Choosing an SEO consultant can be a profitable or potentially disastrous decision for a business owner. In order to make a decision of this magnitude having an understanding of SEO and what goes into a successful strategy is a necessity.
Essentially, search engine optimization is word of mouth advertising online. The goal of a search engine is to provide users with relevant and quality results. By optimizing your site, you’re making it an authority in your industry in the eyes of the search engines, giving them a reason to rank you higher in the results pages.
There is no quick fix for SEO, however. It takes a substantial amount of time and expertise to rise up in the search rankings, and like any marketing campaign the results are not guaranteed because you can’t with all certainty predict how consumers will act. The only way to make informed decisions is through rigorous research and an in depth understanding of the business.
SEO consultants are quick to advertise their “secret” insights and wealth of tools, but the truth is, all of the necessary information and software to optimize a business for SEO can be obtained through the internet.
When hiring an SEO consultant you are actually paying for experience rather than any secret optimization method. This experience can be the difference maker between an SEO strategy providing a slight rise in traffic and a long term investment that will provide leads and sales for years to come.
While transparency is a good practice in any business, it’s especially important when choosing an SEO consultant because you are paying them to make important marketing decisions for your business. Therefore, as a business owner, you should never be left in the dark about what progress is being made within the SEO campaign.
The most transparent SEO consultants are able to explain in detail what strategies they are using to boost your SEO and the reasons behind these methods as well. While it helps to proactively learn about SEO on your own, a good consultant will still be able to put the campaign strategy and goals in terms you can understand regardless of the steep learning curve.
With that being said, the SEO consulting firm should be up front about the goals of the campaign. Ranking on page one should not be a guarantee; it should be a goal. These goals should also include how much the campaign will increase traffic to the website, how much of this traffic should convert into sales, and how long the campaign will take.
Transparency also applies to past and current clients. A quality SEO consultant will provide a potential client with references and past experiences to prove that their strategy is sound. A lack of references usually translates to inexperience or worse, a lack of satisfied customers.
An SEO consultant offering a cookie cutter solution to optimize your business should be avoided because all businesses are slightly different even within the same industry. There is no one size fits all solution to SEO.
A successful SEO campaign requires research and an analysis of your business, and some of the best SEO consulting firms won’t even provide you with a proposal until they have an in depth understanding of how your business works, an analysis of your website, knowledge of your competitors, and extensive keyword research.
While traditional and local SEO share many similarities there are also some fundamental differences, especially when it comes to link building and sharing content. You should expect your SEO consultant to understand these differences, and be able to implement the best solution to fit your business’ needs.
Any good SEO consultant follows the changing landscape of the industry. Google, through algorithmic updates to the way they crawl and index web pages, has been preaching the importance of quality content as a huge ranking factor for SEO.
The days of keyword stuffed content that was barely readable are long gone. Today, Google (and the other major search engines) value high quality content that keeps readers engaged. This means short, easily readable paragraphs filled with subheadings, since most internet users don’t sit and read entire articles rather they skim them for valuable points.
Google also introduced bounce rate, or how long a user stays on your page as a ranking factor. A well written article will most likely keep users on the page for a longer period of time compared to a poorly written one. Higher time spent on your page serves as a positive ranking factor. This promotes content that is written with the reader in mind rather than the search engine robots. An SEO consultant who lacks the resources to produce high quality content, or outsources it to low-quality writers should be avoided at all costs.
A good SEO consultant also understands the value of social media. While social signals, such as Facebook and Instagram “Likes” and Twitter “Retweets” aren’t ranking factors, they serve a very important role in building a brand and sharing content. Creating a buzz on these social networks is a great way to educate people on your business and what you offer, ultimately leading to more web traffic.
Social media also becomes important if your business is hiring an SEO consultant for local services as these social signals essentially serve as reviews for your local business, which is a big indicator in how Google ranks businesses in the local section of the results page.
An SEO consultant that doesn’t keep up with the constantly changing landscape of SEO best practices won’t be in business for very long. Google released three ground breaking updates dubbed Panda (in February 2011), Penguin (in April 2012), and most recently Hummingbird (in 2013).
Panda was the first update that preached quality content written for readers and has since been tweaked and improved upon multiple times. Penguin did away with spammy backlink building techniques used by many SEO consulting firms. Finally, Hummingbird improved upon Panda’s quality content control, made the presence of a well optimized mobile site a positive ranking factor, and began adapting to the changing way people use keywords while using search engines.
These updates changed the way Google indexed and ranked pages, impacting a huge number of websites in the process. The updates ended up getting a lot of websites, using black hat SEO techniques, penalized and dropped in the search rankings.
Because of these updates, things like keyword stuffing, buying and spamming links, among other things all became ways for websites to get penalized in the search rankings.
In order for an SEO consultant to ensure long term success in a campaign, these acceptable practices have to be followed. Google releases Webmaster Guidelines that every SEO consultant should adhere to in order to avoid any penalties.
This ensures that when Google releases their next update, your site doesn’t get penalized and dropped in the rankings or, even worse, banned from the search results pages.
While there is no guarantee that an SEO campaign will produce the desired results as far as traffic and conversions, a good SEO consultant will still hold themselves and their firm accountable for the lack of results.
This is where measurability comes into play. Monthly or bi-monthly reports including keyword ranking reports, traffic, bounce rates, content deliverables, among others, are a necessity to track the progress of an SEO campaign. An SEO consultant should utilize both Google Analytics and other proprietary tools for this purpose.
As a business owner, you should never be left in the dark about what is happening regarding your SEO campaign. As I mentioned earlier, SEO is a long process, and there is a high possibility that the SEO landscape will change in the midst of a campaign. As the search engines constantly update the algorithms they use to rank pages, your SEO consultant should also be updating the strategy being utilized for your business.
Another important note to make is to hold the SEO consultant accountable for what happens after your business and the consultant part ways. There are horror stories of SEO consultants finishing a campaign and essentially extorting a business owner to continue their account at risk of losing all of the SEO progress they’ve made.
An honest SEO consultant will assure a business owner that even after the campaign is completed, the business’ website will keep the search ranking they’ve earned over time.
The truth is that an SEO consultant could be working in a massive firm or part of a two man team in a home office these days. The key is to hire an SEO consultant who intimately knows about your business and cares about its success.
At bidpin, we’re offering these expectations for an SEO consultant to arm business owners with the knowledge and power it brings to ask the right questions BEFORE hiring an SEO consultant.