In the immensely growing and intense competition of online marketing, Search Engine Optimization or SEO has been an indispensable tool in the success of a business. However due to the degree of knowledge, skill and experience needed to do proper SEO, it has been the norm to turn to the experts as doing SEO on your own is a risky and expensive endeavor.
However trekking the terrains of the online world to find that true and legit SEO expert is not an easy feat either. SEO involves a great deal of researching and strategy-making to get the traction going and drive traffic to a website.
SEO is all about getting real and measurable results – not only being placed at the top of the search engine results, but also being able to create a following that will contribute to the growth in sales and will give you return on your investment.
This includes a complete understanding of the search landscape, conducting constant research, and developing strategies. Finding and choosing an SEO partner that would adhere to high standards throughout the entire SEO process is a critical decision to make.
It is also important to note that there are no standard rules or guidelines for SEO as there are no official governing bodies or institutions that will verify the authenticity of SEO practitioners. To add to that, the web is an open industry. So anyone could offer services and sell themselves even if they have low to no knowledge and experience. But this small brood of scammers and wanna-bes is only a small percentage to the real SEO action going on in the online world, so it’s not only crucial to look for the best SEO but also to look out for these SEO impostors.
Before delving in to the specifics of what to look for and look out for, here is a short list on How to start looking for one:
How to find a good SEO
Start with your network
Finding the right SEO for your website might seem an intimidating and Herculean task to achieve but you’ll be surprised to know that there might be people in your circle who can recommend legit and effective SEO experts. SEO is continuously sprouting and growing and aside from the established firms and agencies, there are actually smaller outfits or freelance SEO specialists who can work competitively in a significantly lower price. Who knows, your friends or friends of your friends, in social media for example, can direct you to one. To add, it pays that someone you know can vouch for the SEO expert so you are assured that it’s for real.
Search in SEO communities and forums
Where is the best place to look for an SEO, but on the internet itself? But with the high and varied possibility of outcomes, you could narrow down your search and take time to sort through marketing and SEO communities and forums so you have an idea of who are the top and emerging players in the SEO field.
Create a short list of SEOs
After finding a seemingly good SEO that could work for your specifications and budget, be careful not to settle on it immediately as you could be losing a better catch. Consider it like shopping for shoes for an event. You think you found the perfect pair only to find a better one in the next store. It’s okay to window shop so you have a list of options and you could choose the perfect fit that will help you walk to your success. Usually, SEOs offer free consultations, so don’t be afraid to take one and see if you are a great match.
Now on to the specifics…
What to look for:
A good-looking SEO website is certainly a good come-on for potential clients like you, however this alone does not ensure that it has good SEO since a website does not need to be fancy for it to be functional. However, if you are looking for an SEO that will also take care of your website’s design, then this is a must.
Complete understanding of SEO
More than the appearance, it is the meat that counts. For SEO to be effective it should be done holistically and made sure that every technical aspect is covered so that nothing will fall apart in the long run. To know that your potential SEO partner is an expert in their field, they should be knowledgeable in all three levels:
Technical – the structure of a site, which can determine how easy or difficult it is for search engines to crawl and index your content
On-page optimization – the use of such elements as keywords and HTML tags in ways that help increase search engine traffic to your site
Off-page optimization – such as link building
To have an effective SEO, the know-how should not be limited on SEO alone. There should also be a good perspective in terms of marketing, psychology and culture. If the focus is highly geared on the technical aspect, the planning and developing of the website could be short-sighted and you might lose the important considerations of your target audience and geography. There should be a certain awareness and sensitivity to your target niche’s demands and needs and even an anticipation of their future needs as this would definitely create a positive customer experience.
All around SEO practitioner
An SEO company that covers many if not all niches is a plus as it gives them a wide array of data to help you with your business. They usually know a great deal more about audience needs and behavior, language, key differentials and most importantly, the influencers within that category. However, an SEO that focuses in just one industry has a limited view and high possibility of also working for your competitors. So this will be a risk on prioritizing the results for your business.
