Questions to Ask When Hiring a SEO Consultant
One of the things you need to consider if you want your website to be successful and attract a lot of traffic is your SEO strategy. There are many rules and recommendations about possible ways to improve your website’s rankings on search engines and to understand and implement these rules takes a lot of time and effort.
If you don’t have time, patience or knowledge to create and implement a successful SEO strategy, you can always hire a professional SEO consultant. However, you need to think about who you are hiring to manage your website thoroughly because there are many factors you need to consider if you want to hire the best possible candidate to be your SEO consultant. That is why we will give you some basic questions you should ask when hiring an SEO consultant in this article. But before we go there, let’s take a look at some of the reasons for hiring an SEO consultant in the first place.
Why do You Need an SEO Consultant?
Hiring an SEO expert might sound like an unnecessary expense, especially if your company has a tight budget and you don’t really see the benefits that will justify spending some of that hard-earned money. Well, think again, because there are many reasons for this:
- Better results – If you are thinking about hiring an SEO consultant, then you have noticed that your traffic isn’t at the level you want it to be. You might even have a great website, but the traffic doesn’t show that, or you might be ranked low on Google. You might even be ranked high, but your visitors don’t stay too long on your website and your conversion rates are low. All this can be improved if you hire a competent SEO expert to help you out.
- Save time – Employing successful SEO practices takes a lot of time and freeing up some of that time and dedicating it to other business issues is another great reason to hire an SEO consultant.
- Expertise – If you want to do something, you should make sure to do it right. If you don’t know anything about SEO, or if your current SEO practices don’t yield the desired result, then you need to strongly consider getting expert help.
- Stay up to date – SEO is a field that is constantly changing. You need to keep up with all these changes; otherwise, you risk getting outrun by the competition. To keep up, you need to invest, again, a lot of time. Hiring a professional is the best way to stay on the right track with your SEO practices.
- Stay on the good list – Websites that take shortcuts often suffer the consequences. Any cheating will result in you getting blacklisted. There are still SEO agencies that use unethical and illegal SEO methods, called “black hat” tactics. This includes keyword stuffing, spam comments, link farming, invisible text, creating doorway pages, etc. You need an SEO professional that is trustworthy and to make sure about that you need to do a background check on all candidates.
- Save money on tools and resources – Even the low-cost tools and software for SEO can cost you around $150, every month. In addition to this, you still have to learn how to work with those tools and how to analyze the data. That means a lot of time invested as well. Hiring an SEO consultant simply saves you money in the long run.
Now that you know why hiring an SEO consultant is a smart move, you need to make sure that you hire the right one. There are certain questions that can help you find the ideal candidate to help your website produce better results and make your business grow.
Make the Right Choice – Ask These Questions
1. How will you improve my SEO rankings?
This is probably the most important question, for multiple reasons. First, you will be able to recognize those consultants that employ shady, black hat practices that will bring your short-term results and then get your website blacklisted in the end. Any candidate that avoids talking about methods he will use in detail probably has something to hide and you need to be careful and avoid those candidates.
Secondly, you will get some basic insight into what needs to be done and how long will it take for their strategy to produce the agreed goals and results. Also, you need to make sure that the candidate will submit a proposal that incorporates a technical review beforehand, so they can deal with any issues on your website that might hurt your ranking, like error pages or broken links.
Another thing you need to ensure here is that the candidate offers “on page” optimization in order to create a website that is search engine friendly. This includes enhancing the URL of your website, as well as many other things. Ask about “off page” optimization as well and whether they provide it.
2. Can you provide success stories and references?
Asking for references or a short client list is only the first step in doing a background search on the candidate in question. References should help you get the trust in the competence of your candidate, but you should also ask whether the candidate will work your website themselves or outsource the job. This is important to ask if you are in talks with a SEO company, rather than an individual consultant.
3. Do you always follow Google’s best practices?
You need to make sure that your candidate strictly follows rules set by Google and other search engines. Google has official webmaster best practices in which Google has outlined 12 most usual SEO tricks that will get you blacklisted. That is why it is very important to hire an SEO consultant that always adheres to these rules and never tries to take a shortcut to improve your rankings. You need to think about long-term success and so does your candidate.
