According to comScore, Internet users make approximately 1 billion searches a day on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Hence, it is no wonder that more and more companies are increasingly including Search Engine Marketing in their campaigns. But as competition heats up, the cost-per-clicks (CPCs) for Google’s Adwords, the most popular online advertising platform in the world, quickly crept up and to a point where it became difficult to justify, especially for small businesses in competitive sectors. This is evident in Google’s 2010 Q1 financial report, where it had stated that the average CPC had risen 7% from a year ago.
This situation is driving the more savvy business people towards Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
However, SEO consultants are a dime a dozen these days. A search on Google reveals hundreds of companies offering such services, and that is excluding web hosting and web design companies that offer SEO as a value-added service. Some of the SEO consultants charge on a per project basis, while others charge annual fees and some even offer money-back ranking guarantees. So how do you know who to hire?
Here are some tips for hiring an SEO Consultant for your business:
Firstly, make an effort to read up a little on SEO. Learn about keyword analysis, factors that affect a website’s rankings, on-page optimization techniques, link-building methods, etc. There are many free, self-help SEO resources on the Internet like blogs and forums. At worst, attend one of the many SEO bootcamps available at your area.
Run a search on Google for the keyword “seo” — the coveted keyword that all SEO consultants aim to rank tops for. Visit the websites of the top 10 SEO consultants. Check out their website design and page content — a good SEO consultant is able to strike a nice balance between writing for human visitors and search engine spiders.
Next, study the shortlisted companies’ background and look out for things like how long have they been providing SEO consultancy, the company staff size, list of past clients, results achieved for client websites, etc.
Pick up the phone and enquire about the SEO packages, specifically the consultancy fees, the extras to third parties for link submissions, payment terms, job details, work process and duration, cost of maintenance post-optimization and what is required from your end. Some SEO consultants, especially freelancers, only provide on-page recommendations and you need to engage your own web designer to implement them.
And if the company provide ranking guarantees, ask in detail for the specifics because some SEO Consultants have been know to provide guarantee to unsuspecting clients for “junk keywords”, i.e. keywords that have little to no search volume.
Finally, ask yourself if you are comfortable working with that person and whether you feel assured that the consultant knows his/her stuff and has the resources to do it.
Above all, never hire an SEO consultant based on price alone. In a worse case scenario, a bad implementation can get your website delisted from the search index. As the saying goes, “pay peanuts and you get monkeys”.