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Hiring An SEO Consultant
Hiring a search engine optimization firm can be a frustrating experience… the bad news is that it can get a whole lot worse if you hire the wrong firm. In a worst-case scenario, unethical conduct by your SEO firm could get your site banned from all of the search engines.
While this is an extreme, even the most capable SEO consultants can have a rough time meeting clients' expectations. In order to avoid any problems, you need to do a little homework, so that you are prepared to work with your SEO firm.
Do You Need SEO?
As search engine optimization grows in popularity, more companies are beginning to see SEO as a necessary component of their overall marketing strategy. However, not all companies are truly ready for a search engine optimization campaign.
If you are looking to SEO as a panacea that will deliver a flood of new customers to you at little or no cost, watch out. Effective search engine optimization takes effort, and that means spending time, money, or both.
Therefore, before deciding to hire an SEO firm, it's important to take a realistic look at your situation. Here are some things to consider before committing resources to an optimization campaign:
- An SEO consultant will recommend changes to your web site. This may include copywriting changes, additional content, changes to site navigation, and modifying the configuration of your web server. Do you have the authority to authorize these changes, and are you comfortable with this much change?
- Search engine optimization takes a long term approach. If you are expecting an instant payoff, you may be disappointed. You should expect at least a month or two to pass before you start seeing measurable results. Some firms can help bridge the gap by getting a pay-per-click campaign going right away.
- If you can't afford to use pay-per-click advertising, it may surprise you to learn that SEO can cost just as much, especially in the short term. If your site isn't performing well, you need to address those problems first. In this case, it may be best to hire a site designer with SEO skills, rather than an SEO firm.
Before you give up, here are some "positive" indications that a search engine optimization campaign will be effective for you:
- Are your direct competitors outranking you on the search engines? If your competitors are engaged in search engine optimization, this is a strong indication that they've found it profitable. If you let them dominate this important marketing channel, potential customers will associate your competitor's name, and not yours, with whatever you sell.
- Is your website an important part of your business, and does it generate sales already? If so, I'm sure you can see how an increase in targeted traffic can improve your profitability. One of the significant benefits of search engine marketing is the ability to target your best customers more effectively.
- Speaking of existing customers, you would be surprised how many of them will go to a search engine looking for your site - whether it's for customer support, for information, or to make additional purchases. Let's hope that they find you, instead of a competitor.
Assuming that you've decided to look for an SEO consultant, let's review some of the things you need to prepare before you begin searching for an SEO firm. If you aren't confident that you can afford professional SEO services, you may want to review our information on doing it yourself.
Everything an SEO Firm Could Want
To get the most out of your search engine optimization company, the first thing to do is make yourself the perfect SEO client. This means preparing detailed information about your business, your customers, and your web site. Doing your homework is the best defense you have against unethical, unprofessional, or incompetent firms.
The more information you can provide to an SEO firm, the more you will get out of them - even before you've decided who to hire.
Preparing proposals for clients is one of the most costly endeavors for a search engine optimization firm. If you're going make them do all of the legwork, you had better hope they aren't very busy that week. A well prepared client will always get the most attention, and you will gain the benefit of each firm's insight before making a decision.
An informed consumer is a happy consumer - your initial efforts will pay off down the road, in the form of lower costs and better results.
Getting Ready: Keyword Research
The first step in any search engine optimization campaign is keyword research and analysis. You could wait until you've hired an SEO firm to get started with this process, but then you are giving up a lot of control, and putting a lot of trust in your consultant, before you've gotten to know them.
The first phase of keyword research is a discovery process, where you try to identify all the ways that your targeted customer might search for what you offer. The result of this phase is a large list of possible search terms, along with a lot of data.
A professionally researched keyword report, including all those mountains of data that your SEO consultant will need, can be purchased for around $100. SEO Research Labs offers this service (it's our primary business). Sharing this report with several consultants, before hiring one, will ensure a measure of consistency in their responses.
The second phase is "keyword analysis and selection." Your consultant will consider the keyword data that's been compiled, and develop a set of recommendations for you. Finally, you and your consultant will agree on which keywords and search terms to target, and the expected outcome of a successful campaign.
Our keyword report also comes with a brief keyword analysis guide, which will help you understand what your consultant is looking for. This will allow you to be a more active participant in the decision-making process.
Where To Find An SEO Consultant
When you're ready to hire an SEO consultant, we recommend the Organization of Search Engine Optimization Professionals (SEOPros). Their standards for membership are unparalleled in the industry, and their "RFP Generator" makes it easy to find the right consultant. You should review several proposals, and interview several consultants, before making a final decision.
If you need more information, feel free to contact us or review the detailed description of our keyword reports.
If you're ready to order a keyword report now:
Website owners: click here.
SEO/SEM consultants and site designers: click here.
Thinking of doing it in house?
If you're thinking about taking your search engine optimization effort in house, you may wish to review our article on do it yourself SEO, check out our web-based search engine optimization training workshop, and consider our seo consulting reports to help you get off to the right start.