Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a real buzzword (‘buzzexpression’?) at present. Just search Google for “hire SEO Consultant” and see how many results you get. There is no doubting that SEO is essential to get the best from your website (SEO is about improving the quantity and quality of visits to your website through making your website search engine ‘friendly’) however the real challenge for small and medium sized organizations is how to choose a good SEO Professional. Here are a few tips to help in choosing a good SEO Consultant (sometimes called ‘search engine optimizers’):
Does the SEO Consultant Understand SMEs?
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are different to large organizations. Large organizations often have huge budgets available for SEO which are just not available in SMEs. An SEO Consultant with little SME experience may well have some great SEO advice however implementation of the recommendations may not be feasible for SMEs due to financial constraints. It is very important for the Consultant to understand that for smaller organizations, the biggest impact on SEO needs to be made for the least financial expense. This is generally known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule.
Does the SEO Consultant Understand Your Organization?
What is the point of appearing prominently in a Google search result for ‘Cheap Pizzas’ and not ‘Organic produce’ when your organization sells Organic Produce? In order for the SEO activities to be successful, the SEO Consultant must understand what your organization does including products/services, pricing strategies, organization objectives and product strategy. I have seen many SEO reports provided to customers where the recommended SEO actions do not align with what the organization actually does (i.e. the products and/or services provided). It is essential to get quality visits to your website where the visitor is a genuine prospective purchaser of your products or services.
Beware the Guarantee of a Top Search Engine Listing!
The saying ‘If something seems to be too good to be true, then it likely is too good to be true’ is absolutely pertinent to SEO Services. Any guarantee that an SEO Expert can get your organization into the top of the search results should ring alarm bells. No-one can guarantee you a top ranking (search engine ranking algorithms change and do not publicise exactly how they rank websites)! Certainly the goal of SEO is to get your website listed as prominently as possible in organic search results but there are no guarantees. Many of the low cost SEO authorities which provide these ‘guarantees’ use ‘Black Hat’ SEO methods which provide short term but non-sustainable prominent organic search results (the problem with Black Hat SEO is that it will result in your site being blacklisted by the search engines as soon as they discover the Black Hat tactics; even BMW was blacklisted for these tactics). Good SEO Consultants provide White Hat SEO which does not attempt to deceive search engines and doesn’t result in the website being penalised by search engines over the long term (the problem is that few SEO Consultant will admit to employing ‘Black Hat’ methods even when they do but guarantees of top rankings may well involve Black Hat SEO).
Does the SEO Consultant have Business Experience?
Beware the Consultant who has hasn’t held a non-technical job! Business experience is critical in order to add significant value to you the client. Good SEO Specialists understand business and try to understand as much about their clients business as possible. Top Consultants have extensive business and technical experience and education.
Are you Able to work with the Consultant?
Search Engine Optimization should be more than a once-off. Search Engines change the way they rank sites and people search on differing terms as time goes by. SEO is an ongoing process which needs to be revisited every year or so and it is important to treat SEO as an investment rather than a once-off. A great SEO Consultant may add significant financial benefit back into your organization through their SEO work. For example, if you sell used cars on your website the SEO Consultant can greatly assist your sales by increasing quality visits to your website.
The relationship you have with the Consultant is important as the Consultant will be able to offer further benefits to your organization as they get to know your business better. Of course, you are not going employ the Consultant for further services if you aren’t able to work with them therefore this attained knowledge is not built up when no longer employing the Consultant. The SEO Consultant should also not be confusing you with technical jargon but rather should be focusing on the business benefits they are able to provide. They are there to add value to your business in a ‘language’ you are able to understand.
Why are Some Consultants less Expensive than Others?
Ultimately one should be concerned with the Return on Investment (ROI) rather than initial cost. The Return on Investment spent on employing the services of a good Consultant will more than pay for itself over the medium and long term. Price should just be one of many factors to consider when employing a Consultant. Just as one is unlikely to engage a lawyer purely on low price considerations, an SEO Consultant should be chosen for benefits they are able to provide your SME.
Yes, the good SEO Consultants are sometimes more expensive to hire however the expense will be far more cost effective than you hiring a fly-by-night ‘Consultant’ who adds no real business/organization benefits. Focus on the business benefits and the Return on Investment the SEO Consultant is able to offer your organization. SEO has the potential to add significant financial benefit to your organization and a good Consultant is the first step in attaining these benefits.
P.S. Wow, there sure are plenty of three letter acronyms in this article! Let me know if you need assistance with any SEO or other technical challenges.
Google provides some excellent advice on choosing an SEO Consultant.