Making your website search engine optimized is critical nowadays if you want your website to be relevant and conspicuous online. Yet, hire an SEO expert can be a bit difficult, considering the fact that there are many “so-called” SEO experts at hand who are not really experts in the strictest sense of the word. These people are like poseurs who are only there to hoodwink unsuspecting and uninformed clients. But there are real experts in the craft of search engine optimization, and you would do yourself a great service if you could find one these experts.

Here are advise and guide on how to hire an SEO expert by yourself. The learning is either from people shared or my personal SEO experiences.

The Steps to Follow

  1. Learn the basic SEO yourself
  2. Learn different types of SEOs
  3. Set up your goal to achieve via SEO
  4. SEO candidates prospecting
  5. Learn and ask SEOer the right questions
  6. Time to make the decision

Learn the basic SEO yourself

Like running a business, hiring a great SEO expert starts with educating yourself with the basic SEO knowledge. If something goes wrong because you lack the knowledge then that’s completely on you. So if you decide you need help from SEO expert, learn the basic SEO yourself. Read the SEO beginner guide, watch the SEO tutorials videos, get to know what are backlinks and how to get them.

Free learning resources to obtain basic SEO knowledge

  • Moz Beginners Guide to SEO: This free course covers a lot of the theory behind SEO and will help you to understand the hows and whys of the field.
  • WebConfs SEO Tutorial: This one expands into some of the individual SEO disciplines a lot more than the Moz guide, and is one of the best overviews that I’ve gone through.
  • Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO: This is a multi-part series from Search Engine Land’s Guide. It’s 9 detailed blog posts about different aspects of SEO – don’t miss this one.
  • SEO Book SEO Glossary: SEO Book is one the leading resources on the internet, and this is a really in-depth glossary. It’s worth reviewing for key terms, and bookmarking for easy access later on.
  • Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide: This guide won’t provide any secrets that’ll automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), but following the best practices outlined below will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.

After you have the basic understanding of what is SEO and how SEO works, then you can discuss your plan with your colleges, board members, marketing managers etc. Every business is different so does yours. SEO is not a program that fit into all types of business.

Learn different types of SEOs

Before we go the differences between consultant and agency, I want to list the type of SEOs from the industry.

  • In-house SEOs: For any business that very large or is growing rapidly, it often makes sense to hire an in-house SEO team.With an in-house SEO team, Firms can exert more control over the planning and implementation execution of SEO strategies and objectives; this is especially true in terms of cross-departmental and cross-functional integration. Firms often can react quickly when faced with an SEO challenge, and that response may be more comprehensive and effective if it comes from an internal source, rather than from an external one.
  • National agency, Local/Regional agency: Agencies are SEO companies which have teams of SEOs and standardized SEO processes for the most part. Work with an agency, you can integrate the expertise of trained professionals who deal with SEO challenges across industries all the time. Outside professionals are unencumbered with personal biases about the firm; they bring an objective focus on what is working and what is not to the table. They are more knowledgeable about best practices, and often have industry contacts that keep them up-to-date more extensively than in-house personnel with only self-directed SEO education.
  • Freelance SEO/Independent consultant: These are individuals or small group of SEO consultant who offer their SEO services to certain types of business or groups. Independent SEO consultant has much smaller size compared with an SEO agency. However, individual SEO consultants are very selective and work closely with their clients since they have a small team of SEO experts. Individual SEO consultants work in a customized SEO process for client’s projects. They are more flexible and react to changes faster than SEO agency. If you are concerning about your business models and how it applies to digital marketing, you may want to speak with an individual SEO consultant for a deep examine your website and your competitors.

Set up your goal to achieve via SEO

You must figure out the goals you’re trying to achieve with SEO before you actually talk to a SEOer. When I say goal, I mean a measurable and achievable goal.

List of bad goals:

  • We just want traffic, more traffic. Why? Well, because we want it.
  • Rankings alone, unfortunately, this is a vanity thing that many people have where they want to rank for something simply because they want to rank for it.
  • Beating a particular competitor out for specific keywords or phrases. Again, not a great goal.
  • Vanity metrics. I still see people who are saying, “Hey, does anyone know a great SEO company that can help bring our domain authority up or our Majestic trust flow up or, worst of all, our Google PageRank up?” Google dropped PageRank years ago.

List of good goals:

  • I want to get in front of a lot of people who are researching this, and so we need traffic from these specific groups. I know that they perform searches for this. Great.
  • We’re trying to boost revenue, and we’re trying to boost it through new sales and SEO is a sale driving channel. Fine, great.
  • We’re trying to boost downloads or free sign-ups or free trials. Also a fine goal.
  • We’re trying to boost sentiment for our brand. Maybe if you Googled some of our branded terms today, there are some poor reviews, there are lots of good reviews that rank below them, and we want to push the good reviews up and the bad reviews down. Fine. The sentiment, that could be something you’re driving as well. You know a lot of people are researching your brand or branded terms. Those are all good goals.

