Choosing SEO professional for any project might be sometimes quite a tricky process, especially with no previous hiring experience. Then, you might get easily fooled and spend your money on man-hours that don’t bring any desired results.
The following 5 steps might be helpful with detecting low-quality consultants and staying away from hiring them. On the other hand, SEO practitioners might want to make sure they understand the field properly and show clients they belong to the right group.
1) Check Their Online Presence
Naturally, the first thing to do is typing their name into Google and focusing on all the sources they are mentioned in. It’s worth paying attention especially to any negative mentions in discussions or forums.
It might also be worth checking their social profiles and type of content they share. See if their mind-set is similar to yours and if you will get along with each other well, since you will be in constant touch throughout the project.
Some of the SEO experts have even their own Knowledge Graph in SERP
2) Get Feedback from Previous Clients
The next important thing is reviewing their references and accomplishments in the field. See how many clients they have already worked with and if they provide any contact details next to each reference. If there is no phone number or email address, it might seem that the consultant doesn’t want anyone to talk to the previous clients.
On the other hand, if there’s a chance to get in touch with the references, don’t hesitate to ask how satisfied they have been with the consultant’s work and, more importantly, delivered results, since that’s why hiring a SEO professional makes sense at the first place.
3) Ask Several Tricky Questions
Once you have made the first screening and have chosen a couple of potential SEOs, now it’s time to contact them directly. After introducing yourself, start asking the following simple questions. Pay attention to their reactions, since some of them might think you are easily convincible based of such a non-technical and basic level.
“A friend of mine advised me to optimize meta keywords. Would you know how to do it?”
It’s a well-known fact that meta keywords haven’t been used by Google as a ranking factor since 2009. The meta keyword tag was extensively abused by SEOs for keywords stuffing to artificially influence the rankings.
If the consultant’s response is uncertain, blurry or even wrong (“Yes, I’ll do it for you.”), stay away from them and cross them out from your list straight away.
“Could you provide me with calculations of which keyword density is best for me?”
Although, it’s often said the best keyword density is around two to three percent, there is no such recommendation stated in the official Google Webmaster Guidelines. Google suggests to “use keywords appropriately” which means being contextually rich and write primarily for people instead of search engines.
If the consultant starts to shoot any random numbers, it might be a sign of freshman SEO experience.
“I’ve heard registering in thousands of directories is good for SEO. Would you recommend this for my project?”
In the best case scenario, those types of links won’t do anything in terms of long-term outcome and it will be waste of time and money. Sometimes however, it can even harm the rankings since Google considers “low-quality directory or bookmark site links” as a link scheme attempt.
If you hear “Yes” as the answer, it’s a red flag that you should consider hiring someone else from your list.
“I think optimization of meta descriptions should be prioritized. Could you focus on it first?”
Meta descriptions are very rarely an issue to prioritize over other topics. Since the descriptions are not a ranking factor and Google usually picks up a different piece of content based on its own decision, it’s often worth starting with something more important, such as page loading speed, keyword focus review or response codes health check. Therefore, if the consultant would focus on the descriptions first, it might indicate low experience in the field.
However, in the following case, it’s a bug and it’s important to fix it during the very next steps.
“If I would hire you, could you promise me the first positions in Google?”
First positions can’t be guaranteed in any way, since the rankings are always unstable and there are many factors that can’t be controlled by the consultants. Such factors might be e.g. algorithm updates, various government decisions or simply too powerful competition.
If anyone promises the first positions, it’s often not even clear for which type of SERP. It depends on e.g. user’s location, if they are logged in their Google accounts, if they use Chrome browser or if they use anonymous window for searching.
All of those possibilities can’t be controlled by any consultant, and therefore they can’t promise anything they have no influence over.
4) Let Them Work for One Hour
After passing through the aforementioned answers, let’s give them the first task to complete. Have them work just for one hour and see what recommendations they can come up with.
Assuming your list has been significantly eliminated, you might consider doing that with all the remaining consultants and then compare their insights. When you evaluate their work, pay attention specifically to immediate usability, prioritized order and lucidity of the stated recommendations.
Obviously, you would probably need to pay them for that man-hour but it’s worth getting a grasp of their working style and if it actually suits you. Once you make a choice, you will be paying them much more than that. Therefore, the “SEO test” might be a very reasonable investment.
5) Listen to Your Gut Feeling
Even after all the process, there might still be some sympathies towards one particular candidate based on their email communication style or similar way of thinking.
Before making the final decision, it might be worth getting feedback from someone you already know who can provide you with unbiased opinion. The gut feeling might be often a very important factor in decision making, and therefore shouldn’t be neglected.
When hiring a SEO consultant or a SEO company, it’s worth investing time to make the right choice based on a deliberate research. After checking their online presence and getting previous client’s reference, ask them a couple of tricky questions to find out their level of professionalism. Also, let them provide you with some basic recommendations connected to your site to see how they actually work.
However, even after all those steps, give the gut feeling a chance to help you with making the final decision. Sometimes, it’s the best companion during the process.
On the other hand, for those aiming to become one of the SEO professionals, make sure not to fall into the low-quality category and educate yourself continuously.
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