hiring an agency is starting a new partnership. There are a lot of benefits of offering Q&A sessions with your responding agencies 1:1.
This lets both you and the responding agency get a feel for each other’s working styles. It could help you select a partner that will be a good long-term fit and avoid potential conflicts.
[TIP] Need a scorecard to help with your evaluations? Click here.
What should you do once you have responses from potential providers?
You’ve done all of the prep work, sent out the requests, and received responses to your RFP from a few potential providers. Now what?
Objectively evaluate all responses to make sure they are meeting your needs and expectations based on the criteria above. Using a consistent scoring method across all evaluations will keep the evaluations objective. Use this agency evaluation template if you don’t already have one.
Once the evaluation is complete, make sure you share feedback with all respondents, even the agencies that you do not select. This transparency is not only appreciated, but keeps the door open down the road if you decide to conduct another RFP in the future. Feedback also helps your selected partner make improvements from the start. This will set everyone up for success.
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