16 Questions to ask BEFORE you select your SEO Consultant (Now 24 Qs)

Mar 27, 2011 1 Comment by

Updated: Dec 2012 with 8 more Questions to Ask

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Getting your content found can be a challenge and it’s often good to get external help from people skilled in the SEO field. The world abounds with people claiming to be able improve your listing in Google and other search engines.  Not all web development firms or digital marketing agencies are good at SEO and many seriously struggle in this specialized area.

Good SEO is about establishing the relevance, value and credibility of your content – and then getting your content (rather than your competitors’ content)  easily found by others when they  search online.

Selecting the best and most relevant keywords for which to optimize your site and your content is part of the challenge.   Then you need to use a bunch of smart techniques on your website and with your content.  (And by ‘smart techniques’, I don’t mean spammy junky ‘black hat techniques.  Avoid them at all costs. Even if  some new black-hat SEO method may work temporarily, sooner or later you will get slapped by Google and when Google slaps you it can hurt your business big time.)

After that, the relevance, value and credibility of your content is generally determined automatically by algorithms used by search engines such as Google.  Google puts a lot of weight on the number and quality of “back-links” – which are the links from other websites or other web content back to each of your specific pieces of  content.  The more high quality sites containing different pieces of content that have relevant back-links to you, the better Google will assess the  relevance, value and credibility of your content.

Recently, Google have added a social media element to their algorithm to allow content that is relevant, valuable and credible to come from those people close to you in your social networks.

16 + 8 Questions To Ask BEFORE You Select &  Engage SEO

Here’s an extract of what the guys at Google have to say about hiring someone else to do your SEO work for you.  You can find the full details here.   (And to avoid confusion, SEO below also stands for “Search Engine Optimizer”, one of many new professional expert niche occupation roles in the online world.)

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

  1. Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
  2. Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  3. Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  4. What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?
  5. How do you measure your success?
  6. What’s your experience in my industry?
  7. What’s your experience in my country/city?
  8. What’s your experience developing international sites?
  9. What are your most important SEO techniques?
  10. How long have you been in business?
  11. How can I expect to communicate with you?
  12. Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

That’s what Google have to say and as noted above, you can find the full details here.  It’s a good start, but there are four more  critical questions I would suggest you add to ask a potential SEO consultant:

#13.   How can you help me find the right or best keywords for my content?  What is involved and what will you need me to do to help you make it successful?

#14.   Will you help build good back-links to my content, and if so, how will you do this?

#15.   What experience do you have using different social media to assist with SEO?  Can you give me some examples of your recent successes?

#16.   How do you charge for your SEO services, and what is the likely ball-park price for you to provide me with what I need?

It’s all about weighing up the results you may get for the money you will pay.   Not many good SEO firms will offer you any guarantees, but ask anyway!


DEC 2012 UPDATE:  Here’s 8 More SEO Questions to ask.   

I’m getting so tired of SEO snake-oil salesmen who happily take money from unsuspecting business owners. Ask these questions first, and don’t settle for answers that don’t seem right to you.

Trust is important – and you need to listen to your gut feelings when you hire someone new. You can also ask these questions of whoever is doing your SEO work now.

The questions do get fairly blunt…  Feel free to change them to suit your own business style. (I get blunt because I no longer tolerate hearing BS. You don’t need it either.)

More Questions to Ask…

#17.  Will you provide me with regular reports (either monthly or more frequently)  that track the outcomes we both want to achieve from this SEO work?

#18.  What industry-standard tools do you use to help you easily produce accurate, trust-worthy and meaningful reports on the SEO results?   (FYI:  In addtion to using tools from Google, good answers to this “industry tools” question also include Majestic SEO and SEOmoz.)

#19.  I know I need to have realistic expectations from this work. Will you help me set realistic KPIs (key performance indicators)  you are confident you can achieve?    For a start, my KPIs probably need to include:

  • the rankings you achieve for each of my chosen Keywords in Google and Bing;
  • other keywords we could or should also be using;
  • the number and quality of back-links to my site; and most importantly
  • the number of times visitors use the chosen keywords to come to my site and then follow funnels and pathways though my site so we can measure the goals and the conversion ratios.

#20.  Will you help me work out the cost-effectiveness of your work so I can understand the business case and see real ROI on your work?

#21.  If you are using me to develop your own skills in a particular area of SEO, do you promise to tell me this up-front rather than pretend you know things when you don’t?

#22.  I’m sick of the BS from SEO people. Do you promise to always tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about your abilities and experiences in SEO?  If you are honest with me AND can get me good results I will happily tell my friends about you and I will help your business grow. Do you understand that if you do this, you will stand out in your industry and your business will probably flourish?

#23.  I realize SEO has no guarantees. I’m not silly, and I need people I can trust to do this specialist work I don’t understand. Do you realize that if you bullshit to me and tell me stuff that is incorrect, then sooner or later I will find this out?  Our relationship will end and your business goodwill will suffer.

#24.  Do you REALLY want me as an SEO client?

If you ask all – or even most – of these questions, you’ll be in a good position to make better selection decisions. Please let me know how you go.  And please let us know any other questions you think should also be asked.

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