5 Red Flags for Small Biz Owners When Hiring SEO Consultants
Small business owners want their websites to appear in the first page when potential customers are searching online. Paying for ads is one way. The other is to use Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
It’s unlikely for busy small business owners to do it themselves, because they do not have the expertise OR time. So most SMEs find SEO agencies to help them (1) get to and (2) keep them on the first page.
Looking for the right SEO consultant can be a daunting task, if you do not know what SEO is all about.
You would think that the last a small business owner wants, when getting expert SEO help, is to be overcharged. That’s not the worst, bad SEO can ruin your web-presence, sending your website into Google oblivion.
As a Marketing Strategy Consultant, we usually have to help our clients select or work with SEO consultants. Here are some of the red flags, we ourselves will watch out for when selecting SEO consultants to work with, as well as questions you can ask to sieve out the pretenders from the real consultants.
1. They Don’t have a Coherent SEO Strategy
Search Engines like Google have specific criteria when ranking websites. A good SEO consultant would know the rules and have strategies to deal with them. Usually SEO will need to involve the following steps:
- Website audit
- Competitor Keyword & back-links research
- On-Page and On-Site Optimization
- Off-Page link building with Good Content
- Local Search, Citations and Reviews Building
Firstly, your website needs to be optimized for mobile access, load up fast and have good lead capture methods. A good SEO consultant would give you a good report of your current website and recommend necessary changes. Then they could do some optimization of the website (On-Site), and how your content is read by Google (on-page).
Before jumping into implementation, there should be a detailed research into your competitors and back-links (mentions back to your website from another website), for the keywords you want to be searched for. This list could easily run into the hundreds of “long tail keywords” like “cheap car rental singapore” that is less competitive compared to broad keywords “car rental”.
If your business comes from mostly local buyers, your SEO consultant should also optimize for rankings when potential customers search with local terms like “car rental bali”. This involves having more citations in other “Internet Yellow Pages” that have your business name, address, phone, opening hours details. And having more positive reviews on sites like GooglePlus, TripAdvisor, Yelp, HungryGoWhere (for F&B) etc.
How back-links used to be built, is by spamming keyword filled articles to many different sites, with a link back to your website. That no longer works. Nowadays, off-page link building requires good quality content. You can ask your SEO provider to show you some examples of articles they will be using.
Questions to Ask: “Can you briefly tell me what’s your recommended SEO strategy for my business?”, “If I have Google penalties, how do you resolve them?”
2. They talk about building hundreds of backlinks and getting to Page One Fast
Google is now penalizing rankings for websites for unnatural link-building and low quality content. So automated robots posting your articles to directories, commenting on blogs with little substance, having 100 links built in a day, are all suspected unnatural links.
So when the SEO consultant mentions they can give you hundreds of back-links fast, go far far away.
In the same light, it’s also unlikely you can rank in page one very fast on a competitive keyword, because you have to unseat incumbent competitors who has built more quality backlinks than you. Getting ahead of them will take time to build those links and get Google to recognize (index) them.
Without doing a competitive keyword and backlink research, no SEO consultant can say confidently they can put you on page one FAST.
Question to ask: “Do you guarantee that I will be on 1st page? How?”
3. There is no process for regular updates & Performance Review
A good SEO Consultant should provide regular (usually weekly) updates/reports and performance reviews, so that you can actually see the key-performance-indicators (traffic, ranking, conversion) improving over time, and have a handle on what’s happening.
The SEO consultant should also report on what challenges they’ve encountered with and how they’ve dealt with it, like ever-changing Google’s algorithm for ranking search results.
SEO can be a very labor intensive work, especially in the beginning. Professionals usually use tools to do a lot of the grunt work.
Questions to ask: “How would you measure success?”, What metrics do you track?”, “What reports will I receive regularly?”
Question to ask: “What tools do you use for SEO?” Look out for Reporting, Link Building, Research and Technical tools.
4. Charge too Little:
With all the work that SEO consultants have to put in, they deserve a decent enough pay. Just the SEO articles alone that they need to send into the internet to drive backlinks to your website costs anywhere from US$20 to US$80. So-so-Articles are US$20-30 apiece, decent articles at US$40-50, very good industry expert articles US$50-80. So, 10 articles can easily cost $200-$800.
So, a reasonable project fee to fix your on-page/on-site issues, improve your website and optimization for keywords would typically cost US$4,000 – 10,000. Retainer fees can range from US$500 – $5,000 (depending on the scale of the project and reputation of the consultant).
See this article by SEOGoodguys about costs of SEO help. http://seogoodguys.com.sg/why-seo-expensive/
5. Irregular client pool
If the SEO consultant is good, his clients should be seeing good ROI. And because SEO is an on-going battle to rank above competitors, articles have to be written, and back-links to be built, means that they should have many customers on retainers.
A red flag that will trigger is that the longest client they have on retainer is only one year.
Question to ask: “Who are your longest active clients? How long?”
And these are the five red flags to look out for me personally if I were to hire a SEO consultant. Here’s another article about the right Questions to ask when choosing a SEO consultant: http://www.seoworks.com/how-seo-works/choose-best-seo-company/