How to Hire a Search Engine Optimization Consultant

Finding a good search engine optimization (SEO) consultant can seem like a daunting task, especially when you don’t know the right questions to ask. The technology is constantly changing, as are the search engines. What worked in SEO last month may not achieve any results this month. SEO consultants are constantly monitoring their results, and changing the game plan to accommodate the so-called “Google Dance”.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a consultant:

There are many consultants who started out with a technical background, and migrated into search engine optimization. Degrees are usually not required, but a marketing background is preferred, because ranking in the search engines comes as a result of good marketing. Skills such as market research, copywriting and competitive analysis are critical in achieving traffic to your website. You’d also like your SEO consultant to be competitive, and not give up easily.

The internet marketing needs of a local pizza shop differ from those of a company who markets internationally. It’s important to find a consultant who is knowledgeable about the type of search engine marketing you need.

Here are some different areas of specialization:

Organic Search – Organic search brings in free traffic from the search engines. There’s nothing better than free traffic.

Pay-Per-Click – Pay-Per-Click, or PPC traffic is generated from advertising. Ads are placed on search engine results (usually the right hand side) and websites. You pay for every click, regardless of whether they’re prospects or not. The amount you pay is determined through a bidding process, with more competitive keyword terms costing as much as $50 per click. Many terms only cost $1 to $4 per click. Some consultants guide you through this process, and it can get expensive.

Specific Industry – Some SEO consultants specialize in one, or just a few industries, such as real estate or chiropractic.

Local Business – Local business SEO specialists help small and medium-sized businesses optimize their website for their local market at an affordable price.

How much experience does your prospective consultant bring to the table. Abe Lincoln said it best: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” In other words, you want someone with at least five to ten years experience in internet marketing, not just designing websites. Ask to see case studies. While some clients may be confidential, they’re sure to have some examples for you to look at.

Techniques are generally divided into two areas, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO consists of checking titles, descriptions, keywords, and keyword densities. This is usually about 5% of the work needed.

The other 95% is off-page techniques, including articles, link building, directory submissions, press releases, social media, blogs, video, social bookmarking, and more. Old-school SEO consultants aim to get your site listed high in the search rankings. The best SEO consultants will help you achieve multiple listings on the first page of the search engines.

While the internet is considered a global marketplace, it’s difficult to communicate with your consultant if they’re located in southeast Asia and English is not their native language. A good consultant should be available when you need them, and you shouldn’t have to wait until the middle of the night to speak to them. Also, weekly or monthly reports should be provided to show progress on your marketing program.

If a search engine optimization company promises you the #1 spot on Google, look for another consultant. No one can guarantee those kinds of results. All markets are different, with some more competitive than others. A SEO consultant must do 5% more than your competitors to land you on the first page of Google. While I’ve achieved those kind of results for clients in less than 4 hours, I often state that it’s an ongoing process, usually taking a few weeks or months to see significant results.

Comfort Level
You must be comfortable working with your consultant. Choose an individual, not a faceless corporation to do your search engine optimization. You’ll get much better customer service, and someone who will take responsibility for you getting the results you want.

So, good luck in your quest for a qualified SEO consultant.

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