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As the vast majority of people go online to find the products and services they need, the most invaluable tool we all use these days is a search engine like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Getting to grips with how a search engine works can be challenging, and this is why hiring an SEO expert could be the tool you need.
With millions of businesses vying for attention online, it’s never been more vital to stand out from the crowd. SEO is an organic tool that, as soon as you understand how to harness it, can help you leverage your online visibility.
Whether you are a small business owner looking to grow your online presence or a large corporation aiming to maintain dominance in your industry, hiring an SEO expert or a team of SEO experts could provide significant benefits. These professionals have the skills and the knowledge to navigate Search Engine Optimization to help you achieve your goals. What does it take to hire an SEO expert to ensure you can understand how to give your website, content, and business an unfair advantage?
Understanding the Role of an SEO Specialist
An SEO specialist plays a critical role in any company’s digital marketing strategy. An SEO expert has the responsibility of ensuring that a website is easily searchable. SEO involves incorporating strategies designed to make a website more attractive to search engines, which improves its rankings on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Some of the key strategies used by SEO specialists include:
- Keyword research, which involves identifying words and phrases potential customers will be likely to use when searching online for similar products or services to what your business offers. Optimizing with these keywords alone could improve your chances of appearing in their search engine results.
- Link building, which involves acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own, acts as a vote of confidence that increases your website’s credibility, translating into improved search engine ranking.
- Content creation, with high-quality, relevant content to engage and/or retain website visitors, while also providing opportunities for the aforementioned keyword research optimization and link building.
Assessing Your SEO Needs and Goals
Before you try to hire an SEO consultant, you need to assess your business’s specific goals and needs. It is essential for an SEO expert to align with your journey, and taking the time to assess what you need will guide your decision-making process.
Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that Search Engine Optimization is about complying with a strict set of rules. With the ever-changing landscape of SEO, especially with regard to the changes in the algorithm that determines the criteria for ranking well, it is more sensible to align with your business needs.
Instead of thinking that certain types of SEO tactics, such as Black Hat SEO, can help to bypass some of the organic and natural ways, it is essential to align yourself with your needs rather than thinking that certain types of SEO tactics can help bypass some of the organic methods. Black Hat SEO, in particular, is one that many companies think is a great way to land at the top of Google, but it’s a practice that is highly frowned upon. The practices are against the search engine’s terms of service, and if caught, can result in the website being banned from the search engine. There are Black Hat SEO tactics such as content automation, hidden text or links, reporting a competitor, and keyword stuffing, among many.
When assessing your SEO needs, think of some of the following general goals so you can create an SEO campaign without resorting to cloak-and-dagger tactics:
Improving Website Visibility
If your website is not appearing in search engine results, it’s unlikely that customers are going to find you.
Optimizing content for keywords and creating engaging content can translate into more leads and potentially more sales.
Targeting keywords that align with your products and services and improving your online presence can lead to higher sales.
Building Brand Awareness
Consistently appearing in search engine results for relevant keywords helps build trust and relationships over time.
Analyzing what your competitors are doing well and developing strategies to outrank them ensures that you are capturing your potential customer base.
Hiring an SEO specialist can help you with all of the above components, but you need to determine what your goals are first, so they can tailor their approach to meet your needs.
Defining Key Criteria for Hiring an SEO Specialist
Before hiring an SEO expert, you should have a clear understanding of what defines an expert SEO consultant:
Experience is essential in the realm of SEO because, since the first Google algorithm update in February 2003, known as the Boston update, there have been countless changes. The toughest part of understanding Search Engine Optimization is that Google can issue algorithm updates that potentially result in a company completely altering its SEO strategy. When you hire SEO experts, you need to ensure they have the experience that doesn’t just encompass an understanding of various strategies and techniques, but also knowledge of the history and potential changes. They can show you what works and what does not work in different scenarios.
Having a proven track record of success is a strong indicator of their capabilities. When hiring an SEO specialist, look for professionals who can demonstrate that expertise through client testimonials or case studies. Case studies provide valuable insights into the results they’ve achieved and how the SEO specialist conducts their work.
As SEO evolves constantly, an SEO specialist must stay up to date with each change and be dynamic enough to adapt their strategies accordingly.
If an SEO expert uses unethical practices such as the aforementioned Black Hat approach, this can result in your website being penalized by a search engine, causing damage to your website, brand, and business. Using SEO effectively involves ethical practices, commonly known as White Hat SEO.
SEO is about communicating your business in a way search engines can understand. If you are hiring an SEO professional to make changes to your website or give you a content strategy, they should be able to explain what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and be responsive to your queries. Search Engine Optimization can be an incredibly technical subject, so if you are looking to hire a dedicated SEO expert, you must understand what they’re saying, and this is primarily down to their customer service skills.
An Approach That Meets Your Needs
The right SEO specialist will understand your unique needs and provide a customized approach to align with your goals and your target audience. Just because somebody is experienced in SEO does not mean they are instantly right for you. You should always look for those who endeavor to understand what you want, rather than providing a one-size-fits-all service that forces you to change.
