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You’re probably in need of, or think you are in need of, an SEO expert. Lucky for you, you’ve arrived at the right place. Over the last few years I’ve helped over 300 businesses find and hire the right SEO expert consultant or agency for their business.
If your website doesn’t show up on the first page of search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo, your potential customers might not even know you exist. Better search engine visibility can be critical to boosting visits to your website, which can lead to increased brand awareness and higher sales and profits.
But what if you lack the time and technical expertise to improve your site’s search engine ranking? It might make sense to hire an experienced, reliable search engine optimization (SEO) consultant.
And now I’m sharing the learnings with you.
Start with these steps:
Learn some SEO yourself
Use Credo to find someone with experience with your type of site
Learn the differences between a solo consultant and an agency
Learn (and ask) the right questions
Get references/client referrals
Learn who you will be working with
Get them to set your expectations
Pick and commit
Before you start, building a business seems simple enough. You’ve got a great idea and a little bit of support.
Add a lot of hard work
and you can make your dream a reality. What could possibly go wrong? As it
turns out, quite a lot. I’ve built several successful startups over the years
and one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that it is vital to have
a team of smart people in your corner. You need a developer, an SEO, a social
media manager, a writer, a salesperson, and the list goes on. When we look at a
successful company, we tend to only see the figureheads – one or two quirky
founders in sweatshirts and tennis shoes. What you don’t see is the team that
helped them get there. And many times that team includes a least a few
freelancers. Here is the thing: you can’t be good at everything. Take me, for
example. I have never been a good salesperson. Give me a bunch of data and I
can tell you anything you want to know. But sales? Not my thing. I tried it
once. I was a Kirby vacuum salesman for exactly one summer. I sold one vacuum
that was later returned. The thing is, I don’t need to be a good salesperson.
What I need to know is how to hire good salespeople. The same theory applies to
hiring SEO freelancers. The benefits of hiring a freelance SEO
The first questions you are likely asking are, “Why would I hire a freelancer?” and “Wouldn’t it be better to hire a big company?” Maybe. But I think a lot of business owners underestimate freelancers. They assume if the freelancer was good enough, they would be able to find a job. That might be true for some. But most freelancers choose the lifestyle because they like it. And many times, they make more money. There are currently 53 million freelancers in the United States. pasted Half of them say they would never stop freelancing no matter how much money they were offered. Don’t assume someone is freelancing out of desperation. Many freelancers are doing it by choice. But, that doesn’t mean a freelance SEO is the right choice for you. If you’ve determined you need help with SEO, there are a few routes you can go. You can learn SEO yourself.
You can hire a full-time SEO.
You can hire an SEO company.
You can hire a freelance SEO.
What is the difference between these options?
The first option is to learn SEO yourself. This absolutely can be done.
Start with a beginner’s guide to SEO, then move on to an advanced guide. There are literally thousands of guides, books, and websites where you can learn SEO. It really isn’t rocket science. Here is the issue: It takes time to learn SEO. A lot of time. Time you’d be better off spending on growing your business and serving your customers, not learning about the latest SEO strategies. Next, you can hire a full time, in-house SEO. This can be a fantastic option if you have the resources to do so. You get one highly skilled person who is totally dedicated to helping your brand grow.
However, they also lose perspective because they only see your data. They also might be too expensive.
Plus, if you are a startup working from seed money, you might not be able to guarantee you will be able to pay that salary in the future.
Keep in mind the average SEO salary is just over $60K in the U.S., according to Indeed.com.
That rate can go much higher depending upon the market where you are located.
For example, the average SEO salary in San Francisco is $100k.
In Seattle, where I live, the average salary of an SEO is just over $74K.
Those salaries don’t include benefits and the tax obligation you take on.
Your next option is to hire an SEO agency.
It sounds good. You get access to a lot of resources and in-depth tools without paying as much overhead as you would for a full-time person.
An agency sees data from tons of different industries, so they are more likely to be creative and more willing to try unconventional methods.
That could be a blessing or a curse.
But, you might not get a very personal experience. According to a survey by Moz, the average SEO company has up to 10 clients, and some have a many as 100 clients.
Agencies can also be expensive. According to the same survey, nearly 35% of SEO clients pay at least $2,500 a month.
