How To Hire The Right SEO Consultant For Your Micro Business

Choosing an SEO specialist can be daunting.

Spending hard earned money on a service you don’t fully understand is never easy. Especially if you factor in the concern that there are a number of less than trustworthy providers in the market place. So how can micro businesses avoid making costly mistakes?

1.  You Can’t Do Everything

Most micro and small business people are adept at learning new skills and applying them to their business. That’s what made them entrepreneurs in the first place. However there comes a time in most company’s development, when due to the complicated nature of a task it makes more sense to enlist the services of a professional.

Getting in a professional should provide you with peace of mind and the guarantee of a level of quality that would be difficult to achieve by a talented amateur. You only have to take a look at the results of my YouTube tutored efforts at plastering my bathroom to realise that in many cases it actually pays to enlist the experience of an experienced professional.

2.  Choosing the Right Professional

SEO is like many other professional services out there. There are both good and bad providers competing for your marketing budget. The trick is to choose the ethical, inventive and trustworthy providers over the cowboys and charlatans. This of course is best done from a position of knowledge. So your first (and most important) task is to take your time and find out about the basics of SEO along with the latest developments and have a clear idea of how this is to be implemented in your business.

3.  Educate Yourself

You don’t need to be fully conversant with the technical minutia of the subject. But spending some time on the internet researching the subject will pay dividends, the following resources will be invaluable for researching the subject:

The main difficulty with SEO is it is almost a full time job staying abreast of developments and this will be the key difference between the kind of provider that you want to engage and the kind that you want to avoid. A good SEO provider will be engaged with the latest thinking so you can read up on the latest topics of discussion on the following blogs:

4.  Research Time

So now you have taken steps to educate yourself in the basics of SEO and discovered a few tips and tricks that can be employed to help you investigate the credentials of any provider that you should consider. Your next step is to get yourself a list of SEO experts to put under the microscope. Google will not only help you find SEO providers but will help you perform a “background check” to ensure they deserve a place on your list of prospects.

  • First things first. Use your new found SEO knowledge to see what the SEOs have done for themselves is like. Check their ranking against their own keywords. If they can’t manage to rank their own site how much luck do you think they’ll have with yours? You should also check their MozRank and page rank to see how their site is performing. This will provide you with an insight into the site’s authority.
  • The next thing on your list will be to check their link profile. This will really give you an insight into their SEO tactics. Open Site Explorer will enable you to check the quality (and variety) of links the company is getting for themselves. Alarm bells should start to ring if you see an over reliance on directory listings or other spammy low value tactics.
  • Your list should have just shrunk to a more manageable size so now we need to find out how trustworthy and ethical these companies are. Google will again help you search for reviews and testimonials from their customers. With a little lateral thinking you can really start to piece together a picture of the company’s attitude to customer service. Try searching on words like “happy” or “unhappy” for example, along with the company name.

By following this kind of methodical approach you should by now have a shortlist of companies that you want to talk to. What’s more, you’ll have gained valuable experience in reviewing parts of an SEO campaign. This will help you keep on top of the work that the agency of your choice performs for you.

5.  Meet the SEO Providers

The next step is a face to face meeting with the companies on your shortlist. You will be looking to work with technically proficient, ethical, innovative people and face to face meetings are the best way to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit.

You’ll notice I keep referring to ethics as an important factor in your choice of an SEO provider. This is because there are many ways to skin a cat! And some of the less ethical practices will work….in the short term but can cause problems for your site that difficult and time consuming to fix when their shelf life expires.

I would strongly advise you try and arrange to meet your prospective SEO experts in their offices. It’s a great way to see if they are equipped to provide the services they claim to offer. If you turn up expecting to see a team of copy writers, PPC experts and SEO specialists only to find a couple of chaps there is a good chance that they outsource most of their services which is not always a sign of a quality provider.

To put your mind at rest here are a list of questions that you should ask all SEO agencies:

  1. Do you provide monthly reports detailing performance against agreed parameters? This should also include a summary of all work performed and details of the next month’s campaign.
  2. Who are you currently working with and some examples of previous successful campaigns?
  3. What kind of tactics do your campaigns employ? They should provide examples of a variety of ethical link building campaigns.
  4. Do you outsource any services? Outsourcing in itself is not such a bad thing but if critical services are being farmed out, how much control does the SEO agency have over the quality of the work? And what happens when the outsourcing team are working on other projects? Who is going to ensure your campaign gets month-on-month attention?

