How To Pick An SEO Expert That Will Boost Your Site's Ranking
Once you've reached a certain level of traffic, it's time to hire an SEO company, but there are so many choices out there and so many ways to screw this up. If you hire the wrong company, it's entirely possible that your website will be buried in the SERPs, and you'll be worse off than you would be if you didn't hire an SEO company to begin with. Rand Fishkin, from SEOMoz, gives us some clues as to what we should look for before plunking down our hard-earned money:
Does your SEO expert understand the basics of SEO? Surprisingly, there are a lot of SEO firms out there who don't know how to do the basic stuff every SEO expert should know how to do. For example, does your SEO guy know what a "rel=canonical" is and what it does? No? Then it's time to consider someone else. Your SEO firm should be able to tell you what an "alt" attribute is, and what it means in regards to SEO. Do search engines use it? How much weight do they place on it?
Few SEO experts these days can write out a search string for you that will remove personalization from Google's search results. If your guy can, that's a good sign. It means he lives and breathes SEO and is really passionate about what he does for a living.
Strategy and Tactics
Strategy is another important aspect of hiring an SEO expert. Does your SEO firm understand how to run a keyword research campaign? What is their take on link building? Will they do hand-picked links or will they try to build something that scales easily?
In fact, ask them how they plan on building a scalable link building campaign. if they answer "well, we'll reach out, individually, to webmasters and get the links you need," that's the wrong answer to that kind of question. Hand-picked links are nice, but it's not scalable, and it's getting harder and harder to do these days thanks to Facebook and Twitter.
It's not that it's impossible, it's just getting harder is all. If they insist on content marketing as a method of link building, ask them how they employ these kinds of methods for link building. Will they do guest blog posts? If so, where will they get great content from? Great content isn't a commodity you can buy at Walmart. The best content practically jumps off the screen, grabs you by the eyeballs, and forces you to consume it and then share it with everyone you know. How will this get created for you? Also, where will the posts be placed?
Tools and Metrics
What kind of research does your SEO firm do? Do they use analytics programs? If so, which ones? Be careful if your SEO company says they've created an in-house solution. Unless the company is very well-known, you have no idea whether the data is reliable or not. Good answers to "what kind of metrics and tools do you use?" include "we use Adgooroo" (if your SEO company uses Adgooroo, find a few satisfied clients and seriously consider signing on with them) or "we use SpyFu and SEOMoz." If your SEO company uses enterprise-level programs, it's a very good sign. If your SEO expert says "we use Alexa," that's a red flag. Why do they like Alexa? Alexa is good for some traffic and ranking signals, but not so great for long-tailed keywords, and many experts believe that it's totally unreliable for anything but the most popular sites on the web.