What to look for if hiring an SEO consultant

I was asked a few interesting questions recently when speaking to a new contact with regards to SEO requirements.  Some of these questions are just the norm when it comes to experience but they threw a few in that made me question their reasons for them.  When I asked them what the reasons were they didn’t actually know, in fact they had read in forums the type of SEO questions they should ask but without any real knowledge of how to understand their answers, oh dear!

This is actually more common than you think these days with companies spending more time hiring SEO and SEM consultants but without having anyone in the organisation with any real knowledge in that area.  It kind of reminds me of when I take my car to a mechanic and I ask a few questions about what they are going to do without ever really understanding their answers, I guess the reason I do that is so I don’t get ripped off and like any employer you want to get the best value for money on any service you are paying for.

So what types of questions should you be asking?!

The truth is it needs to be questions that reflect what your business objectives are and how the new online consultant/company can add value to those.  When I discussed this over a beer recently with a few marketing consultants this turned into an all night debate.

In a perfect situation you have an experienced digital consultant in your business to handle the questions but this is often not possible especially with smaller companies.  The truth is about 80% of businesses still have no one with any SEO knowledge so this can leave the door wide open for SEO sharks, black hat agencies and hard sales consultants that really don’t care what you are trying to achieve with your online objectives.

So how can a company overcome this scenario?  Do you hire a consultant to do the interviews, do you trust a marketing agency with your hiring or do you just take the risk that you will pick up the lingo as you go?

Here’s a few questions that will keep you on track

Question: What kind of experience do you have working with other companies and industries and how have the SEO campaigns compared?
Answer: You really should be having them tell you that they have used different tactics and engaged departments that may have included IT, Sales, PR and Marketing. If you are looking at SEM then you should also be making sure you cover all angles with legal departments.  They will probably throw in the use of keyword research ‘very important’.
Question: Will you be using any black hat tactics to rank our site or doing anything that may damage our sites rankings in the future?
Answer: We carry out backlinking as per Google guidelines

Question:  What are your tactics for link building?

Answer: I work hard for one-way links with really good, keyword-rich anchor text, and I know how to engage with companies and webmasters (via email, social networks and on the phone) to build relationships and rapport that lead to strong link relationships.  I know that one of the keys to getting these kinds of important links is having strong well written content that is “link friendly” making others want to revisit the site.

Essentially you need someone who understands how SEO and Social Media work hand.  With updates like the recent Panda and Penguin it is important that links come from a variety of sources including bookmarking, directories, forums, articles and press releases amongst others.

Question: Do you write SEO articles or have an SEO blog to review?

Answer: Of course I can point you in the direction of some articles that I have written that are for the search engines as well as for the reader.  I explain various thoughts of mine and knowledge of the SEO and digital marketing industry.  An SEO that doesn’t have a strong command of the written language will struggle in the industry to gain credibility. A big problem that offshore SEO companies struggle with.

Question:  Do you think web analytics are important and why?

Answer:  I don’t just look at top search positions or even traffic to your site, I will help make sure that you are able to make conversions to the work I carry out will show a true ROI.

In fact to be honest I wouldn’t even run a campaign without analytics. Analytics provide information on seasonal changes, identify target markets and help with ongoing keyword optimisation changes.

Question: Could you provide us with a reference or two and information and what you achieved for them?

Answer:  Yes of course, I can show you how ‘X’ company has benefited from my services and you can speak to the Managing Director who tell you more about the benefits that have come from this.

I hope now that anyone out there that may be considering hiring an SEO consultant or agency has a few helpful none technical questions they can use.  There are of course lots more questions that you can ask but in general someone that is honest and using white hat techniques and can explain without hiding anything how they intend to help you will be a good start.  I may add more to this post in time??  Id also be happy for others to comment and add their suggestions.

Please contact RAD SEO if you would like to discuss your SEO campaign with us.  We will not begin work on any project unless we believe we can give you real return on your investment.  We will give you a free and honest initial assessment of your site and objectives with no obligation to take it any further.

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