What Questions Should You Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant?
You’ve been working constantly on your SEO strategy and finally decided to hire an expert to help. There’s no doubt they’ll reinvigorate your whole strategy – but how can you identify the best of the bunch? These 18 questions will help you find your ideal candidate.
What is SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the sector within digital marketing that focuses on improving the ranking of web pages within search engine results pages. But – you probably already know that since you’re considering hiring an SEO consultant.
Why is it so crucial to online businesses?
An effective SEO strategy can bring huge rewards to businesses such as increased organic traffic, improved site domain authority, increased brand awareness, and attracting better quality leads.
Why might a business hire an SEO consultant?
Unfortunately, SEO is a skill in itself. Even people working within marketing or business for years aren’t necessarily going to be the best candidates for pulling off an effective SEO campaign. Plus, business owners have enough on their plates without having to learn all about SEO techniques.
That’s why many opt for hiring an SEO consultant. This is someone who works on their own, providing recommendations and strategies for businesses wanting to improve their organic traffic. Usually, the consultant just provides the advice rather than implementing it.
Before we get into what to ask SEO consultants, here are some pros and cons of hiring one:
Benefits and drawbacks of hiring an SEO consultant
A good SEO consultant will know the ropes of the industry and relieve many duties off the back of whichever unfortunate soul was handling it before. Their expertise will feel like a breath of fresh air – especially if you were braving the SEO efforts for a while beforehand.
You’ll definitely see a big improvement in your web traffic, site performance, lead conversion, and web development amongst other things. The person you hire will also likely be well-embedded in the SEO community and therefore can keep you abreast of changes in ranking requirements and best practices.
They’ll come at a big cost, but since all their efforts will be focused on improving your SEO ranking, it will be a big time saver compared to doing it yourself with all your other tasks simultaneously.
As with any hire, there’s no guarantee that the newly appointed SEO consultant will fit perfectly with your team. There’s always the possibility of personality clashes and differences in communication styles. Furthermore, it can take a long time for a new team member to understand your business – which is pretty crucial to developing a tailored SEO strategy.
If your consultant works with other clients, which is most likely, you won’t be able to make contact any time you need to. There will probably be communication challenges and less-than-desirable wait times for responses.
Nevertheless, an SEO consultant can cultivate outstanding site improvements and ease the heavy load of site optimisation. Their expertise means your SEO will be taken care of, leaving you to address other important aspects of your business.
Before you send out your job adverts though, or book any candidates in for interviews, check out our list of questions that covers what to ask SEO consultants to ensure you hire the best of the bunch:
Questions to ask an SEO consultant
These questions will help you find a candidate who’s competent, data-driven, and a good fit for your company and its ethos. Plus, you’ll figure out if their methods are above board and if they’ll suit your specific project.
Yep, it’s a big job and those are a lot of requirements. We’ve broken down our top interview questions into three sections:
1) General questions about their experience
- Tell me about your experience in this field.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory: you want to know if they’re an experienced candidate.
Remember that a person with many years of experience won’t necessarily perform incredibly. A contractor could have worked for five years in-house at one brand, but their job wasn’t varied. On the other hand, a contractor could have worked for 20 clients across two years and overcome lots of challenges and seen many projects.
Therefore, look for number of clients or projects rather than years.
- Who are your past clients and what work did you do for them?
It’s not essential that the SEO consultant you hire has experience with your specific industry as SEO is a set of skills that can be applied across many niches. However, if you need help with your keyword research and content optimisation, you’ll want to know if your candidate has done this successfully.
- What results have you achieved from your previous client relationships?
Any good SEO consultant will be able to provide a portfolio of work, showing the progress and results achieved with specific clients. If they don’t, it could be a red flag indicating they don’t have any proof, they’re unorganised, or they’ve inflated the stated results in the first place.
The achieved results speak louder than the number of years a candidate has under their belt. Sometimes, talent is talent. So, be cautious of exaggeration for this one and seek evidence before being “WOW’ed” by big claims.
- How long have your past contracts lasted?
Don’t be fooled into thinking a string of short contracts means the candidate gets satisfying results quickly – no SEO job is free from long waiting times. Trial and error are defining components of SEO and the average time to see results from SEO efforts is 6 months.
So, you can give the green light if a candidate states this length of time or longer. Any shorter would suggest this candidate hasn’t been very successful in their SEO results or perhaps were not an enjoyable person to work with.
- What happens when our contract ends?
Though difficult to ask, it’s best for both of you to know where you stand before the project begins. If you’re feeling bold, you can even ask about terminating the relationship if you’re not satisfied with their service.
- What services do you provide?
Before asking about their services, you’ll need to know what your business needs. If you’ve already got someone working on content optimisation, you won’t need to hire an SEO consultant who does this.
Not every SEO consultant will give you the same answer to this question as they all offer a different set of skills. For example, some won’t partake in activities such as PR or backlinking whilst being confident with URL optimisation, content, and keyword research.
It isn’t a red flag if a candidate admits they have a preference on services – it’s a sign they’ll only do what they’re good at, which bodes well for completing your project properly.
Before signing a contract, you’ll need to ensure the person you hire is going to perform the tasks you have in mind – as you could be in for a disappointment down the line if you don’t.
- How much do you charge?
SEO work doesn’t come cheap. SEO consultants will charge between $50 and $150 per hour. If your project together is a little more involved, they might ask for a retainer between $1000 and $2000 per month.
Above all, make sure you hire someone whose price point aligns with their level of experience.
2) Specific questions about SEO and your project
- Do you have experience with “x”?
