Hi, I’m Maile Ohye and I work with Google search. I’d like to share advice to help you hire a useful SEO and prevent hiring a bad SEO. One who you might pay a lot of money without positive results or even worse one who implements shady practices on your website that results in a reduction in search rankings.
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
To some, SEO seems like black magic. Having worked with Google search for over a decade what I’ve learned is that 1st, it’s not black magic and 2nd if you want long term success there aren’t any quick magical tricks that an SEO will provide so that your site ranks number one.
It’s important to note that SEO’s potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website, so successful SEO helps your website put your best foot forward so that it ranks appropriately in the spot where an unbiased potential customer would expect your site to be seen.
A successful SEO also looks to improve the entire searcher experience from search results to clicking on your website and potentially converting. A good SEO will recommend best practices for a search-friendly site from basic things like descriptive page titles for a blog or small business to more complex things like language markup for a multilingual global site. SEOs ensure that you’re serving your online customers a good experience, especially those coming from a search engine and that your site is helpful whether they’re using a desktop computer or mobile phone.
In most cases, the SEO will need 4 months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefits. My strongest advice when working with an SEO is to request that they corroborate their recommendation with a documented statement from Google either in a help center article video or a Google response in a forum that supports both. SEO’s description of the issue that needs to be improved to help with ranking and the approach they prescribed to accomplishing this task.
Requesting these two bits of information will help prevent hiring a poor SEO who might otherwise convince you to do useless things like add more words to the keywords meta tag or by links because if you search for Google advice on this topic you’d see blog posts and videos from Google that clearly explain that adding keyword to the meta tag wouldn’t help. Furthermore, while Google uses links for page rank our documentation highlights that we strongly advise against the approach of buying links for the purpose of increasing page rank. One basic rule is that in a majority of cases doing what’s good for SEO is also doing what’s good for your online customers. Things like having a mobile-friendly website, good navigation and building a great brand. Additionally, if you’re a more established brand with complicated legacy systems, then good search friendly best practices likely involve paying off some of your site’s technical debt such as updating your infrastructure so that your website is agile and able to implement features faster in the long term.
If you own a small local business you can probably do the initial work yourself check out Google’s 30-minute video series on how to build an online presence for your local business. Now if you still believe you want to hire an SEO here’s a general process.
- Conduct a two-way interview with your potential SEO. Check that they seem generally interested in you and your business. Check their references, 3 or 4, and you’ll probably have to pay for a technical and search audit. In the interview, here are some things to look for. A good SEO doesn’t focus only on search engine ranking, or on how they can help your business, so they should ask questions like ‘what makes your business content and or service unique and therefore valuable to customers’. They want to know this information to make sure it’s highlighted on your website for your current and potential new audience.
- What does your common customer look like and how do they currently find your website?
- How does your business make money? How can search help?
- What other channels are you using offline advertising social networks?
- Who are your competitors what do they do well online and potentially offline?
If the SEO doesn’t seem interested in learning about your business from a holistic standpoint, look elsewhere. It’s difficult to do good SEO without knowing about the business’s goals, their customers and other existing marketing efforts. SEO should complement your existing work.
The second step in hiring an SEO is to check references. If your potential SEO provides prior clients, be sure to check their references. You want to hear from past clients that the SEO was able to provide useful guidance and worked effectively with their developers, designers, UX researchers and or marketers. A good SEO should feel like someone you can work with, learn from, experiment with, and who generally cares about you and your business; not just getting your site the highest rank as ultimately those techniques rarely last long if they work at all. They’ll want to educate you and your staff on how search engines work so that SEO becomes part of your general business operations.
Step 3 is to request a technical and search audit. If you trust your SEO candidate give them restricted, view, not full or write access to your Google search console data and even your analytics data before they modify anything on your website. Have them conduct a technical in search audit to give you a prioritized list of what they think should be improved for SEO. If you’re a larger business, you can hire multiple CEOs to run audits and prioritize improvements, see what each has to say and then determine who you could work with the best. In the audit, the SEO should prioritize improvements with a structure like 1 the issue, 2 the suggested improvement, 3 an estimate on the overall investment. In other words the time, energy or money it would take for your developers to implement the improvement and for Google search as well as searchers and customers to recognize the improvement, The SEO will need to talk with your developers to better understand what technical constraints may exist or the estimated positive business impact. The impact might be a ranking improvement that will lead to more visitors and conversions or perhaps the positive impact comes from a back end change that cleans up your site and helps your brand be more agile in the future.
5 A plan of how to iterate and improve on the implementation or perhaps to experiment and fail fast should the results not meet expectations.
That covers the structure of the technical search audit.
Now let’s talk about each of these audits individually.
In the technical audit, your SEO should be able to review your site for issues related to internal linking call ability URL parameters server connectivity and response codes to name some if they mentioned that your site has duplicate content problems that need to be corrected make sure they show you the specific URLs that are competing for the same query or that they explain it should be cleaned up for a long term site health, not initial growth. I mention this because lots of duplicate content exists on websites and often it’s not a pressing problem. In the search audit, your potential SEO will likely breakdown your search queries into categories like branded and unbranded terms branded terms are those with your business or websites name like a search for Gmail is a branded term while the search for email is an unbranded or general keyword. An SEO should make sure that for branded queries such as Gmail your website is providing a great experience that allows customers who know your brand or website to easily find exactly what they need and potentially convert. They might recommend improvements that help the entire searcher experience from what the searchers see in search results when they click on a result. and use your website for unbranded queries. An SEO can help you better make sense of the online competitive landscape. They can tell you things like here are the types of queries it would make sense for your business to rank but here’s what your competition is doing and why I think they rank where they do, for instance, perhaps your competition has great reviews, really shareable content or they run a highly reputable site. An SEO will provide recommendations for how to improve the ranking for these queries and the entire searcher experience. They’ll introduce ideas like update obsolete content. They might say your site is suffering because some of your well-ranking content is obsolete, has poor navigation, a useless page title or isn’t mobile-friendly so let’s improve these pages and see if more website visitors convert and purchase or if they can micro convert, meaning that perhaps they subscribe or share content, improve internal linking. Your SEO might say your site is suffering because some of your best articles are too far from the home page and users would have a hard time finding it and we can be better internally linked to feature it more prominently, to generate buzz. The SEO might say you have great content but not enough people know, so we can try to get more user interaction and generate buzz perhaps through social media or business relationships. This will help us attract more potential customers and perhaps garner natural links to your site to learn from the competition. Your SEO might say, here’s what your competitors do well can you reach parity with this and potentially surpass them in utility or can you better show customers your business’ unique value? Again, a good SEO will try to prioritize what ideas can bring your business the most improvement for the least investment and what improvements may take more time but help growth in the long term. Once they talk with you and other members of your team such as developers or marketers they’ll help your business forge a path ahead.
The last thing I want to mention is that when I talk with SEO’s one of the biggest holdups to improving a website isn’t their recommendations but it’s the business making time to implement their ideas. If you’re not ready to commit to making SEO improvements, getting an SEO audit may be helpful, make sure that your entire organization is on board or else your SEO improvements may be nonexistent regardless of who you hire so that wraps it up thanks for watching and best of luck to you