Archive for April 19th, 2011


5 Questions to Ask SEOs before You Hire Them

Maybe you’ve known for a while that your site needs to be optimized for search. Maybe you’ve heard SEO mentioned a million times, but figured they were mostly scams and frauds. Maybe you’ve gotten spam email every other day touting the “guaranteed rankings” of some SEO company or another. Maybe you’re new to all this and you just want to talk to an SEO provider to see what it’s all about.

Whatever. Truth is, if you’re thinking about even thinking about hiring an SEO consultant, provider, company, or guru, you’d be wise to keep this list handy. Because some of them are going to be scammers or frauds.  Some of them are going to be using risky techniques. Some of them are charging you for stuff that you don’t need and doesn’t really help. Some of them mean well, but really don’t know what they’re doing. And some of them can help your develop and implement a long-range search marketing strategy for your website that will reap traffic and sales dividends years into the future.

5 Questions to Ask a Potential SEO Provider

  1. What search marketing concerns will you address?
    A good SEO should be looking at your current search position profile; the search environment in which your company operates;  the spider-friendliness of your architecture and navigation; the selection and use of keywords throughout the site; the quality of your content; and the diversity and quality of your backlinks. A lot of industry folks tend to group these into sitewide, on page, and off site elements. Some SEOs will specialize in one or the other element. Good ones will at least evaluate all of them. The best ones will evaluate all of them, and then develop a comprehensive plan to fix problems, shore up weak spots, and pursue positive improvements.
  2. What is your rate structure?
    This is important. How will they charge you? Is it hourly? A flat fee? Piece rate per sub-project? Monthly? Any of these fee structures can be done in a fair and accountable manner. But you need to make sure you understand how it works. Ask them how much this is going to cost. Ask them how much the average is for clients similar to you. Unless there is a flat rate in writing for specific services, make sure that will allow you to set a cap. What you really want to know is, what will I pay and what will I get for the money. Some SEOs can be pretty evasive about this. Nail it down.
  3. How long will the project take to complete?
    You want a ballpark. Is this a month’s project or a year’s? Bear in mind that some SEO work will take a fairly long time to complete and some won’t. Keyword research can be often be done in a week or two. On page recommendations and/or implementations will take longer.  A robust backlink strategy, for instance might take longer than a year. Just get an idea of what you can expect.
  4. What kind of result can I expect?
    Beware of “too good to be true” types of answers. No SEO can make the clouds rain champagne. An honest SEO will tell you that a) any significant result will take time to realize, months at least; b) most traffic gains will tend to ramp up in a stutter-step pattern—periods of growth followed by plateaus followed by growth; and c) the winds of search change and you consider pursuing SEO as a regular marketing effort with a search performance audit at least once every other year.
  5. Do you have references and can you show examples of successful campaigns?
    These are not as easy to get as you might think, but if available can tell you lots about how reliable, effective, and easy to work with an SEO is. They might not be available because many SEOs sign strict non-disclosures with clients as they may wish to keep their marketing efforts from competitors.  Still, an SEO should be able to point to at least a few search phrases they’ve boosted for their own use, if not for a client.

So ask before you sign. Do note, however, that there really aren’t any magic answers and that any response can be untruthful. These questions will really just help you gain a sense of what the SEO does, and how they do it, and whether you feel you can work with them.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I’ll tell where the land mines are…..