If there’s something nagging at you that you really want an SEO consultant to take a look at, now’s the time to mention it.
It could be that your main aim is local SEO, and you’ll obviously want to hire someone experienced in this side of things because it requires a different set of practises to what you’d use for an e-commerce strategy.
Whatever your specific goals are, make sure your candidate has direct experience with them because not every SEO strategist will.
- Now that you know my project requirements, where would you begin?
The best answer to this question will depend on your requirements. However, there is one action that all good SEO consultants will perform first.
It is a website audit – this will give them a clear idea of your site’s current marketing achievements and failures. Without this, they’ll be fumbling around in the dark – perhaps fixing things they don’t need to and not the things they do.
Included in this step would be a technical survey of your site. Slow page loading speed can bring down so many hard earned SEO efforts, which is a well-known fact in the SEO community.
It’s a great sign if your candidate can provide a roadmap in the early stages as it will show they really know what they’re doing and that they’re invested in the success of your company’s SEO campaign.
- What techniques will you use to improve my rankings?
If they don’t give details about their methods, tread with caution. SEO, although tricky, is not a mysterious art. A good SEO consultant will be able to quickly state the steps required and should list these things:
- keyword research
- content strategy
- URL optimisation
- internal and external linking strategies
- competitor analysis
- How will you track the success of these techniques?
Metrics are an SEO strategist’s best friend – they’re the only way to measure the efficacy of their efforts. Early on in your project, a good SEO consultant will meet with you and learn about your website to establish goals. Ideally, these goals will be highly specific, realistically achievable, and measurable.
A skilled SEO consultant will appreciate that SEO is all about the numbers – it’s a highly logical practice and so their approach should reflect this. If your candidate isn’t too hot on metrics, it’s a strong sign that their work won’t be optimal.
- How much time do you need to see significant results?
If a candidate refuses to give time estimates for results, it could indicate that they’re not so experienced with SEO consultancy, or that they’re not being 100% honest about the time commitment to your project.
On the other end of the spectrum are candidates claiming they can get you to a search engine ranking of 1st place in a matter of weeks and these types are also not to be trusted.
On average it takes three months to see some results and six to see bigger ones.
- Will you need administrative access to the site?
It can feel like a big risk giving a new employee administrative access to your site. It’s not always needed though – an SEO consultant might not actually carry out any tasks but instead provide the advice and suggestions for what your existing team should be doing.
An ideal candidate will give clear plans to explain why they need to access your site in this way and comfort you that it’s OK – so don’t be afraid to ask.
- What will you do if there’s an algorithm change?
An experienced SEO consultant will know that the playing field is always changing. Therefore, they’ll have made themselves well-equipped to deal with algorithm changes (otherwise known as the bane of an SEO strategist’s life).
Algorithm changes can impact page rankings significantly, and if it goes the wrong way, your business needs to be protected. An SEO consultant should be well-informed about what to do. Here’s what they could say:
- Check SEO forums
- Check algorithm trackers
- Check Google’s public Liaison
- What are your favourite SEO tools to use, and which do you have access to?
If the person you hire only has access to free tools, your SEO efforts aren’t going to be supported by the most accurate data.
Since this is their career, good SEO consultants will have invested in some high quality tools to assist them in their job.
The specific tools they list will vary, however they should encompass these things:
- conducting keyword research
- technical analysis
- performance reports
- link building
3) Questions about their working habits
- Will you keep me in the loop about all the changes you make?
Since there can be lots of changes in web page code during site improvements, website owners will want to be kept informed. The ideal SEO consultant will understand that your site is important to you and share its progress with you every step of the way.
- Will you adhere to webmaster guidelines and best practices? What is your understanding of these three categories: White Hat SEO, Grey Hat SEO, and White Hat SEO?
Before you invite someone to join your SEO efforts, check out Google’s webmaster guidelines. This page outlines some SEO practices – allowed and illicit. You don’t want to hire someone who disregards these rules as it could have severe consequences for your site’s ranking.
Since some SEO techniques could result in a penalty from Google, businesses are right to be cautious about using Black and Grey Hat SEO methods. However, some of these
techniques do award some websites some temporary success, and that’s why some SEO consultants are tempted to use them. Make sure you’re aware of the differences first, so that you don’t accidentally go along with something illicit.
If you’re not on board with the risk that accompanies anything other than White Hat SEO, you’ll want to ensure the person you hire is on the same page.
- How often can you commit to regular meetings?
Without regular meetings, or if they constantly rain check, your dealings with your SEO consultant might become soured. Ideally, you’ll be in regular contact so that you’re kept up to date and can discuss any big changes.
Make your expectation of meetings (and how regularly you want them) very clear in this interview stage. Let them know that meetings will be a paid deliverable that’s non-negotiable in your contract.
If there’s much hesitation about this issue, it could be a forewarning of things to come. No one likes working with someone who constantly seems to go off-grid.
The other essential part of meetings is being able to understand what the SEO consultant is doing – which could be challenging for you if you’re not 100% clued up on the technical terms, phrases, and processes of SEO. Let your consultant know that you’ll need things explained clearly so that they know where you stand. You could even ask for a sample of their reports to get a feel for how they work.
The bottom line is that you can achieve a lot with an SEO consultant on board, and your affiliation will be improved by better communication. This set of questions isn’t just to work out how good they are; it’s also a chance for you to explain your expectations. Clear conversations will no doubt enrich your working relationship with your consultant and lead to a highly successful partnership.
If you’re still not set on an SEO consultant and you’d like to enquire about our services, you can check them out by clicking:Contact us