At that cost, you could just about hire a full-time employee.
If you have deep pockets, that number might not scare you. But if you are bootstrapping it, there is a good chance you don’t have that sort of monthly budget.
More importantly, spending $5,000 a month on SEO might not be the best use of your resources.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fantastic SEO companies and in-house SEOs who do amazing work.
But that might not be the best fit for your company.
So, that leaves finding a freelance SEO.
A freelancer might be a good fit for your company if:
You don’t have time to
keep up with the regular changes in the SEO industry.
You don’t have the time to learn SEO.
Your skills are most useful elsewhere in your company.
You don’t want to spend months testing SEO strategies that might or might not work.
You want a personal, targeted SEO strategy.
You can’t commit to an annual salary.
You want someone with experience outside of your brand.
But how do you find the right freelance SEO to ensure you don’t compromise quality?
Determining Your SEO
I am a firm believer in that old saying “you get what you pay for.”
It applies to Facebook marketing, keyword research, and even SEO.
More doesn’t always mean better.
There is a fine line between paying for quality and just plain overpaying. The goal when hiring a freelance SEO is to find that sweet spot where quality and value overlap.
So, how do you do it?
Before you search your first job board or post your first job ad, you need to figure out what your SEO needs are.
I suggest you begin with a comprehensive SEO checklist to see where your site stands.
The SEO checklist on Alexa’s blog is a good place to start.
You don’t need to fix issues— that is what you are hiring a freelance SEO for, right?
But you do need to create a comprehensive list of your strengths and weaknesses as you see them. This will serve as a starting point when you’re looking to hire an SEO.
Another great option is this 15-minute SEO checklist from Moz. I love that it walks you through each step and explains why each step is important.
The information you uncover here will help you later when you are looking for and interviewing possible candidates.
For example, if you realize your link profile includes some shady links from an old writer, you would want to choose an SEO who has experience in cleaning up link profiles.
If you realize you have a bunch of duplicate content, you would want an SEO who specializes in on-page SEO.
Before we dig into how to find the right freelance SEO, I want to talk about where to find an SEO.
Where to Find a Quality
When looking to hire an SEO, most people turn to their favorite search engine, which can be a good place to start.
Just remember to skip over the ads and look at the organic results.
Because if an SEO can’t rank well for key terms like “SEO expert” or “SEO consultant” or “SEO your city,” they aren’t very good at their jobs.
Skip these results:
And look at these organic results further down.
This is not to say ads are inherently bad. You just want to find an SEO who is able to rank organically for key terms related to SEO.
I also like searching on AngelList for freelancers.
This is a site dedicated job seekers and investors with startups looking for resources. It is a great place to find quality leads.
Indeed is another good option. Click on “Find Resumes” at the top to search for job applicants.
You can search by skills, job title, companies, and even location.
Craigslist can be a surprising source of quality applicants.
If you are comfortable working with a remote freelancer, post in several large cities including Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami.
You can also use more niche sites such as Inbound.org, Mediabistro, and We Work Remotely.
Now that I have shared where to post your job listing, let’s move onto how to find the right freelance SEO for your brand.
How to Find the Right
Finding a skilled freelance SEO can be the difference between growing your business and wasting thousands of dollars.
So it is important to get it right.
The right SEO needs to understand your brand, stay up to date on the latest SEO news, know how to track results, and be able to effectively communicate with you and your current team.
Here are a few steps for hiring an SEO without compromising on quality.
Step 1: Look for someone with a proven track record in SEO.
Above, I suggested you look for someone who ranks well organically for “SEO your city.” This a good place to start.
But, if you are looking for a freelancer, the best candidate might not be in your city.
What do you do?
Search for people who rank well for other key terms, such as “SEO consultant” or “SEO freelancer.”
You can also search for key terms related to those SEO weaknesses we uncovered when doing the simple SEO audit earlier.
For example, you might search “on-page SEO case studies” or “duplicate content solutions.” The people who rank well for these keywords likely know their stuff.
In some instances, those knowledgeable people might be agencies. This will happen when you search “SEO case studies.”
Make sure you look at the articles and see who wrote them. Some may be guest posts written by a freelancer.
Also, ask the SEO freelancer for case studies or references.
