Ready to Optimize? What do I need to know about hiring the right firm?

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The business owners of today are inundated with an increasing number of responsibilities, more than ever before.  In many cases, senior executives are tasked with the creation of infrastructure, corporate policymaking, developing fiscal strategies to increase shareholder value, focusing on public relations issues, and collaborating with fellow business leaders to increase brand potential, just to name a few.  With so many different hats to wear, where do the minutes in the day allow for the creation of an effective and profitable SEO campaign when demands of this nature take priority? The answer to this question is simple, there isn’t.

The goal of this post is designed to provide you a road map and an understanding into the importance of an optimized website and the potential it can have on taking your business to the next level.  I have put together a list of questions you should ask before hiring the SEO firm which best meets your needs, and how to locate SEO providers which possess the highest rankings of the most effective SEO provider companies.

With that being said, an increasing need for SEO expertise is exactly why many businesses outsource their SEO responsibilities to companies specializing in exactly this sort of business development.  So your business wants to take its’ online presence to the next level with SEO.  Does your team handle this responsibility? Do you hire a freelance marketer with SEO experience? Do you send it the way of outsourcing? What do you do next? Corporate leaders must evaluate and reach a conclusion on difficult choices of how best to gain the desired outcome of an SEO campaign, A Number One Ranking!

The unfortunate reality is that an SEO campaign goes nowhere fast without first conducting a thorough selection process to identify the most experienced SEO marketer. By first identifying potential candidates, your company begins to form a connection to marketers who possess the important core competencies associated with the development of an SEO campaign.  Once those selected companies have been narrowed down, asking the right questions is essential to effective root analysis in order to establish a level of credibility and expertise, and whether or not those industry players are qualified to perform the duties you require of your SEO in order for the campaign to be a success. What experience do they possess? Who have they worked with on other SEO campaigns? Are they equipped with the necessary tools, the current technology, and the right talent in place to jumpstart a brand-new SEO campaign to life?  Candid recommendations from a former customers will benefit your company in the long-run and produce a more dynamic and successful SEO campaign.

These are but some of the important considerations which must be accounted for when searching for the right company to conduct an SEO campaign for your business.  With that being said, other questions you may want to propose when deciding on a choice of which marketing provider dedicates their time and resources to your SEO development is of a genuine benefit:

  1. What is your SEO process?

The simple fact is that most owners are not educated fully enough to hold a firm grasp of the SEO Process.  I recommend performing the necessary research to fully understand the most important considerations behind SEO in order to make an educated purchase. Buying Search Engine Optimization Services is like buying a new car. There are many components to the vehicle and it would be impossible to fully educate ourselves on every component. With that being said, we can educate ourselves on the key components. I recommend doing research on the topic. Invest a few hours to understanding some of the vocabulary. Second, read a few blogs and do a couple of google searches on the subject such as “questions you should ask before hiring an SEO.”

For those interested in gaining an inside perspective into how Google does what it does, and how this can have the potential to impact your SEO, please visit http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html

Here is another great read.

http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo

2. Can you predict what my expected SEO outcome will be?

A third party should never promise a number one spot on page one. Search Optimization is a competitive practice and your position on Google can be impacted by more than 200 factors.  A realistic SEO progression would include a monthly analytic report highlighting strengths and opportunities, reporting which illustrates an increase in page visits and its impact on the number of conversions which occur as a result of visits to your business’ website. Factors which impact SEO reporting will include A) unique visitors, B) impressions, and C) query.  As you read this, you might be asking what exactly do A, B, and C refer to?

Unique visitors, as defined by Google Analytics is the number of people who visit your site.  If 100 people visit your site in a week 100 times, 10,000 sessions is great, but the number of users is low.  Use this metric to determine the number of people visiting your site in a given period.

Impressions, as defined by Google Analytics is the number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid AdWords search impressions.  Use this metric to understand how many times users interacted with your site, not the number of unique users to your site.

Query, as defined by Google Support is the actual query entered by a user in Google search.  This metric is only used in SEO reports generated by Google. When done right SEO helps to enhance a social media presence. It will also aid your business more relevant and more reputable online.  Your company vision should become increasingly enhanced as pages become more detailed and embedded with information the search engines retrieve when “crawling” in an effort to facilitate the numerous factors which impact the ranking your page will receive.

3. My product is different from your product.  Is SEO a one-size-fits-all product?

Every business is different and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. The company you hire should invest the time to understand your business needs, company vision and product offerings. Company research is an important part of understanding both internal and customer friendly jargon. Certain local consumers and their behaviors and trends vary from business-to-business, so having a proper understanding of SEO will improve the effectiveness of an SEO campaign more quickly.

Owners and employees tend to be the best resource of understanding what works for the business and what does not. An SEO marketer should possess a vast amount of knowledge, and have the ability to provide a great deal of input into helping your employees gain an understanding of exactly how SEO works and will impact your business, since the needs-of-business vary.  You want to remain mindful that SEO impacts different business processes differently based on the type of business you operate.

