Finding the right SEO specialist to help improve your website’s search engine rankings can be challenging. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the right SEO specialist for your unique needs.
Understand what SEO is
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to strategies and techniques that help improve a website’s rankings in search engines like Google. The goal is to earn unpaid or “organic” traffic by having your pages appear higher in results for relevant searches.
An SEO specialist has expertise in things like:
Technical website audits
By improving these and other elements that search engines value, an SEO specialist helps you attract more qualified visitors who are likely to convert into customers.
Determine your SEO goals
Before reaching out to an SEO specialist, think carefully about what you want to accomplish. Common SEO goals include:
Increasing website traffic: One of the main reasons businesses invest in SEO is to drive more visitors to their site. Consider your target traffic levels.
Boosting rankings for key terms: You likely want to rank higher for keywords and phrases related to your products or services. Make a list of your most important targets.
Growing organic leads and sales: Ultimately SEO delivers business results. Define what conversions mean for your business, whether that’s online sales, form fills, or phone calls.
Having clearly defined goals allows an SEO specialist to craft a strategy tailored to your unique objectives.
Ask about their SEO process
A qualified SEO specialist will have a proven process for optimizing websites. When researching providers, ask specific questions about the steps they take when starting work with a new client. Their process should typically involve:
An SEO specialist will audit your website to identify any technical barriers impacting performance. This includes evaluating:
Page speed: Site speed is a ranking factor. They’ll recommend optimizations to help pages load faster.
Mobile optimization: With more and more search coming from phones, pages need to work on mobile devices.
Indexation issues: Problems preventing search engines from easily crawling your site need addressing to get pages indexed.
Next, they’ll conduct keyword research to align your site content with terms driving the most traffic and conversions from search:
Opportunity analysis: Which terms offer the greatest potential based on search volume and difficulty ranking?
Competitor benchmarking: How do you currently rank for core targets versus competitors?
SEO content strategy
An effective content plan is key for improving search visibility over time. They will map out a content roadmap focused on topics and pages that move the needle for your goals and draw users into your site.
Specialists will also outline their strategies for acquiring backlinks from other websites to support rankings. Ethical, relevant links remain one of the best trust indicators to search algorithms.
Gaining an overview of their step-by-step optimization methodology is useful for setting expectations before starting a project.
Review examples of their SEO work
Reputable SEO specialists should be able to showcase examples of how their efforts have driven results for clients:
Keyword ranking data: Before-and-after reports indicating how specific terms have gained in ranking over a set period of time.
Organic traffic analytics: Website analytics demonstrating increases in monthly organic site visitors during their work together.
Business outcome metrics: Hard performance data like online lead generation or ecommerce sales showing their direct, measurable impact.
While ranking gains are important, look for specialists that move the revenue needle too. If confidentiality is a concern, they should at least be able to speak to performance trends without divulging names or specific data.
Understand SEO pricing models
SEO specialists use several common pricing models:
Hourly consulting: You pay a set hourly rate for defined project deliverables.
Monthly retainers: A flat monthly fee for ongoing optimization and reporting is common. Packages are tiered by level of service.
Value pricing: Specialists charge a percentage commission tied directly to the revenue their efforts generate.
Pricing often correlates with experience level as well. Be wary of specialists drastically undercutting competitors—that may be an indicator they won’t dedicate the necessary time your project requires.
Also clarify what’s included upfront so there are no surprise add-on fees. Having an agreed scope of work and long-term contract locks in pricing and ensures continuity.
Ask about reporting transparency
Ongoing reporting and insights into your website’s search presence are vital for gauging SEO success.
During your assessment, clarify what analytics you’ll have access to if you decide to work together. At minimum, a specialist should provide:
Keyword rankings: Track core and secondary keyword movements in ranking reports.
Traffic analytics: Evaluate channel and source trends with data tied to your Analytics account.
Link reporting: New referring domains and live link reports help gauge link building progress.
Measurement transparency ensures you have visibility into campaign health and can course correct if targets aren’t tracking to forecast.
Ideally, specialists use a client dashboard allowing you 24/7 access to visualize the impact of optimizations.
