SEO is complicated. Hiring someone to help shouldn’t be.
In this article, I’m listing out the top questions and qualities you should look for when hiring an SEO consultant for your business.
100% Focus on Using SEO to Hit KPIs
It really comes down to a daily drive to be pushing initiatives that result in meeting the KPIs that have been set. A good SEO consultant will be 100% focused on this goal, and will be putting in place SEO items that adhere specifically to them. Let me give you an example… We have more than a handful of clients that have over 20 locations. For each of these clients, one of the main initiatives was to increase traffic to their local listings. Well, I know that I can do a dynamic keyword assignment for all of these pages, write new copy, optimize some images, link it all together and increase their citations and traffic will increase. By putting this in place and staying dedicated, we can grow that traffic.
Recommending Projects that Help Hit Goals the Quickest
Using this same local listing client set as an example, imagine that instead of doing this keyword assignment for all the pages and focusing on these items that increase rankings, I decided to tell the client to start a blog and make an image sitemap. Now, those are both excellent recommendations. But they do not hit the goals that matter for the client. At the end of the day, every SEO consultant needs to have 100% focus on the strategies that will move the needle toward the goals the client wants to hit.
Generally, I recommend:
- Optimize the existing website
- Keyword analysis
- Keyword assignment
- Optimize code
- Optimize content
- Optimize images
- Optimize internal linking and site structure
- Build out new sections
But the issue is, every website is different and is at a different stage in their life-cycle. So you need to know what to recommend and when.
Using Experience to Their Advantage
A good SEO consultant has tried a lot of different things in the past and knows what works and what does not. This makes all the difference. For example, I have done plenty of hashbang escape fragment optimizations for ajax websites. The first time I did this optimization was for a large news site back in 2010. We did it correctly, got it implemented and then sat and waited for it to rank, and it did, but it never ranked as well as a normal HTML site. Over the years there were plenty of times when clients wouldn’t budge and had to implement this optimization (I currently have two clients using it now) but it has never ranked well. I can 100% tell you this from experience. So now, I of course tell people not to go this route. Instead, I have other sets of recommendations for ajax websites that have much better ranking potential. This will save so many development hours and countless dollars for companies I work with in the future.
Not Being Afraid of the Red
If you have a bad report, there is a reason why. Generally a new SEO person will kind of tap-dance around the bad information. But the thing is, it is much better to hit it head on. There is always a reason why the numbers are down. A good SEO consultant will know the reasons things look bad and have recommendations to fix it. These things really need to be looked at hard.
Quickly, let me give you an example on this one. The other day we were looking at a report and home page traffic was down. So we decided to look into from every angle. Well, we were able to find out that there was actually an error in reporting the previous year. There was a massive spike in traffic where it shouldn’t be. We told this to the client and a bad meeting turn into a good meeting and a better informed one.
Never Recommending things that Don’t Matter
There are so many things that are best practices in SEO, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really do much. For example, absolute URLs, alt tags, etc. Really the thing with SEO is, all of the little tweaks really only further the ranking potential of two main ranking factors, awesome content that has a basic keyword strategy and hyperlinks. These things need to be looked at first and foremost and all the little stuff should follow secondly. If the SEO consultant is telling you to put alt tags on your site day one, that is a red flag that they don’t see the big picture or don’t have a good vision for the project. Here we see some future predictions from Moz.
A Strong Understanding of Development Projects
Some projects are harder than others. For example, if you make a template that will allow you to make static pages that are a lot different than a template that applies to hundreds or thousands of category pages, and the optimization strategies would be completely different for both. So it is really important that you recommend the right development solution for your optimization strategy, otherwise it will cost time and money. An SEO consultant needs to have good judgement and be able to push a project in the right direction.
Being Able to Answer Technical Questions
In the interview process, I like to ask a great deal of technical questions. The consultant should be able to answer pretty much all of them. But if they get stumped, that can be a good thing. It allows you to see how they respond when they don’t know something. Generally, I look for the response, “I don’t know the answer to that for sure. Let me do some research and get back to you.”
Here are some of the questions I ask in the interview process. Feel free to use these next time you interview an SEO consultant.
- What is a robots.txt file?
- What is the X-Robots tag?
