In the last five years of Credo, we’ve spoken with thousands of businesses who are looking to hire an outside provider for their SEO initiatives.

The understanding of SEO varies by company and person we speak with, but usually they understand at minimum the three core tenets of SEO:

  1. Technical
  2. Content
  3. Links

If they do not understand these three, then of course we explain them so that they are more educated when hiring. The reality is that we’ve found that when someone does not understand these three, then hiring the right SEO company is going to be a challenge.

But if they do understand these three as the core tenets of SEO, then they unlock a whole new set of questions.

The one we’ve identified that many companies don’t understand when hiring for SEO is if they should expect their SEO agency to also be able to implement the needed technical changes on the site.

Before we get into that answer, let’s establish some common ground so we can talk about the topic fully.

A story about Credo’s SEO

Here at Credo, we connect businesses with the best pre-vetted SEO (and PPC, Facebook Ads, content marketing, and more) providers from our certified networks of agencies. We’ve helped over 5,000 companies since we started in 2013.

I (John) have a long history in SEO. I started in SEO full time in 2010 and until 2016 SEO work took up a lot of my time and brain space. It’s what I am most known for, and SEO consulting is how I paid the bills for a few years while getting Credo to a point where it could pay me.

Having run SEO for a lot of companies, I know it pretty well and thus can identify opportunities.

In 2017, I identified that we had an opportunity to scale-ably create a lot of pages that could target more specific terms than we were targeting at the time with manually created pages.

So, I outlined the project and then went to my developer at the time and we worked together to implement it. A few months later the work was done and we rolled out the pages, which over time began to rank well and now account for a large part of our inbound lead volume.

But notice what happened here. It wasn’t my developer coming to me saying he had an idea for improving our SEO. In fact, he thanked me after the project for educating him about SEO.

I was the SEO who identified the opportunity, and Ben helped me implement it by providing me the framework code for it and then helping me get it right.

How to determine if your SEO agency should implement their technical recommendations

Let me make this clear – most current SEOs are not developers and most developers don’t know SEO deeply.

Most front end web developers do have a cursory understanding of SEO, but are not SEOs themselves. They can and do often quickly pick up things like how to build SEO-friendly URL structures and write SEO-friendly code, but they do not drive that strategy themselves.

Most current day SEOs are much more focused on content and links than on technical SEO. That said, there are some amazing technical SEOs and technical SEO agencies out there who understand many different coding languages and technologies and how they affect SEO.

That said, they are not developers. They are SEOs. Some SEO agencies do have web developers on staff, or development agencies they partner with, and are thus sometimes able to implement some of their recommended technical SEO fixes.

You should ask yourself though if you want your SEO agency to implement things on your website. Most enterprise companies, which comprise most of my SEO consulting career, have their own developers on staff and prefer to implement the changes themselves with an SEO’s guidance.

Some smaller companies, like startups, are running light with their team and resources though and understandably want one place to go for it all.

The unfortunate truth is that they’re going to be incredibly hard to find, and it’s like finding a needle in a haystack especially if you just one want specific person to do it. And if you do find them, they are going to be very expensive.

What’s the better way to get technical SEO implemented?

Now that I’ve destroyed your dreams, let’s talk about a better way to get technical SEO done.

For most companies hiring an agency or consultant for technical SEO, the right setup is:

  1. SEO agency or consultant drives the strategy and does the audit to uncover the issues.
  2. Internal web developers make the changes.
  3. SEO agency or consultant verifies the changes, monitors for issues as they are pushed live, and annotates analytics so improvements or declines in traffic can be traced back.

If you’re a startup running very lean, then your setup should look like:

  1. SEO agency or consultant drives the strategy and does the audit to uncover the issues.
  2. Internal team (probably a few full stack developers) implements or internal point person works with development agency to implement changes.
  3. Same step 3 as above.

Let me be clear here – unless you are built on a stock WordPress implementation, if technical changes need to be implemented then you should not expect your SEO agency to implement all of the changes. You will need to work with a developer/developers/development agency to get them implemented the right way.

What can an SEO agency implement?

As mentioned at the very top, SEO is mainly comprised of three areas:

  1. Technical SEO
  2. Content
  3. Backlinks

SEO agencies can do the technical auditing but will then rely on you and/or your internal team or development partner to get them implemented.

Most SEO agencies focus on keyword research, content creation, and building new backlinks back to your site to improve rankings.

This is because technical SEO is the most straight forward of SEO tasks, whereas content and link building are ongoing tasks.

No website is ever technically perfect for SEO, and trying to make it thus is likely a waste of time, budget, and people.

Your time, budget, and team are usually much better spent identifying new topics to create content around, creating that content so it’s best in class on the internet, and then getting eyeballs on that content.