When it comes to outsourcing your search engine optimization strategy for your website, you need to know what to look for in an SEO consultant.
It's pretty widely accepted by most small businesses that a part of their target market is searching for their product or service online. They know they need to have a predominant online presence. Additionally they know they can't be buried way down on page 8 for key search terms.
I'm going to start out by telling you what to watch out for:
If an SEO company is reaching out to you telling you they can get you to the top of page 1 in a few months for a very low monthly fee- DO. NOT. BELIEVE THEM.
Here's why: Several years ago, it was much easier to manipulate Google's algorithm (the thing that determines what websites get placed where in search results.) You could trick this algorithm by doing lots of fake back linking, keyword stuffing and a lot of other technical stuff. I honestly never took the time to learn it, primarily because by the time I got into marketing it was a well-known fact that Google is a smart company and is never finished improving. In order to keep their market share of search inquiries they have to continuously work towards delivering better search results.
So if an SEO company promises you the world (page 1 rankings) in just a few months, don't listen. Maybe they've mastered a few technical tricks to get you to page 1- for now. However, Google is never finished perfecting their algorithm. I would not suggest spending money on something that may not work in a few months, and worse still, tactics that may eventually get your website penalized for implementing bad practices in the first place.
In reality, top search rankings are awarded to those who put in the work. That means you have to create a website full of helpful content that you continuously update with new content. The best way to do this? Blogging.
That being said, if you start a blog tomorrow and are wondering why 30 days from now you're not on page 1, it doesn't work like that. It takes time and a lot of hard work. That's why it's so easy to want to believe the SEO company that tells you that.
Here's what you should look for in an SEO consultant:
1. Do they have an easy-to-read, easy-to-navigate website/blog full of helpful content related to SEO? Personally this is the most important factor for me. I tend to only work with companies who drink their own Kool Aid. They should be practicing overall best SEO practices for themselves if that's what they are selling.
2. Do they have fair pricing? Noticed I said fair. A comprehensive SEO strategy complete with good blog posts takes time. If someone is telling you they can do a ton of great SEO work for cheap, chances are it's too good to be true.
3. Do their other clients say positive things about their work? See if they have a testimonial page on their site or ask for some references. Try to look for clients who have been working with them for a longer period of time. SEO is a continuous project and doesn't deliver results overnight.
4. Can they explain to you their process? Good SEO shouldn't involve a ton of technical elements. A good consultant will be able to easily explain to you their process and the steps they are going to take to help your website improve in search rankings.
5. Do they offer comprehensive reporting? Like I mentioned previously, a good SEO consultant won't promise you page 1 rankings. SEO is tricky. It is constantly changing. What a good SEO consultant will do is provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand analytical SEO reports every month.
If you could confidently say yes to all of those questions you're good to go. If any of the answers to these questions are unclear, do a little more digging.
Additionally, I would suggest you take the time to read some articles on SEO so that you personally have a general understanding of what constitutes good SEO practices. A great marketing blog that provides awesome SEO content is HubSpot. It's easy to read and will put you in a great mindset for asking questions when you do find the right SEO consultant.