What to look for from and SEO provider
I know it seems a little self serving, but I believe in the Macy’s principle, If I don’t have what you need, there are people that do have what you need and you should connect with them. In the spirit of trying to help, here are some tips for hiring an SEO person. This is based on some clear principles:
- Other Skills
SEO work is not that complicated in principle, once your setup to do the work, it’s how you apply it and what choices you make to improve your site that is the challenge. Your SEO provider should be able to explain their process simply and easily. If you can’t follow them, you may be buying into something that you may not need or you will wind up being frustrated at the end. Even as I write this I do warn against a “silver bullet approach”. There is no one facet to SEO that will guarantee success. There are always multiple factors.
Ask questions and push for understanding.
Ideally SEO work leads to some very simple results:
- Increase in website traffic
- Increase in communications/inquires into your business
- Increase in sales
Al this should be reported out to you in a clear and concise way.
It may seem a little redundant but clarity is a subset of simplicity. You should be provided with clear data and information that allows you to follow along the work that your SEO provider is doing. There shouldn’t be a magic box. Every SEO person should be able to do the following:
- Audit Reports - They should be able to show you how your website is doing and where your website is coming up short.
- Technical SEO - Onsite page optimization. Identify errors and suggest solutions or even roll up their sleeves and fix common problems. This includes code errors and keyword utilization.
- Off-site SEO - Understand the competitive landscape of your business, estimate keyword traffic, and create a strategy for increasing backlinks to your site.
- Clear processes - You should know what they plan to do, what you need to give them, and what the outputs will be. Pricing should be simple and easy to follow.
- Clear strategy - There is more then one way to get your destination, but you should know the path and what to expect along the way
One of the most wonderful things about online efforts, almost all of it is trackable. You should be able to access a plethora of information from your SEO provider.
Here are a few datasets you should be able to get:
- Analytics information - understand your website traffic, where it is coming from, what they are doing on your site, and some warning signs.
- Keyword Data - Identify a keyword list with estimated traffic and PPC costs
- Backlinks - Inventory of websites linking to your website
- Competitors - Analysis of your competitors (keywords and backlinks)
- Regular reporting - You should be working with your SEO provider to ensure you have access to regular information
While data is super important so is the ability to communicate the information and provide some basic analysis and synthesis of what is being reported. When working with and SEO provider you should be able to know:
- What work you are paying for and the outputs - There should be a clear understanding of work work is being done and some proof the work was completed.
- What are reasonable results when the work is completed - You should have an idea of when to expect results and what they will be.
- The process and what is expected of you as a client - Your SEO provider should be able to outline a strategy and process that you can follow. There also should be some meetings in place to make sure they are getting the right information to do the work.
Search Engine Optimization may seem like a complicated and confusing process, but it really boils down to understanding the status of your website, creating a plan for improvement, and working the plan to improve, reporting out at each step. Like most business practices it should dovetail nicely into all the work you are doing and fit without too much trouble.
Finally I have one last suggestion for finding and SEO provider.
Assume skills are equal, Hire based on “other skills”
If every SEO person can run similar reports, and follow a process that helps improve a sites ranking, then the real difference between SEO providers is their communication, their unique experience, and their personality. This is where there are clear divisions of SEO providers.
I have this in this post twice, because it is that important. You need to hire someone that communicates with you in a way that is clear and easy to understand and provides the level of details you need. There should be clarity of understanding, and you should be able to ask questions and understand their answers.
If you hire a SEO person that has no work experience or hasn’t engaged your industry or target markets, you will find yourself having to teach this person about your industry. In general, SEO providers will need to learn some facet of your business or market, but ideally they come with transferable skills or some sort of transferable experience. They should be able to articulate some of the challenges your industry may have, and how your target consumers may make a decision to buy from your business.
One of the biggest challenges when hiring people is trying to find the right person that fits with your organization and culture. Take some time to get to know your potential SEO provider. Are they data nerds that hide behind facts and figures, are they smarmy sales people that sell sizzle but have no idea where the steak is? The ideal SEO person is representing your business and has to make a dozen of decisions on how to best improve your website SEO score. If they don’t mesh with your culture, you may be brining on someone that won’t be able to get the best results. This can lead to frustration, misalignment of goals and deliverables, and subsequently a search for a new provider.
This person is part of your team and needs to be utilized as such. Take time to let the right person be on your team.
SEO work is not so complicated that it can’t be explain easily. You should be working with an SEO Provider that fits your culture, has some understanding of your business and market. They should be able to show you how your website is doing, what needs to be fixed, and have skills to fix them. When looking for an SEO provider ask them questions and consider them ad being part of your team. Are they someone you can work with? Do you understand their process or what they are doing? To find the best provider take some time and feel free to use the information above.
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