10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
If you’re looking to improve your business, your time and energy need to go toward improving your search engine optimization. Each day, millions of people rely on search engines to help them find the latest info on local businesses.
While that may seem like an automatic slam dunk for business owners who have a website, you may want to hold off on your excitement. Reports show that 91% of all content on the Internet receives no traffic from Google, the world’s largest search engine.
However, that doesn’t mean that your company is doomed to obscurity. It just means you’ll need a little help from an SEO consultant.
Keep reading to learn more about what an SEO consultant does, how they can help your business, and what you’ll need to ask any potential partners.
What is an SEO Consultant?
In the simplest terms, an SEO consultant is an individual who specializes in helping businesses or individuals grow their web presence through the use of SEO.
Sure, that may seem pretty self-explanatory on the surface. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
The best SEO consultant gets to know the ins and outs of your company so they can better serve your bottom line and address your specific concerns. Depending on your campaign’s needs, consultants can help you understand any or all of the following:
- Web development and design
- Keyword research
- Market research
- Social media management
- Ad retargeting
- Analytic interpretation
- SEO trends
- Algorithm histories
- Search engine-specific pitfalls
As you can see, a great search engine consultant can do a ton for your company.
How is a Consultant Better Than an In-House Team?
You already pay your marketing team to generate revenue and grow your business’ online presence. So why hire someone else to do what they’re already doing?
This is a bit of a tricky question, as the roles of an SEO consultant tend to be fluid depending on the situation.
For the most part, however, your consultant won’t do the work for you. Instead, they’re there to offer advice and provide specific details on what your company should focus on.
The actual implementation is often up to you. Thus, they aren’t necessarily “better” than your team, as they serve different purposes.
1. What Is the Most Integral Component of SEO?
Most interviews start the same way: So, tell me about yourself.
It’s a boring and trite question that doesn’t tell you much about a person at all. Most of the time, they’ll spout off the same things you see on their website or resumé.
However, asking this question serves a different purpose.
This question serves as an icebreaker and should help you learn more about your potential consultant’s SEO preferences. At the same time, you’ll get to see if their specialties and preferences match up with your company’s goals.
So if you’re looking to improve your brand’s social media presence, for example, you’d want to pay close attention to candidates who discuss their love of all things social.
Note that there isn’t a right answer, per se. You’ll likely get as many different answers as you have candidates.
2. Can I Reach out to Your past Clients?
A consultant worth hiring is going to come with plenty of glowing recommendations. They should be so proud of their work that they won’t have any problem letting you reach out to companies they’ve partnered with before.
This information is something that most consultants have on hand. If your potential partner hesitates or seems reluctant to let you reach out, chances are something went wrong and they’re not telling the entire truth.
In essence, you’re not only interviewing search consultants but their past clients, too!
You owe it to your company to reach out to these clients. A consultant is only going to tell you the highlights of their work history. However, a past client is willing to elaborate and tell you everything…good and bad.
3. What Do You Know About Our Industry?
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re working in, you need SEO. With that said, hiring an SEO expert who has experience working in your field is quite beneficial.
They’ll know the types of strategies that tend to be most effective. Likewise, it can cut down on the amount of market research they’ll need to conduct so you can get started on your campaign faster.
And the faster you start on your campaign, the faster you get to see your company climb the search engine ladder.
4. Do You Offer a Free Quote?
Everyone likes getting something for free! Especially when the alternative is paying hundreds of dollars for a consultant to tell you that they don’t see themselves as the right fit for your company.
Fortunately, most consultants and SEO service companies are happy to give you a sample of the goods before you sign on and form a partnership. Most consultants or firms, like SEOEXPLODE, even have a way to get a free quote directly from their website.
In most instances, these free quotes come in the form of an audit.
During a web audit, a consultant gathers information on your company from a variety of sources. They’re looking to see how you’re performing on search engines, whether you’re following SEO standards, and where your efforts seem to slip through the cracks.
They should come back with you with a detailed report (ie lots of data) of what’s working and what needs some improvement.
5. What Strategies Will You Use for My Business?
This question works on two fronts.
First, it’s a great way to make sure that your potential partner has a thorough understanding of your business and its unique needs. SEO is far from a cookie-cutter process, after all.
Asking about specific strategies can keep you out of trouble, too.
