Key Points To Follow When Hiring An SEO (Google’s Own Advice)

The following tips when choosing an SEO specialist or agency comes from Google’s developer program tech lead, Maile Ohye.

“An SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website”

In other words, If your website sells apples you aren’t going to rank for “oranges.” The content, services, and products listed on any business website much be relative to the keyword.

“In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business implement implement improvements and see potential benefit.”

This is highly subjective. In my own experience I was able to improve a clients’ site by as much as a 50% within a month by editing meta data and adding quality content to key pages. Also, although considered a bit of a “grey area” in Google’s eyes, link building can really make a difference by passing authority to your site. The more authority a site has, the higher it ranks.

“Doing what’s good for SEO is also doing what’s good for your online customers”

For example, a business that uses old legacy systems would possibly respond well to good search friendly best practices that involve paying off your site’s “technical debt.”

“When hiring an SEO, conduct a two-way interview to make sure they’re genuinely interested in your business. Check their references. Ask for (and expect to pay for) a technical and search audit.”

Solid advice here from Maile Ohye. As an SEO specialist I am constantly learning about new businesses. Content creation is part of SEO after all and if you are not familiar with an industry it’s pretty difficult to create SEO’d content for it. Also, it’s a good idea to check past projects out. Get specific and ask to see keywords that are ranking high for a past clients’ site. If an SEO doesn’t have any references or past projects with positive results he or she can show you it’s generally a red flag. A lot of time can go into technical and search audits, especially if it’s a large site like an ecommerce site or an enterprise level site, so it is not uncommon to be charged for this.

“You should expect an SEO to ask some of these questions: What makes your business, content, and/or service unique? What does your common customer look like, and how do they currently find your site? How does your business make money, and how can search help? What other channels are you using? Who are your competitors, and what do they do well?”

These are all questions that should be asked by any SEO. Just looking at a site isn’t enough. It’s best to probe deeper and find out where the focus should be.

“An audit may/should include the following: Identifying an issue. Providing the suggested improvement. An estimate on the time/money investment needed to implement the improvement. The estimated business impact. A plan for iterating and implementing secondary changes.”

Standard stuff here. Leave nothing out so there isn’t any confusion later about what was expected or what should or shouldn’t have been done.

“A technical audit should identify issues related to the following: Internal linking, crawlability, URL parameters, server connectivity, and response codes”

All true but don’t expect miracles from technical SEO. Simply fixing broken links and making every page “crawlable” isn’t going to be enough to rank a website for targeted keywords 9 times out of 10.

“If you’re not ready to commit to implementing SEO improvements, you’re not likely to see any results no matter whom you hire.”

I’ll expand on this because it does tend to be a problem from time to time. Some people are reluctant to make any changes to their website (design, content, content layout, etc). For advanced SEO work this simply will not work. Expect a skilled SEO to make changes to your on-site content and structure one way or another. If you are just looking for some “light SEO” work to be done such as editing or adding meta tags (titles, descriptions) then don’t expect much. SEO can be pretty dynamic work and sometimes big changes need to be made to a site in order to see an improvement in traffic volume.

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