This question can also reveal whether your candidate is staying up to date since Google updates algorithms every year, with only one goal and that is providing better results for searchers. When you break any of before mentioned rules, Google has algorithms that will reveal this and get you penalized. Panda and Penguin are probably the best-known algorithms that punish both on and off page violations, so it might be a good idea to ask about them as well.
4. What types of online tools do you use?
There are many tools that are available online that help SEO experts do their work in a more effective and efficient manner. This includes keyword research, rank tracking, link building, analytics, etc. You need to make sure that your candidate is familiar with all these different tools and understands the specific purpose of every individual tool. If you hear Google Analytics or Google Search Console in their answer, you can have a piece of mind, but you should expect them to mention more tools than just a couple. If your candidate gives an evasive answer to this question, then you need to get away from them.
5. Can you guarantee my website number-one ranking on any search engine?
Well, this is a trick question and serves to determine whether you are dealing with a real professional and SEO expert or a hack that doesn’t fear using unethical SEO tactics. If a candidate mentions some kind of relationship with Google or some other search engine and can thus help you rank higher than you would normally, take it as a warning sign. Remember, it is not possible to promise a number-one ranking, so that claim should help you eliminate candidates that can hurt your website’s reputation.
6. How do you measure success?
Of course, the entire point of hiring an SEO consulting is in achieving the success that leads to attracting higher traffic and improving your conversion rate. There are several metrics that can help you measure the success of an SEO campaign:
- Change in search rank for top targeted keywords
- Visits to top pages from search engines
- Number of keywords driving traffic
- Amount of traffic from organic search
- What is the share of search traffic in overall traffic on your site
- Comparison with competition regarding top targeted keywords
- Conversion rate
You need to look for a candidate that can mention as many of these metrics as possible. If your candidate is too focused on just a couple of metrics, that is a red flag and you need to move on to the next candidate.
7. How will we communicate?
This is a very important question because you must have a constant line of communication with your SEO consultant if you want to continually enhance the quality and quantity of engagement on your site. You need to ask what’s working and what not and what the next step is.
You might also be interested in learning about SEO strategies and practices in which case constant communication is crucial. You will want your candidate to offer to set up regular phone talks or online meetings, preferably on a monthly basis. That way you will be able to evaluate the progress, ask any questions, and talk about new ideas and action courses. Even if you are not really interested in details, only in results, you need to make sure that you have a regular line of communication with your SEO expert.
8. What kind of businesses do you usually cooperate with?
Even though many elements of SEO are same for many industries, there are certain variations when it comes to optimizing websites for local SEO companies that depend on foot traffic and clients that operate within a limited area, or e-commerce SEO, or B2B SEO, etc.
That means that different business types might require different strategies. You need to hear the answer from your candidate in order to know whether they have experience with SEO practices in your line of work. Even though your candidate has experience in different sectors, there aren’t SEO consultants that can do it all. So, if your candidate says that he handles every type of business, you need to be careful and maybe look for another, more honest candidate.
9. What are your costs and pricing structure?
This is another very important question. Of course, you should worry about value more than you worry about costs, but it is still important to find a candidate whose pricing can fit into your budget. Another important thing here is to know all your costs and make sure that there aren’t any additional or surprising fees that will show up at a later date.
Before you hear the answer, you should also be aware of some of the most usual prices in the industry. That way you will know whether the price you were offered is appropriate for the work that has to be done. If your candidate offers a price that seems out of order, that usually means that something is not right. It doesn’t even matter if he is undervaluing his work or overpricing, it is safer to stay away from those candidates.
That being said, in most cases ongoing monthly retainers will cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars, for small companies, to $5,000 or more per month for bigger businesses. Usually, hourly rates for the industry range from $80 to $200. You should also look for a positive answer from your candidate regarding the flexibility with payment options, particularly timing, so you can be sure that you can meet your end of the deal.
10. What happens at the end of cooperation?
You need to ask this so you will know what happens if you end your contract or if it expires. You need to make sure that all content will still stay under your ownership even after it was optimized.
Also, you need to make sure that you have a clause in your contract that forbids consultants to remove or modify any of the content they have changed, added or optimized as a part of their paid service for you. Find out whether your candidate charges fees for ending the contract early and how big are those fees.
By asking these questions, you can ensure that the candidate is the right choice for the job. There are many to choose from, so do not settle for the first one that you encounter. Research and use your creativity when it comes to asking the questions and you are on the right path to finding the suitable SEO consultant for your business.
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