First, “decent” does not pertain to politeness or socially correct. It does, however, pertain here to someone who can “do the job”!!! — I hope that you will find that this person can also be decently polite and socially correct too!
So, finding someone who will “get the job done” means understanding what that job is! The Search Engine Optimization job means that you will get increased rankings for a variety of good and valuable keywords (defining and understanding good and valuable keywords will come in a later blog post) for your website pages. If your SEO can increase your Page Rank by getting more inbound links pointing to your site and creating a good internal linking structure, then you’ve really hit the right guy (or gal – yup… that would be me!).
Those are the measurable successes that you are looking for, but, finding someone who fits that description and can actually “do” this for your site takes asking the right questions.
1) Are there websites that the SEO can put on their list of “optimized” sites?
An SEO may be able to suggest a website he or she has optimized but how do you really know? You can’t verify that unless the owner/operator of the website will confirm this – sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are always confidentiality issues that seem to be present in this industry. Ask anyway and see how far you can push to get this information and get it verified.
2) Do they “guarantee” ranking increases?
If they do – run fast, run very fast!! About the only “guarantee” you can get would, hopefully, be for your website domain name and/or specialized business name – but even then I’ve seen issues of too many similarities in some names. The only other guarantee might be for a very obscure keyword and/or one that really isn’t terribly valuable and simply won’t bring the numbers of visitors that might help to pay for the SEO services.
Now – if they guarantee that they will work hard and describe or show you everything that they are doing or planning on doing then you might want them to stick around!
3) How many clients do they have?
An SEO consultant that restricts the number of clients or businesses that they take on is a good thing. You don’t want them overwhelmed, just trying to bring in the money, and then spending limited time on your site!
Personally, I don’t take on any new clients unless I have a minimum of 6 hours a week I can spend on them – that includes research time, review time, reporting time, competitive analysis time, content review time, link strategy time, communication time, etc, etc. Yes, that limits me, but I have time to do a good job – all the time!
4) Do they incorporate some sort of Linking Strategy that is part of their SEO services?
This relates to inbound (external) link building. This will also bring the most interesting of answers. Many SEOs only perform what is known as on-page optimization. On-page optimization focuses only on a variety of SEO factors that are found on individual pages already on your site. Take a look at our SEO Checklist, you’ll see a variety of elements that can be SEOed. There is actually a lot of work that can help a site that relates to these on-page factors. But, and that is a big BUT, you will want to find out if there are off-page factors that will be addressed during any given SEO project? These off-page factors are ones that can help develop inbound links pointing to your site. The more that an SEO can help you muster up the better – as long as no one is paying for those links! This linking strategy part of any SEO project can easily help pay for those SEO services if done correctly and effectively. Ask for their plan.
5) Will they suggest something that could help right away?
Ask if there is something the SEO would be willing to suggest even if you don’t choose them. There is always something that a good SEO is willing to “give away”. It’s difficult for a decent SEO to not want to help you right away.
I can look at a site and, within minutes, find something that can be done better or at least suggest that a prospective client could begin work on with or without me.
6) What sort of SEO Tools or Reporting do they use? And, will they be giving you access to those tools or reports?
You’ll want to know where your rankings for the keywords are before you start the project and definitely before you cut anyone their final check! Depending on the length of time that will be spent on the project, you should hopefully see some ranking increases for some keyword phrases, if nothing else, you shouldn’t have lost any rankings during the SEO process. There should be some sort of Ranking report that you can understand and have from your SEO consultant.
There may be other tools at your disposal – there are many Analytics tools/reports that are great – that will help with how your content is seen by the search engines, or information on who is linking to your site or even a competitor’s site, and a variety of other items that can help with evaluating and understanding the Search Engine Optimization process.
7) Where does the SEO get his updated information, and/or stay current in the industry?
This can be done through constant and continuous online research, monitoring websites, reading blogs, going to conferences, etc, etc. If there is a “buzz” word you’ve heard about, check and see if the SEO knows about it too.
Here’s a simple question that any SEO should know:
Question: About how many factors are involved in Google’s ranking algorithm?
Answer: As of this writing, there are about 200 ranking factors that play a part in the Google algorithm.
Last, but not least, the last question is one for you, the client. Ask yourself these questions:
Did you feel comfortable talking to the SEO Consultant?
Did you understand the answers given or was he or she too technical?
Did the consultant seem to pay attention to your questions or concerns?
Did you like spending time talking with this person?
– because this, hopefully, will become a nice long-term and valuable relationship!