Don’t just take their word on how awesome they are at SEO. They should be able to backup their claims with data.
Step 2: Interview prospective candidates.
Once you have a list of freelance SEOs who might be a good fit, it is time to start interviewing them. There are three types of questions I like to ask prospective candidates.
Feel free to adjust these to fit your needs.
The first question is, “Looking at my website, what are 3 SEO mistakes you would recommend fixing?”
Keep in mind, you aren’t looking for them to tell you exactly how they would fix the problem. That is time you would pay for.
But they should be able to name a few areas that need improvement.
A highly skilled SEO needs to be able to look at your site source code and find a few areas in need of improvement.
Even on my site I would expect an freelance SEO to at least be able to mention a few strategies we could test.
The key is to make sure you ask them this on the spot. A good SEO shouldn’t need time to do a bunch of research.
The second question is, “What is your SEO philosophy?”
This will give you an idea of how they work and how they approach SEO.
Do they only focus on link building?
Are some of their strategies black hat?
This is information you need to have before you make a hiring decision.
For example, from the SEO checklist earlier, you might know you need to focus on on-page SEO. This question will help you find the right SEO for your needs.
The third question is, “What kind of rankings can I expect?”
This is sort of a trick question. You actually don’t want an SEO who promises you front page rankings at the drop of a hat.
Why? Because if they are doing white hat SEO, they can’t promise you top rankings in a short period of time.
That isn’t how SEO works.
A good SEO knows SEO is less of a sprint and more of a long distance race. It takes time.
Instead, look for an answer closer to:
“Well, I can’t promise you front page rankings in a week, but my average clients see an increase of 35% in organic search in the first 60 days. Based on X, Y, Z, I think…”
Step 3: Do a small test job before you sign a long-term contract.
So, you think you’ve found the perfect SEO. Before you lock them in with a long-term contract, you need to do a shorter test job.
Choose one key term or one page you want to improve and have them focus only on that for 30 to 60 days.
This should be enough time to see changes.
To figure out if their efforts are working, you want to check to see if your impressions are increasing.
To do this, first log in to Google Search Console.
Then, click on the website they are working on.
Then, open up the Search Analytics Report.
Look at the page or search term you are having them optimize and make sure the impressions are going up.
This is an indication that what they are doing is working.
Step 4: Finally, stay connected and keep the communication lines open.
You need to keep in touch with your SEO.
Do they have access to everything they need? Are you seeing the results you expected? Is there a sale period coming up?
Communication is key to building a successful relationship with anyone, and it is doubly important for a successful relationship with a freelancer.
One of the most challenging and daunting tasks every entrepreneur faces is hiring the right qualified candidate. Hiring is time-consuming, and it can be very expensive—and even detrimental – if you hire the wrong person.
Unfortunately, hiring is a necessary evil when you’re growing your business. And as a company expands, one candidate that almost every business will need to find is a marketing specialist.
As an individual with a background in starting and growing a midsize global digital agency, I had to autonomously start a marketing department and create a hiring process to ensure we found qualified people who were the perfect fit for the team.
I learned then that the biggest problem employers face when hiring marketing “experts” is that everyone says they can do it. It’s easy to say it and I’m sure if you had to hire someone, you know what I’m talking about. Truth is, very few truly can deliver on what they promise.
When interviewing for any position in the digital field, every candidate will have a great resume and will say “I can do the job,” but unless you know how to ensure they are qualified, you really won’t know if they can do it or not.
Usually, that’s because when they worked on their portfolio designs alongside a team and were not the lead designers.
Another quick example leads us to our developers. We once had a recruitment company send us someone who they claimed to be a senior developer, Yet, when we asked simple development questions, the candidate didn’t get one right.
Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable conversation for both of us – particularly when he finally admitted that he wasn’t really the developer on those projects, but more of a QA engineer.
Regardless, he easily fooled the recruitment company into thinking he could ask for and rightfully deserve a senior developer position AND salary.
Although these candidates weren’t marketers, the same thing can happen in that field. It’s far too common for a social media candidate to pretend to they know in-depth strategy, or a digital marketer to embellish their experience with email marketing.
So many young companies have been burned by hiring the wrong candidates – and hiring the wrong marketing candidates not only sets you back but creates extra lost opportunities.
