A Guide to Hiring an SEO Provider

If your business has any online components (such as a website), then SEO is crucial to the ongoing success of your business. You may have the most expensive website in your industry, but without web traffic (visitors) to that website, it is essentially useless. It is not just traffic that you need, but targeted traffic. A good quality SEO service can provide relevant, consistent web traffic to your website(s). This guide will allow you, as a non-expert, to distinguish between good and bad SEO providers. There are many of both kinds, this guide should help you to find the good ones.

SEO needs to be implemented in a way that is effective in achieving your SEO goals and providing that all important meaningful presence on the World Wide Web.

Quality SEO is a crucial investment when it comes to developing successful expansion and growth strategies.

Ineffective SEO implementation, renders your SEO efforts wholly ineffective and a waste of your money.

6 things you need to know and understand before hiring an SEO provider:

1) Hiring an SEO provider should be seen as an investment in your business. You should not view it as a business expense, but rather a business strategy and an effective way of enhancing your business presence within your business sector. Try not to begin your search with the intention of "buying some SEO". Hiring an SEO provider should be viewed rather as hiring an employee that understands and cares about your business and its online objectives.

2) The first page of Google (or any search engine) is everything. Few people ever go to the second page of the search results anymore. Google is so good at being a search engine that people blindly trust Google's ability to deliver the most relevant results on the first page. Think about how often you click through to the second page. This means that if your business is not on the first page, it's almost as good as nowhere. The top positions on page one get the most clicks, which decrease as you progress downwards on the page.

3) The 'big' keywords are SEO not everything. It is better to be on the first page for a few smaller keywords, than try to rank for bigger keywords and not be on the first page at all. For example, an accountancy business in Preston may not rank for the highly competitive keyword 'accountant' (unless they have a lot of SEO budget and time to wait for rankings); but the same business could conceivably rank highly for the keyword 'chartered accountant Preston'. A good SEO provider should research the keywords that your business could realistically rank on page one for and also keywords that have enough search volume to be worthwhile for your business to try ranking for.

4) SEO is all about beating your competition. There is no guarantee from the search engines to say you will be on the first page of Google if you do certain things. Put simply, SEO works like this:

The search engines have their conventions; websites that conform by giving the search engines what they want, will find themselves achieving better search engine rankings. The only thing standing between you and the top spots in the search rankings is your competition. Not your actual business competitors, but your online competitors. The websites that currently have the top spots in the search engines for your desired keywords are your online competition, and you need to beat them out of those top spots. Some keywords will be easy to rank for, others will be more difficult. It is only your online competition that dictates which will be the case for each individual keyword. A good SEO provider will research the competition for each of your keywords. Then, after the most effective keywords for your business sector have been identified they should be implemented in accordance with point number three above.

5) On-page and Off-page SEO.

Search engine optimisation is a complex and ever-evolving science, but in order to intelligently interview a prospective SEO provider you need to understand that there are two main types of SEO.

On-page SEO relates to the factors on your website that affect your SEO (keywords, usability, page headings, outbound links, internal links, etc.).

Off-page SEO are the factors that relate directly to matters outside of your website that affect the SEO of the website, such as back links, citations, social sharing, etc.

SEO providers can work on your off-page SEO fairly easily, but if you are not willing to change on-page SEO, according to their recommendations, you cannot blame them for lack of results. A good SEO provider will review your website and report back about your on-page SEO, and how it can be improved. You should have your web designer make the adjustments.(Remember he is the expert in this field)

6) An increase in search engine ranking is not necessarily an increase in leads and sales. All your SEO provider can do is get your website, videos, Google Places, articles, blog posts, etc. further up the search engine results. They cannot guarantee an increase in sales or leads, because that factor is determined by your own sales funnel. It is not the SEO provider's job to make sure that the extra web traffic you receive will convert to more leads or sales. Your website needs to convert those visitors with good marketing, which is an issue for your marketing consultant to deal with.

The key differences between 'good' and 'bad' SEO providers:

Good SEO Providers

Good SEO providers know and understand the points mentioned above. You can judge this by their answers to the questions provided later in my next article.

Good SEO providers want to build a solid foundation and a proper SEO plan for your business, with extensive initial keyword and market (competitor) research. They will often insist upon it, even if the prospective client does not see the need. Sometimes a good SEO provider will refuse to work with a client that does not want the important groundwork to be done, because they know that without it they will not be likely to provide the client with the results that they want. A good SEO provider will want to provide their client with results as their first priority. Often a client will say "but I've already done the keyword research myself". Many potential clients sit down for 5 or 10 minutes to write out all the keywords that they think are relevant to their business, and then think that they have now done all the keyword research that is needed. Real keyword research is a lengthy, investigative process.

Good SEO providers use responsible SEO methods, such as paying more attention to on-page SEO, securing quality back links, improving citations, aiding social sharing, ensuring a good user experience, etc.

Bad SEO Providers

Bad SEO providers will want to take their clients' money as their first priority. They will not conduct proper keyword and market research, but will say, for example, "what are your three keywords and your URL that you want to rank for". If this happens (as it often does) you can be sure they are simply plugging your website into software to get irrelevant back links all over the internet, using spam blog comments, link farms and other means. In many cases this approach is ineffective because the URL, or domain, may not match the client's desired keywords. This can also damage the reputation and, ironically, the long-term SEO and credibility of the website.

Bad SEO providers use bad quality SEO methods (Sometimes referred to as Black-hat methods), Utilising these methods can have an extremely detrimental effect on how your website is perceived by search engines. This in turn may result in your website being (Sand boxed). Needless to say this is extremely undesirable, as damage such as this is extremely difficult to reverse.