Guest post by Cynthia Madison.
Considering more than 90% of online purchases start with a search engine, and nearly 60% of B2B marketers say organic search generates more leads than any other marketing tactics, your number one digital marketing goal should be getting your site onto the front page of search engines.
People should be able to find your blog or website with just a few clicks. Search engine optimization (SEO) practices have changed significantly over the years, but remain at the core of digital strategy.
Between Google’s history of algorithm updates and increased competition, running an SEO campaign by yourself can be harder than you think. That’s why many people seek the help of an SEO expert. But finding an SEO specialist with the right mix of writing ability, technical skill, and industry knowledge to get your website on the front page may not be easy.
You have to make sure you are on the same page (so to speak) and share the same view. Marketing agencies bring a diverse mix of talent, though they can end up charging a small fortune. If you run or manage marketing for a small to midisized business, an SEO freelancer might be the best answer for you.
But with the abundance of freelancers on the market, how can you make sure you find the right fit? Here are seven tips that can help you make the right decision.
Be Specific with Your Requests and Deadlines
Before beginning your search for the perfect SEO match, get as specific as possible about what you are looking for. Coming up with a description for your project will help the freelancer build a proposal for discussion.
Most freelance websites that connect employers with specialists allow you to put together a description of the project and let freelancers submit proposals you can choose from. A description should give information about your business, expectations, and deadline. Drawing up a clear description of your request will ease the communication between you and the freelancer and help you find the best match.
Get to Know the Person You Will Be Working With
Working with a person you just met online can be frightening, especially in today’s world. Giving access to your website can expose you to all sorts of issues. The online world sadly includes scams and frauds as well as legitimate service providers.
A reputable SEO expert should be able to answer your questions in a simple, straightforward manner. If you have any suspicions, you can conduct a background check to find more about the person, before sealing the deal. Some red flags might include asking for payment before the work is completed, not delivering original content or— if you contracted them through a platform—asking for money offsite.
Ask for References from Past Clients
An experienced SEO specialist should have no problem giving you a short list of clients they’ve worked with. Do a Google search on those clients, with specific keywords, and see if they show up on the first page. Don’t hesitate to contact them and ask for a reference.
They likely won’t share their specific analytics, but they should be able to tell you if they saw any improvements after working with the person you are considering. Don’t be too intrusive when requesting information. Just ask a few basic questions to help you get an idea of the consultant’s work. If they have left a good impression, their clients should have no problem recommending them.
Ask Specific Questions About Their Methods
When discussing plans for your website, request clear-cut answers. The consultant should be able to give you some exact strategies for reaching the campaign goals. A good option is to ask for a written proposal.
The proposal should include a website audit, mentioning the problems they discovered when analyzing your website, along with solutions to increase your search engine ranking. The consultant might come up with a list of changes for your web page, like changes in URL, titles, tags and headings.
Another question you should ask is if they are familiar with Google’s webmaster guidelines, which restricts some of the “tricks” that dodgy SEO specialists use. If your “expert” suggests dishonest ideas, like junk content, click-bait, and other phony solutions, they might not be the best fit—as these ticks can get your website entirely banned from search results.
Request That All Changes Be Shared with You
As mentioned above, the specialist will probably make some changes to your web pages. These changes might include some coding alterations that you should be aware of. Ask them to be upfront with the changes and run any significant modifications past you before implementing them.
Ask questions about how these changes will add value to your website and why are they necessary. If you don’t agree with some of them, explain your vision and discuss alternative approaches, to find the best options.
No matter how technically astute your consultant may be, communication issues can come up at any time, and it’s best to address them right from the beginning. When working with a freelancer, chances are most of your interaction will be via email, video or phone calls. It’s important to keep communication as open as possible, and perhaps schedule regular meetings to help avoid any misunderstandings.
Talk Fees Upfront
Especially if you have a limited budget, you should understand up front how much you’ll be investing. SEO consultants may charge by the project, on an hourly basis ,or a monthly retainer. Charges can vary based on the length and complexity of the project.
It’s best to do some market research and find out what the general pricing for your type of project is. Also, ask for the payment system they usually work with. Will you be paying them upfront or at the end of the project? Will the amount be split into multiple payments? When is the invoice due date? Will they be expecting you to pay in 30 or 90 days? Will there be fees if you exceed the due date?
Draw Up A Contract
After finding the person who matches most or all of your requirements, discuss the offer and draw up a contract that meets both parties’ expectations. Make sure the contract includes key deadlines, costs, date(s) of payment, and work method.
The contract should also state that, when you end the collaboration, the consultant will not make any further changes. You should own all the optimized content the consultant provided.
Cynthia Madison is a young blogger and economics and marketing graduate. She writes about seo and marketing topics and is a frequent contributor to popular niche publications.