Business People Career
ADOBE STOCK IMAGES
To help keep your recruiting process on the straight and narrow, I’m going to share with you my process for hiring a marketing candidate. This fits particularly well with an SEO agency or specialist interview, but it can ultimately be used for any marketing candidate.
Throughout the hiring process, be sure to:
Identify the responsibilities and goals of this position BEFORE you start interviewing people.
Whenever you hire someone, it’s your duty to determine the responsivities they hold and the goals you want them to achieve. You can’t properly hire for a position if you don’t know when they need to do. What’s more? If you aren’t doing that, you aren’t qualified to interview a candidate or make the hire – it’s as simple as that.
When hiring for SEO specialist, the terms I put are as follows:
An excellent copywriter
with strong organizational skills
Excellent communication skills, especially via email (this is critical for link building)
The ability to create comprehensive weekly and monthly marketing reports
Take each candidate through their paces to make sure they are highly skilled and qualified.
This is where you differentiate the candidates who say they can from the ones who really can. Here’s a list of the main questions I ask candidates that typically show their real knowledge and true marketing colors.
5 questions to ask when interviewing SEO marketing specialists:
Please provide 3 SEO case studies: List the URL’s of 3 site’s you have optimized, list the tasks of what you did, over what period of time and what the results where. Take a look at our website and tell us 3 onsite optimization tactics we implement to improve it. Which keywords do you think we should go after and why? Should you start as our SEO specialist, what do you expect to achieve in the first 3 and 6 months? How do you stay on top of SEO trends? Conclusion Hiring anyone for a position at your company is a big deal, but building the right marketing team is particularly important. At the end of the day, don’t just take people at their word. Instead, ask candidates detailed questions and test them on their knowledge to ensure they are the perfect fit for your company. You deserve to feel comfortable and at ease with all hiring decisions, and a little legwork upfront makes the payoff so much sweeter.
Today In: Leadership
Here are two quick examples that show this in action.
When we search for top designers, they will show us some of the nice websites they’ve worked on and they will take all the credit. Yet, when we give them a design test during the interview process (we give them a wireframe and ask them to do a mock up design in photoshop based on the wireframe) what they return in the allocated time is nowhere near as beautiful as the work they previously presented. Here are 10 essential questions to ask when considering prospective SEO consultants:
- May I have a
list of current and past clients?
A reputable SEO consultant should be open to sharing a brief list of current and former clients and his or her contact information, says Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google (Wiley, 2012) and founder of Nine By Blue, a Seattle-based SEO software provider. These references can help you gauge how effective the candidate is, as well as verify that the person did indeed work on specific SEO campaigns. Clients may not provide specific analytics, Fox says, but they should be able to at least tell you if they saw a positive impact on their search ranking, especially in conversions and in gaining an audience, as a direct result of the consultant’s efforts.
- How will you improve my search engine rankings?
- Steer clear of SEO consultants who won’t freely discuss their methods in detail, cautions Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, a Seattle-based internet marketing software company and co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly, 2012). They should explain the strategies they would use to drive up your website’s search engine ranking, as well as estimate how long it could realistically take to achieve the SEO campaign goals you agree on. Make sure the candidate’s proposal includes an initial technical review of your website to weed out any problems that could lower your search engine ranking, including broken links and error pages. Consultants also should provide “on page” optimization, a process to make your website as search engine friendly as possible. It involves improving your website’s URL and internal linking structure, along with developing web page titles, headings and tags. Also, ask consultants if they provide “off page SEO strategies to raise awareness of your content on other websites, often via blogs, social media platforms and press releases.
- Do you adhere to search engines’ webmaster guidelines?
- You want a consultant who strictly abides by Google’s publicly posted webmaster best practices, which specifically prohibit 12 common SEO tricks, including automatically generating spammy content and adding bogus hidden text and links. If a candidate doesn’t follow those guidelines, your website could be relegated to a dismally low search results ranking. Or, worse yet, Google could ban it from search results altogether. Bing and Yahoo also post webmaster best practices that consultants should confirm they follow. Can you guarantee my website will achieve a number-one ranking on Google, Bing and Yahoo? If the candidate answers yes, Fox warns, “Turn and run in the other direction as fast as you can.” Although it’s impossible to guarantee a number-one ranking on any search engine, she says, some unethical SEO consultants do make such bogus guarantees. Consider it a red flag if the candidate claims to have an insider relationship with Google or any other search engine that will get you priority search results rankings. Only Google, Bing and Yahoo can control how high or low websites appear in their search results.
