How to choose an SEO consultant

SEO work has become an inescapable task for any business hoping to compete in the digital marketplace, but it can be difficult to know what to do and what to watch out for if you’re lacking the expertise you need to succeed. 

Here is everything that I advise my potential clients to consider when it comes to choosing an SEO consultant.

SEO consultantStrategies and specialisation

One of the first and most important questions you need to answer when choosing an SEO consultant relates to the strategies they will be adopting when they set to work. What is their specialism? How exactly is the agency planning to improve your search rankings and conversion rates?

Essentially, you want to know that the consultant’s strategy will be dealing with a wide range of SEO’s moving parts. It should include tasks such as on-page optimisation, technical audits and fixes to improve user experience, content creation and promotion, and keyword research and enrichment. The consultant should be aiming to build natural links and authority for your business’s website, harnessing a range of methods from guest posts to digital PR.

An all-round programme for a company like Bartle Holidays, one of our clients providing Menorca villas to holidaymakers, integrates PPC, website landing page mapping and optimisation, monthly blogging content, offsite link building and social media. By keeping all these elements of the digital marketing under one umbrella a cohesive strategy can be implemented.

The work plan and what to avoid

Before the agency sets to work, they should be expected to outline the work plan for the initial three months. As already mentioned, you want to see that they are going to tackle on-page problems, conduct technical audits and fixes, create and optimise content, and build links in a natural way.

For example, our client The School Travel Company needed an SEO programme that included blogging content and link building work. As they came to us with a limited budget we created a schedule in advance for them to approve mapping out work that covered all their needs over a 6-month period.

What you don’t want to see included in the plan are any tactics which don’t comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. When working with a high-quality SEO service you shouldn’t hear any mention of link schemes, link farms, dropped domains, or private blog network sites.

We always supply a document for new clients that outlines the selection criteria that we apply to any online platforms where we publish articles that are used to generate backlinks to a client’s website.

Measuring progress

Once you have established the plan of action, you also need to know how the consultant plans to measure the progress they are making. The basic key performance indicator is keyword rankings, but you should also expect to see some other metrics here, such as total organic search traffic.

There are many ways that rankings can be reported. For clients like GN Holidays we agree a list of priority key phrases which are used for their onsite optimisation and we track the monthly progress of the website pages in the search results for these phrases. In addition we would report on any additional relevant phrases that start to generate traffic for a client.

You will also want to know how and when the consultant is going to report back to you. You can expect to receive reports each month on tracked keywords, the tasks that have been completed so far, and all the links that have been built. You will also want to know that the consultant is ready to adapt their strategy over time as your SEO improves: make sure that they are ready to provide you with plans for the next month of work and that they will be carrying out reviews every three to six months.

Contracts and case studies

Before you commit to working long-term with a provider, you will want to see examples of how they have improved the SEO of other companies similar to your own—preferably even in the same industry. You want to be able to see case studies tracking the progress of a business from the position you currently find yourself in to one of strength.

If there is a contract to be signed, make sure that it includes a get-out clause six months. This will give you time to really get to see how the provider operates, receive some reports and potentially a performance review, as well as to start to see some results.

Choosing an SEO consultant may sound like a daunting and difficult task, but if you keep these four points in mind then you shouldn’t go wrong.

Laura Bolick is head of content marketing at LeadGeneratorsDigital, a London based boutique online marketing agency with 20 years’ experience generating enviable results for their clients across multiple industry sectors.