How to Know If Your SEO Consultant is the Real Deal
You know that sinking feeling? You’ve spent several months working with an SEO consultant only to find out you’ve wasted your money? Unfortunately, it’s a scenario that plays out more often than not because most founders and business owners don’t know how to properly assess the candidates.
So, what do you do if you don’t have an in-depth knowledge of SEO? How can you tell if a consultant is worth their money before you hire them?
In our experience, here are the things you should look for in a candidate to give you the confidence in making the right choice.
They can prove their results
Instead of relying on what an SEO consultant claims they will do, you can learn a lot from what they have already done. A proven expert will be able to provide multiple examples of successful SEO campaigns and show how those optimizations contributed to the client’s bottom line.
When asking a consultant about past projects, see whether their answers are detailed and clear or high-level and fuzzy. To gauge their expertise beyond storytelling, you can give them a laptop and ask them to show you what they’ve done. Finally, always ask for references and stay away from those consultants who are not forthcoming with them.
They can explain things clearly
You can get a sense of how strong a consultant is by his ability to translate complex SEO concepts and jargon into easily understood terms.
If you start getting lost in the conversation and the clarification you ask for just confuses you even more – chances are they are not a subject matter expert. After all, as Albert Einstein said:
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
They are transparent about how they work
When interviewing an SEO consultant, you need to ask them what exactly they will be doing to improve your search rankings and get a clear answer. If the consultant won’t share in detail their approach and the strategies they will use, take it as a red flag.
Ask them about deliverables and how you will be able to track and evaluate their work:
- Will you have access to a real-time analytics dashboard?
- Will they share with you all the changes they have made to your website?
- Will they provide you with periodic reports detailing progress and what they intend to do in the following weeks?
They follow webmaster guidelines
Don’t hire an SEO consultant unless they commit to following webmaster guidelines. Not only will this help you avoid penalties for using shady practices, but it will also prevent you from hiring a poor SEO who might otherwise convince you to do useless things.
Here is a hiring tip from Maile Ohye of Google:
My strongest advice when working with an SEO is to request that they corroborate their recommendation with a documented statement from Google, either in a Help Center article, video, or Googler response in a forum that supports both: 1) the SEO’s description of the issue that needs to be improved to help with ranking and 2) the approach they prescribe to accomplishing this task.
They ask you questions
A good SEO consultant will always ask questions around your business, your budget, and your goals before delving into what they can do to help you meet them. They qualify you first and sell second.
Unless they get a clear picture of the challenges you are facing, the results you want, and the resources you are prepared to allocate, they won’t be able to credibly determine that SEO is the right demand generation tool for your situation and that they can realistically deliver.
Experienced consultants know that it’s better to pass on an opportunity when the expectations are not aligned rather than face inevitable finger-pointing down the road.
They give you reasonable expectations
A proven SEO consultant can draw from experience and give you a good idea of what type of results you should see and how long it will take. Having worked in situations with similar complexity and level of resources, they can estimate revenue and ranking gains that you should expect from your SEO efforts.
Run away from consultants who guarantee number one rankings or fast results. They either overpromise to get you to sign on as a client or plan to use black hat techniques, putting your website in danger of getting penalized.
SEO has become a much tougher game in recent years. Depending on your industry, competition, and goals, it will take at least 6-12 months to start reaping the benefits of your investment.
They focus on the right metrics
When it comes to SEO, ranking number one is the primary focus of almost every business owner. But a top ranking alone is not enough and may not even be the right approach to help you achieve your goals. There are many other metrics that may be used to guide a profitable SEO campaign for your business.
Ask your consultant how they plan to measure the success of your SEO efforts. You want someone who understands your situation and will define their success metrics around your specific objectives.
Picking the right SEO consultant can be a challenge if you don’t have much experience in this field. You want a proven expert with a working knowledge of different aspects of modern SEO to implement a strategy that produces results, but it may take months before you can tell whether you’ve hired a real deal or a pretender.
Hiring an SEO consultant doesn’t have to be a gamble, though. By being diligent upfront, you can put yourself in a position to pick the right partner who will grow organic traffic to your site, improve your search rankings, and help you generate more leads and sales.