If you have a business online you probably have SEO as a priority in your digital marketing plan. SEO helps drive organic traffic to your website from search engines by ranking higher on them.
This guide is for you if you are planning to hire an SEO specialist or just want to check whether your current specialist is right fit for you.
We will divide this blog into two parts. In first part we will discuss four steps to hire an SEO specialist and in the second part we will tell you the skills and qualifications you should look for in an SEO specialist.
I. 4 STEPS TO HIRE AN SEO SPECIALIST
1. Know what you want
Following are some questions you must ask yourself before setting out to look for SEO. The whole process will be much easier once you know your goals:
- What do you want from your SEO efforts?
- What is the business goal? Is it more sales conversions or just brand awareness?
- What are your current digital marketing efforts?
Simply ranking higher on Google is not a good SEO goal to have. Ask yourself how ranking higher will lead to more conversions for you.
2. Have an Open Interview
Have an open conversation with your shortlisted candidates. You can find candidates through LinkedIn, hiring consultants or references from business partners/ employees.
Have a two way conversation with the candidate and encourage them to ask you questions. A good SEO candidate should be judged by the questions he or she asks. SEO must fit in with your overall business goals. A skilled SEO must be interested in below information about your business:
- What is the purpose of your business and how do you make money?
- How much traffic and conversions do you currently get through search engines
- Where do you get your maximum sales from currently
- Who are your competitors in digital space and what do they do better than you
A specialist who is not interested in understanding your business is likely to deliver poorly.
3. Check Past work and References
Look at the portfolio of the specialist. Has he done work with any company in your industry? Has he worked with a company of similar size and philosophy? Ask for hard numbers to show that the SEO efforts paid off in higher conversions, rankings or traffic.
Also ask for references and make the effort of calling or mailing them to get feedback. You don’t want to risk hiring an SEO specialist who is a terrible fit in your team.
4. Ask for an SEO Audit
Ask the shortlisted candidates to submit a technical and search audit. This will give you an idea of their expertise and scope of work. This audit report may be paid or free. In any case it is a good investment to test the water before hiring the SEO specialist. The report should consist of:
- Issues with your site
- A Plan to fix the issues
Estimated results and time and money required to achieve them.
II. WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Following are the things that you should look for in an SEO specialist:
- Educational Background – There is no strict criteria regarding this. A good SEO can be from any background. However, candidates from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) tend to have an extra edge as they are good with numbers and data.
- Personal Traits – A good SEO must be a learner. The rules of the game are changing continuously and someone who is not comfortable unlearning and learning repeatedly will not do well in this field. Besides this he/she must also be a good team player. SEOs are required to work with the web developer, content strategist, marketing, PR and many other departments. Someone who is not a good team player is just not right for this role.
- Knowledge of Digital Marketing – As mentioned above SEOs cannot work independent of content, marketing, paid advertising and inbound marketing. SEO is just one part of the digital marketing puzzle. Your SEO specialist must have a clear picture of the overall digital marketing strategy of your company. For this reason you must test whether he has a basic knowledge of content marketing, inbound online sales, marketing and PR. They need not be a master of all these subjects but must know how everything works together.
- Specialization – There are different specializations even within SEO. There are various parts to SEO such as onsite SEO, offsite SEO, technical SEO, Local SEO, etc. Try to find what your business needs. For example:
1. If you have a physical brick and mortar shop then you might want someone who is good at local SEO.
2. If you want to build authority in the digital space you might want someone good at off-page SEO or building links
3. If majority of your business comes from mobile and you want to optimize for mobile audience hire a technical SEO.
- Knowledge of SEO Tools – SEO specialist must be an expert in Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Keyword Planner and Google Pagespeed tools. These tools give analytics on traffic, keywords targeting, page speed and a lot more information needed to optimize your site. A good SEO must be able to draw insights from this data and develop an actionable plan. Some of the other important tools that SEOs use to do competition analysis, find search terms and analyze traffic metrics are Moz, Ahrefs, Buzzsumo, SEMRush.
Lastly, there are also some practices and false claims you are better off avoiding. Be cautious of anyone who:
- Promises you a top rank for a keyword within a month – Google ranking criteria are outside the control of a SEO specialist and no one can promise that you will rank number one on a page. SEO requires a patient approach and continuous monitoring and it may take three months to a year to improve your ranking.
- Indulges in Black Hat practices – Black hat SEO practices are unethical practices to rank higher in search engines and are penalized by search engines. These include strategies such as buying links, spamming to get traffic and content automation. Stay away from any practices that do not obey search engine guidelines as this may lead to negative ranking for your site or removing your site all together from search engines.
- Is not transparent – Your site is your reputation online. By giving backend access to your site you are entrusting the SEO specialist with your biggest online asset. Make sure the trust is two-way. Your SEO should care about your business and must share all the data and results from time to time. He or she should help your digital marketing team to understand SEO to make sure everyone works towards the goal of optimizing site.