How to Interview an SEO Consultant
When hiring an SEO consultant, an interview can help you decide whether the expert is the right one for your business. Yet, many founders don’t have strong recruiting skills, much less an in-depth SEO expertise, so very few ask questions that challenge the candidate and get to the heart of whether the consultant can actually get the job done.
So, what should you be asking when interviewing an SEO consultant and how should you conduct the interview? In this post, we give you a framework that you can apply to your interviewing process to separate the SEO wheat from the SEO chaff.
General guidelines for interviewing an SEO consultant
There are a few general rules you should follow to make your interview process effective and efficient.
Keep it structured
A structured interview that is based on a set of relevant questions ensures that all candidates are held to the same standard and provides you with a basis for reliable, consistent evaluation. A structured approach also allows you to keep interviews as short as possible, while at the same time covering everything that you need to make an informed decision.
Use different types of questions
You should structure your interview with an SEO consultant around four types of questions to help you form a full picture of the expert:
- Fact-based questions give you insights into the track record the consultant is bringing to your project.
- Knowledge-based questions deal with the SEO-specific expertise, and there is general consensus on what the right answers are.
- Behavioral questions ask a consultant to call upon previous experience to explain how they deal with certain situations.
- Situational questions help you evaluate consultant’s ability to think through problems and come up with creative and effective solutions.
Make it a two-way street
Your interview with the SEO consultant should not be a Q&A session. On the contrary, it should feel like a conversation that enables the consultant to also evaluate you as a potential client.
A strong SEO consultant who is genuinely interested in working with you and driving your success will be asking questions to learn more about your business, market, competition, previous SEO efforts, and other marketing initiatives.
Interview questions that will help you hire the right SEO consultant
Your interview questions should be testing for the competencies and qualities that you want to see in a top-notch SEO consultant, as well as clarifying what to expect if you were to engage the expert. Tailor the question list to reflect your background and your specific situation.
When looking for an SEO consultant, you want to identify a proven expert, who has delivered outstanding results for clients and has done it on multiple projects. A legit SEO marketer should be able to provide examples of how they were able to increase traffic, leads, and conversions.
You specifically want to understand the consultant’s expertise in working with companies and sites similar to yours. SEO is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and strategies and tactics that are successful for certain businesses may not drive results for others. So, whether you are a local business, a SaaS startup, a mobile app company, or a large corporation, you want to hear consultant’s success stories with clients similar to you.
- What types of results have you driven for businesses similar to mine?
- What is your experience with local search optimization / app store optimization / video SEO?
When asking for examples of work, you certainly want to understand how they impacted their client’s growth. But even more than success metrics, you want to focus on how they achieved those results and made the most out of limited available resources.
- What was your strategy?
- How did you execute it?
- What made it successful?
Another important point with these case studies is to understand how recent the experience has been. Things are always shifting in the SEO land, and you want to make sure your consultant’s expertise is relevant and up to date.
Finally, you should also ask for a few references from companies that the consultant worked with, so you can later corroborate the facts and get a sense of how satisfied they are with the results the consultant delivered.
When speaking with an experienced SEO consultant, it’s less important to test technical knowledge than to gain an understanding of how the person thinks about problems and attacks challenges.
Sure, you can ask a consultant to explain to you things like on-page ranking factors, latest algorithm changes at Google, or Schema markups. But truthfully, anyone can pick up that knowledge from reading SEO-related blogs.
Instead, when you speak with an SEO consultant, you want to understand exactly how they work. Look for those who can clearly explain the strategies they would use to optimize your website’s search engine visibility and stay clear of those who are not willing to discuss their approaches in detail.
- How will you develop an SEO strategy for my business?
Modern SEO strategy requires a holistic view of your digital properties that covers three major areas: technical SEO, user experience, and off-page SEO. Make sure that your SEO consultant can articulate how they will address all three to reach your goals.
- How will you conduct keyword research?
