How to choose an SEO professional

Featured Articles, Search Engine Optimizationon July 2nd, 2011Comments Off on How to choose an SEO professional

So you’ve read up SEO and decided it’s right for your business. That’s great! Now what?

Choosing a search engine optimization professional (or company) is a tricky endeavor, because unlike some professions (doctors, attorneys etc.) there is no barrier to entry. Literally anyone can call themselves a search engine optimization professional. Well guess what… anyone can and anyone does. It’s hard to find a web design company out there these days that doesn’t claim to also be an SEO company. So how do you sort out the real experts from the rest? Read on for some tips.

Things to look for in an SEO professional

The first thing you need to consider is where you’re going to hire. What kind of SEO professional are you looking for. A freelancer? A company? Pot luck from sites like oDesk, Elance or Guru? Are you going to look for local resources like college students or try your luck on craigslist? Or do you want to outsource to another country like the Philippines or India?

The next thing to consider when choosing an SEO professional is price. If a web design company is offering an all inclusive package with a website and SEO for $199, well, good luck. Real search engine optimization takes time. If your SEO is doing everything he or she should be doing, they should be spending a lot of time. Keyword research takes time. Mapping out keywords to content takes time. Rewriting head tags takes time. Editing page copy takes time. Competitive analysis takes time. And that’s just some of the on page work. What about off page things like link building, blogging, article syndication, press releases and others? If your SEO is charging $99 a month, how much time are they really spending? And if they are spending an adequate number of hours, do you really want the SEO that values his or her services at minimum wage?

Questions to ask an SEO professional when interviewing

So while you’re obviously not going to ask this of every person or company on your radar, here are some questions you can ask to get a feeling for an SEO’s strategy. Some of these require some follow up on your part to ensure that the answers fit with what you’re looking for, but the idea here is to be empirical.

  1. What SEO tools do you use on a regular basis?
    What tools an SEO uses can say a lot about them. They should be using Firefox as their browser as the extensions available for Firefox have made it the unofficial “SEO’s Browser.” For keyword research you’ll want to hear at least one (if not several) of the following in their toolbox: Google Keyword Tool, WordTracker or Keyword Discovery. Other good tools to listen for are SEO Elite, OptiLink/Spider, IBP etc.
  2. What kind of strategies do you implement for your clients? Can I see a sample domain that you’ve worked on?
    Their strategies should include both on page and off page actions. Link building is invaluable, yes. But not optimizing the on page would be like putting a racing engine in a car with bicycle tires. You’d waste a lot of that power because you couldn’t get the right traction.

    When you look at a sample domain, look at the site’s backlinks. Are there links from link farms? Paid links? Anything shady going on? If all looks good, ask them to do something that allows you to verify that they have control over the domain, like entering your name in the meta author tag temporarily, or uploading a dummy page with your name (ex. – If they can’t do that, we recommend moving on.

  3. What well known SEOs do you look up to?
    This question can tell you a lot about an SEO because there are different strategies out there. Look up the person (or persons) that they mention to see what their strategy looks like and if it’s what you’re looking for.
  4. What industry blogs, forums and resources do you regularly read?
    This is another telling one. While there’s no rule of thumb here, most SEOs that have been around for a long time will probably have their list whittled down to a handful of key resources. More than than a dozen or so and they may be spending too much time reading and not enough time doing. Again, look up his or her answers to see if those places match what you’re looking for.
  5. What is your biggest failure on an SEO project?
    It happens to the best of us. Any SEO who’s been around has failed. We fail and we learn from it. If your candidate claims to never have failed, in all likelihood he or she is lying, and is an outsourcing problem in the making.
  6. What is your strongest area of SEO?
    Is it on page? Link building? What do they see themselves as experts at?
  7. What is your weakest area of SEO?
    We’re not looking for someone to say “Well I’m terrible at keyword research.” You can still be very good at something and list it as your weaker point if you’re even better at other things. Again, we’re looking to test honesty here.

One last piece of advice, do a search for your candidate’s name or business. If they work in an online industry without any kind of web presence that is a big red flag. And there you go. That should give you enough information about any given search engine optimization candidate to evaluate his or her merit.

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