- Are you experienced at improving local search results?
- Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, Rand says. You’ll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques. If your website is optimized for what’s known as “local SEO,” it should appear when someone nearby is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. To achieve that, a consultant should add your business’s city and state to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, and get your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographical area.
- Will you share with me all changes you make to my site?
- Search engine optimization will most likely require a number of changes to your existing web page coding. It’s important to know exactly what adjustments the consultant plans to make and on how many web pages. If you would like the candidate to get your permission before accessing and altering your website code, be sure to say so. For example, will consultants add new title tags to your existing HTML code or modify the existing ones? Will they provide additional copywriting content highlighting your products and services to beef up the number of visible, on-page keywords relevant to your potential customers? And do they plan to redesign all or some of your website navigation or add new pages to your site?
- How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns?
- To gauge the success of SEO efforts, you must track exactly how much traffic is being sent to your website and where it is coming from. Consultants should be experienced in using Google Analytics to track improvement in your site’s search engine rankings, the number of links from other websites driving traffic to yours, the kinds of keywords searchers use to find your site, and much more. Be sure to ask how often they plan to share these important analytics with you and how they would use the data to continually improve your search engine rankings and website traffic.
- How will we communicate and how often?
- SEO consultants’ communication styles and customer service standards vary. You need to find someone whose approach best fits your needs. Ask if the candidate prefers to talk in person or via phone, Skype, texting or email. And find out how often will he or she reach out to you with status updates.
- What are your fees and payment terms? You need to know how much you’ll be charged, of course, and also whether the consultant gets paid hourly, by retainer or by project. Project-based payments are the most common in the SEO consulting industry, and they can vary widely, depending on a project’s size and complexity. Most contract projects ranged between $1,000 and $7,500, according to Moz’s 2011 pricing survey of more than 600 SEO firms. The study also found that the most common retainers ranged between $251 to $500 a month on the lower end and $2,501 to $5,000 a month on the higher end, while the most common hourly rates ranged from $76 to $200. Fox said consultants who specifically serve small businesses often charge less per month and hour.
Other important payment-related questions: How often are invoice payments due — every 30, 60 or 90 days? Is there an interest charge for late payments?
- What happens
when we part ways?
When your contract expires or if you terminate it early, you should still maintain ownership of all of the optimized web content you paid the consultant to provide, Fox says.
Accordingly, you’ll want to make sure the contract states that when you part ways, consultants will not change or remove any of the content they added, modified or optimized on your behalf. You also should ask consultants whether they charge any fees for early contract termination, and if so, to specify them in the contract.
Learn Some SEO Yourself
Hiring a great SEO starts with understanding it yourself. Just like owning a business, if something goes wrong because you did not educate yourself then that’s completely on you.If you think you need to hire an SEO expert, learn some SEO yourself first. Read the Beginners Guide to SEO, learn about links and why they matter (and the difference between a good link and a bad one), why content matters for SEO, and maybe even sign up to something like DistilledU to take a crash course in a structured format.
After you understand the basics of SEO, then discuss your project with some people. Every business’s needs are different, so don’t be fooled into thinking that SEO is a one-size-fits-all sort of endeavor.
Find someone with
experience with your type of site
As said above, SEO is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking. Your business and industry will determine how effective it will, how long it will take to meaningfully impact your business, and how competitive the search results page (SERP) landscape is. For example, if you are a local dentist you’ll need to try to get into the map listings for your queries (e.g. [denver pediatric dentist]) but if you are an international travel marketplace you’ll be competing against a lot of big brands such as Hotwire, AirBNB, and the like.
Because of this, you need someone who understands your space and what it will take to rank competitively. I wouldn’t recommend hiring someone who has done SEO for a direct competitor of yours, simply because long term you will be better off with someone with fresh ideas. If you hire the person that your competitor used, at best you’ll be playing copycat while they are moving on and working with the next SEO expert.
