How to Hire Leading SEO Consultants
Deciding to hire an SEO expert is just like hiring other consultants, you need to know what to look for to make sure you get the services you require. It is particularly important if you do not fully understand how search engine optimization works. You can easily be taken in by unethical SEO firms or consultants.
You need to have a basic understanding of SEO to know what to look for when hiring a consultant. For example, do you know that search engines have guidelines that website owners must adhere to in order to be included in search results? Are you aware that not following these rules can result in your site being penalized and removed from search engines?
Obviously it is not expected that every website owner will have complete knowledge about SEO. But a grasp of SEO concepts is needed to retain the services of a reputable SEO consultant. Following are multiple recommendations for identifying the best SEO consultant for your business.
1. Beware of Fishing
Consider how you became aware of a particular SEO consultant. Did you research possible SEO firms and come across them? Did a friend or business colleague recommend them? Or did they contact you? If they cold called or emailed you, you might want to skip this particular fishing expedition. SEO firms that seem too desperate for your business probably are and should be approached with caution.
2. Verify Legitimacy
An easy way to verify that a company is real is through WHOIS which provides information on website ownership. You can also check with Better Business Bureaus to see if there have been any complaints against the SEO firm. If they claim to be organized as a particular type of business, you can verify that through the approving agency in their country. Online searches can provide a wealth of information about a company or individual consultant. You can learn if customers and the industry at large respect them or not.
3. Check Credentials
Lots of firms claim their workers are certified. This may be true but the certifying agency determines the quality of that certification. Every industry has standards that establish baseline certification requirements. SEO certification requires more than attending a webinar here or there from the guy down the street. Find out who legitimate trainers are and seek SEO experts with those credentials.
4. Promises, Promises, Promises
There is no way to guarantee your site will make specific ranking on search engines. SEO experts will not make that empty promise. Instead, they will develop and implement a plan that meets search engine guidelines so your site can be included in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO experts can submit your site to search engines but cannot guarantee it will be accepted.
5. Customer Satisfaction
The one area that SEO experts can guarantee is your satisfaction. This should be based on the quality of their services and not your search engine rankings. Hold them accountable for what they can control not what the search engines control. They should provide regular updates indicating the progress on your SEO plan.
6. The Obvious Test
Take a look at their website and identify a few keywords describing their services. Head over to Google or other search engine and see where they stand on those keywords. Better yet, if they have a domain name that is their business name, search that and see what the results are. When you are unable to find them on any search page, it is a good indication they are not indexed by search engines which means they could be blacklisted. SEO experts that are near the top of SERPs demonstrate their SEO knowledge.
7. Translating Jargon
SEO has its own lingo and it can be disconcerting for website owners unfamiliar with the jargon to fully understand the fine print. Just remember scammers are pros at using buzzwords to seem more knowledgeable than they actually are. If you feel that an SEO expert is talking over your head, ask them to tone down the jargon and explain their SEO process in layman’s terms. If they are unable to do this, run far, run fast.
8. The Whole Shebang
If you are just now getting to SEO, then you probably want an SEO expert that can do more than submit your site to search engines and build links to your site. These efforts are pointless if your site itself is not properly optimized for search engines. Your SEO consultant should be able to review your site and provide recommendations to improve it so it will be indexed by search engines. This includes conducting keyword research, improving the quality of your content, and reducing the number of redirects on your site. It is this holistic approach that will insure your SEO strategy is successful.
9. PPC Programs
Beware of SEO experts who heavily promote a pay-per-click program they developed at the exclusion of proven programs like Google AdWords and those offered by other leading search engines. This is likely to be a scam and you will end up with nothing to show for it other than a lighter wallet. Even if you are interested in the PPC program an SEO firm offers, it is a good idea to back it up with traditional options. And if they are unwilling to do that, you should consider looking elsewhere for your consultant.
10. Sales Tactics
Pushy salespeople are always a turnoff. But if an SEO consultant is trying to close the deal before you are ready, it may be best to walk away. There is no deadline on SEO since it is an ongoing process. You should take all the time you need to make a decision you are comfortable with. While the competition is fierce in the SEO industry, reputable companies will not risk losing a client through shoddy salesmanship. They want your money AND your long-term business.
11. Compare Offers
It can be challenging to know if an SEO “package” is a good deal or not without previous experience. Your best option is to compare services offered by multiple SEO consultants. Packages that stand out because they are on the high or low end of the spectrum may be suspect. Of course, you need to be sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you just can’t tell, try asking other people what they think – you can do this through online forums.
12. Get it in Writing
Whatever they are offering in exchange for your money, you should be able to get a written contract detailing the transaction. The contract should match your expectation and have no surprises before you sign it. Any SEO consultant who is willing to take your money but unwilling to commit to services in return is not to be trusted.
13. Contact Information
Reputable SEO consultants offer several ways for clients to make contact with them. You should be able to call, fax, and email your consultant. International SEO companies often include Skype or similar communication tools for customers. Avoid those that limit communication to emails. These are most likely hit-and-run SEO firms that will take your money and disappear. You should have a point person who you communicate with regularly. Be sure know who your contact is if you go with an SEO firm.
14. Follow the Money
Ask for a detailed accounting of how your money is being spent. You should be able to see the specific areas your dollars are going to including PPC campaigns, banners, and link building just to name a few. Return on investment (ROI) should be obvious even with just a snapshot that details conversions.
15. “Glocal” Ability
You want a consultant that can implement global and local SEO strategies equally well. This can be particularly important if your business has a local customer base or you want to develop one. Many local customers still prefer local businesses to unknown global online businesses. SEO experts should be able to develop SEO strategies that get you noticed locally as well as globally.
16. Prove It
They should be able to provide proof of their SEO ability including references and success stories. If you were to hire a contractor to install a roof on your home, you would ask for references. SEO for your business is just as important and requires equal due diligence. Special or small niche businesses require expertise in that area. At minimum, the SEO expert should have experience working with specialty businesses that have a small consumer base to start with. A qualified consultant will know techniques that drive traffic to your site.
Having a starting point makes it easier for you to select a reputable SEO expert for your business. You want someone who does their homework and knows the top SEO strategies to help get traffic to your site. A good SEO expert will know the risks involved in SEO and, perhaps more importantly, know how to minimize them. At the end of the day, this will save you money while simultaneously increasing your revenue. And, that is, after all, the whole purpose of search engine optimization!