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SEO | 4 min read

The Must-Have Services You'll Want To Add To Your SEO Retainer

05 March 2020 Written by Alexander Costello

According to an article by Forbes, the SEO industry will be worth $80 billion in 2020. That is huge.

The companies who provide the best SEO services will readily admit that in such a vast industry, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for businesses looking to improve their online visibility.

When you compare global brands with small local businesses, it's evident that a few things will be different. Budget, first of all. Apple dropped a cheeky $634 million on advertising in 2019, and we sure don't know of any Manchester SMEs with that much to spend.

But when you look beyond that, you see that the marketing SEO services needed by small businesses are vastly different from the fattest cats.

What is an SEO retainer?

A retainer is an ongoing relationship with an SEO agency. You pay a monthly fee for access to their services, with the amounts of each agreed in writing.

Many companies choose to enter a retainer-based arrangement rather than commissioning one-off pieces of SEO work.

Here's why:

  • Your SEO agency is on call to assist with any queries or issues.
  • They will continue to work on your website, making it possible to implement long-term strategies.
  • They will build a better understanding of your business, its unique needs, and its position within the industry. This greater knowledge paves the way for better future SEO strategies.

As we said earlier, there's no one-size-fits-all. While an SEO agency does many things, a good agency will build a retainer that fits the specific needs of each client.

Here are some SEO services you should expect to see on your retainer:

Technical SEO audit

In the early stages of a retainer-based relationship, your agency must ensure your site is up to scratch. A technical audit will dig deep under the bonnet of your website to check things are working, and that you aren't inadvertently violating any guidelines.

It will look at things like meta-data, page headings, image alt tags, schema mark-up, duplicate content, and more.

This is all stuff that, done right, gives your site the best chance of ranking.

Competitor analysis

By understanding what your competitors are up to, an agency builds their understanding of two things: How your business functions, and how it fits into your niche.

A rigorous competitor analysis should form part of the initial onboarding process, but it's worth doing on an ongoing basis as well.

There are a couple of reasons:

  • If a newcomer enters the scene and the search results landscape shifts, your agency can update their strategy accordingly.
  • If an existing competitor starts rocketing up the rankings (or slipping down them), your agency can identify what they're doing right (or wrong) and, again, make the relevant amends to your strategy.

In short, competitor analysis provides ongoing insight into what works and what doesn't in your niche and locality.

Reporting the right SEO metrics

A good retainer includes results that prove its worth, demonstrate you're getting a return on investment, and give you the confidence to continue spending.

SEO metrics fall into three broad buckets:

  • Impressions - how many people are seeing your site in the search results.
  • Traffic - how many of these people are visiting your site when they see it.
  • Conversions - how many of these people are completing their buyer journey when they hit your site.

We've written about the key SEO metrics you should be measuring. Ensuring that your retainer comes with thorough reporting and accompanying insights is a must-have.

Keeping up with Google

SEO is continuously evolving. Google refine their algorithm almost daily, and although many updates have a microscopic impact, some of them fundamentally change how effective SEO works.

While it's not a service per se, you'll want to ensure your agency keep abreast of the latest developments in the industry. Ideally, the reports mentioned in the previous section will come with commentary that demonstrates an up-to-date understanding of the industry.

Keyword research and prioritisation

In-depth knowledge of keywords and search behaviour in your niche is vital for an effective SEO strategy. Knowing which keywords have search volume behind them, and prioritising the ones with the highest commercial intent, allow your agency to direct their efforts most efficiently.

Almost every SEO agency will have keyword research as part of their onboarding process. But we recommend having ongoing keyword research as part of your SEO retainer.

And here's why:

Maintaining an up to date understanding of search terms gives insight into evolving user demands and search intent. Making sure your strategy is targeting current keywords and search behaviour gives you the best chance of continuing to attract relevant high-quality traffic.

Link building

"But link building is dead!" we hear you cry.

Every year various voices in the SEO industry consign link building to the SEO graveyard. But here's the truth: It still works.

You can see massive gains from building the right links, ones that are high-quality, relevant, and provide value for the human users that click them.

Local links are particularly valuable. Companies providing SEO services in Manchester will understand this, and look to build links with good local relevance.

Establishing a local presence

If you're browsing local SEO services in Manchester, you've probably seen something like this:


Local listings are a huge part of SEO nowadays, and building a strong local presence is definitely a must-have. The company outlined in red above will enjoy higher traffic than the others in the local results, and a good SEO strategy will include tactics to bolster local rankings.

There you have it...

If you're looking for SEO services in Manchester, be wary of an agency who offer an out-of-the-box package without even looking at your site. In this situation, it's unlikely the understand the nuance of what your business needs to succeed online.

On the other hand, entering into a retainer-based relationship with an SEO agency has plenty of benefits. You'll get a strategy built on a deeper understanding of your business and niche, and as a result, you can expect better results and a higher return on investment.

To learn more about activities that can be factored into a retainer, read our blog post about what an SEO agency does.

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