Instead, I recommend thinking a level higher than your specific business type (let’s continue with the dentist theme). You should instead look for someone who has vast experience doing SEO for local businesses. If you own multiple dentist practices, then you should look for someone who has experience doing multi-location SEO for local businesses for law firms, auto dealers, and the like.
If you want a few pointers on where to start from an SEO perspective:
Do a site: search for
your domain in Google and note the number of pages they say are indexed. For
example, for yahoo.com I would simply put site:yahoo.com and note that there
are approximately unlimited in Google’s index. Put your domain into SEMrush and
note Organic Traffic and Backlink Count
Use this free page auditor to get an initial on-page SEO look at 25 of your site’s pages.
SEMrush isn’t perfect – yahoo.com gets way more than 405 organic visits a month. But it’s a jumping off point to a conversation with a professional SEO expert or agency.
GetCredo SEMrush report
Because SEO is not one-size-fits-all, you should also find someone with deep experience working with your size of website. Doing SEO for an international marketplace with tens of millions of pages in Google’s index is very different from doing SEO for a local dentist. The strategies are different, the tactics are different, the results are different. You need someone who has worked with your size of website.
PSA: If you want help defining your project, I offer that as a paid service through the Credo Porter service.
Know The Differences Between a Consultant and an Agency
Over my years watching and helping businesses hire SEO experts and agencies, I have too many times seen a business start off trying to hire the wrong type of provider. I am sure you know the difference between the two, but just for clarity’s sake:
A solo SEO consultant
(sometimes called a freelancer) is someone who works on their own, often
primarily on strategy and recommendations, to help companies increase their
organic traffic. Most of the time, a solo consultant will not also be
implementing the strategies they recommend or the fixes they find based on an
An agency is a compilation of many types of employees – strategists, account managers, writers, and more. Agencies will often have channel specialists (such as SEO or pay-per-click), teams to execute on some of the strategies (such as developers or designers), as well as some junior employees and account managers in larger agencies.
The type that is right for you depends on the capabilities you have at your business, such as developers, or that you can hire.
As you figure out all of the above, also keep an ear out for the following two terms: strategy and services.
Sometimes the SEO world will use these two terms interchangeably or not do a great job of branding themselves as one or the other (SEOs are often not very strong at branding). But knowing the difference between the two and hiring the right one for your business is often the make-it-or-break-it part of the whole hiring process.
Knowing the difference between a consultant and an agency and hiring the right one for your business is often the make-it-or-break-it part of the whole hiring process
If you do not have developers or designers internally and don’t have one you trust to hire, you’ll want to look for a full-service agency who offers these services as well as helping you with your overall strategy. If you need these and you hire an individual consultant, you may get a lot of great recommendations but you’ll quickly run up against challenges of implementing them and thus you will not see the forward movement your business needs.
The same applies if you do have full teams internally to do work. Many large businesses I have personally worked with have, in the past, severely underestimated how important it is to have a consultant who has experience working across teams, communicating with developers, and making business cases to help get people assigned to the projects and the work done and set live onsite. When hiring for a specific channel like SEO, an individual consultant can be a fantastic choice for bigger businesses.
(and Ask) the Right Questions
Now that you’ve educated yourself in SEO (and maybe even tried to implement some of it yourself to learn the ropes), learned what type of SEO expert (or agency) you need to speak with, and understand what type of site you have, you’re ready to start speaking with potential providers.
When you do this, you need to ask the right questions to quickly qualify in (or out) providers that are or are not the right fit for you. The biggest mistake I see businesses making when hiring a consultant or agency is overlooking the provider’s fit with your style of working. The consultant or agency can be the best in the world, but if their preferred way of working does not suit your business’s then you will experience turbulence and stress from the start.
At minimum you need to be on the same page with:
Frequency and type of
communication about work being done
Reporting and how often you will receive updates, as well as what those updates will say
Whether they require a minimum contract. While a 3 or 6 month contract is legit and is often needed to really see results, longer than that can sometimes be nefarious.
Whether they implement the work (“services”) or do you need to hire someone to do it
Their rates, how they bill, and how long after billing do they expect payment. You should expect to negotiate terms, or for them to negotiate back if you have Net-60 terms (meaning you don’t pay bills until 2 months after they are received).
