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10 things to consider before hiring an SEO consultant

Written by Nabeel Butt ·  4 min read >

Unlike our neighboring countries, Pakistan is one of those countries where online business industry has yet to see its surge. If you have a web-based business then what difference is it going to make if your ideal customers would never come to know about it? The worst happens when it doesn’t show up above your competition in search results.

How do you become that early bird to catch the worm at first attempt? The answer is by optimizing your website according to search engine guidelines. And if you don’t have sufficient time to improve your site’s visibility in search engines then it seems sensible to hire an experienced SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Consultant. Although, exceptional SEO talent in Pakistani market is hard to find (I mean it) and you’ll have to be extra careful to hire an optimizer.

Here are a few questions you should consider asking before hiring a potential SEO consultant.

  1. Past Experience and projects:

Anyone can claim to be an overnight SEO consultant but those jugglers-turned-SEOs are nothing more than a black spot on the face of SEO community. There are plenty of things needed to do a website’s SEO and it takes years of experience to learn what works best and what doesn’t exist anymore.

So feel free to interrogate a candidate’s previous work experience. Ask him in-depth questions of his/her past projects. You can relate a candidate’s existing practical experience with your own projects to analyze if he/she is going to be a good fit for your company. Towards the end, if you aren’t satisfied with the answers then there always are a few more candidates waiting in queue.

  1. Understanding of digital marketing aspects: (SEO-SEM-SMO-CM)

Gone are the days when using poor SEO tactics resulted in good rankings. Google Update Zoo (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) and other algorithmic U-turns have changed the way we used to think of SEO. Apparently, it has emerged as a challenging task to optimize a website for specific terms in last couple of years.

The only solution is ‘Inbound Marketing’. Inbound Marketing is all about using a set of techniques where the ultimate goal is to bring visitors to a website by using all the ethical marketing mediums that include Search Engine Marketing (SEO too), Social Media, Content marketing etc. So, in current competitive scenario an SEO should be well conversant with ways to take full advantage of all those mediums.

  1. A quick review of your business model and website:

SEO candidates typically prepare well before an interview so asking conventional questions such as effective link building techniques or technical SEO may not help you to figure out the natural potential of an applicant.

The best advice is to ask for an initial review of your website. Give him/her sometime to study your business model and how he/she can benefit your company by being a part of it as a marketer. This is also going to give you a quick insight of future changes your SEO is going to implement on your project.

  1. Strategy to improve website rankings:

After a quick review of your site, I am sure a good consultant will have half of the basic strategy initiated in mind. He/she should be open to share those strategies in order to drive traffic to your website and, if possible, a realistic time frame to achieve those goals.

To make it more extensive, you can ask the candidate to prepare a proposal that should include technical SEO issues of your website and off-page SEO strategies too.

  1. Familiarity with search engine guidelines:

You need a successful campaign which returns consistent results and not just a week’s success. So make sure you find a candidate who strictly adheres to search engine guidelines.

If a candidate shows up with a strategy that doesn’t follow the guidelines, your website may end up getting a penalty and a permanent ban in worst case. So feel free to ask a few things from Google webmaster guidelines to your potential consultant before making up your mind. In fact, you should go through those guidelines too and keep monitoring your website’s health.

  1. What tools and Software do they use:

Honestly, a marketer has no life without proper tools and software. Probably that’s why my friend Saad Munir thinks I am so obsessed with tools and use a lot of them to get my routine tasks done.

Before hiring a consultant, you should be 100% sure of what software and tools he/she is savvy with. I personally ask the below mentioned question to candidates while hiring.

  • Can you please name 5-6 free/paid SEO tools do you regularly use in your SEO campaign?

Even if you decide to do SEO yourself, using software/tools can help you to get things working effectively and in a matter of hours.

  1. Experience with Content marketing/blogging:

Content marketing isn’t a fresh buzzword anymore. It has become an integral part of marketing campaigns within organizations. With the increased popularity of content marketing, it is inevitable for every marketer to get savvy with it.

An ideal SEO consultant would be aware of what content marketing is and how an organization can take full advantage out of it. You can question a candidate’s understanding of content marketing by asking the best examples of content marketing in SEO industry. If the candidate is good enough, he/she is going to name top blogs of search marketing industry like moz.com/blog, searchengineland.com etc.

Author’s Note: I also plan to draft a detailed guideline on hiring a content marketer in near future.

  1. How do you measure success?

It is of no use to spend thousands of bucks on your SEO campaigns if you aren’t tracking the return on investment. A suitable candidate should hold strong knowledge of Google Analytics to track how much traffic your website is getting and either they are converting or not.

Be sure to ask the following questions to get an idea of your candidate’s grip on Analytics:

  • How to identify paid and organic keywords that are sending traffic to my site?
  • How does Google determine bounce rate of a particular landing page?
  • How to design a funnel that eventually meets specific goals?
  • What is your basic understanding of e-commerce and Event Tracking?
  1. Reporting and communication:

Gone are the days when you could have a technically sound person in your team but could compromise on his/her communication skills. Many of Pakistani setups are tied up in a working relationship with people from UK, USA and it involves communication many times in a day via emails or Skype calls. So, it’s recommended to deeply examine your candidate’s written and spoken communication skills before you table an offer!

Moreover, there is no way your SEO can do everything for you so he/she needs to communicate things to Dev and other related departments so the ideal candidate should possess a great sense of communication and no compromise on secondary language which is English.

  1. Values & Passion:

This field is so vast and one can encounter a new challenge on every second day. So look for passion to get things moving in a right direction. The curiosity factor is noteworthy because if they don’t have a passion to dwell into research, they won’t grow. Thus the right candidate won’t be afraid of adopting an out of the box approach to make progress.

Make sure you find someone who is grown up with some ethical values and remains transparent to you or your clients. It’s hard to figure out but if you find someone having decent values and passion, be sure that you never let him/her go!

These are a few sound tips companies or hiring managers can take into consideration while searching for an SEO consultant. Note that, most of the tips are coming from my personal experience of hiring SEOs and it needs a bit of luck to find that credible person. I wish you best of luck in finding the right candidate!

Written by Nabeel Butt
Nabeel has over 6 years of web marketing experience & is the founder of Search Engine Lead, a blog covering search news and web marketing tips including SEO, PPC and conversion rate optimisation strategies. Profile