How do I Choose the Right SEO Specialist?
Effective SEO work should place your business in a top position on search engine results pages when people are trying to find whatever your business has to offer – this hasn’t changed since the dawn of SEO. What has changed is the ever-increasing complexity and time involved in attaining one of those top positions, making it more important than ever to utilize professional SEO services for your business. Finding the right SEO specialist can dramatically impact your business’s online presence but with ever-increasing digital marketing options, how do you choose the right specialist? Here are 10 tips to help you find the SEO services you need.
1. Does the agency rank well themselves?
Would you trust a dentist with bad teeth or a fat personal trainer? If not, then you should avoid hiring a SEO specialist or agency that does not rank well for the variety of terms they ought to target. For example, an SEO firm in Austin Texas should try to rank for ‘SEO Companies in Austin”. Of course, you’re never going to rank for all of your keywords, but ensure that they themselves have ranking and decent coverage.
2. Tracking and Analytics
Even the best search engine optimization can take a lot of time before it shows results making it very important to track the impact of the work being done. Things like organic traffic, ranking, submissions, followed links vs non followed links are all basics that should be reported on by the vendor that you choose to work with. When choosing an SEO specialist, make sure that they are able to report on metrics on their work with a reasonable amount of frequency. The main thing is making sure that something is actually happening for the monthly fee you’re paying.
3. Do they really understand my industry?
Ask your agency what type of strategies they’re considering using and have them explain it to you in terms that you understand. Like any field of expertise, the “SEO specialist” can easily use SEO lingo to sound like they’re a true specialist – and who wouldn’t want a specialist? Regardless of your prospective vendor’s level of digital marketing expertise, they should be able to clearly communicate how their expertise will translate to your business goals. If you leave a meeting with your prospect having heard a lot of fancy words without an understanding of how your digital presence will be made more competitive, you may want to continue your search for the right agency. After all, someone that really and truly understands their craft should be able to simplify it.
4. Do they stay current with SEO best practices?
The digital marketing world is arguably one of the most dynamic industries there is, meaning that any specialist worth your time and money should be on top of the latest trends in the world of SEO. Commitment to SEO is surely a commitment to ongoing learnings. Given the fact that you are likely not well-versed in SEO, this is naturally a daunting thing to try and be sure of. Doing some quick research before meeting with a prospect on subjects like “latest Google Algorithm shifts” and recent articles from credible sources such as moz regarding “best SEO practice techniques” is a great approach. You don’t need to understand these topics very well yourself – as long as you’re at least aware of the current conversations surrounding SEO, you should be able to tell whether or not your prospect is staying on top of their craft.
5. How will they validate the cost?
This is naturally a very important area to feel confident in with your chosen agency or specialist. If the SEO objectives are clear, it is important to invest the right amount of money and time towards that objective. Your prospect should be able to clearly explain the process, and more specifically, the time needed to reach your SEO goals.
So, how much time does it take to reach a given an objective?
The answer is different on a case-by-case basis but in general, the more competition, the more time and expertise needed to see results. A dentist in a town of 30,000 people will have a much shorter SEO timeline than a dentist looking for results in a city of 1,000,000 people. Sometimes SEO is not required at all! Merely a site that Google understands well enough.
So what is it that takes so much time? Your vendor should discuss things like the time needed to identify the right keywords, build backlinks and relationships with other websites, content development, analysis of competition etc. Again, depending on the industry you’re in, SEO is ALWAYS a marathon but some races are longer and more complex than others!
6. Does this agency have a proven track record in industries like yours?
Dealing with a proven specialist is great but if you can find a specialist who has dealt with your industry or like-industries provides an added level of expertise and assurance that you are spending your money wisely. Although there are many SEO practices that are translatable across any and all industries, a digital marketer who only has experience with international financial services, for example, will have a heightened learning curve when it comes to providing SEO services for a travel agency. Finding a specialist who has proven success in a related industry is something to consider.
That said, you may want to consider if there is a potential conflict of interest if that SEO specialist works with businesses similar to yours in your market.
7. Are their employees certified?
Unlike Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, an “SEO certification” doesn’t exist, but you may be able to tell a lot about how seriously an internet marketing agency takes their craft by looking into the certifications their counterparts in paid ads management have. Digital marketing is not the most regulated of industries which means it is imperative to question your prospective vendor’s qualifications. For example, Google certifications are a great place to start …
Related to this, you might ask about the various tools the prospective firm has invested in, the associations they’re a part of, the awards they’ve won, or charities they support.
8. Are their proposed offerings realistic?
Doing some research of your own is one of the best ways to help you and your business make the right SEO vendor selection. Although it may seem paradoxical to spend time learning SEO in order to outsource SEO services, simply spending some time into understanding this world will help you ask the most important question: What are these services going to achieve and are my prospective vendor’s propositions reasonable? Consider the process of buying a car. You don’t need to be an automotive engineer to be able to purchase the right vehicle but doing some research in order to understand what suits you best can certainly help you make a more informed purchase. On another note, having a great organic ranking is an increasingly time-consuming and complex feat, which is why the “automotive engineers” of the SEO world are so important for your business’s digital goals.
9. Can they provide case studies?
Any sort of “expert” should be able to prove why they’re an expert. Consider requesting cases when vetting prospects, or better yet, wait to see if they provide cases that show results in scenarios similar to yours. You should consider “proof of success” a mandatory part of your SEO service-vetting process to that you can feel confident that you’re in the right hands.
10. Do they understand the “big picture”?
There are many “digital marketers” out there who may very well have a solid understanding of SEO but don’t take the time to implement the best long-term plan. There is a very big and very important difference between offering cookie-cutter SEO solutions and having an actionable, realistic, and beneficial SEO plan. SEO work is one of the most important yet sometimes murkiest areas of digital marketing largely because of the amount of time it takes to see clear results from the work that has been done. Your ideal specialist should not only be able to speak about the SEO practices that they will implement for you – they should be able to clearly explain how their work will fit into the big picture of your business as a whole.