If you are not aligned on any of the above, the relationship will be strained and likely not successful longterm (or possibly even get off the ground at all).
Learn who you will be
Every agency works differently and has a different structure than another. I’ve never, in my eight years of professional SEO/digital marketing experience and couple years working directly with agencies, seen two agencies that work exactly the same. This is simply because the agency/consulting business can be successful in many different ways and the positions that exist usually depend on the prior experience and relative strengths and passions of the founder or founders.
As well, you need to know yourself and your own working style. If you work quickly and like to make decisions quickly, you will likely be frustrated if you are stuck communicating only with an account manager who likely does not know marketing that well and has to relay questions and answers between you and the person with the subject matter expertise who is actually doing the work.
However, if you really trust the agency/consultant and after a while don’t need a lot of attention and your campaigns just run and make you money, you may appreciate having an account manager who checks in with you semi-frequently and makes sure you have the campaign result reports consistently every month.
The simplest way to learn who you will be working with directly is to ask during the initial courting process with the agency. Asking how they communicate, how often they communicate, how quickly you can expect replies, and who you can go to as your primary point of contact will tell you a lot about their way of communicating with clients.
Another question that I love to see businesses ask is “How many clients does each consultant have at a time?” This tells you if they are a client factory or doing high-touch consulting/strategy work. A general rule of thumb is this – the more clients each consultant/strategist works with, the more likely you are to be primarily communicating with an account manager instead of directly with the person doing your work.
Who Will Be Doing The
I’ve come across a lot of businesses who do not want to work with an agency, especially a large agency, because they think they’ll likely be given a junior person to work with instead of the senior and more skilled members of the team. Unfortunately, this is often true. Businesses go work with a specific agency because they saw the founder or a senior person speak at a conference or saw their content such as an article or an interview in a well-read industry publication. But the reality is that 9 times out of 10, that person who you saw who impressed you so much will not even touch your project (there are exceptions to be sure, but they are few and far between).
So during the courting process once again, ask who will actually be doing the work on your project. Ask about their experience, their client successes and failures, what they are passionate about. If you are not comfortable with them, bring this up to the sales person (or more senior person if there is one involved in the sales process) and discuss it openly.
This is often why a lot
of businesses would prefer to work with a very seasoned solo consultant. This
is challenging when you need a lot of different channels and services, but at
least with a solo consultant you know who is doing the work (though you should
ask if they sometimes use freelancers to get certain work done).
Get them to set your expectations
If you’re not a marketer yourself, you probably don’t know what is reasonable in terms of expectations for how long it will take to see results from your agency or expert. Ask them to explain their methodology to you, how long it usually takes to get set up within their systems, the work that needs to be done before campaigns can go live, and how long that usually takes. You also need to work out the dependencies with them, such as content needing to be written or research that needs to be done before setting campaigns live or starting work together.
The best agencies and consultants always try to under promise and over deliver. They want you to have realistic expectations as to what you can expect to see and when, and when you know that it is either working well or the strategies need to be rethought.
I’ve seen too many potentially great client/agency relationships that get cut short or never have a chance to succeed because expectations were not set on both sides. So don’t let that happen to your project.
By this point, you’re almost ready to sign. You’ve learned a bit about SEO yourself, you’ve thought through whether a solo expert consultant or agency might be right for you, you’ve asked a ton of questions, you’ve found out who you’ll be communicating and working with, and your expectations have been set.
At this point, I always recommend that you now try to speak with a few of their current and past clients to get their perspective on your agency. If they don’t have any former clients that you can speak with, that’s a major red flag right there.
I recommend reaching out to these references via email first, and trying to hop on the phone with them for even just fifteen minutes. It’s amazing how much better feedback you can get via voice than in an email, because you can ask followup questions and the feedback loop is that much faster.
When you speak with those references, these are the questions that you should ask:
(agency/consultant) really good at, as in world class?
Where does (agency/consultant) struggle?
What was the best part of working with (agency/consultant)
What words of advice would you have for someone considering engaging with (agency/consultant) for a project?
