Tips for hiring your first SEO consultant

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When it comes to optimizing your website, there are different steps that you can take. It takes a high level of specialized knowledge in order to optimize a site for maximum exposure on Google, correctly – and search engine optimization takes time. Wouldn’t you rather be working on your business and adding more value to your customers? Most business owners rarely have the time necessary to correctly implement search engine optimization and keep the engine of their company running at the same time. For this reason, it is usually best to hire a professional SEO consultant, that can optimize the site to its fullest potential.

With that idea in mind, you have several options for approaching SEO on your website:

1- Do your homework carefully before making the hire

2- Learn SEO yourself. (the DIY method)

Many online business owners simply don’t have the time for the latter option, so here are some things to consider when hiring an SEO consultant:

(1) You must get your website right the first time.

On-page optimization is your responsibility under the guidance of your web designer, so make sure he or she does it well. If you hire a third-party SEO company to optimize your website after it’s already been built, that means they’ll need to overhaul your HTML scheme, rewrite your content, and so on – which can add additional costs that could have been avoided if the task was done properly to begin with. This kind of backtracking is counterproductive.

>>> Check out this excellent article about on-page optimization.

(2) Learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO).

Even if you’re planning on awarding the SEO task to a third-party consultant, you should have a basic understanding of what search engine optimization entails. SEO is the most-hyped form of marketing on the Internet. Scam artists have made it appear as an esoteric art form rather than a teachable form of marketing based on common sense principles and a basic understanding of how search engines work. Acquiring a general understanding of SEO concepts will enable you to ask the right questions when hiring a consultant.

>>> Read this excellent bog post that explains SEO optimization.

(3) Good SEO equals good PR.

Public relations is essentially what off-page optimization is all about – in other words, your link campaign. True public relations experts are familiar with their client’s niches as well as the key players within those niches. They already possess tried-and-true methods for how to effectively reach a certain market.

Internet marketing is not always a one-size-fits-all effort. A good rule is to avoid companies that boast they can get you ranked in no time, regardless of your target market. Doing so will slim your options and effectively filter out counterfeits.

>>> Learn about the intersection of PR and SEO

(4) Don’t take their word for it, get references.

If you hear claims that seem too good to be true, don’t fall for them. While you can ask a company for references, keep in mind that scam artists have no compunctions about hiring their own references and procuring their own shining testimonials. Always do your homework to see what kinds of experiences other customers have had with an SEO company.

If you can, get in touch with previous clients via alternative means and ask them specific questions: What were the overall results? How did the SEO company obtain those results? Where did their links come from? Would you work with this company again? How are their communication skills? Did your business increase after working with them?

Have a look at the websites the firm has optimized. These websites should have content directly relevant to the search terms they were attempting to rank for, and a tidy infrastructure with title tags in the right places. But, remember one thing; SEO is a momentum play which means it takes time for a campaign to work. Just because someone gave the agency 60 days, and “nothing happened” doesn’t mean the SEO consultant failed. A general rule of thumb is that it takes 6-8 months to begin showing significant movement on Google. For keywords or niches with lower competition, the time to rank can be shorter. But conversely, if you are in a highly competitive space, it will take longer – maybe a year or more to show results.

(5) Ask the right questions and don’t settle for indirect answers.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of how the SEO company plans to get you ranked. If they claim to use a secret formula or possess information about Google’s secret algorithm, don’t buy it. Everything worth knowing about the practice of SEO is available with a little research, save for Google’s impenetrable algorithm. Real SEO experts achieve results by smartly adhering to these basic principles and working hard to succeed at them. Learn more about Google’s new RankBrain algorithm here.

Most importantly, know exactly where your links are going. If you don’t bother to ask, your links may end up spamming the blogosphere and a lot of irrelevant forums, tarnishing your reputation among potential clients. Make sure the SEO firm promises to provide regular status updates and is prepared to interpret them.

(6) SEO is the most important part of your marketing campaign.

It can build up your online business in ways no other method is able. With a little investigation, you can be sure you have selected the appropriate team for the job. Don’t shortcut, the effort will pay dividends as you move from obscurity to page one of Google. Read why SEO is important to better understand the value of your investment in this marketing method.

Watch this short video to get a primer on what a SEO does.