Are you having trouble getting your website to show up in the top two search engine pages of Google, Bing or Yahoo?

Then maybe it is time to consider hiring an SEO expert. There is certainly no lack of self-titled “SEO professionals.” However, if you want results, you should look for an expert who truly knows their stuff.

But how do you know if you are hiring a true professional who is capable and reliable?

Here are 8 critical questions to ask before you consider hiring an SEO professional for your website.

1. Who are your past and current clients?

If you are hiring an SEO expert, then you should ask for a past or current client list. The kind of clients your consultant has can tell you a lot about the quality of work he or she offers. If possible you should talk to the past clients of the consultant. If you are hiring someone to work as an in-house employee, you should check their past employment records and also get references.

Keep in mind, the success of a past customer’s website does not fall entirely on the shoulders of the SEO team. Most often SEO professionals are brought in to make or suggest changes, but often website owners go against their advice and attempt to bring about short-term gains, ignoring the long-term strategy.

When possible, keep an open mind and realize there are instances when success is outside the control of the SEO team. Give your candidate the opportunity to explain these situations in detail so you grasp the full scope of how the project might have been more successful.

2. What are their qualifications?

When it comes to SEO, experience may do just as well as qualifications. In any case, you should ask the individual about his/her qualifications to know if he or she has any certification relevant to SEO or online advertising.

You should also only consider hiring an SEO professional who specializes in the SEO field. For example, many of our SEO customers came to us after using a service such as Yellow Pages or Super Media who claim to do SEO work but in reality do very little to influence traffic and rankings. These companies are simply too large and have too generic an approach to produce actual results and usually cost considerably more for little ROI. Only look at SEO experts who work and focus in the field of online marketing.

3. What will you do to improve page ranking in the search engine results?

SEO professionals should have thorough knowledge of the technical aspects of SEO, along with understanding of on-page and off-page optimization techniques. If the person is as good in SEO as he or she claims, then they should be able to discuss the methods they are going to use, or likely to use, to improve your search engine page ranking. They should also be able to explain it to you in laymen’s terms and make sure you understand their process.

If it’s confusing or unclear, push further, ask more questions. You owe it to your business to clearly understand the what is being offered and how it is implemented.

4. Will changes be made to my website?

Changes to the site are inevitable if you want your website to rank among the top pages of Google or Bing. The SEO professional should be able to tell you what kinds of changes are likely to be made to get the rankings of your site up.

Make sure the SEO expert is giving you a clear picture of costs. For example, they might suggest you need to install a blog for content creation, or revise the layout of your web page.

  • Is this something they will do? Or Is this included in the costs?
  • Are they expecting you to do it?
  • Do they have suggestions of who can perform these edits for you?

Often there are structural, styling, or design edits that need to be made and are not part of the on-going SEO costs. Make sure these costs are clear and laid out upfront.

5. How will you measure progress?

Every SEO professional must be comfortable using analytical tools, like Google Analytics. They should be able to measure the progress and give you an accurate picture of where your website stands in terms of page ranking and how it can get better over time.

Make sure you understand and confirm there is a long-term strategy in place. SEO is not a quick race but more of a marathon that takes months and sometimes years to get the results you are looking for.

They should also give you a plan for moving forward such as how often they will report progress and what you will receive in each report. Ask for a sample report too, if they actually do reporting that should be easy to produce.

In addition to measuring progress, also confirm how this will be explained to you. Afterall you are no SEO expert. Therefore you should be able to measure progress on your own terms as well.

6. Can you guarantee the top spot in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)?

If this supposed professional says ‘yes’, simply look for another one.

There is no way even the best SEO professionals can guarantee a top spot or any spot on the search engine pages in a specific time.

There are a number of factors in play and no strategy can get you control of the search engines. Only the search engines can control the algorithim that determines which sites rank highest for a particular keyword phrase, so there is no way anyone can guarantee the top spot at all times.

Search Engines all use unique algorithms that are always changing and being revised to remove any chance of exploiting a loophole or method to get to the top of the results. As any reputable SEO expert will tell you the best way to increase traffic is through a continued honest, content-based strategy with the end-search-user in mind. Your SEO professional should agree that optimizing your site for people and not search engines is most important.

7. Do you have a link building strategy?

While some sources will claim link building is dead or dying, it’s not necessarily true. Page Rank is still heavily tied to who you link to and who links back to you.

These must be developed carefully and honestly since malicious or “black hat” linking tactics will get you red-flagged by Google very quickly.

A quality SEO team will do a link analysis before doing any work and identify any potential problems you might currently have in your back links. If problems are identified they should make you aware of it and make suggestions of how to remove or clean up your bad back links as well.

8. What services are included in the cost?

Search engine optimization is a varied approach that requires several different services at once such as:

  • link building
  • content creation
  • on-page optimization
  • off-page optimization
  • coding revisions
  • directory submissions
  • developing social signals
  • cleaning up bad links, etc.

Understand what services are included in your package, what each service does for your SEO strategy, as well as if these are a la carte or simply included in the price. For example, if you don’t want content creation (big mistake) find out if you can forgo this service to lower your costs.

Moving Ahead

Asking all of these questions should produce well-rounded SEO candidates and also make it extremely clear who is not being honest and upfront about their SEO practices. Be thorough. Take notes, and take the time to analyze their responses carefully.

One wrong move can cripple your website’s visibility for good or take a very long time to recover from. Also, talk to other successful businesses who have built strong traffic to their website. Find out some criteria they used to evaluate candates when they hired an SEO expert. If their needs were comparable to your own and there would not be a conflict of interest in using the same SEO team, perhaps speaking with their SEO vendor could bring you similar results.

Always remember, every website is unique so you should not expect the same results every time.

Factors such as, domain name, site speed, industry served, links to and from your website, content on the site, type of business as well as the products and services offered can all greatly influence your site rankings.

Our best advice, after finding a reputable SEO team, step into the process with an open mind and lots of patience. If you are interested in learning more about hiring an SEO professional or are considering a broader marketing approach which entails more than just SEO we’d love to help suggest some ideas and strategies that could benefit your business most. Schedule a free, no obligation marketing assessment with us today.

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is the CEO of Vinci Digital with over 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising. He partners with mid-size, established businesses as a growth and scalability consultant and strategic branding advisor as well as offering a full-suite of agency services. Gerald calls Carmel, CA home with his wife Safira and two children. He has co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”