How to hire SEO experts
Want to improve your ranking on major search engines such as Google? An SEO expert can help you perform the keyword research, SEO content generation, and onsite optimization that goes into an SEO campaign. So how do you find an SEO expert? What follows are some tips on how you can find top SEO experts on seo-expert-usa.com
What is SEO?
SEO is short for search engine optimization and refers to all activities that help search engines better recognize and correlate websites with certain search terms. The more relevant a search engine deems your website or content is with a keyword, the higher you will rank for that keyword.
Here’s a quick overview of the skills you should look for in SEO freelancers:
Keyword research (Keyword
Planner, SEMrush, etc.)
Onsite optimization (HTML headers, alt text, images, etc.)
SEO content generation and planningGuest posting and link building
Competitor analysis and SEO audits
SEO consultants help businesses better position themselves on search engines to receive traffic from their target market.
How to shortlist SEO
As you’re browsing available SEO consultants, it can be helpful to develop a shortlist of the freelancers you may want to interview. You can screen profiles on criteria such as:
Industry fit. You want an
SEO expert who understands your industry, so they can help you figure out how
best to reach your target market. Organization. Experience monitoring and
analyzing marketing programs
Feedback. Check reviews from past clients for glowing testimonials or red flags that can tell you what it’s like to work with a particular SEO expert.
Why do you want to hire SEO experts?
The trick to finding top SEO experts is to identify your needs. Do you just need help ranking on major search engines such as Google, or are you also trying to optimize for something specific like queries on the Apple App Store? Do you need someone with a strong guest posting network for link building? The cost of your SEO project will depend largely on your scope of work, and the specific skills needed to bring your project to life.
How to write an effective SEO job post
With a clear picture of your ideal SEO expert in mind, it’s time to write that job post. Aim to provide enough detail for a freelancer to know if they’re the right fit for the project.
An effective SEO job post should include:
Scope of work: From SEO
audits to link building, list all the deliverables you’ll need.
Project length: Your job post should indicate whether this is a smaller or larger project.
Background: Translate your SEO needs into a freelancer profile. If you prefer experience working with certain industries, software, or marketing channels, mention this here.
Budget: Set a budget and note your preference for hourly rates vs. fixed-price contracts.
Ready to create an SEO campaign that will help drive organic traffic to your business? Log in and post your SEO job on indeed.com today.
TOP FIVE FACTORS OF SEO RATES
- Initial SEO
Before placing a bid, SEO specialists will briefly audit your website to determine what aspects can be better optimized for the search engines. This will usually include a keyword analysis plus a study of your site structure, loading times, bounce rates, time on site and other analytics factors. The findings will directly influence the overall costs involved with optimizing your website.
It may help to have a comprehensive SEO audit completed independently before engaging an SEO Specialist. This makes it much easier to determine long-term goals and the budget it will require.
- Overall Page
On-page optimizations like great content, simple navigation, page layouts, and multimedia are just as important in modern SEO as actual keywords. Depending on the current state of your website, some or all of these factors may need to be addressed as part of the optimization process. You may also benefit from working with a user experience designer in order to better understand your customer’s needs online.
This type of work is usually the bulk of the initial project costs, and each page will require 3-5 man hours on average to fully optimize with great content, eye-catching images, an appealing layout, and a proper call to action. Industry Competition Websites with a large amount of direct competition will always be harder to rank favorably in the search engines, especially on the national or global level. There are ways to overcome these obstacles but it could drive up costs considerably if your competitors are highly optimized. For instance, the average enterprise website has 100+ pages with specialized landing pages and extensive knowledge-bases, which would require thousands of man-hours to properly implement. Always perform a search analysis of competing businesses before starting a large SEO project. This will help you key in on unique opportunities and maximize your budget. Backlink Profile A healthy portion of modern SEO scores come from the quality of backlinks that are directed to your website. These links need to be established manually on authority domains within your genre, or from reputable news sites. Building backlinks can be a costly, time-consuming process, but it can be completed over time on smaller budgets. If you think that low quality backlinks from the past are damaging your website’s SEO, consider finding a penalty recovery specialist on seo-expert-usa.com Other Intangibles Other factors that could influence the cost of SEO services include database errors, plugin conflicts, hosting problems and violations of each search engine’s policies. While it is not necessarily difficult to identify these issues, fixing them can be anything from a five-minute update to a full day of testing.