How to hire an SEO consultant

Hiring an SEO consultant is a fantastic way to gain access to SEO expertise without the need for hiring in-house.

Having access to these SEO skills can help you achieve your business goals, but to have the biggest impact, there are a few things you should be looking out for when hiring an expert to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Hiring an SEO consultant is a fantastic way to gain access to SEO expertise without the need for hiring in-house.

Having access to these SEO skills can help you achieve your business goals, but to have the biggest impact, there are a few things you should be looking out for when hiring an expert to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Understanding how SEO can benefit your business

You do not need to be an SEO whizz yourself in order to successfully hire an SEO consultant. It would kind of defeat the purpose if you were! However, you should have a general idea of what SEO is, why your website is an important business tool, and how SEO can benefit your business. This knowledge will help you understand exactly what you want to achieve from working with an SEO partner, which is key for a consultant to be able to deliver results that are in line with your expectations.

Forming a brief

It's essential that your SEO needs are clearly mapped out. This information will help the consultant form a plan and brainstorm ideas, which will ultimately be used to build to an SEO strategy. The more information you provide about your project, the easier this process will be. 

Be sure to outline things such as information about your business and products/services, the type of website you have, and exactly what you'll be hoping to achieve by working with a consultant.

For example, the needs of a monolithic enterprise website with a custom CMS will be very different to a small ecommerce website running on Shopify or WooCommerce.

If you know you have a specific issue that needs resolving, such as you've experienced a sudden traffic drop, include this information, too.

Also, if you're about to launch a brand new website, it is far more efficient to bring on an SEO consultant before any work begins, as this will ensure that all work completed by you development and content teams is carried out with SEO in mind. This is significantly faster and cheaper than having to reverse engineer a website and fix issues that could have been avoided entirely.

Picking a consultant to partner with

Once you have established why you need to hire an SEO expert in the first place, the next step is to find someone who is right for the job. You may already have a shortlist, but you can wittle this down further so that you end up with someone who is the perfect fit for your business. The following will help you cut through the noise if you are in conversation with multiple SEO suppliers:

  • Experience - Are you confident the consultant has the experience and expertise to successfully run an SEO campaign for you? Can they talk authoritatively about their work, past projects, and processes? If you have very specific, niche requirements, do they have a specialism in what you're looking for? Do you feel at ease and comfortable when discussing your project with them?
  • Recommendations - Ask around your network for recommendations. Who did they use? What was their experience like? Do they recommend them? If so, why? Recommendations and referrals are by far the best way to find an SEO consultant that knows their stuff.
  • Cost - You must know your budget in order to hire the right consultant. The cost of SEO can vary greatly depending on your needs, and the experience and pricing models used by consultants and agencies. You should have a budget in mind when deciding who to partner with, as there is little point wasting time looking to work with someone that you can't afford. Similarly, you may end up selling yourself short by restricting your budget and going for the cheapest option.
  • Location - In the age of COVID and WFH, location may not be as large a factor as it once was. However, if you require someone local, want someone to visit your office or meet in person, be sure to keep this in consideration.

Setting deliverables and expectations

SEO is a long term strategy that requires patience. You need to be patient while waiting for your website's visibility to improve enough to attract visitors. Sure, there are times when certain optimisations are fast to implement and gain traction quickly, but the adage 'it's a marathon, not a sprint' is extremely relevant to SEO.

Generally, you should never rely on guarantees of first place rankings or specific amounts of traffic being delivered within a few months. This isn't how SEO works, and it is likely just being used as a sales tactic to seal the deal.

All expectations should be realistic - even a very rough timeline is useful as a guide - and a general sense of direction and strategy is vital for building long term trust between client and consultant.

The following are some examples of deliverables and expectations you should think about when hiring an SEO consultant:

  • Deadlines and timings - Do you need something to be turned around by a certain date, such as peak trading season, a product launch, or a go live date for a new website?
  • Deliverables  - What will the consultant actually be responsible for sending over to you? Are you hiring them for a fixed piece of work, such as an SEO audit? Do you want a simple time-based retainer with flexible output and ongoing support? Do you need help producing content and want a set number of blog posts or articles delivered each month in addition to consultancy?
  • Reporting - Do you require reporting or do you handle that in-house and just want the consultant focussed on work output? Do you need deep, insightful reports with lots of detail, or just brief top-level overviews? 
  • Communication - Do you need regular meetings or are you happy with hands-off approach with informal updates? Are you looking for the consultant to guide and communicate with your marketing team? Do you need the consultant to be a contact point for many people or just one?

It should be clear exactly what you're paying for, whether that be on a time (e.g. hours/days p/month) or output (e.g a SEO audit, a content audit, keyword research, a content plan) basis.

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