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The Top 8 Questions to Ask before Hiring an SEO Consultant

We humans can live about 3 weeks without food.

3 days without water.

3 minutes without air.

How long can we go without Googling?

Hmmm, let me ask Siri….

Google processes over 40,000 searches every second, which is 3.5 billion searches a day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.

My guess is that you can’t go very long without asking Google for an answer. Well guess what, neither can your clients. They are searching for your business right now, but the real question is, can they find you?  

If you have ever tried to search for your business by what you do, e.g. wedding photographer or what you want to be known for, e.g. natural light wedding photographer Boston, Massachusetts, and have been disappointed as to where your business ranks on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), then you are probably in the market to hire an SEO consultant.

SEO consultants research and analyze the trends and best practices online to develop a strategy to improve search engine rankings.

Before you go and hire an SEO consultant, here are the Top 8 Questions to ask before you sign the contract.

1. Do they only do SEO, or do they do other stuff too?

If you are in the middle of revamping your website, working with someone who can both build your site and optimize it seems like a win-win, right? Not always. Though a lot of web developers, for example, add “SEO” to their list of qualifications, they are most likely not that well versed in the details of optimization. In most cases, developers who are also SEO consultants are much better developers than they are SEOs. They may opt to add in a plugin or two and write a meta description, but that is simply not enough to build a fully optimized site. You need both, a developer and an SEO.

SEO is a complex field. Each year Google updates their search algorithm around 500-600 times. Even though most of these changes are minor, a great SEO consultant is up to date on the latest changes to the Google algorithm and understands how it affects organic traffic and rankings.

2. How will the SEO improve your search engine rankings?

To get results, you need a plan. If you don’t target keywords, plan content and build links, you will never see a consistent rise in traffic and income (and that is what you’re going for, right?). Ask the consultant, straight up, what exactly their plan to improve your rankings is. If they can’t provide a detailed outline, run away.

The plan should look something like this:

  • First, we are going to do a thorough audit to get a baseline of the current status of the site.
  • Next, we will identify the best keywords to target.
  • From there, we will write and perhaps rewrite content based on those keywords.
  • We will also create a strategy for building links.
  • Most SEOs will include a plan for Social Media and the Editorial Calendar.

3. How will the SEO Consultant report their progress?

This is a biggie and is often what separates the good SEO firms from the shady ones. A quality SEO consultant will show you performance reports of what they are doing and what they have done.

A good SEO will make it easy for you to understand the complex side of SEO and how it directly affects your bottom line. You should expect regular reports (monthly or quarterly) which should contain:

  • A list of backlinks
  • Target keywords and their current rank
  • Audit of content (headlines, meta descriptions, and alt tags)
  • Organic Traffic Report
  • Ideas for improvement.

4. How do they measure success?

Ultimately, your success is the SEO consultant’s success. This can be measured in increased traffic, targeted keyword optimization and content creation.

To gauge the ROI of the SEO consultant, measure the traffic that is getting sent to the site and where it is coming from. Your SEO consultant should track the amount of organic traffic (the number of web visitors getting to your site by searching). Another important measure of success is to track the ranking of targeted keywords on a monthly or quarterly basis.

5. How long do they expect it to take to see real results?

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. If you have an SEO consultant who claims they can achieve immediate results, don’t work with them. SEO takes time. There are a lot of variables, but in general, most websites that have never been optimized before see significant traffic increases only 3-6 months after working with an awesome SEO consultant.

6. What will the SEO consultant need from you?

Expect to have to provide some details up front. Your SEO consultant will need to know what you want to be known for and the details of your brand. There will be practical things as well, like access to your Google Analytics Account and the admin of your website. If they don’t ask for access to these, ask why not!

7. What is the best way to work together?

The SEO consultant will be part of your team. They should have great communication skills and be willing to work with the other people who are helping you. The data that they derive from the performance reports is directly applicable to your social media strategy, editorial calendar and overall marketing strategy. The SEO consultant will need to work directly with the people in charge of these aspects of the business to implement the changes necessary to meet the goals.  

8. Do you have experience with improving local search results?

Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, according to Moz. You'll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques.

Have you ever Googled ” _____ near me”? This is the essence of local search. If your business has an actual location, local searches will be extremely important. Ask the consultant about their experience.

The key when choosing to work with an SEO consultant is to be thorough. Don’t be afraid to ask bold questions and know that you are going to be in this relationship for the long haul.

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