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SEO Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

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SEO Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

Search engine optimization is crucial to ensuring your website is visible to potential customers. When hiring and onboarding an SEO agency to help you manage your website, making sure the process goes smoothly is challenging. Check out our checklist to guarantee your partnership starts off on the right foot.

Looking for the right search engine optimization (SEO) agency for your small business can be a stressful ordeal. However, the woes won’t stop there because the onboarding processes can be as demanding and overwhelming as searching for a vendor.

Unlike massive companies, most small businesses don’t have extensive experience working with third-party service providers. If you’re a new client who’s looking to team up with a digital marketing agency or SEO agency, you may not know what to expect during the client onboarding process.

It is a stressful time for business owners and managers because there are competing thoughts going through their minds. Simply put, a few mishaps from your end as a business owner can make the agency’s work more challenging.

A signed contract doesn’t mean you can kick back and let them do their work. You will need a checklist to help you successfully onboard your new partner.

Make sure all the boxes are ticked. Here’s our SEO agency onboarding checklist for small businesses.

Searching for the right SEO partner? The Manifest has a curated list of the leading SEO agencies ready to help your small business.  

Why is Onboarding Critical?

Onboarding is a vital stage of any partnership. It is the first impression that helps build the initial foundation for trust.

If you don’t have a formal or well-planned onboarding process in place, a vendor might feel disconnected from your business. They might not have everything they need to do their job successfully because of missing documents and data.

Poor onboarding can lead to regulatory lapses, delays, and misunderstandings. In short, you will not get the maximum value they provide if you don’t have an effective onboarding plan in place.

SEO Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

The onboarding experience can be split into three main phases — preliminary, negotiations, and integration. As a small business owner, you should know what these three phases are so you can avoid any risks or problems. Let’s break down the phases and give you a checklist for each of them to make sure you cover all grounds.

Preliminary Stage

As its name suggests, the preliminary phase is when you research and gather all vital information regarding the vendor. During this phase, you will request a proposal from them, review their work, and due your due diligence. 

Here’s the checklist for this phase:

  • Review their case studies and client testimonials
  • See if there were any complaints about their work
  • Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • Compare their work against other SEO agencies
  • Do your due diligence 
    • Look at their business permit and license
    • Proof of tax compliance
    • Non-disclosure agreement
    • Certificate of Good Standing
  • Check their references

Negotiation Phase

After you’ve completed the first stage and you’re confident that they are the right SEO agency for your business, the next phase is negotiation. During this time, you will discuss their rates and negotiate the final fees. Upon settling on those, you will naturally proceed to reviewing and signing the contract.

Keep in mind that you should meticulously read the contract before you sign it. Ensure all areas are covered and you can have them help liable in case of mismanagement. 

This is our checklist for the negotiation phase:

  • If needed, negotiate the pricing and terms 
  • Consult a lawyer if needed
  • Carefully review the contract 
    • Standard terms and conditions
    • Know both parties’ obligations
    • Define payment terms
    • Clarify benchmarks and KPIs for the deliverables
    • Understand what they will require from you
    • Study how the contract will end
  • Sign the contract

During this phase, you may also inquire with the SEO agency about team assignments. Ask questions about who will be your point of contact, if an account manager is handling your business, and who is on the team that you will be working with.

Integration Phase

You’ve welcomed the SEO vendor to your business as a partner. The integration phase is where you open your business to them and give them access to everything they will need from your end. This includes your account, access to your site, and data you’ve collected in the past.

Executing this phase can be daunting for some as it’s the most busy. Here’s our checklist for the implementation phase:

  • Prepare everything you need for the kickoff meeting
    • Create a presentation about your business
    • Let them know what your business goals are
    • Outline the project’s purpose and objectives
    • Outline the scope of the project
    • Set expected project milestones
    • Establish responsibilities and workflows
  • Coordinate what is the best schedule for holding meetings and reports
  • Decide on the mode of communication
    • Determine what platform you will use i.e. Slack, Google Chats, and Skype
  • Discuss what project management tools you will use
  • Prepare an access spreadsheet
    • Grant them access to your website content management system
    • Access to website files
    • Access to domain
    • Access to your Google Analytics
    • Access to your Google My Business profile
    • Access to other tools you use
    • Access to social media 
    • Include the contact information of everyone integral to the project
  • Give them time to conduct an SEO audit and assessment
  • Introduce them to your internal digital marketing team
  • Assign an internal team member who will monitor metrics
  • Develop an exit strategy

Having an exit strategy in place doesn’t mean you’re not optimistic about the outcome of the partnership. It’s important to have a detailed exit plan because you never know what will happen in the future.

In case you need to disengage with an SEO agency, an exit strategy will make sure your data is returned securely and promptly and help you avoid any risks.

Be Prepared for Anything When Onboarding an SEO Agency

The onboarding process sets the tone for a partnership. No business owner wants to start off on the wrong foot. During this time, always be prepared, aware, and ready. It can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming, but staying on top of everything and being organized will ensure everything goes successfully.

A checklist can only help you go so far if you’re not proactive. Communication will also be integral during the onboarding process. It’s a journey that you and your chosen agency will embark on, so make sure you’re with the right people. Find and work with the top small business SEO services providers on The Manifest.

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