What To Ask When You Are Ready To Hire A SEO Expert.
So, you’re fed up with your website not showing up on search engine results pages (SERP) on Google, Bing and Yahoo and disgusted by your competitors eating your lunch. You decide that it’s time to hire a SEO expert, or Search Engine Optimization expert, in the hopes that this will increase your brand visibility and better connect you to customers. This is easier said than done, as SEO requires patience and expertise to be successful and the marketplace is flooded with so called Black Hat charlatans that can actually do more harm than good. Here are questions to ask when looking to hire a SEO expert.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #1.
Will they provide you with references from existing clients?
An SEO expert in good standing with his customers should have no problem providing references. This is perhaps the best way to determine how effect the SEO expert has been on previous projects. A good reference may not disclose proprietary information, such as how their website ranks today or share sensitive analytics data, but she should be able to provide an overall assessment of the SEO expert’s capabilities, customer support and general satisfaction.
Bottom Line. ALWAYS ask for references!
Hire A SEO Expert Question #2.
What will you do to improve organic search engine rankings?
For many business owners, SEO is one of those black boxes that contain mysterious and somewhat magical treasures. The primary intent for hiring an SEO expert is to improve your rankings. You may not really care how they do it as long as the results are delivered. But this can be unwise as unscrupulous SEO consultants can lead you down the road to disaster. An SEO expert does not have to divulge trade secrets, but he should freely share his SEO philosophy, his SEO tools and tactics and provide realistic expectations for how much it will cost and how long it will take to achieve and maintain your SEO goals. Also, a good SEO consultant will provide you with a roadmap for success and provide weekly or monthly reporting to demonstrate progress.
It’s important that the SEO consultant outline his approach, which should include the following key tasks:
Remove search engine penalties
Remove plagiarism penalties
Duplicate content audit
Improve technical efficiencies
XML sitemap creation
Local SEO optimization
Google My Business management
Organic backlink building
Directory listings registration
Click Here for more information on these tasks from a previous blog.
Every successful SEO campaign begins with a technical review of your website to identify problems that will need to be corrected before your SEO campaign can truly begin. All the SEO strategies in existence will not be successful until you have a website that is properly search engine-friendly. In some cases, this may require a complete re-design and development of your website. Click Here to learn more about our web design & development services.
Bottom Line. Ask specific questions about approach!
Hire A SEO Expert Question #3.
Do you adhere to search engine guidelines and best practices?
Google and other search engines want their product to be trusted and reliable for their customers. They want results to be natural (organic) and based on the inherent value of the search result matching the users needs and expectations. In fact, Do No Evil is Google’s corporate motto in its corporate code of conduct. In order to enforce this mandate, Google and other search engines provide webmaster guidelines that if followed will will help Google locate, crawl, and rank your site.
When interviewing SEO consultants, make them pledge that they will adhere to guidelines and only use white hat tactics in their services.
Bottom Line. ALWAYS ask for references!
Hire A SEO Expert Question #4.
Can they guarantee you top placement?
This is actually a trick question. If you are interviewing a SEO consultant and they claim that they will give you first page rankings you should end the interview immediately. Lets be clear here: NO ONE CAN GUARANTEE TOP RANKINGS! Search engine optimization is a game of cat and mouse with Google being the cat and SEO consultants (and you by default) being the mouse. Search engines are algorithms and companies like Google are always changing them in order to stay one step ahead of anyone that may try to manipulate site rankings using anything other than organic and evergreen tactics. The latest algorithm is called BERT and was rolled out in December 2019. No one outside of Google knows how the BERT works, period.
With this said, a competent SEO consultant can lay out his strategy, set clear expectations and take active, white hat steps to gradually improve your organic search rankings.
Bottom Line: Don’t get bamboozled by false claims!
Hire A SEO Expert Question #5.
What is their experience and strategy for local SEO?
Local SEO is a sub-strategy that focuses on search results within a certain geographic radius. This approach is particularly important for small businesses that focus on local customers. After all, what good is it for a roofing company in Albuquerque to be found by someone searching in Buffalo? Candidates for local SEO services tend to be brick-and-mortar businesses that may have multiple locations within the geographic radius and only seek results from someone within this radius.
Local SEO requires a laser focus on geography. Your SEO expert should make technical changes to your website to ensure that your address(es), including city and state, is firmly ensconced in its title tags, key phrases and meta descriptions. To assist, both Google and Bing offer free online tools to help businesses and organizations mange their websites on both search and maps. Google’s tool is called Google My Business and Bing’s is called Bing Places. Your SEO expert will need to know these tools inside and out if local SEO is part of your over all SEO campign.
Bottom Line: If you are local, use local SEO strategies.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #6.
What changes will you make on my website?
This is a rather muddled question as working with a good SEO consultant will most likely require allowing him access to your website code. As with any service that involves proprietary access, trust is a major facto when you hire a SEO expert. In addition, your SEO consultant will need access to your blog, social media accounts and will need to make online purchases in your name.
