Why, When and How to Choose an SEO Specialist
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1. Why should I choose an SEO specialist over a web designer?
2. When should I first consult an SEO specialist?
3. How should I choose an SEO specialist?
Most web designers these days also offer SEO services so, if you have an ongoing support relationship with your web designer, or could engage a web designer that offers website design services and also SEO services, why would you consider not using a web designer to run your SEO campaign? As SEO specialists, we are accutely aware of the inter-dependency between web design and SEO. They are inextricably linked and yet require different skills. The truth is the subject matter is just too broad for all but the largest agencies to be expert at all of it. There are SEO specialists for e-commerce websites having tens or hundreds of thousands of pages, specialists in “local SEO”, specialists in website analytics and more. But where the best SEO specialists excel is leveraging the ultimate performance out of your website.
The biggest mistake to make is to think that SEO starts once your website is finished and ready for promoting. Non-specialists often under-estimate the complexity of SEO and do not realise the extent to which the design of your website will impact on its performance in the search results.
How deep is the navigational hierarchy of your site? How are the pages of your site ‘bound’ or linked together either by the main navigation menu or other links? How is the content organised or structured between the different pages or categories? Has there been an effective content strategy to ensure that each and every important page has a clearly defined theme and clearly identified keyword targets?
If your site has been designed without the input of an SEO specialist, then you run the risk that your site will need revising or, if the design is set in concrete for whatever reason, then having to accept sub-optimal website performance.
Remember, you need not necessarily engage an SEO advisor on a formal basis to get some advice. Please contact us for an informal discussion and some free advice about when to start SEO.
Deciding which SEO specialist to engage is an important decision and, as with any other important decision, should be made only after some searching questions have been asked if costly mistakes are to be avoided. Deciding exactly which questions to ask can present a challenge in itself.
Many of the lists of questions available online, provided to aid this decision, include technical questions designed by SEO specialists which pre-suppose the interviewer has a thorough grounding in SEO principles.
These questions have been designed therefore to enable a successful vetting process to be undertaken either by a lay person or somebody more experienced. They are expressed in simple every day language and are capable of being answered likewise.
Please also visit our home page for an overview of our SEO services or contact us for more information.
1. Can you get me to number 1 in Google?
Only novice SEO specialists could say yes to that question. If yours does, then run a mile. This question cannot be answered without first knowing which keyword is being discussed. Even if the keyword is clear, it is not possible to make a cast iron commitment. And you may even already have a number 1 ranking without even realising it! This commonly occurs for the business name or brand name.
2. Will I be asked to sign a contract?
Professional SEO specialists should inform you in advance of any contract you will be asked to sign. If you are asked to sign a contract, make sure you read it and understand it. Do not sign it if you are not sure what you are buying and what commitments you are making.
3. Do you offer any guarantees and, if so, what are the terms?
Ethical SEO specialists should be up front about the terms of any guarantee they offer. As in the rest of the business world, the purpose of a guarantee is not necessarily a promise that products or services will be provided exactly as marketed but to provide a remedy if they are not. If a money back guarantee includes an easy “get out clause” like “provided Google doesn’t change its algorithm” then it is a hollow offer or worthless guarantee.
4. What do you consider to be your 3 best achievements and why?
Experienced SEO specialists should be able to explain the accomplishments of which they are most proud and why.
5. Can you provide evidence of these achievements?
SEO specialists with a track record should be able to prove the results that they have obtained and also that it was indeed they who attained the results and not, for example a previous SEO specialist (or even their client!).
6. Can you describe what you did to achieve these results?
SEO specialists should be able to explain the steps they took to achieve their results and which actions brought about which results.
7. Do you observe the search engines’ rules?
SEO specialists should be able to explain the most important search engine rules, the differences between black hat and white hat SEO companies and demonstrate that they adhere to generally accepted search engine guidelines. If they do not, then you may be at risk.
8. Will you ever work for my competitors?
SEO specialists should be prepared to explain their stance with regard to your competition. In some cases, working for your competitors may disadvantage you but in other cases it may not. A business that you may view as a competitor may not be competing for the same search engine placements. Transparency is the important thing here so that you may make a properly informed decision about whether your interests will be best served by this provider.
9. How will you decide which keywords to target?
SEO specialists should be able to outline the process they will follow to propose keyword targets to you and to what degree you will be involved. They should be able to explain which factors they will take into account when choosing between one keyword and another and why.
10. What rankings will you be able to achieve?
Your SEO specialist should provide realistic targets, for specified keywords and, if possible, a rough guide to timescales. If they promise or guarantee a number 1 spot, then this should be taken as a warning signal. ANY SEO specialist can attain a number 1 ranking for a useless keyword. NO SEO specialist can be certain of attaining a number 1 ranking for a prized i.e. very lucrative keyword.
11. Will you provide a rankings report at the outset?
Your SEO specialist should provide a report showing existing rankings as soon as the keyword targets have been agreed. Without this, you may not be able to tell whether they are improving or worsening your rankings.
12. By rankings, do you mean organic i.e. free search results?
Astonishingly, some SEO specialists claim to have achieved a page 1 ranking because your Google AdWords adverts are appearing on page 1. You can buy these and they are not what is generally meant by rankings.
13. Can I call your references?
Most SEO specialists will be able to provide references and give examples of their work. Ideally, you will be able to talk freely to one or two of their clients.
14. What are the risks?
Your SEO specialist should be open about any risks that you might be facing by taking them on and how those risks might be mitigated.
15. Do you use any automated techniques?
Some SEO specialists employ automated techniques for the purposes of acquiring large numbers of back links from business directories, social media sites etc. It may sound impressive but it isn’t necessarily effective. Ask them to explain how they go about acquiring links to your website. If they offer to subscribe you to very large numbers (in the hundreds) of business directories manually, then it isn’t manual and is ineffective.
16. Who owns or ‘controls’ the links that you will acquire?
All SEO specialists should be prepared to explain how they will go about acquiring links from other websites that will be crucial to your site ranking highly. Some SEO companies may improve your rankings in a very short space of time by placing links on hundreds or even thousands of websites that they either own themselves or rent. If your SEO specialist controls the links then they can decide to remove them. This may not present any problems in itself but you need to understand whether your rise in the rankings could be reversed if you terminate the services of your SEO provider.
17. Who will do the work?
Some SEO specialists subcontract work either within the UK or outside it (often India). It is important for you to be in control of the quality of any work affecting your website (and brand, reputation etc.) by knowing who will be carrying out the work so that you are able to form a view about their competence, ethics and working practices.
18. What am I actually buying?
SEO specialists should be able to explain what they are committing to deliver. Since it is not possible to make a contractual commitment about what rankings can be achieved, ask them what commitments they are able to make. What will you be paying for?
19. Why should I choose you?
SEO specialists should be able to explain clearly what benefits they will bring to you and why you should choose them above others. It’s an obvious question but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If they aren’t sure themselves, you’ll probably sense it!