Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most critical marketing elements your company faces in the digital age. Yet there is no licensing process to regulate SEO consultants like there is for, say, engineers and doctors. Anyone can throw out a sign out on the front door and set up shop. So how do you find a good SEO consultant, and avoid getting scammed by shady practitioners or stuck with someone inexperienced who can’t deliver? Like anything else, it begins with a solid foundation of preparation and asking the right questions.
There are several key steps you can take to ensure you have the background knowledge necessary to ask the right questions when you start interviewing SEO consultants.
Understand the scope and goal of your project. How many websites are you working with? Are you trying to get someone to join an email list or buy a product? Are you targeting a local area, or international? How big is your team? What’s your budget? SEO consultants range from lone individuals to sizeable firms, and a clear definition of what you want will make life easier down the road by eliminating some options right away.
Become familiar with the basic terminology of SEO. There are three sub-areas of SEO: on-site, off-site, and technical. On-site SEO involves things like keywords and the descriptions you use to describe your images. Social media is an off-site example. The technical realm is getting into the structure of your site and how computer programs will find their way around. Being comfortable with the fundamentals will make the interview process much more fruitful.
Ready to start assessing potential SEO consultants? Before you dive into Google, tap your network. As a connected individual, you know people who can give you solid recommendations, or warnings. Then make the most of your interviews by asking solid questions:
How do you assess a new website?
Also called an audit, experienced SEO practitioners have done this many times. They should be able to talk about how to find new keywords and how they assess your website’s current SEO level. This transitions nicely into the next question:
How do you measure results?
They should have a ready answer for what tools, techniques, and criteria they use. If the only thing they spit out is “search engine ranking,” that’s not enough. It’s important, but SEO is so much more than just a search engine ranking.
How do you keep on top of changes to SEO policies?
Watch out for anyone who gives a vague answer, such as “Well, I do this every day.” Professionals keep their thumb on the pulse of Google updates and other algorithm changes very closely and should be able to answer this quickly and in detail.
What’s your area of specialty?
Every industry has areas of expertise. A doctor specializes in certain parts of the body just like a mechanic focuses on certain kinds of cars. Sure, they have general skills too, but something in their background stands out for excellence. SEO is no different. A pro consultant understands that and can speak to it, they don’t play the generalist card.
How can my team help with SEO?
Remember, you’re not just interviewing them, they’re interviewing you too. Experienced consultants know exactly how you can help and will be impressed by the fact you asked. Good consultants are in high demand, so you have to set yourself apart as a reliable client to get their attention, just like they have to work for yours.
Do you offer guarantees?
This is a great closing question. Because there are no guarantees. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise isn’t someone you want to get into business with.
And don’t forget all your standard interviewing questions. Ask for references, a list of current and past clients, and contract details such as cancellation fees. An experienced consultant is the answer to your optimization problems, but to find “the one”, you have to ask the right questions.