How to Hire an SEO – in Google’s Words
As a digital marketing agency, we know a lot about the importance of SEO consulting. But it’s hard for us to tell you how to hire an SEO without sounding self-serving.
But when a search engine like Google gives that kind of advice? That’s a more unbiased source you can really listen to and learn from.
As it happens, there’s a new video on Google Webmaster Help’s YouTube channel called “How to hire an SEO,” and we think it’s excellent. So we’re putting it up on our blog to help it spread far and wide.
If you’re shopping for an SEO consultant, or even if you ARE one, this 11-minute video is a must-see.
“SEO is not black magic.”
Maile Ohye, a developer programs tech lead with Google, opens by myth-busting some ideas about search engine optimization — it’s not magic and it doesn’t work overnight.
If someone is promising you instant rankings as if by magic, look elsewhere! It’s critical to avoid a “bad” SEO — someone who produces no results or, worse, implements shady practices on your website that hurt your visibility in search.
For long-term success, there are no quick fixes that will immediately rocket your site to rank No. 1. A good SEO helps improve the site itself so it can put its best foot forward and rank appropriately.
An SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website. –Maile Ohye
I’d like to have that engraved for our lobby.
“SEO looks to improve the entire searcher experience.”
The scope of optimizing a website — the SEO’s purview — is broad. It requires looking at the entire journey a searcher may take, from seeing and clicking your search result, to arriving at your website and potentially converting.
Accordingly, an SEO looks at straightforward improvements like writing descriptive tags all the way to complex issues such as implementing language tags for an international site. Along with increasing the organic traffic to the site, the SEO has to ensure that your site provides a good, helpful experience for visitors no matter what device they’re using.
How long will it take to see results from SEO?
Four months to a year is a realistic estimate of how long it takes to reap results. Since many prospective clients expect to see results much faster, we’re so glad Google set the record straight.
With our own SEO services clients, we first lay the groundwork — analyzing the site, researching competitors, compiling an assessment and making initial recommendations. Then the timeline greatly depends on the client’s ability to implement. We work with the client’s in-house SEO or technical staff to help move the project along as we further refine and expand our recommendations.
Certain fixes can produce nearly instant results. For instance, if something is truly broken on the site, such as a robots.txt file that’s blocking the search engines, a correction can make an impact. However, in most cases, four months to a year sounds about right.
Get corroboration for recommendations.
Ohye’s “strongest advice” is to request that SEOs support their recommendations with a documented statement from Google. Ask to see an article, video or Googler response that includes the issue that needs to be improved and the approach being prescribed.
Oh, and never buy links for ranking purposes. Ever.
If your site has some “technical debt” (not being mobile friendly, or having an antiquated CMS, for example), you may need to invest in improving your infrastructure as part of your SEO project. If you’re a local business owner, you can get started bringing your local business online using this Google video series: https://goo.gl/I4giIX
In a majority of cases, doing what’s good for SEO is also doing what’s good for your online customers. –Maile Ohye
Steps in the SEO Hiring Process
Here’s what Google outlines as the “General SEO hiring process”:
Step 1: Conduct a two-way interview
We can’t agree more that you want to find a consultant who’s sincerely interested in you, your business, your customers and your goals. After all, you want someone who feels like an extension of your team.
Ohye advises that if the person doesn’t show interest by asking exploratory questions (check the video for a suggested list), then don’t do business with them.
Step 2: Check references
Talk to past clients about their experience. Ask them how effectively the SEO worked with their various staff and vendors, and what kind of guidance he or she provided.
You want to hire someone who will help educate you, not just implement short-term solutions.
A good SEO should be someone you can work with, learn from, experiment with, and who genuinely cares about you and your business. –Maile Ohye
Step 3. Request an audit
For smaller businesses, Ohye suggests asking for “a prioritized list of what they think should be improved for SEO.”
For larger businesses, she suggests doing this with multiple SEO consulting candidates. Then, compare their audits. Here’s the audit structure Google recommends:
You’ll need to give the SEO restricted-view access to your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts (not full or write access) so they’ll have the data needed to perform the audit. You should also let the consultant talk with your developers to understand any technical constraints.
Right up front, Ohye notes that you’ll probably have to pay for the audit. We agree.
This level of custom technical and search auditing requires a considerable amount of time spent by a trained, experienced SEO analyst. If a prospective consultant is offering you a “free audit,” more than likely he or she plans to just run your site through a tool to produce an automated report.
A good SEO will try to prioritize what ideas can bring your business the most improvement for the least investment, and what improvements may take more time, but help growth in the long term. –Maile Ohye
Step 4. Decide if you want to hire
When you’re ready to engage an SEO consultant, make sure your whole organization is on board. Without internal cooperation, you may not see any search improvements at all, no matter whom you hire.
One of the biggest holdups to improving a website isn’t [the SEO’s] recommendation, but it’s the business making time to implement their ideas. –Maile Ohye
Want to talk about your business and how SEO might help you? Fill out our request form and we’ll contact you.