As marketers, our job is to let our ideal audience and customers know that our company exists.
In an online environment, one of the best ways to do that is through SEO (search engine optimization). Simply put, SEO makes your business visible online to the right people. When your ideal customer searches for a solution or a product you offer, you want your business to be Google’s top recommendation.
You may be thinking: “If SEO is such an important marketing strategy, then we should all be SEO experts, right?”
SEO should indeed be integral to any business that could benefit from an online presence (these days, that’s almost all businesses). And yes, every business owner should learn the basics of SEO and its business value.
But it takes time and lots of hands-on experience to become an SEO expert. Your time is best spent on developing holistic marketing strategies and finding the right people to help you scale your campaigns.
You also want someone with experience outside of your brand. When you’re too close to your business, you miss opportunities that an expert outsider would see.
You achieve so much more by working with a good SEO consultant who understands your company, your audience, and the digital marketing space. That’s why your best next move is to find someone who’s a good fit for your company’s marketing goals.
Before you begin your search for an SEO expert, take time to learn how SEO transforms your company. Look at relevant case studies of companies in your industry that enjoy great returns from investing in SEO.
When people have a problem, the first and easiest step they take is to Google it. Search engines give such excellent and instant solutions that we always do a web search to find the best restaurants around us, learn how to DIY a minor home repair, and even how to hire an SEO expert.
Your ideal customers – the people who have the very problem your company solves – are searching the web for answers, too. SEO allows you to reach them at their moment of need. SEO helps them get to know your company, evaluate if your product is a good fit for their needs, and eventually pay for your service. All of these happen while your company is busy expanding their product line, meeting with potential partners, or finding opportunities to grow.
Once you understand how much impact SEO brings, it’s time to search for a consultant with the experience and expertise to wield its full potential and boost your marketing efforts.
This is the part of your search where you really must be critical. Anyone can call themselves an “SEO expert”, so you have to be discerning.
Start by writing a clear job description specifying your desired results. Don’t focus on just increasing traffic to your business website – you want an SEO expert who improves the quality of your online visibility and reach. Look for an expert who tackles SEO and online marketing holistically.
When you screen your SEO applicants, look at their results. Ask for case studies and a description of the overall business impact of their strategies. Ask for references and talk to a few of their previous clients to see how your applicant’s SEO strategies have helped other businesses improve and sustain their online marketing efforts.
Look for someone who is a good fit for your company. Have they done SEO work within the same industry? Ideally, you want someone who has done industry-specific SEO but also has experience in other sectors. This gives them a unique viewpoint and a diverse skill set that help them tackle SEO challenges creatively and tactically.
A good SEO expert requests a discovery call to understand your needs and identify your goals.
Discovery works both ways. The call should feel like a collaboration and not a sales pitch or a laundry list of SEO tactics. Every company has unique characteristics and opportunities. No one SEO strategy works for every company all the time. A good SEO consultant develops a personalized approach to every business.
On my discovery calls with potential clients, I always try to get a good grasp of their business and marketing objectives. As an SEO consultant, it’s my job to give the best-fit strategy to companies I work with. While I have SEO systems and best practices that I always refer to when developing and executing my strategy, creativity and adaptability play a massive role in finding growth opportunities.
After all, SEO’s ultimate goal should not be just to increase traffic – it’s to grow a business’s impact and income. The discovery call gives both my potential clients and me a chance to see how we can work together and complement each other’s strengths.
When an SEO lets you outline your goals and pains at the moment, then it means they want to know more about your company and your existing marketing strategies. Take advantage of the free discovery calls to learn more about these SEOs you shortlisted. Are they skilled enough and committed to help you scale your marketing efforts?
After the discovery calls, you now have a shortlist of SEO experts who have the potential to boost and scale your marketing efforts. Now it’s time to find a person who fits your objectives and your budget.
Businesses at different stages have different SEO needs. Go with an SEO expert who can scale their deliverables to your needs and resources. At the same time, don’t ask for too much for too little. Be realistic about your budget and what an SEO expert can do with it. With good initial results, you can then scale and allot more resources to your SEO project.
Ask for fees and payment terms – will the consultant be paid hourly, by retainer, or by project?
As an SEO consultant, I find working with clients on a retainer basis to be the best arrangement. This is the best way to develop a long-term SEO strategy that grows their businesses steadily and within their marketing budgets.
One last step before you sign the contract: make sure you and your SEO expert are on the same page. Are you working towards the same goals?
Be wary of SEO experts that guarantee your business will rank at the top of search engines. No one can guarantee specific results because SEO relies on so many factors that are outside our control.
Experienced SEO experts usually under-promise and over-deliver. I personally want you to have realistic expectations of the impact of SEO and a clear timeline on when to expect results. That’s why with my clients, I always start with strategy development. I spend up to a month (depending on the project scope) to outline a personalized SEO plan and summarize my process. I give an estimate of the overall investment and the expected business impact. Because SEO works best in conjunction with other digital marketing techniques, I also make recommendations on optimizing their online marketing strategies to best increase their visibility and reach.
Also ask your applicant about their long-term strategy. Quick wins are great, of course, but when you’re outlining your expectations, make sure to think long-term.
For my clients, I develop SEO strategies built to scale and be sustainable, even when my engagement with a company ends. I also educate and train point team members of the company’s marketing department so that SEO becomes an integral part of their business processes.
One last thing to consider before you commit to an SEO expert is if their approach fits your needs or if they can adapt to your management style. Ask them:
In my experience, twice-monthly strategy and check-in calls have been great in keeping my client and I aligned to our long-term goals. Working with a client who knows the basics and business value of SEO also improves my ability to tackle SEO projects creatively and sustainably. That’s why client education is a big part of my strategy.
As a marketer, you don’t have to be an expert at everything. But you do have to be adept at finding opportunities for growth and finding experts to help you grow. You have to know the basics enough to know what to look for, what results to expect, and how to value your hire’s expertise and efforts.
Investing in SEO is a must for every business that desires online reach. And finding the best-fit SEO expert for your business saves you time, money, and headaches in the long run.
Find someone with proven SEO results, experience working within your industry and across markets, and who looks at your business holistically.
I don’t just focus on ranks and keywords – I look at how my role as an SEO expert helps your company overall. I care more about finding your ideal audience, improving your reputation, and finding opportunities to grow your reach beyond SEO. I consider all of these when developing my SEO strategy, which is how I collaborate with clients to improve their marketing strategies and their company’s reach.
Adriana Stein is an Online Marketing Consultant based in Hamburg, Germany. Originally from the US, she is a native English speaker and specializes in helping companies with their SEO & content marketing strategies, along with graphic design, brand copy and website development.