- What is the nositelinksearchbox meta tag?
- What is the notranslate tag?
- What is Unicode/UTF-8 and why does that matter to Google?
- Is case important for meta tags?
- What is the refresh meta tag and why is it not recommended?
- What is an .htaccess file and how do you use it?
- How can you use user agent and IP location detection to improve UX?
- What is a rel canonical?
- What is a noindex, no follow?
- When do you use robots.txt, a rel canonical and a no index no follow?
- How do you optimize a web page?
- Internal linking
- Have you ever optimized in a different language?
- What is a hreflang tag?
- What are good links for SEO?
- How does blogging play a role in SEO?
- What is the difference between absolute and relative URLs?
- What are all the different ways you can optimize for mobile and the technical requirements.
- Different domains
- Vary http header
- How does social media play a role in SEO?
- What are 404 errors?
- What is 200 ok?
- What is a 301 and 302 redirect? When should you use each?
- What is a server header checker?
- Have you used screaming frog?
- How do you check rankings for SEO?
- Are you Google Analytics certified?
- How do you find broken external links pointing at your website?
- Have you ever optimized an application?
- Deep links on website to app
- Set up app in Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- Optimize app in app store
- What would you do if you saw a client got a spike in 404 errors in the Google search console?
- How would you test to see how Google can see content on a page?
- What would you do to get a page indexed quickly?
- What are directory structures and subdomains and how are they important for SEO?
- What is https, how do you switch to https and why is it important for SEO?
- What is different about getting a Google Local page ranked opposed to a normal HTML page?
- What are your favorite SEO tools?
- What are some of your most successful SEO projects?
- What are all the manual penalties you can get in Google?
- Tell me about a penalty you have cleaned up?
- How do you configure a disavow file?
- How do you send out a link takedown request?
- How to you write a reinclusion request?
- How would you handle a hacked website?
- How would you handle 1,000 new links pointing at your website with commercial anchor text?
- What are all the algorithmic issues you can have in Google?
- How do you optimize for Google video search?
- What do you specify in video markup?
- What do you show in a video sitemap?
- How do you stop a video from appearing in a specific country?
- What is a Google product feed?
- What are the attributes of a product feed?
- How do you optimize for Google news?
- What is Google news publisher center?
- Can Google news crawl PDF files?
- Can Google news include audio or multimedia content?
- Does Google require a Google news sitemap?
- What are the Google news standout tags and keywords tags? How are they different than other meta tags?
- What are all the types of sitemaps?
- What are mobile usability errors and how do you fix them?
- What are the most common page speed issues?
- What are the five types of website models?
- How do you build client relationships?
- What is the difference between SEM Rush, SpyFu, Majestic and Moz?
Saying you Don’t know, When you Don’t know
Following up on the point already mentioned… No one knows everything. So if you don’t know the answer to a technical question then it is much better to let the client know that you will “look into it” then to make something up on the spot. When I was first getting started I would do that all the time. Clients really appreciated it to. They liked that I would research the information and pull it directly from Google documentation.
Never Giving up on Projects that do Matter
If you subscribe to my newsletter you will know I have been pushing people to migrate their website to https for a year now. I still bug people every week who haven’t yet. If something matters, you have to stay on it and let the client know how important it is. Sure, they will probably be hesitant at first. But eventually, if it is really that important, they will understand and help you execute eventually.
Not Being Afraid to get their Hands Dirty When they Need To
Sometimes you just need to jump in and add content, optimize a page, an image, what have you… The idea is, what you do today in SEO will not impact the website for weeks to months down the road. So if you are behind, a good SEO consultant will jump in and take hold of the website, the linking, the blogging or the social media to ensure the client gets results.
Knowing When to Ease Up
Sometimes a client really does not want to do a certain project. So you need to be able to feel that out. Otherwise, it can get a little awkward.
Knowing When to Call the Big Meeting
Finally, you have to know when to call the big meeting. If you have something that needs to be said, a great SEO consultant will call all the major players, from the CEO to the marketing manager, get them all in a room and do a presentation. Whether it be a good (or bad report) or a new quarterly plan, it is always a good idea to sit down with the client and go through the initiatives.
What is important to you in an SEO consultant? Comment below.