The answers to the questions above will help you decide how good an agency is. It also pays to listen out for the tell tale signs that an agency are just plain bad.

You should never entrust your marketing campaign to providers who:

  • Won’t explain their link building tactics to you. This could mean they have a very narrow field of expertise or are engaged in link building activities that could have harmful implications for your site in the long term.
  • Sell “off-the-peg” SEO solutions. Your business is unique with its own particular set of SEO challenges, a package that offers X amount of links for your monthly budget does not take into account these unique factors and is a tell tale sign that you are not getting the bespoke service you deserve.
  • Focus their pitch on a promise of achieving the top position in Google for a particular keyword. They are not in any position to make these kinds of promises and you may find that they deliver a bunch of useless keywords that have no search volumes at all. What’s the point of being top for a phrase that only five people search for a month?
  • Provide a list of SEO services that are so 2009 that they will do more harm than good. Terms to be worried about are: article marketing, blog commenting, directory listings, keyword density, and article spinning.

In Conclusion

The advice offered above is in no way exhaustive. But when combined with your natural instincts will help you drill down and find the kind of SEO expert who will look on your campaign as a long term prospect and have the ability to provide the variety of resources to meet the on-going needs of your business as it grows.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Have you decided you need an SEO consultant? If so map out your strategy for hiring one based on the ideas in this article.

James Harper

James Harper is the online marketing manager at Boom Online Marketing. James devises marketing campaigns for businesses of all sizes.

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Comments

  1. Now THIS is a piece on SEO that’s helpful.

    I’m a big believer in needing to know a certain amount yourself before you can hire a professional for certain services – website design, SEO, copywriting. You need to know what you want and want to achieve and have a strategy, THEN you hire the pro to do ‘their stuff’ to achieve that.
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..Do you want 1:1 help to stop your accounts being a procrastinating stress zone?My Profile

  2. Hi Rosie,
    Thanks for your positive comments, I’m glad you found the post useful. You’ll find that keeping up with developments will ensure you are getting the best return on your investment once you have chosen your expert to manage the campaign.
    James Harper recently posted..SEO 2013My Profile

  3. The only thing I would disagree with is checking the rankings of the SEO provider’s website – especially if that SEO provider is a one-man operation. A business owner shouldn’t care what the SEO provider ranks for. The business owner wants his own website ranked! To that end, it’s all about results. The provider should be able to demonstrate results or at least have some kind of guarantee (i.e. if I can’t do what I say I will do, you’ll get your money back).

    I just cringe when people say if the SEO provider isn’t ranking for XYZ, then you can’t trust them to get results for you. The provider should be spending their time and efforts getting results for their clients – not trying to get their own site ranked.

    Travis Van Slooten
    Travis Van Slooten recently posted..How to Find Guest Blogging OpportunitiesMy Profile

    • Hi Travis,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I know what you are saying and sure the important thing is what any provider can do for you, the results. This tip is part of a wider strategy to help people understand the service they are buying and get a better deal from their SEO. It may also help them choose one who actually understands the subject themselves :) The thing that would worry me about engaging a one man band who does not have time to do his own SEO properly is what kind of focus is my work getting? I’d also be worried that my work was being outsourced to people who have no relationship to me or my site.
      James Harper recently posted..SEO 2013My Profile

  4. Really comprehensive post on SEO, I am going to bookmark this so I can come back to it again and absorb it all. Really great advice!
    Jo Harrison recently posted..The Elusive Twitter Monitoring ToolMy Profile

  5. Select the right SEO professional. Know your audience. Focus on them. Some research work is required before you start marketing your website online. I appreciate the blog!!!!

  6. Hi,There is much more to search engine optimization (SEO) than meets the eye, and if you suspect that handling your website’s SEO is something you can handle on your own , you may be in for a rude shock. Thanks for sharing this awesome blog with us
    seo consultant Indonesia recently posted..ROI – Return On InvestmentMy Profile

  7. Hire SEO Expert Consultant This Post Very Helpful Sir .Thank You So Much
    Srivani recently posted..How to Get a Job in SEO MarketingMy Profile

  8. Hi James great article and lots of useful information, I need to read again and have a look at the links. Just left a valid comment on a so called SEO Consultant and he has blocked me from his website. I must of hit a nerve there then…..

    Colin

  9. I really like for all information… I know about for How To Hire The Right SEO Consultant For Your Micro Business informations….I particularly like for Research Time informations…Thanks for Sharing…Seo Agency
    Jessi recently posted..How do seo agencies build linksMy Profile

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