The new SharpSpring Agency Growth Series features an amazing curated lineup of the top influencers in digital marketing. We could not be more excited about the awesome group of great minds we were lucky enough to pull together for this fun and informative agency-focused series.

The free series is made up of 14 unique web sessions, all with a livestream Q&A segment, and all focused on helping agencies accelerate their growth.

Sessions feature digital marketing superstars speaking candidly about the industry topics they know best and are most passionate about. And we want to make sure to share the love – so, in addition to providing recordings of the sessions and live Q&As, we’ll also be posting key takeaways here following each session.

Here’s a look at some of the top highlights we pulled from our latest Agency Growth Series session “SEO for Agencies” with brand ninja, marketing consultant and SEO expert, Ann Smarty.

Ann Smarty on the three sides to SEO

There are three areas of SEO and we are going to talk about all of them. So, Technical SEO is all about fixing technical issues. For example, making sure that their site architecture revolves around the most important pages. The server returns proper responses, the page is logged past and the internal linking allows scrollers to access and evaluate all the pages of the site. The next area is creating content. And this also includes keyword research because content creation and optimization is all about making relevant search queries to your own site copy.

Now, the next one is building links. And this is a never ending task. Also one of the most challenging of all three. Some SEO experts would claim this is not part of SEO. This is rather PR another marketing area that is not SEO. I personally do not agree with that. Links remain the most powerful signal for Google. It is not possible to imagine SEO without links. Links is how Google actually finds your website. So that’s how you make your website findable. And since the definition of SEO is making websites findable and accessible, this is a very integral part of SEO, in my opinion. So I like to look at SEO as those three areas. 

Ann Smarty on why there’s no “done” when it comes to SEO

SEO takes a lot of planning, includes lots of various tasks, and also is always changing and is never-ending. So you can not just stop it and then go back and put the switch back on and hope that you will be where you left off. No, you will need time to catch up, to revive, to go ahead of your competitors that were not inactive while you were. So all of that makes SEO an ongoing process. So there is no, like, “project-based” and there is no “done” with SEO.

Now, the good news is that all of those SEO challenges come with benefits. So, if you try to integrate SEO into your agency life, you will see that because SEO takes so much planning, you will be more encouraged to master more project management skills, try more procedures, and more tools. So overall, this will make your company much more effective.

Ann Smarty on tackling SEO in-house

Now, can you manage SEO in-house? It is challenging. It will require some structural changes inside your agency, but it’s totally doable. So first of all, you need to foster self education by letting your team members brainstorm together. And by fostering self education, you will find many of your employees willing to help your agency innovate. Moz offers a variety of SEO courses that provide lots of new ideas on how search engine optimization works and how to take your marketing services to the next level. The nice thing about this section is that it’s totally free.

Another way to keep an eye on SEO and how it is changing is to monitor Google updates. There are always confirmed updates and those that are not officially confirmed, but are still happening. So all of those work for self education very well, you’ll kind of know where SEO is going when you see what changes Google is introducing to its algorithm.

Ann Smarty on using automation to track ROI for your SEO efforts

With so many things going on, it is extremely hard to monitor progress as well as see the whole picture. You need to create a single reporting dashboard bringing multiple data points together, and SharpSpring will help you with that. The platform helps you estimate the true ROI of your SEO, track your website’s visitors conversions from the moment they first visit all the way throughout the final sale and get detailed campaign analytics that even work offline without the effort of setting up conversion funnels. So, this is a great tool to use to monitor all your SEO efforts and ROI.

Ann Smarty on the evolution of SEO

Yeah, it has changed dramatically. You wouldn’t recognize it if you were to join like 15 years ago. If you could go back in time and see what we were doing back then and what was supposed to be the best practices. It has gone a long way.

It used to be very technical. And I don’t want to say boring because I kind of miss that time because it was so predictable and easy. And we could actually make impact within a couple of weeks. We could influence our position. So it was exciting. But these days, it’s much smarter. It’s much more integrated into other areas of marketing. You cannot fake algorithm signals as easily as you could back then. You can not just add your keywords in your document and hope to rank. You really need to provide value, good content. You have to work with your content team for them to understand the user engagement, how to make a document not just SEO-friendly by using your keywords, but how to structure it well for both people and search engines to be able to find the information they are looking for very easily. 

Ann Smarty on the benefits of localized SEO

I have had a few clients that are very local and I’m glad to say that it’s easier. Local SEO is still faster, you can see results faster. You can impact it on a much lower budget, so it’s easier. The more focus, the better results, the faster results. So if you target some sort of area, you don’t have to compete for generic keywords, like compete with that, right? You do localize those keywords, which makes them less competitive, which makes them more achievable. And same with the maps, listings, and all of that. Also, it’s still very competitive. Most huge corporations don’t do enough of local marketing. So there is a still that gap for local services and local shops and local services to cover. So it’s still much more doable on the local budget, I would say, which is great.

Ann Smarty on attracting backlinks

These days it is very hard to get people linked to you unless you provide non-promotional, very useful, high-ranking content on your site. So this is why I still advise people, if it’s not a blog, create a knowledge base. If it’s not a knowledge base, create a list of resources, long-form resources, you don’t have to have hundreds of them, but very well-targeted, useful, “better than anyone else in this industry” tutorials and “how to” content and even video content, all of that helps to get links to your site.

So, you can still use keywords, you can get along without the blog. But the question is, how are you getting backlinks? Good, trusted, not paid for, non-manipulative backlinks? That not easy! Not many people will rank to your website just because they like your product, right? If you just have commercial pages on your site that you have created to attract leads, how are you getting backlinks? So, think of that this way — in most cases, the first goal of any informational content be it a blog, or be it anything else on a site, is to attract those backlinks that help the overall authority and trustworthiness of your site.

If you’re looking to watch Ann Smarty’s full-length Agency Growth Series session, you can find the recording on our website right now!

And, if you missed any of our previous Agency Growth Series sessions, you can easily check them all out right here:

Optimize Conversion Rates for Clients with Neil Patel

Positioning Your Agency with David C. Baker 

Turning Conversations into Clients with Tom Martin

Driving Momentum for Your Agency and Your Clients with Shama Hyder

How Agencies Can Successfully Sell in 2020 and Beyond with Drew McLellan

What SMBS Want From Agencies with Chris Brogan

Influencer Marketing & SEO with Rand Fishkin

Grow & Scale Your Agency with Jason Swenk

It’s not too late to sign up for all of the rest of our Agency Growth Series sessions. You can still catch top influencers like Amy Landino, Karl Sakas, and Seth Godin! See you there!

Rebecca Wentworth