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There are a lot of bad SEOs out there. But there are good ones, too. So how do you sort through all the applicants and find the best person to support your company's SEO strategy? I have put together this guide to help you locate, vet and hire a badass SEO consultant who will help you take your search strategy to the next level.
Here are the six steps you need to know to make sure you’re getting a great SEO consultant:
Step 1: Use Your Network
Any time any business person needs an employee or consultant, I always recommend starting with your own network. Ask around and find out if any of your current business partners or contacts knows someone who does SEO. It’s just a much better strategy than trying to find a random person.
If your network doesn’t have any suggestions for you, you can also do a LinkedIn search. And there are a couple of different profile types you should consider :
SEO optimized profiles
If you're doing SEO, it would make sense that your profile should be somewhat optimized too right? My profile had the right set of performance indicator keywords such as "increased seo", and that is how Zapier.com found me.
Pro tip: You can also perform a custom search via Google such as site:linkedin.com/in/ "increased seo" and do more advanced refinements and avoid the daily search limits of LinkedIn
Local / Remote Freelancer
This is how most companies find me. I usually update my travel location on LinkedIn and whenever someone from the area is looking for local SEO talents, they would also instead find me! I was hired by PieSync because one of their investors in Brussels was looking for SEO talent and we had a face to face meeting.
So I ran Zapier's SEO for 1 year before deciding to take a break and then eventually going freelance. During the same period, Tray.io was growing exponentially and was looking for someone to take the lead on SEO. Tray did their research and found that I had worked with Zapier. If you go this route, you should expect that they won’t be able to discuss any proprietary information about your competitor. Although you can also argue that most SEO work is public knowledge since everything is obviously on the publicly accessible marketing website. But a lot of SEO work is also about the approach and the strategy, and there’s no reason why they can’t bring their experience with a competitor to your company.
And you should definitely ask the candidate why they left the competitor’s company. Just be on the lookout for anything negative, or anything that might be specific to the nature of the work. In my case, I left Zapier because I wanted to branch out to other industries to keep my skills sharp. I left a full-time job with Zapier to consult with clients in a range of industries, so consulting for Tray was totally doable for me.
Step 2: Do They Understand Your Business Goals?
Hiring and vetting a good SEO consultant should always include a conversation about your business goals, and how they can help you achieve them. A very strong candidate will ask you about your goals and what Key Performance Indicators you want to track. But if they don’t, ask them what KPIs they can track for when working on your website. This is very important because, if you want to go to the next level, you need your digital marketing campaigns to align to your business goals. A good SEO can help you do that, so make sure they are able and willing to understand what you’re trying to do, and create a strategy that supports that.
Step 3: How Do They Work With Other Teams?
During the interview process, ask how the candidate would you work with your team. Specifically, ask about their experience working with teams such as business development, product marketing and engineering. I see a lot of SEOs who don't want to work with those teams. But a good SEO would want to know what other people on the marketing team are doing so you can align campaigns and avoid double work.
Collaboration is a very important element of SEO. For example, you may work with business development to manage lead generation or build partnerships. You may work with engineering teams to ensure a site is optimized for search and running efficiently. And of course, SEOs should be able to work with content teams to ensure that your company has a strong content strategy to answer the questions consumers are asking. During a product launch, the marketing team will undoubtedly be working on the write copy. But a good SEO is able to step in and say, "Let's try and cover these questions."
As an SEO will be looking at the infrastructure of your website, they may go to the engineering team or designers and propose an internal linking strategy to make sure everything is interlinked to maximize SEO value. These things might seem trivial, but in the long term they can really boost the success of an SEO campaign.
Step 4: What Results Can They Show?
A lot of times with SEO work, the success stories aren't information that's available publicly. One workaround that some SEOs will have is studies of projects they've worked on. A good SEO will try to make those stats publicly available, if possible, without jeopardizing any non-disclosure agreements. When I worked at Monster, we did a major overhaul of the website for Northern America and Europe, which led to a big wave in SEO improvement – a 300% lift in the first month of us reworking the website. Several industry websites and researchers took notice and published their findings, so I use those materials when I'm presenting my skills to potential clients.
You want to have confidence that the candidate – whether it's an agency, a full-time employee or a freelancer, will actually be able to do a good job. A strong candidate will be able to provide examples to boost your confidence in their abilities.
Step 5: Do Your Own Research Using Ahrefs
Did you know that you can look up the historical traffic performance of almost any site, for free? Well, almost free. There are a lot of great tools out there that enable SEO and provide good data. Even if you don't currently have someone doing SEO, you should've at least already have an Ahrefs subscription. Just type in the domain for a company your candidate has worked with in the past, and see what the historical traffic and organic performance look like. (It's all estimates, but those are pretty close to the real value.) Or if you want something free, you can use SimilarWeb to quickly see 6-month historical traffic. You don't even need an account. With this quick analysis you can easily see if the SEO candidate has positively contributed to the organic performance.
Step 6: Proactively Seek References
This is another place where I would use LinkedIn to get information on a candidate. Once you have some people you are considering, check out their LinkedIn profiles and start reaching out to people they've worked with in the past.
If they don't have relevant references on their LinkedIn page, try contacting marketing directors or VPs they've worked with in the past. And you should also reach out to the CEO. If an SEO is making an impact with the company, the CEO should know what they're doing. The more references the better, especially if those references come from the C-level. You can also reach out to people they may have worked with, such as an engineer or content manager. Find people on other parts of the marketing team, and ask about their experience working with the candidate.
I believe that SEO is a critical part of any good digital marketing strategy, and I hope this article will help you find the right SEO consultant for your company. I think the key to success here is looking from within your network first, asking the right questions, and doing a little extra research. If you follow these six steps, you will find a badass SEO who can help you take your company to the next level.
Are you interested in working with me to build a comprehensive SEO strategy? I'd be happy to talk with you about your business and goals for growth. Use my contact form to send me a message today.