Great communication skills
Since you will be expecting them to package your business into a website, make sure that they will be able to translate their technical skills into layman’s terms. Allow them to present themselves and give you an outline on how they think they will make your website work. This will give you an idea on how committed, creative and collaborative they are on working on your projects and if they are flexible enough to adapt and do improvisations according to the results and needs.
They are not selfish. Instead, they will lead you and guide you on how you should go and improve the SEO of your website. They are not just service providers but partners who are concerned of the welfare of your business as they base the success of the website not only in terms of rankings, rather in tangible results like sales, return on investments and amassing loyal customers.
You may choose a shorter or longer time-frame to work with your SEO partner depending on your need, budget and willingness to learn the SEO trade. Regardless, it is important that you are on the same page and meet eye-to-eye on everything. Sometimes it is not the technical stuff that renders a website ineffective. Rather, it is the incompatibility, poor communication and bad relationship over-all with your SEO partner. You may look into how they present themselves and even how they interact with others online like in their articles and comments, to know their personality, values, work ethics and methods and see if it fits with yours.
Gather feedback and references
The best way to gauge the success of an SEO firm or expert is the success of their clients. You could check their website for testimonials or you could even look up and contact their past and current clients and ask for their feedback to give you an idea on their work strategy and relationship especially with businesses that are similar to yours.
Active in the SEO community
Since SEO is an ever dynamic enterprise, especially with its ever-changing algorithms, it is important that an SEO expert be updated with the latest buzz and trends to ensure that their methods and techniques are always relevant and would not go stale. This also shows their eagerness to continuously develop and improve in their craft and ensure to deliver fresh SEO goods.
SEO Agency vs Freelance SEO Specialist
As mentioned earlier, you can opt for an established name in the business that already has standard tricks of the trade or the emerging ones who are eager and passionate to go the extra mile to make your business a success. Below is a run-down of the Pros and Cons for both:
Pros: Diverse skills, large pool of experience, service integration. It is the better choice if you have a main contact that can guide the agency with your specifications.
Cons: Expensive with minimum contracts but many clients which means divided attention and less chance of short notice requests.
Freelance SEO specialist
Pros: Lower rate, can start quickly, more time, personal touch, well connected within the industry which means more inside information. It is the better choice if you need the SEO specialist for direction especially if you’re not sure on how to proceed on your project.
Cons: Mostly working alone and no team to conceptualize and brainstorm together. Project is harder to scale with the growth of your company and they have a smaller portfolio.
What to look out for:
It is easy logic to conclude that if an SEO practitioner is good in what they are doing, then they should be able to make themselves land on the first page of search engines. However, an SEO firm that ranks first on your search does not necessarily mean that it is the best as it might just be an old domain and has been used for a long time so search engines put more value to it in ranking. It also depends on the keywords you used for searching and the location and number of competition within a specific niche. It is even more concerning if they promise you top placement in search engines with dubious proofs and evidences. It is still important to sort and sift through the results and their content.
Their references don’t understand SEO
When their point persons are not confident or have vague answers about SEO and their methods, this should be a tell-tale sign to exclude them from your shortlist of possible partners.
Reputation and Reviews are not discussed
If they are unwilling or unable to show references and results from previous and current clients, that hesitation is enough to cloud the trust that is necessary for the potential partnership to work.
They don’t ask about your business
Their lack of interest to get to know your business shows that they don’t have enough concern and that they are only depending on their own. This also hinders good communication and collaboration that are necessary to make your website work.
They have risky techniques
This includes buying links and deceiving users and/or search engines, stealing content, etc. Research and ensure that the potential SEO partner you choose do not use shady methods just so you could get the results that you want which might actually hurt more than help.
With all these tips and how-to’s, I hope you’re all set to go and look for the best SEO that’s right for you.