Keyword research is not only about using tools to identify the number of searches for a particular keyword and keyword density. It’s about uncovering user intent behind a keyword and understanding what type of content should be developed to address it.
- How will you build links?
Some SEOs are still using black hat link-building techniques that can put your site into a penalty box. Today’s best link building practices are based on earning links from credible sites by providing high-quality content.
- How will you approach mobile SEO for my website?
Mobile SEO must be part of the conversation with an SEO consultant. Google announced last year that they would be moving to a mobile-first index, making mobile optimization a central part of any SEO effort.
- How do you run SEO experiments?
Testing should be a part of a good SEO strategy that can help you achieve outsized gains. Google is continually changing their algorithm and testing is the best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your site.
- Do you abide by Google’s posted best practices?
As Google’s Maile Ohye strongly suggests, ask an SEO consultant if they will back up their recommendations with a Google article, video, or forum response that supports both the issue that needs to be improved to help with ranking and the approach they prescribe. This will prevent you from wasting time and money on doing wrong things.
- How will you approach content, social media and PR?
SEO can rarely be successful without strong content marketing, PR, and social media efforts. If you don’t have in-house capabilities in these areas, you need to understand which of these the consultant will be handling on his or her own and which may require additional resources.
It’s important to come up with a solid SEO strategy, but success with SEO often comes down to the ability to implement the suggested improvements.
- What challenges did you encounter with implementing SEO changes in the past and how did you overcome them?
To overcome implementation roadblocks, a consultant needs to be skilled at working with product, creative, and marketing teams and have the ability to communicate what he or she is trying to do in a way that secures buy-in from management and other parts of organization.
Measurement and reporting
When hiring an SEO consultant, you want to understand how you will know you are succeeding and what’s reasonable to expect.
- How do you measure the success of your SEO efforts?
Typical SEO KPIs include organic traffic, engagement metrics, and conversions, to name a few. A good SEO consultant will define their success metrics around your goals, so look for those professionals who want to understand your business and what success means to you before giving you the answer.
- What results should we expect and over what time frame?
It’s a fair question that a good SEO consultant should be able to answer based on their experience with other clients. Effective SEO takes time. In most cases, you should expect to see the benefits from SEO anywhere from within four months to a year of getting started. Beware of anyone promising quick results – they are likely using black-hat techniques that will eventually get your site penalized.
- How will we track progress and how often will you report?
Preferably, you should be able to track progress via a third party tool that you can access any time. The consultant should also provide a periodic report reviewing performance against your goals and explaining changes that were implemented. You can ask to see a sample report created for another client and ask how they would customize the report for your goals and KPIs.
Make sure you are comfortable with the level and method of communication proposed by the consultant. Reporting frequency will likely depend on the size and scope of your project, but bear in mind that tracking SEO progress on a weekly basis is largely ineffective.
Process and terms
Before hiring an SEO consultant, you also need to calibrate your expectations on project terms and understand what the process of working with an SEO consultant entails to avoid surprises down the road.
- What is your minimum engagement length?
Now you know that hiring an SEO consultant is a long-term commitment. How long? Some SEO consultants have a minimum engagement length requirement of 12 months, while others offer only a 3-month lock-up. It’s important you understand what type of commitment is required before you proceed any further with them.
- How much do you charge for your services?
If you want to hire a quality SEO consultant, you should be prepared to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per month. Ask consultant for their typical pricing range to make sure it fits your budget.
- What will you need from us to get started?
Understand what the consultant requires from you to create a plan, kick things off, and do their job effectively. They typically need information about your business, target audience, and existing marketing efforts, as well as access to your Google Analytics account, Google Search Console, and possibly other data.
You do not have to be an expert to hire an SEO consultant who will get the job done. A well-conducted interview can help you properly evaluate the candidate. By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to weed out the fakers and identify great SEO talent that will deliver long-term success for your business.
Looking for a proven SEO consultant today?
Find SEO consultants with experience of driving growth for companies like yours on Growth Engineers.