The good news is that there are tons of ways that your business can maximize its SEO potential. The bad news is that not all of these tactics work and that some of them can downright hurt your website.
It all comes down to white hat and black hat techniques.
White hat techniques are search engine approved methods of boosting your ranking. Tactics like building a thorough library of content, researching keywords, and using informative and relevant links, for instance.
Black hat techniques are a great deal more dubious and should be avoided at all costs. A consultant using black hat strategies may hide links within your content, for instance, or spam your keywords.
While these may seem like innocent enough methods, the result is anything but. If you’re caught trying to dupe a search engine’s algorithm, the engine in question reserves the right deindex your site, rendering your company practically invisible.
And since so few websites see the coveted front page as is, that can be a death knell.
6. How Does the Approval Process Work?
If you’re partnering with someone who will take the reigns from your team and do the work as well as provide the advice, make sure you know what they’re doing. An unexpected change to your website or post to your social pages can cause a panic.
For that matter, setting up an approval process can keep you from overpaying for services that you don’t want or need.
SEO consultants charge enough as it is. If you’re happy with your metadata, you don’t need a surprise bill for URL structure updates.
7. What Are Your Communication Standards?
The last thing you need in the middle of a campaign is for your consultant to go dark and ghost you. You need to make sure you’re working with someone who understands and respects your business and its needs and will pick up the phone or respond to an email promptly.
On the other hand, the opposite situation — a consultant who communicates too often — can present an issue, as well.
You’re a business professional who is most likely juggling a ton of tasks at once. You shouldn’t have to worry about your consultant blowing up your phone with the smallest and most insignificant updates.
So what’s the best course of action? Find a happy medium.
Make sure you’re working with someone that you can count on and set milestone meetings to check-in with their progress every week or so.
8. When Can I Expect to See Results?
Consultants don’t wave a magic wand and deliver results. No, they spend weeks — sometimes months — researching the best tools and tactics to use to help their clients reach the front page.
Accordingly, it can take quite a while to see a major improvement in your company’s search rankings. While that may not be the answer you want to hear, that tactical approach works in your best interest.
Steer clear of any consultants that promise quick or even instant results. Chances are they’re either using black hat tactics or they’re not telling you the entire truth.
So how long should it take to see results? That varies from campaign to campaign.
On average, you can expect a few weeks to pass before you see even a small change. However, that doesn’t mean that your consultant’s plans aren’t working.
If you’re concerned about the current timeframe, reach out and express your worry to your SEO partner.
9. Does Your Work Include Off-Page SEO?
We’ve talked a lot about websites so far. However, websites are only one facet of your SEO.
To truly rule the search rankings, you’ll need to focus your efforts wider than just your website and incorporate a variety of other outlets.
Social media, for example, is a popular way to grow your company. Simply sharing content from your website to your social pages is a wonderful way to drive traffic, establish authority, and strengthen your link-building strategy.
Likewise, off-page SEO can help you manage your reputation management. With websites like Yelp and Google allowing users to speak their thoughts on businesses, keeping up with the conversation about your business is a must.
Negative reviews won’t necessarily harm your SEO. However, a gracious and understanding response can drive traffic to your website and thus help your bottom line.
10. How Long Will These Results Last?
The trickiest thing about SEO is that it changes all the time. The methods that a consultant suggests today might not work a year from now.
To make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, partner with a consultant who has their finger on the pulse of SEO trends. Someone who knows what’s coming, and how to future-proof your SEO so you won’t have to turn around and hire them again in a few months.
Pay close attention to how they respond to this question. They should tell you about specific trends they’ll use to keep up with popular growth methods.
Things like choosing keywords for voice search, mobile implementation, and reputation management, for instance.
You’ll want to partner with someone who is forward-thinking. Someone who isn’t only thinking about how these tactics can help your business right now, but how they can help tomorrow, too.
What to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
You’ve poured countless hours into your business. Isn’t it about time you saw results for all of your hard work?
Hiring an SEO consultant may not be at the top of your list of things to do right now, but the longer you put it off, the more your business’ search rankings slip. Even if you’d like to tackle some of your company’s SEO efforts yourself, a consultant can at least point you in the right direction.
So remember what you’ve learned today and take these tips to heart. And when you’re ready to learn more about the marketing world, make sure to check back with our blog, which is packed full of great content aimed at helping businesses like yours.