The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is amazing and complex. And let’s face it, as a small business owner, you don’t have time to figure out what you need to do in order to give your site the best opportunity to draw in traffic from search engines. So the next logical step is to hire someone that can handle all of your SEO needs.
The problem is that SEO consultants can run the gamut from highly respected agencies to full-on scam artists just trying to get their hands on your money, and it’s up to you to determine which one is worthy of handling your website.
Before you start your search for a consultant, educating yourself on the basics of SEO is a must. When talking with potential vendors, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward understanding the industry jargon they’ll be throwing at you. You’ll need to arm yourself with questions that will help you understand what sort of partnership you’ll be getting into before you make a decision. Here are a few that should be on your list:
1. What SEO techniques will you be using?
Just as consultants can vary in quality, individual SEO strategies can vary as well. Some techniques might fit strictly within Google’s guideline and set your site up for long-term success while others might give you short-term gains but end up harming your site in the long run.
Make sure you understand exactly what your consultant plans to do with your site. There can be long-term ramifications for poor SEO work. Transparency is key here, if your potential consultant can’t describe their strategy in terms you understand or can’t explain the risk and rewards that come along with each technique, you might want to continue your search.
2. Do you outsource any of your work?
Even seemingly reputable agencies sometimes outsource portions of the SEO work (usually link building) to other agencies or, in the worst cases, to cheap labor overseas. When this happens, you have even less control over the quality of work being done on your site. Make sure the people you are talking to are actually the ones that will be doing the work.
3. How do you stay on top of industry changes?
Google is constantly making adjustments to the way they determine keyword rankings. The vast majority of the changes happen without much notice; however, over the past couple of years, Google has kicked its war against webspam into high gear and released several major updates to their algorithm – in particular, various versions of the Panda and Penguin.
These major algorithm updates won’t stop anytime soon and you need to know that your consultant is looking toward the future of search engines and is building a strategy that won’t get you penalized by an update down the road.
4. How will you measure the success of our SEO campaign?
This is a great question to make sure that you and your consultant are on the same page regarding the ultimate goals you both have for your website. KPIs might range from ranking for a specific keyword, earning a certain amount of qualified traffic, receiving a particular number of new leads or generating an increase in revenue.
In my opinion, keyword ranking isn’t the best measurement of success anymore. Ranking for a specific keyword is just an intermediary step towards your larger goals. If you find a consultant that is promising you Top 10 rankings for all your keywords, take a step back and think about what you really want to accomplish with your site, and then keep looking for a consultant that can better achieve those goals.
5. What will they need from me in order to make this campaign succeed?
Depending on what kind of SEO work you’re looking to contract out, some effort on your part might be required. When it comes down to it, you know your business and your audience better than anyone you can hire, so your consultant might ask you to reach out to some of your contacts or write some new content.
Your participation will be key in the success of your campaign. Just make sure you’re aware of your requirements and that you’ll have time to fulfill them before you jump into anything.
In the end, you’re ultimately responsible for the well-being of your company’s web presence, and part of that responsibility means selecting consultants and vendors that you can trust. Plenty of businesses have been burned by working with less than reputable SEO firms. Equipping yourself with knowledge and a boatload of questions will help you make the right choice for the long-term success of your business.
About the Author: Tim Kelsey is the SEO & Social Media Manager at Pronto Marketing, an Internet Marketing agency that specializes in building an overall Internet Presence for small businesses.
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