When a company starts to think about optimizing their website for search it may go a little like this:
Marketer: “We really need to pay attention to SEO for our website.”
Manager: “What's SEO?”
Marketer: “Search Engine Optimization. It’s the technical process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website, based on adding relevant content that your audience is searching for on search engines.”
Manager: “Sounds great. Do that.”
Marketer: “I don’t know how to do that. We need to hire a professional SEO consultant.”
Manager: “Okay . . . . and how will we know if the consultant is delivering what we need if neither of us know much about SEO?”
Marketer: “Ummm, . . . ,”
Why SEO is Important for Business
When search engines really started to get complex with their algorithms and how they ranked websites, marketers and web developers recognized the importance of giving the search engines what they needed. When your website is optimized for search, it shows up high on the first page of search results and therefore brings more traffic to your website. Getting your website on the first page of search results is imperative to driving traffic because the majority of searchers do not go beyond that first page.
The practice of SEO includes a site audit for technical issues and site errors, position tracking, on-page SEO, backlink audits, traffic insights, content analysis, content creation and strategy, and more.
What a SEO Consultant Should Deliver
As with most any industry, there are legitimate SEO companies offering a solid service at a reasonable price, and then there are sketchy companies offering a sub-par experience at a ridiculously high rate. And unfortunately, because SEO is a service that many people do not fully understand, the bad egg consultants take advantage of that and make claims they can’t actually back up.
What exactly does an SEO expert ‘look’ like? Most skilled SEO consultants are also great writers. Why would this be? Because it’s very helpful in the SEO world to have a solid writing background when creating and optimizing content that both a search engine, and a person, will understand. When researching SEO vendors, check out the company’s website, their marketing communications, and even their email responses to you. If the writing is poor, that’s a warning sign that they may not be the best SEO optimizer.
There are other key indications that a SEO professional is worth their salt. Below we break down the activities and progress you should see when working with one.
Frequent Reporting on Activity and Results
An SEO consultant is continually conducting research, finding data that supports the SEO strategy for a website, and implementing changes on the website. Although increased traffic from SEO doesn’t happen overnight, updates should be happening consistently, and as the client you should be hearing about them.
This comes in the form of regular reports; sometimes weekly, depending on the client needs and size of company/website. The reports can include activity and results that align with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) identified by the client.
Regular Meetings on SEO Progress
Monthly meetings are recommended, but weekly can also be helpful in some cases. These meetings not only inform the client as to the plan progress and future recommendations, but more importantly they serve to hold the vendor accountable.
The information that the vendor reports will also help the client in developing new content. If the client is looking to blog regularly, the SEO report will help guide the topics for upcoming blog posts. This is especially helpful since it can be really tough to come up with new content for blog posts.
Additionally, the SEO data will guide new content or updates for existing content on the main website pages. A refresh may be in order for the pages that discuss the company’s products or service offerings, based on what people out there are searching for online.
In-Depth Monthly SEO Reports
At the very least, in the absence of weekly data or meetings, your SEO vendor should be delivering in-depth monthly reports to you. If you aren’t receiving these progress reports, it’s a major red flag.
Monthly SEO reports should include:
- The results of a site audit. This will usually be conveyed through a letter grade or score. Continual SEO work on the site should be gradually increasing that grade.
- Where your company ranks on search engines for the keywords you care about
- A list of any technical issues on the site (unsecure pages, duplicate pages, broken links) and how/when they are being addressed
- Backlinks report: what are the quality of the sites that are out there linking to you and are any of them bogus, thus hurting your search rank
- Content strategy: your vendor should have conversations around this with you. A good SEO optimizer will help you apply the information from the SEO research to inform your content strategy.
Signs Your SEO Consultant Sucks
Even if you aren’t knowledgeable about SEO, a good consultant will help educate you along the way, and ensure you understand the process and the work being done. A poor or shady consultant will engage in the following practices:
- Pushing to get you signed onto a contract too quickly. As with anything, beware if they are rushing you through the decision and the detailed information about what they will actually do is not really being provided.
- Charging an arm and a leg, while not delivering results or providing transparency into what they are doing
- Selling a link building service. This is danger territory! This means link farms that produce low quality links that actually end up hurting your site optimization. They may make it sound good to you–more links back to your site out on the internet–but this is poor practice that is harmful to your site.
Smart SEO Gets Results
When contracting with an SEO consultant, set your expectations from the beginning by knowing these two key things:
- SEO takes times to implement, and to garner results like increased site traffic
- Your consultant should be communicating with you along the way and demonstrating the process and results
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