Hopefully, your website is powered by WordPress. This will make life easier for everyone. Inside the WordPress dashboard site administrators can set up new users, complete with a unique user id and password, and decide the level of access each particular user will have on the website. This gives the website owner full control over who makes changes to the site.
Lastly, one of the most important strategies in a successful SEO campaign is content and blogging. Each page must be set up both technically and content-wise to ensure maximum value for search engines. WordPress offers a free plugin (with upgrade option) called Yoast SEO that allows SEO consultants to perform critical SEO tasks from within WordPress. This includes determining the focus keyphrase, SEO title and meta description that uses keywords relevant to that particular page. Blog pages also include all of these, and I have learned that when writing a blog you begin with the focus keyphrase and write the article around the term. This will essentially weaponize each article and gives the page higher search results.
If you hire A SEO expert to write your blogs for you, it’s important that they have fundamental knowledge of your business or organization, your competitors and your industry. Blog articles are not exercises in creative writing. They have very specific objectives in getting quality page rank on search engines.
Bottom Line: Know who will be accessing your website and what they will be doing.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #7.
What are your success metrics?
How will you and your SEO consultant determine whether or not the campaign is effective? A good SEO consultant will begin the campaign with a strategy that benchmarks a baseline; where the website is currently ranking on specific keywords, its average monthly traffic, its competitor’s traffic and keywords and it technical performance (eg., site speed, coding errors, plagiarized content). The most popular tool used by SEO experts is Google Analytics, a free web analytics service provided by Google that provides key metrics, useful tools and recommendations for improving the performance of your website. Lately, I have been using the online service Neil Patel and finding it to be of great research value to my SEO campaign.
Once the baseline has been established, a good SEO consultant will sit down with you and help you set realistic goals, including results, cost and time. This may include search ranking goals on specific goals, traffic goals, online sales goals or conversion and acquisition goals. The SEO expert will outline clear strategies that will be used to achieve these goals and how they will be maintained and improved upon over time.
Bottom Line: Set achievable goals, measure campaign progress and hold your SEO consultant accountable.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #8.
How often will you communicate and how?
One of the advantages of working with an SEO consultant is that they can do their job from basically anyplace on the earth with an Internet connection. This removes proximity as a consideration when you are looking to hire a SEO expert. However, whether your SEO expert is based in your town or across the pond it is important to have effective and consistent communication. A good SEO consultant will not leave you in the dark and go weeks at a time without scheduling a call or meeting or providing SEO reports that highlight progress. For our local customers, I prefer to set up monthly face-to-face meeting, perhaps over coffee or lunch, to discuss the SEO campaign. This always adds a nice human touch and makes for a happier customer.
Bottom Line: Agree on a communication plan and stick with it.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #9.
What is this going to cost me?
Although this may be the first question may will ask, it shouldn’t be. Of course, the cost of something is a relevant consideration, but in this case you truly get what you pay for when hiring a SEO expert. Jumping into cost without first understanding the SEO consultant’s approach and expertise may lead you to eliminating the right candidate before he establishes his value proposition. With that said, SEO services will vary dramatically.
A good SEO consultant will avoid offering you flat monthly rates, which in actuality are little more than a deception as all of the services are lumped into some ubiquitous box. Instead, a good SEO consultant will evaluate your current situation, understand your goals and give you a ballpark estimate of what you can expect each month based on an hourly rate. Some SEO companies will request payment based on the entire project, which I would not want to consider this or myself as you are essentially paying upfront (in some cases) for something before you get any actual results or even receive positive results at all.
The best bet is to go with a monthly plan that bills you for hours used during the previous month. A professional, competent SEO company will charge around $125-$150/hr and you can expect to be billed more in the early stage of the project (~20-40/hrs) and then settle into a consistent monthly charge (~10-20/hrs).
Bottom Line: Understand the SEO consultant’s value proposition before deciding based only on cost.
Hire A SEO Expert Question #10.
What if we decide to call it a day?
Unfortunately, most SEO “experts” are anything but. Many use black hat tactics that will crush your rankings or are simply scammers that make bold promises yet deliver nothing, taking advantage of the nebulous nature of search engine optimization and a general ignorance by businesses and organizations. SEO is hard work and requires multiple disciplines, time and money to achieve results. For these reasons it is important to go with a monthly plan that gives you the option to cancel at any time. Whatever you do, DO NOT get bogged down in a long-term legal contract that may have costly termination fees.
When establishing the relationship with your SEO consultant, make certain that the contract clearly states that you retain all ownership of any work done. Prior to notifying the SEO consultant that you are canceling services, it would be wise to access all website, blog and social media accounts and make certain the individual has been removed from access. Just play it safe.
D E E P B L U E Knows the SEO Market
If you are interested in working with us regarding your SEO campaign, then connect with us today and get access to testimonials from our previous clients so that you can be assured of the quality of our work. When you get in touch, we will listen closely to help develop your goals into achievable results. Everyone on our team is looking forward to bringing your project to life, so get in touch today and organize an initial discussion.
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