Hey all! – wanted to make a quick post for the community since this is one of the common topics people ask me about and hiring a reputable agency/consultant can often be hard due to the lack of barriers to entry for "marketing experts".
Hiring an SEO Consultant or Agency:
- Scratch the surface with them before diving all the way in. This doesn't mean free work – if you're getting anything for free it's not going to be high quality – but come up with small projects or have them do an audit (for most sites this is $1k-3k+).
- Talk to references if you don't know their work personally! Former clients or former coworkers (if consultant).
- Ask their opinion on some SEO topics – read recent news and ask a few questions or maybe even ask questions about your own site in generalities so it doesn't feel like you're stealing consulting hours from them. Not every answer needs to match up perfectly to the opinion of the article's "expert" as many people have different opinions that are both right but the key aspect is that they HAVE an opinion instead of just fold to general advice.
- Consider waiting before committing fully to long term SEO work. Good SEO takes a lot of time and commitment to build up from 0 but a lot of that "work" happens naturally as you build a brand, company, etc. Consider an initial audit and research to help set the site up well and maybe even have a backlog of content ideas to utilize… build your brand and business for a bit and once there's a foundation available call in SEO reinforcements. Good SEOs also aren't cheap – so make sure it's worth it for you.
What a good agency/consultant should be doing things like:
- Creating, updating, or suggesting content ideas focused on keyword targets
- Creating or suggesting content ideas that would generate backlinks due to interest (surveys, polls, unique content for your audience)
- Updating meta info (title tags, meta descriptions)
- Adding and/or validating schema (reviews schema, FAQ schema, etc)
- Ensuring pages are indexable
- Conceptualizing "tests" with you and your team that would determine which direction to go with design choices, content choices, etc.
- Ensuring there aren't crawl/url errors (fixing 404s, minimizing 301ing hyperlinks, fixing redirect loops, etc)
- Informing you of changes that are upcoming or recently announced such as the release of the new Web Vitals Metrics or when an announced core algo update is coming
- Performing outreach & PR or working with someone on your end to build links organically
- Providing clear reporting on the projects they're working on and how the site is performing. These reports should be informative and help YOU make decisions which means they won't always be showing an increase on sessions.
- Perform regular audits or at least a detailed initial audit of the site to help determine what technical issues there are and where opportunities exist
A bad agency/consultant will be doing things like:
- "Build" links from guest posts on poor websites, blog networks, purchasing them, scholarship programs, etc.
- Do all of the work (unless they're you're everything agency). SEO is a partnership and to do it well requires the support of PR, content, dev, etc. If their job is to fix some things or do an audit – disregard. If their job is to do long term SEO – they need to communicate well.
- No reporting at all or reporting solely focused on the rankings of a few keywords
- Focusing solely on a few keywords or make promises around ranking for a few keywords
- Doing tasks just to do tasks – no site is perfect and that's ok, don't have SEOs around just doing busywork because the ROI will be nill
Closing notes – Please ask any question! Please reach out if you're concerned you're not getting the best from your SEOs, I'll shoot you straight on if you're getting burned or not. This post is 100% original – my background is a decade of SEO with time at a former ecom agency & mod here :). Hope this was helpful for some. If one person manages to avoid getting into a bad deal because of this post then I'll feel like it was worth it.