The question on the mind of most entrepreneurs who are trying to get their businesses on the internet, is if it is necessary to hire an SEO expert. This may actually depend on the skills you have acquired and also if you have the time to get involved.
This is a list of 6 questions you should ask before hiring someone to do your SEO.
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?
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