How To Hire A SEO Expert or SEO Agency?
You’re here because you’re looking to hire an SEO expert or agency and you’re not sure which questions to ask or how to spot a pro from a con?
You could just hire me and your problems would be solved :D. All kidding aside – as someone who has worked in SEO for more than 17 years, I can tell you exactly what you need to look for and which questions to ask. You can also apply these questions if you’re looking to hire a freelancer or in-house SEO.
Google SEO certification
Are they Google SEO certified? This is a trick question. No SEO is certified by Google. While you can take courses on SEO – you can’t be “certified”. If the person or agency tells you that they are certified from Google, it’s a sure sign they are scamming you.
What is their experience?
When I say experience – I don’t mean just by how many years they’ve been in SEO. Let me explain. If I were looking to hire an in-house SEO I wouldn’t hire someone that has worked in SEO for 3 years, but only on a handful of sites – that person’s experience is limited. I rather work with someone with fewer years of experience but have more experience when it comes to the number for sites they’ve worked on. Why?
You gain experience by working on numerous sites. Each site has its own unique issues and if you work on only a few sites the issues you come across will be limited. So, while one person may have more years of experience they may not have the acquired skill set to tackle SEO problems.
You also want to ask about their wins and losses. Every SEO has them. Get them to talk about their experience. What was a fun project or a difficult project to work on? Also, ask them how the industry has changed over the years. This will give you a sense of their overall experience within the space. SEO experts love to brag about complex issues or challenges they’ve resolved. You have to have the desire to solve issues and to be a detective of sorts.
SEO is not simple. It is full of challenges and technical issues and one small change could dramatically improve or totally crush a website’s ability to rank.
Don’t buy cheap SEO
If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. When it comes to SEO, cheap labor always equals poor workmanship. Do you think someone who is charging you $350 a month for SEO is spending a whole lot of time working on your SEO? Do you think if they were good at what they do they would charge more? There’s a saying – if you think an expert is too expensive – wait until you hire a novice.
How did you find your expert?
A good sign that you may have found a knowledgable SEO expert is that you found them performing a Google search. If an SEO is good at his or her job their own site ranks well. If someone has cold-called you or emailed you directly, it’s a good sign that they aren’t good enough to rank themselves so they probably can’t rank your website either.
What does search engine marketing mean to them?
If the person you are talking to tells you that SEO is about links and content – move on. SEO is way more complex than that. SEO involves on-page off-page, keywords, content, site crawlability, indexing and so on. If there answer you get is simple and short – they don’t fully understand how SEO works. This is very common, unfortunately. Many people think that SEO is an easy way to make money.
Which tools do they use?
It’s not enough to ask which tools they use. It’s easy to run off a list of popular tools. Ask them which tools do they use and how do they use them. Tools such as SEMrush has a ton of features and not every SEO uses all of them.
What are they saying?
If they use words like “trick” and “fool” (Google) this is a red flag. What we do not want to do is trick or fool anyone. As an SEOs, we understand what Google wants and we use that knowledge to help our clients. Tricking Google means your deceiving and what business owner wants to decisive Google or their visitors?
More importantly – you will know if you’re speaking to an expert because they speak from a place of confidence and experience. I typically tell clients about how SEO was 12 – 15 years ago compared to today and how things have evolved. I do this to provide them insight into my experience. I’ve landed jobs without even writing up a proposal based on what was said over a phone call or in-person meeting.
Stay away from anyone who calls themselves a ninja, magician, wizard, warlock, etc. People who go by these names not only don’t have respect for the field, but they don’t have respect for themselves or take their job seriously. When you have a multi-million dollar business you want to hire a professional, not an illusionist or ninja.
Avoid guaranteed rankings
Guarantees are not something SEO experts can provide simply because Google could make a core update that could impact your site negatively and there is nothing that anyone can do to predict when an update is coming or what impact it could have on your site.
Some agencies will offer you a guarantee if they get certain terms on page one. These are usually very long tail term keywords that are easy to rank for and have to search volume or they will spam your site with backlinks that will get you to the top quickly.
Once they collect their money and Google has time to make adjustments your site rankings will fall just as fast as they made it to the top of Google. In some cases, those links could impact your site overall in a negative way.
What are their results?
When hiring an SEO expert review his or her case studies. Ask for them. Look to see if their rankings are all long tail terms or some smaller more competitive keywords. If all the rankings they provide are 4 – 8 words long – it’s not a good sign.
You also want to see a variety of SEO work. How good are they at identifying site issues, indexing, conducting audits and so on? Many “new” SEOs just do on-page and link building. If your site is older you will need more than that to improve rankings.
Ask for references if you don’t find a lot of case studies on their site and be sure to reach out to them and ask them what they thought about the work and the communication.
How does an SEO measure success?
Rankings are a good measurement for tracking SEO. However, ranking for a keyword and not receiving traffic from it, is not. Or, receiving traffic that doesn’t translate into “goals” may not be the right traffic.
How do they communicate? Every month you should have a call with your SEO expert or SEO agency. There should be goals to reach every month. It’s okay to miss or exceed the goals. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t reach your goals. The purpose of the call is to discuss what went well, what didn’t and why and the plan moving forward.
What else do they do?
While SEO alone is a lot to handle many experts and agencies offer other services. When working with a web development agency, ask if they have a dedicated expert. Many agencies will tell you they build sites with SEO but don’t have a dedicated expert on the team. This is critical when going through a site redesign. You could lose a lot of traffic if the redesign isn’t done correctly.
If you’re hiring an expert look at the other services they offer. Do they do paid search, content marketing, social media, web development? Having experience in other related areas is useful – However, if they offer a lot of other services it may be a sign that they are a jack of all trades. If you’re looking for an expert be sure they are an expert in that field and not a so-called expert in many fields.
Ask about contracts
It is not uncommon to have SEO contracts for 6 – 12 months at a time. However, you should review progress on a quarterly basis. If there has been no improvement or things have gotten worse you want to be able to back out of the contract. In theory, if things have gotten worse and they don’t know why – you wouldn’t want to continue with them. Ask them to write the clause into the contract. If they are confident in their work it shouldn’t be an issue.
Hopefully, you have enough ammunition to ask the right questions when you’re looking to hire an SEO expert.