How to Choose An SEO Expert For Your Website

Mike Khorev - SEO Expert and Digital Marketing Strategist

In today’s competitive online business environment, hiring the right SEO expert is critical.

In fact, the success of your overall marketing strategy depends on it.

Research shows that organic searches account for over 70% of all traffic to websites that sell business services. Paid searches account for only 10%.

What does this mean?

It means that unless you’re well-versed in SEO, you need to hire someone else to build up your online presence. PPC alone won’t cut it.  But what’s the best way to ensure that the people you hire to improve your ranking are competent?

The answer is a lot more complex than you think.

In this article, we’ve outlined some of the most important steps you need to take before deciding on an SEO expert.

Keep reading to find out how to pick the right person or agency for your website!

Ignore Snake Oil Salesmen

When you sift through your SEO options, you’ll begin to notice a trend.

Many SEOs say that their techniques ensure a spot on the first page of Google. Now, if you think that’s an overly bold claim to make, then you’re right. Google’s exact algorithm is a mystery—even to the most knowledgeable SEO expert.

The tech giant has many reasons to protect its search engine’s algorithm from competitors like Microsoft.

In order to improve the quality of its search results, Google can (and will) enact penalties as it sees fit.

From year to year, Google averages more than one algorithm change per day. Anyone that claims to have knowledge about all of these changes is peddling snake oil.

That said, an expert SEO will definitely be able to help you improve your rankings.

By how much? It depends on various factors.

In very rare cases, it may be possible to guarantee a high ranking if you’re targeting a genuinely simple keyword. But a legitimate SEO expert will only make such a claim after reviewing your site and business.

In most cases, however, if you get an email with a title such as “Guaranteed first page ranking on Google”, your best bet is to mark it as spam and move on.

Ask About Their Process

You want to start any discussion with a discussion about your goals.

Lay them all out on the table so both parties can determine if they’re a good fit for one another. Be as specific as possible. Ask your prospective SEO expert to explain the process they’ll use to accomplish your goals.

But don’t stop there. You need to dig a little deeper to find out who’s serious about helping you rank high. While it’s great to know the process, you also want to know the reasoning behind it.

In order to find this out, ask them to cite reasons for why they use a particular process.

Ideally, these sources should come from Google. This is the only source you can trust 100%.

Look at Their Track Record

Research shows that almost 70% of consumers look at online reviews before buying.

Now, you most likely won’t find many online reviews on your potential SEOs.

However, what you can do is ask them to provide information about businesses they’ve worked with. Every successful SEO expert has a list of former clients that they can refer to. In fact, the best SEOs are itching to show you because they’re proud of their work.

They probably won’t let you review their entire list, but they should be able to give you a glimpse of it. Additionally, they should be able to share long-term results.

A great way to check this is to ask about how long they’ve worked with their longest client.

Businesses love to stick with successful SEOs, so anything less than 12-24 months is worrisome. That said, make sure the clients they provide are real businesses.

Reach out to those businesses, and see if they’re willing to share their experiences.

Inquire About Communication

Before investing any money into an SEO expert, you must ask several questions.

These questions will help you find out which SEO is the best fit for your business. One of the first things you want to ask is how often the SEO will contact you, and how. See if they prefer to communicate through email, Skype, or phone.

Whatever the communication channel, it should align with your preferences.

Also, make sure that experts will be available when you need to talk to them about important issues. You need to be able to reach your SEO during emergency situations, no matter how rarely these occur.

Lastly, find an SEO expert that has a similar communication style to your own.

If your conversations feel awkward or hard to understand, go with a different option. Communication is vital when formulating a successful SEO strategy.

Find out How they Deal With Penalties

Google does its best to fight spam and promote high-quality content.

They usually do this by altering their algorithm on the regular basis. Other times, they opt to do it manually. As mentioned earlier, this often leads to penalizing sites that break their rules. Although it doesn’t happen often, penalization is still a possibility.

When penalties rain down, it can be hard to recover.

And if you’re hiring someone else to head your SEO strategy, you need to know how they plan to help you survive Google updates.

You should find out how they plan to avoid penalties in the first place. Ask for detailed answers. Be wary of those that shy away from this topic.

Most competent SEOs have solid strategies for dealing with issues related to penalization.

Make Sure They Provide Detailed Reports

Full SEO reports should occur month-to-month, and they must be timely and detailed.

You can ask for a different frequency, but a monthly schedule tends to be the norm in this industry. Within these reports, you should see several things. First, you should find rundown of all activities

Your SEO expert should also provide an update on the rankings of your primary keywords.

Most importantly, the report should have a section showcasing increases in search traffic. This helps you keep tabs on how good (or bad) of a job your SEO is doing.

While your prospective SEO’s monthly report may contain other pieces of info, the ones mentioned here are the most important.

Engage in an in-depth conversation about this topic early in the selection process. Once you decide on an SEO expert, compare what they deliver during the first month to what they promised.

If the first report is neither complete nor timely, it might be time to take your business elsewhere. It’s best to double-check the accuracy during the first month as well.

Keep in mind that these reports are serious business. They provide the best way to track the progress of your SEO strategy.

Pay Close Attention to Link Building

Link building is one of the most important steps in building a respectable online presence.

It just so happens to be one of the most difficult to pull off on your own. Any SEO expert worth their salt will include link building in their packages. If you see an anyone offering hundreds or thousands of links for a few bucks, don’t even think about it.

When an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Low-quality backlinks have a higher chance of harming your ranking than helping it. You’re looking for high-quality links, not spam.

However, a knowledgeable SEO expert can lay out a multi-step plan for building links. They might not be able to get too specific out the gate, but they need to provide some steps.

Consider Price and the Structure of the Contract

Price is not necessarily a great indicator of service quality.

Of course, you want to choose an agency or freelancer within your price range.

That said, stay away from anyone who makes too many promises for a low cost. Also, you may run into some unorthodox payment schedules. Many people and agencies charge month-to-month, but it varies. When deciding on an SEO expert, find out what happens if you need to break the contract for whatever reason.

It’s important to shield yourself from any early termination fees. Keep in mind that these fees are often well-hidden in the contract.

Contracts without extra fees protect you against companies that provide lackluster services. Plus, it takes a while to see significant results with SEO.

Therefore, any additional flexibility is nice to have when you don’t know what lies ahead.

You’re Now Ready to Hire an SEO Expert

The process of choosing the right person for the job can seem like navigating a minefield.

The last thing you want to do is invest a bunch of your money and time in a service that doesn’t work. But using some of the tips outlined in the article will help you to differentiate the experts from the imitators.

By asking the right questions, you can slice your chances of choosing the wrong person or agency for the job.

Remember to stay away from those who promise too much for too little. Instead, consider people or agencies that provide realistic and direct answers.

Now get out there and start ranking higher!

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Mike helps small and mid-size businesses drive leads, increase sales and grow revenue online. He designs, develops and executes integrated digital marketing campaigns across paid, social, organic and digital channels.

Comments

  1. Valid points Mike. I remember one of the post from SEM Rush: https://www.semrush.com/blog/3-ways-to-identify-a-trustworthy-seo-consultant/

    Again if you ask them for guarantee of results, good SEO agency can’t give you any guarantee. Josh Steimle gave awesome opinion at this point on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2014/12/16/why-the-best-seo-firms-dont-offer-guaranteed-results/#7d0b3f459f8a

    • Agreed. We used to give guarantees back in the days when SEO was predictable and you could rank any website within 4-6 months. Nowadays, with so many ranking factors and tuned up search engine algorithms we can only provide and estimated timeline based on the industry and current SEO performance.

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