A couple of months ago you launched your small business website but did not seek advice of an SEO Consultant because you didn’t even know what that meant for your Return on Investment. Your website looks beautiful, thanks to your your friend that recommended the web designer. But, something doesn’t seem right. You shared your new website with your friends on social media the first month, got a little traffic and everyone told you how great you’re doing. Now, you’re not realizing any leads from your website or blog and you’re considering hiring an SEO Consultant to look into your website.
Allow me to explain something to you my friend (oh yeah, we made friends when you reached this paragraph): If your web pages do not show up on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), 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 expert or SEO consultant.
We pride in covering all aspects of what our clients need to know before we sign a contract.
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).
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, 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.
Steer clear of SEO consultants who won’t freely discuss their methods in detail, cautions Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and co-author of The Art of SEO. 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 the SEO consultant 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.
You want an SEO consultant who strictly abides by Google’s publicly posted webmaster best practices, which specifically prohibit 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 SEO consultants should confirm they follow.
“They built me a fully optimized site for a price of web design and I didn’t have to hire an SEO expert.“
Here, check out their website design offers. (Rose, DSW)
If the candidate answers yes, 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, unethical SEO consultant will 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.
Try and compliment SEO with other channels like search ads & social to get quick results.
Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small businesses trying to attract nearby customers. 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, an SEO 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.
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?
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. The SEO consultant 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.
Working from home and staying productive.
SEO consultant’s 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.
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 SEO contract projects costs in Uganda ranged between $300 and $7,500, according to our surveys of more than 100 web design companies. 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?
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.
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 website 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.
I think we covered most of the questions you should ask. You can continue this conversation with me on WhatsApp (look out for the green button) or Skype
This post was inspired by Kim Lachance Shandrow’s post on Entrepreneur.