Make a list of SEO candidates to interview with

Once you have a list of these good goals that you’re trying to optimize for, it’s time to searching for SEOs. My suggestion is that you should assemble a list of usually three to five no matter you are looking for an agency or you are looking for SEO expert.

You may have some criteria. For example, you might say, “Hey, look we really need someone in our region so that we can meet with them in person or at least someone who can fly to us on a regular basis.” Maybe that’s a requirement for you. Or you might say, “That’s not important. Remote is great.” Fine, wonderful. You might say something like, “Our price range or our budget is this particular thing.” No matter what are your criteria, here are some good resources you can fill up your list.

  • Tap your professional network and ask for recommendations. Your network is your inner circle of trust. Look for at least a couple of recommendations for SEO consultants that other marketing professionals (or business owners) in your network have worked with (and achieved good results). Start with your social media network, especially LinkedIn, and Twitter. I suggest a combination of asking for recommendations via both public status updates and writing private messages to the people in your network who have likely worked with an SEO consultant.
  • Look for lists of the top-rated SEO consultants. There are sites like com,, Thumbtack,, and others that can help you find reputable SEO consultants in a particular area or niche.
  • Read the reviews of the top SEO consultants on 3rd party sites. Investigate the types of clients that particular SEO consultants have worked with, the type of work that was done, and the results achieved.
  • Go to local MeetUps and networking events to meet SEO consultants in your area. Having face-to-face time with potential SEO consultants can go a long way toward identifying the type of person that will be a good fit for you, your team, and your company’s goals.
  • Review SEO Blogs to find consultants that speak your language. You likely have a sense what you’re looking for (although maybe not fully defined), and reading what professional SEO consultants blog about can help you find a good match based on the type of work that you want to be done.

Learn and ask SEOer the right questions

In an interview, underlying qualities can reveal more than specific details. Here is a list of 10 SEO interview questions to ask when considering prospective SEO consultants:

1. Who are your past clients?

A reputable SEO agency should be able to provide case studies or a list of current and past clients. This information would allow you to judge their performance and review the impact of their efforts. They need not share specific analytics but details about SEO campaigns, strategy, improvement in search ranking, the rate of conversions and results must be shared.

2. What is your SEO approach for my business?

SEO consultants must discuss the methods they would be adopted to improve your website’s search engine ranking. Moreover, they should be able to estimate the time it would realistically take to achieve the goals you have established. Their proposal must NOT be vague and generic.

3. Do you follow the webmaster guidelines for search engines?

The agency you hire must adhere to webmaster practices posted by Google. These practices specifically forbid the usage of common SEO black-hat tricks that result in lower search results ranking or a Google ban from search results. The agency must confirm to follow webmaster guidelines appropriately for it to be a good hire for you. Read Protect Website Search Engine Rankings from Black Hat Spams for more detail.

4. Do you guarantee number one ranking on my website?

No agency, even if it has extensive experience can give you assurance for number one ranking. If the SEO agency you are considering to hire commits the same, they are either going to use unethical practices or are just fooling you. So beware!

5. Will you also look at improving ranking in local search results?

Brick-and-mortar businesses can benefit tremendously from local SEO techniques. This involves the inclusion of keywords and certain location-specific details in the title tags and meta descriptions of the website. The SEO consultant must know how to effectively optimize such practices so that nearby customers can easily find you through their search results.

6. What are the working procedures?

As part of search engine optimization efforts, consultants will have to modify the coding on your current website. The agency at all times MUST inform you of any such changes and also seek permission before they alter the tags or keywords on your website. This must be a part of their regular working process.

7. How is success measured? What are the KPIs?

The objective of SEO techniques is to improve the organic search traffic being sent to your website. This means that the agency must know how to use Google Analytics and must use ranking, website traffic, backlinks, keyword searches and competition as essentials KPIs.

8. How do you communicate with the client?

The communication process varies from agency to agency and consultant to consultant. You must inquire about the mode and frequency of communication and discuss the terms that you are suitable for.

9. What are the commercials and terms of payment?

You must know the price you are paying and whether the payment needs to be made by a retainer or by a project. This must be clarified initially to enjoy a healthy, long-term relationship. See How Much Should I Pay for SEO Services for more detail.

10. What are the termination clauses?

Ensure that this aspect has been covered in the agreement and the terms are mutually agreed upon by both parties. You should not be in for a surprise when the contract expires or you decide to terminate it earlier.

Time to make the decision

SEO campaigns require extensive research, knowledge, experience, and skills. This means that what an agency can achieve for your business will be much more than what you can achieve on your own.

Hiring an SEO expert or agency is not an easy task. I’ve seen so many try and fail to hire the right one but also seen when the proper research is done and the relationship is smooth and successful on both sides.

SEO plays a crucial role in today’s marketing arena and it is your responsibility to communicate with them and make the best decision to take your business conversions to the next level.

Google’s advice for hiring an SEO

Google’s Maile Ohye shares her advice for hiring an SEO (Search Engine Optimizer) to improve the searcher experience on your website.


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