The role of an SEO consultant covers a very broad subject area, from uncovering coding issues within a website that are preventing it ranking well through to link building to raise your popularity with search engines. SEO is a fairly new industry and consultants come from many different backgrounds, depending on their route in to SEO a consultant will favour some types of optimisation techniques more than others. The main role of an SEO Consultant, however, remains constant and that is to develop and implement strategies that will improve your rank within Google and other similar search engines.
Search engine companies such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have become pretty good at sniffing out websites that have been using underhanded SEO techniques with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings. Usually these bad practices are penalised with a drop in rankings until the optimisation techniques are changed but in the worst cases it can result in a site being completely de-listed from the search engine. Like most professions there are good consultants and there are bad ones so here are a few pointers to help your choose a good SEO consultant and avoid the chance of getting your website rankings penalised.
Does the SEO consultant follow SEO best practices? Search engine companies publish guidelines of how they like to see websites built and marketed, they also list practices such as buying back links, website cloaking and hidden site content that will attract penalties. Make sure that the person you choose to look after your SEO practices ‘White Hat’ SEO that follows search engine guidelines and steers well clear of anything that could cause your site reputation permanent damage.
Does their approach to search engine optimisation provide consistent and long-term results, while protecting your brand at the same time? You wouldn’t want your ranking to suddenly fall after a month of hiring an SEO consultant or have your ranking fluctuating wildly. If either of these occurs it can give your brand a bad reputation and therefore hinder business. Make sure that you talk in detail with your consultant and find out exactly what they plan to do to optimise your site prior to them starting work, you may not understand all of what is said but the fact that you have questioned the consultant will mean that they take a much more methodical approach to your site.
Do the strategies appeal to web users? A good SEO consultant will optimise a website with web users in mind first and search engine rankings second. All of the major search engine companies have stated that websites should be created to give a visitor the best experience possible with well written, relevant content and an easy to follow navigation structure. Part of the role of an SEO consultant is to advise on ways to enhance your site content so that it is more relevant to a given search term. Whilst it is important that this job is carried out, it is also important to keep in mind that your website is primarily for your site visitors and not simply there to rank as highly as possible. Most SEO consultants will give examples of websites that they have already optimised to rank highly, visit these websites and gauge whether the content gives a site visitor a good user experience or if it reads like it was written by a robot just to rank well.
Quality or quantity? If you are in the sales business then a good SEO consultant understands that the quantity of site visitors you get on to your site is not as important as the quality site of the site visitors. By this I mean that it more beneficial to have 100 site visitors and make 10 sales rather than have 1000 site visitors and make no sales. This is all down to the keywords that you choose to target for your SEO campaign. Say for instance you sell blue coloured Widgets. By successfully optimising your website for ‘Widgets’ you may get a high amount of site visitor but a low-level of sales, your site visitors may have been looking for red coloured Widgets. By optimising your website for ‘Blue Widgets’ or ‘Buy Blue Widgets’ you are far more likely to make sales.
What services does the SEO consultant offer? It is important to make sure you know specifically what services you will be receiving. Some consultants simply adopt an advisory role, they will look at your website, look at your competitors and then write a report telling you that you need to do A, B and C to make your site rank well. That is fine if you have your own in-house development team but not so great if you don’t. Other consultants will carry out all of the strategy work and implement it for you so make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting for your money.
How much is the consultant charging? This is the most obvious question of all but one that is not really that well understood. Carry out price comparisons between different consultants and make sure that you compare like for like. Get to know what the going rate is for optimising a website similar to yours and question price quotes that are very high or very low. No decent SEO consultant will guarantee getting you to the number one position, there are just too many variables to take in to account so be very wary of anyone that gives you a number one guarantee.
How compatible are you and the consultant? You don’t have to become the best of friends but a good working relationship will go a long way to making your SEO campaign more successful. In every aspect of SEO there will be times when a consultant can either just do enough to fulfil their contract or go the extra mile to get you better results. If you have a strong and friendly working relationship with your consultant then you are much more likely to get a few more miles out of your campaign.
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