Deciding whether or not to hire a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) is a big deal for your business. Many factors will influence this decision including the size of your business, the time commitment needed, and your business goals. If you’re redesigning your site or launching a new one, hiring an SEO early can help your website become search engine-friendly right from the start.
There is a risk, however, of choosing the wrong person. Some SEOs may use unapproved strategies that can damage your site’s reputation, or they’ll make unrealistic promises just to get your money. It’s important to do your research so you know the basics of optimizing your website as well as the damage a bad SEO can do. If you’re in a hurry, here’s a one page PDF to get you started with search optimization
How to Choose the Right SEO
Before you start researching and interviewing an SEO, make sure you and your team are fully committed to making the necessary changes. There are no quick paths for optimizing your website, and it will take significant time and money. The benefits of putting in these efforts are increased web traffic, better conversions, and a website that meets your customer’s needs.
The first step in selecting a good SEO is to conduct a detailed, 2-way interview. Some useful questions are:
- Can you show me some examples of your previous success stories?
- Do you stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines? What resources do you follow?
- What results do you expect to see and what is the timeframe? How will you measure these results?
- What experience do you have with my industry?
- What are the main SEO techniques you use?
- How often will we communicate and can I easily reach you with any questions?
The SEO should show interest in you and your business and ask his or her own questions. Pay attention to see if the SEO asks for relevant information like:
- Your customer personas
- Who your customers are
- How your business makes money
- What your other marketing and advertising channels are
- Your activity on social media
- Your competitors
The main job of an SEO is to make sure your customers are having a good experience and to serve the needs of your business and website. If he or she does not ask appropriate questions, consider moving on to the next prospect.
After conducting an interview, check the SEO’s business references. This will give you a good idea of any communication problems and if the SEO was able to get positive results for other clients. This person should be someone you can work with comfortably and learn from.
Once the references check out, request an audit. You will most likely have to pay for this. You can give the SEO read-only access to your site on Search Console (don’t give them write access) and ask them to provide a list of issues, suggested improvements, and the overall investment. He or she should be able to also provide resources for suggested strategies, like links to Google documentation and verified forums. This will support the SEO recommendations and show that he or she uses approved methods.
A good SEO should be able to give you a plan to get the most improvements for your investment and help your business forge a path ahead.
Be Cautious of Unethical Behavior
Though many SEOs are great assets to businesses, some practice poor methods in an attempt to manipulate search results (costing businesses in the long run). Be on the lookout for these bad practices:
- Shadow Domains – This is a common scam where the SEO uses shadow domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These domains are often controlled by the SEO and they may point the domain to a competing site once a client’s contract is “fulfilled,” resulting in a loss for the client.
- Doorway Pages – A doorways page is a page on a website loaded with keywords. The SEO may claim this will create more queries, but may result in poorer traffic. The SEO may also be using the page to link to other websites (without the client knowing), which will have a negative impact on the hosting website.
- Link Schemes – Buying links is never a good idea and not supported by Google. Any SEO that recommends this will not be good for your business.
By learning the foundations of search engine optimization, conducting a detailed interview, requesting an audit, and looking out for shady behavior, you can feel confident in your decision to hire an SEO that will help your business (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en). In the end, SEO is the process of improving your customer experience. When your customers are happy, you’ll see positive results in many of your efforts.