Choosing the right SEO specialist involves:
Auditing their technical expertise and services
Reviewing examples of their proven performance
Understanding their optimization process and reporting
Comparing pricing models and long-term value
Vetting specialists thoroughly upfront saves much frustration. An experienced SEO specialist delivers strong technical capabilities grounded in business growth fundamentals—allowing you to gain a lasting edge.
Following a structured process for selecting an SEO specialist helps guarantee the best fit for driving your website’s visibility and revenue growth through search.
Start by aligning on goals. Evaluate technical competencies as well as softer skills around communication style and responsive support. Look for demonstrable examples of fueling business success through site optimization both on page and off.
Pricing should map to clear deliverables and performance expectations balanced against available budget. Carefully weigh the benefits of narrower expertise versus broader digital marketing integration.
With key considerations covered, you can confidently choose an SEO specialist set up to move the needle on the results mattering most for long-term prosperity. They will become a trusted partner invested in advancing your digital presence and competitive edge for the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does SEO cost?
SEO pricing varies based on project scope and specialists’ experience level. Budget at least $1,000-$1,500+ per month for an integrated organic search strategy combining technical SEO, content creation, and link building. Value pricing ties spend directly to revenue growth.
- What SEO results should I expect from the first 3-6 months?
Expect gradual improvements, not overnight success. Typically in the first 3-6 months a specialist lays technical groundwork and identifies quick wins while developing a long-term strategy aligned to goals. Ranking and traffic gains during early optimization establish momentum.
- What SEO qualifications should I look for?
Look for specialists with applicable SEO training & certifications from respected institutions like Search Engine Journal, Moz, HubSpot & Google. Complementary backgrounds in web development, marketing analytics, or content writing bring wider competencies.
- Will SEO specialists get my site penalized by Google?
Ethical specialists use only “white hat” techniques compliant with search engine guidelines. Avoid groups making unrealistic ranking promises or using questionable tactics. Vet specialists thoroughly and align on optimization methods before signing contracts.
- Should I choose a freelance SEO consultant or agency?
Both options can work well. Freelancers often bring specialized expertise at affordable rates while agencies provide holistic services. Carefully evaluate consultants’ competencies to determine fit. Bigger teams allow agencies to scale work across clients.
- How can I evaluate an SEO specialist’s previous results?
Review examples of a specialist’s past work demonstrating strong organic growth based on goals like more traffic, leads and sales from SEO. Ask for specific keyword rankings improvement data, web analytics showing traffic increases and hard revenue metrics tied to their efforts.
- What SEO tools and reports should a specialist provide?
At minimum ask for monthly reporting providing keyword rankings, website analytics tied to your account showing traffic trends, and details on new referring domains demonstrating successful link building. Contracts should specify what performance dashboards or tools you’ll have access to for full transparency.
- Should I hire a local SEO specialist for a small business?
Yes, a local specialist understands intricacies of optimizing for maps, reviews and proximity-based searches—ideal for driving foot traffic. Just ensure they also address foundational on-page and technical optimization all sites need while highlighting your physical location.
- What’s better for ecommerce SEO—an in-house or outsourced specialist?
In-house specialists build institutional knowledge but can cost more in overhead and lack wider industry perspective. Outsourced specialists often bring deeper expertise across clients to identify growth opportunities. A blended approach can work well for average-to-large ecommerce merchants.
- Should SEO specialists perform other marketing services too?
Specialists focused solely on technical SEO fill an important role. But many top agencies offer integrated services—from paid search and web design to email marketing and analytics—for amplified results under one roof. Explore the range of capabilities before deciding what works best.
- How can I learn SEO to handle it in-house?
Start by taking respected online SEO courses and obtaining widely-recognized certifications to build knowledge in both theoretical and technical areas. From there, continually expand hands-on experience. Mentor under an expert early on if possible while staying on top of constant evolution in best practices.
- How early should I hire an SEO specialist when planning a new website?
Ideally involve an SEO specialist during initial website architecture and design planning stages. Technical considerations early on help avoid extensive rework down the road. Also take time for foundational keyword research and outlining a content strategy focused on ranking goals before site launch.
- What is a common SEO specialist contract length?
Most specialists work on a 6-12 month minimum contract allowing enough time to fully optimize sites and demonstrate an impact driving results related to overarching goals. Business growth through SEO is an ongoing investment, so ideally plan for multi-year agreements with periodic reviews.