4. What is your process for choosing my keywords?

Identifying and selecting keywords which produce the greatest impact is a process in itself, and is sometimes tedious and drawn-out.  Business owners usually shy away from this process, but my recommendation relies upon an understanding that owners and trusted employees are engaged in this process with your SEO professional. You want to remember, these are the keywords that connect your customers to the products your company sells.

Conduct research carefully, due diligence, patience, and communication are central to identifying words which are contained within the Google lexicon.  I use Google Webmaster or Google AdWords Keyword Planner to conduct keyword research. You can identify how people are locating your website and also gain additional insights and suggestions from your customers.  There are certainly other free tools out there to perform the same sort of functions, however it is simply a matter of preference and goals. Just google “Keyword planning.” A third alternative relies on performing manual searches with specified keywords which your team develops.  If a keyword is populating information on your competitors, chances are that you may want to rank that keyword.

5. What is your development process to building internal and external Links?

Links are the highways that connect your website with the outside word. It is important to make sure all internal and external links are fully functional and are of high quality. Any SEO that is participating in link schemes or buying links for page rank will likely do more harm than good. Links are important to page rank and creating high quality links are an important factor to the foundation of establishing a solid page rank.

6. Will you be targeting the local market, the region, or a national market?

Not all Search Engine Optimization is treated equally, in fact, most rankings are based on a number of “ranking factors.”  Most companies will not share more information than is absolutely necessary.  Keyword research is vital to connecting customers to your site if you offer what they are interested in obtaining.  The variety of the type of SEO campaign you work to establish varies on the geographical considerations important to a local, regional, or national campaign, and is crucial to securing a high SERP ranking in the market that your business is attempting to reach.

7. Will you need access to confidential information such as Logins and Passwords?

The short answer to this question is yes.  Your SEO will create a specialized access point, complete with the proper credentials, in order to be located by search engine directories. This is similar to being listed in a local telephone book.  It is vital to secure passwords and logs in a secure location to prevent being compromised. My recommendation definitely includes an important stipulation where you sign a confidentiality agreement with your SEO to ensure they do not put all accounts under their name. This can cause problems further down the road when you are attempting to access your account. I have witnessed unfortunate situations involving a third-party registering a company’s business information under their name. This is a major violation of sensitive corporate information.  Some companies utilize this tactic to lock-in their customers, and then make it more difficult to cancel when they decide to cancel the service. It is critical for the security of your company to ensure ownership of sensitive SEO data remains in the hands of the proper owners, that being you.

8. Will I have to do paid advertising to increase my organic ranking?

Popular belief is that if you pay for online advertising through a big media or directory company, it will help your business rank organically. I have not found this to be true and with most clients, success to rank locally without paid advertising is certainly viable.  Paid advertising can benefit companies who are evenly matched with other competitors and are simply looking for that much needed edge. The value of paid advertising is the Link Authority from a third party SEO.  However, exercise the proper amount of caution to ensure you are not linking your legitimate website to other sites which contain Spam.  If you want positive results, money is not always the solution.  What can provide a solid organic ranking on the major search engines is the development of quality content, frequent updates, and ensuring that your presence on the web remains relevant.

9. What is your process for creating content?

If your SEO has not taken the time to learn about your business, they are what I refer to as a “one-size-fits-all SEO.” Why is this important? A portion of your SERP ranking is more than just keywords, meta-descriptors, online directories, Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, titles, and more. An often overlooked factor includes the relevant content. Recent algorithm updates to Google such as Hummingbird, Penguin, Panda, and Pigeon have increased the accuracy of searches, making results more dynamic, and connecting users with a broader range of information on a topic versus previous algorithmic versions which simply provided limited information on a query and nothing more.  The supplemental information provided to a user pertaining to a specified topic continues to grow exponentially.  Hummingbird, which is a semantic search showing intent of the searcher. Penguin which is looking for spammy content and low quality links. Panda, looking at all sorts of elements or user satisfaction and happiness of pages is making sure that those who are playing by the rules are rewarded with proper ranking.

10. If I hire you for 6 months will I stay in the number 1 spot forever?

Remember, SEO is a competitive practice and anyone who guarantees an everlasting Number One position without devoting the proper attention to the ongoing commitment of an SEO campaign is misleading you.  Rather, get used to SEO by performing the necessary due diligence of understanding how it really works. It is not going anywhere, and a strong and lasting SEO campaign is a living, breathing type of creature.  It is constantly evolving, and in the long run, SEO will be your best friend as long as the doors to your business remain open.  Adapt to changes in the market and how those changes impact the effectiveness of any SEO strategy.  When the time comes, it may be necessary to reevaluate how the company is utilizing its workforce, and the time may come where employees will have the opportunity to take on new roles related to the dynamic world of SEO.  Good Luck!

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