Tips for Hiring an SEO Consultant

If you run a business, you would understand the importance of your website showing up on the first page of the search results of Google, Bing or Yahoo. SEO consulting services provide just that by optimizing your website to show up on the first page. This is called search engine optimization or SEO. Better visibility would mean that your customers are aware about your service or product and in turn this would lead to higher profit in sales.

SEO requires a knowledgeable team of writers and web experts to take the content on your existing website and optimize it for maximum search engine exposure. The goal of SEO is to drive organic traffic to your business website. Unlike paid advertisement options – like TV or Facebook ads, pay-per-click campaigns, etc. – organic traffic does not cost your business a penny once it starts flowing in. Hiring the right SEO consultant can be quite challenging if you do not know what you need. This hurdle can be overcome by following a process, which would allow you to evaluate the SEO consulting services.

1. Client Base

It is imperative that you know the past clients of the SEO consultants you’re interested in. You can inquire about their previous clients. Most of the consultants provide this information on their website. Once you have the list, you can visit the client website to see the work carried out by the company. This would give you a precise idea about how they work and go about improving your website’s performance.

A reputable SEO consultant should be open to share a brief about current and former clients and their success rate. Although they would not divulge into the specifics of how they worked on a specific company’s website, the clients would definitely give a positive or negative review based on their experience.

2. Methodology

Ask the company how they intend to improve your website’s rank. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, a Seattle-based internet marketing software company and co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly, 2012) advices to steer clear of any SEO consultant who do not discuss how they intend to promote your website. There should be 100% transparency in the methods used to promote your web content and products. They should be able to discuss the strategies that would be used to promote the website and also set a realistic timeline in which they would be able to achieve the SEO goals you share with them.

Make sure that the candidate’s proposal includes a technical review of your website initially. This would help recognize and correct any problems that might be present with the website URL, sitemap etc. Also, make sure to inquire if they provide “off page” SEO strategies to raise awareness about your brand.

3. Adhering To Webmaster Guidelines

You should ask if the company’s SEO consulting services includes a brief on the specifics of their methodology and whether they intend to follow the webmaster guidelines provided by Google. Google specifically prohibits any black hat SEO techniques that include posting spammy content automatically, and inclusion of bogus or hidden text links. If they do not follow these guidelines, your website could rank considerably low on the search engine or in extreme cases, your website might be banned from search engine pages. Apart from Google, Yahoo and Bing also have a set of guidelines that need to be followed to rank on their respective search engines.

4. Guaranteeing Results

If a candidate guarantees you number one ranking on any search engine, you should probably not hire that consultant. It is impossible to guarantee a number one ranking on any search engine site. Although, some consultants make these bogus claims to attract customers. They state that they have a under the table relationship with Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Do not fall for such incredulous claims. The traffic and search results are controlled by these search engines are tracked by them independently. Consider it a red flag if any SEO consulting service claims to have an insider relation with search engines. “You better start running in the other direction” is what most experts have to say about it.

5. Local Search Results

There are many small brick-and-mortar businesses out there that needs to target their local customers specifically. If you’re one of them, you would need to inquire the capability of an SEO consultant in optimizing your website for these customers. Having your website optimized for “local SEO” would show your website in the local search results.

If your website is optimized for what’s known as “local SEO,” it should appear when someone is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business locally. To achieve that, a consultant should add your business’s city and state to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, and get your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographical area.

6. Keeping Yourself In The Loop

It is possible that the SEO consultants you hire would need to make changes to your existing HTML coding of your web page among other things. You will need to make sure that you’re in loop about every change that they intend to make. Always discuss the work scope with the SEO consulting service provider before implementing any change.

For example, will the consultants add a new title tag to your existing HTML code or modify the existing ones? Will they provide additional copywriting content highlighting your products and services to beef up the number of visible, on-page keywords relevant to your potential customers? And do they plan to redesign all or some of your website navigation or add new pages to your site? These changes should be done after proper discussion of the strategy.

7. Tracking Your Progress

Once you’ve successfully decided on hiring an SEO consultant, it is important to track the progress of your website. The consultant should be proficient in using tools like Google Analytics. This way you can check how much traffic is being sent to your website and where it is coming from. Usage of Google Analytics can track the improvement of your site’s search ranking, track the links on other websites that are driving traffic to your site. Be sure to ask how often they plan to share these important analytics with you and how they would use the data to continually improve your search engine ranking and website traffic.

8. Fees And Payment Terms

You need to know how much you’ll be charged, of course, and also whether the consultant accepts hourly pay, by project or contract. Project-based payments are the most common in the SEO consulting industry, and they can vary widely, depending on a project’s size and complexity. Most contract projects ranged between $1,000 and $7,500, according to Moz’s 2011 pricing survey of more than 600 SEO firms.Other important payment-related questions: How often are invoice payments due — every 30, 60 or 90 days? Is there an interest charge for late payments?

9. Communication & Contract Expiration

SEO consultants’ communication style and customer service standards vary. You need to find someone whose approach best fits your needs. Ask if the candidate prefers to talk in person or via phone, Skype, texting or email, to find out how often the company will reach out with status updates.

When your contract expires or if you terminate it early, you should still maintain ownership of all of the optimized web content you paid the consultant for. Accordingly, you’ll want to make sure the contract states that when you part ways, consultants will not change or remove any of the content they added, modified or optimized on your behalf. You also should ask consultants whether they charge any fee for early contract termination, and if so, to specify them in the contract.

Apart from these 9 tips, there are several other “Not-To-Do” factors involved when investing in SEO consulting services. Some of the most common misconceptions are:

1. A Well-designed Website Doesn’t Necessarily Mean The SEO Firm Is The Best

If the consultants you’re looking to hire has a nice and easy to use website, it does not necessarily mean they know what they’re doing. It is quite possible that they have the best web-developers in the market, but SEO covers various other factors as discussed above other than web developing.

2. The SEO Firm Has A Lot Of Employees and Makes Millions

It is quite possible that the consultants you’re looking into has brand affiliations which allow them to reap profits like they do. It does not necessarily mean they’re ideal to promote your campaign. If you’re a small business owner and want to promote your website locally, you may want to search for local SEO promoters rather than someone who has affiliations with larger brands.

3. Hiring The First Consultant That Comes Along Your Way

It is quite possible that the first consultant you speak to would be able to sweep you off your feet. This can be due to the fact that they’re good at what they do, or you are not very well aware of the layers of work that goes into a successful SEO campaign. Either way, you would need to make sure to get multiple consultations before you decide on a successful candidate. Also the candidates don’t need to know that you’re consulting with others. This way, you can get an insight into what they have to offer compared to the competitors and decide which one’s the best for you.

These were some of the “Dos” and “Dont’s” to keep in mind while choosing the best SEO consulting services for your company. The key factor that dominates all the factors while hiring an SEO consultant is conducting proper research to hire the right one.