Sourcing and Attracting Qualified Candidates
When you are looking to hire an SEO marketing expert, there are several strategies you can use:
Whether it’s an employee referral, a client referral, or a direct competitor who has had a great experience with an SEO agency, this could bypass a lot of the work of hiring an SEO expert that aligns with your needs.
If you are struggling to find a qualified candidate, a recruitment agency that specializes in digital marketing could be an ideal choice because they have extensive networks of professionals and can streamline the hiring process.
SEO Communities and Forums
Specific SEO forums and websites such as Reddit or Stack Overflow can provide potential candidates who are seeking work. You can find a diamond in the rough through SEO communities and forums.
If you encounter an SEO professional whose work you have admired from a distance, they may be open to new opportunities, or at the very least, could recommend other qualified professionals.
Online and offline events can be a great way to meet SEO professionals via webinars, local meetups, or industry conferences. This also gives you the opportunity to connect with potential candidates and learn more about their skills and experience to see if you can both work together.
One of the most common approaches to hiring an SEO specialist is through job postings. You can post job advertisements on platforms such as social media sites, online job boards, and of course, your company’s website. When posting online, be sure to include a detailed job description outlining what you are looking for, including skills, experience, and the responsibilities of the successful candidate.
Evaluating and Interviewing SEO Candidates
Once you’ve found a collection of candidates, evaluating their skills, experience, and fit for your needs is a critical process you should not take your time over. When evaluating and interviewing an SEO specialist, be sure to focus on some of the following areas:
Experience With SEO
Find out how long they’ve been working on SEO, the projects they’ve been successful with, and the industries they have worked in.
Previous Clients’ Success
Ask for examples of how they’ve helped others achieve their goals by increasing traffic, boosting conversions, or search engine rankings. Request specific metrics or case studies to provide concrete evidence.
SEO Techniques and Strategies They’ve Used
These could include content creation, keyword research, and technical SEO. Their responses can help you understand their approach and if it aligns with your needs.
How They Keep Up With SEO Trends
Do they attend industry conferences, participate in webinars, take online courses, etc?
How They Work With an SEO Agency
If you are looking at hiring an SEO agency instead of just one professional, you could ask about their approach to project management, collaboration, communication, and other essential practices.
Assess their problem-solving skills by offering a hypothetical SEO challenge.
Assessing Cultural Fit and Soft Skills
Hiring an SEO specialist is as much about how they can fit in with your needs beyond their skill set. A cultural fit refers to how their values, beliefs, and behavior align with yours. If they fit well with your company culture, they are more likely to be engaged, productive, and stay with you for longer.
You can assess cultural fit by asking questions about how they approach their work, their values and beliefs, as well as what motivates them. You should also look at their communication skills, as the specialist should be able to explain complex terminology to non-technical team members. Because SEO involves analyzing data and tackling complex problems, the right person needs to have these skills and recognize that SEO is a collaborative effort that involves working with different departments like web development, marketing, and content creation. An SEO specialist should have strong teamwork skills and be able to collaborate effectively with others.
Checking References and Past Performance
Before you finalize your decision to hire an SEO specialist, it’s critical to conduct a thorough review of their past performance and references. You can gain insights into their work ethic, effectiveness, and reliability:
- When you check references, consider asking about the candidate’s knowledge, reliability, communication skills, and other soft skills, as well as how they’ve delivered results. It’s also helpful to ask about where the candidate could improve.
- Reviewing their past performance can give you a sense of how they tackle projects and what it would be like to work with them. Look at the results they’ve achieved and how they’ve overcome challenges, as well as how clients have met their goals thanks to this SEO specialist.
- Online reputation and presence, for example, through their professional website, contributions to SEO blogs or forums, and feedback on professional networking sites or freelance websites. These will help you see the bigger picture of them, their expertise, their reputation, and how they conduct their work.
- Conducting a trial project can also be a great way to assess their skills and how they will work in real-world conditions.
Making the Final Selection and Onboarding Process
When you’ve identified the right SEO specialist, the next steps involve the final selection and the onboarding process. This is a critical phase that sets the foundations for the SEO specialist’s role within your company and their ability to contribute to your business goals. Follow these components:
This should be based on the candidate’s skills, experience, cultural fit, and potential to contribute to the business objectives. Communicate your decisions promptly to all candidates.
Offer the selected candidate a job, including details about the role, responsibilities, remuneration, and other essential terms of employment.
Setting Clear Expectations
Give your new SEO specialist clarity about their role, responsibilities, goals, and performance metrics. Clear expectations from the outset can minimize misunderstandings and foster better communication and collaboration.
Depending on their level of experience and familiarity with your company or industry, provide the necessary training. Giving them time to understand your products and services, your specific SEO strategies, and your in-house tools will help them hit the ground running.
Software and Tools
Ensure they have the right software or tools, for example, Google Analytics or SEMrush, as well as content management systems and keyword research tools to work more productively.
Integrating Them Into the Team
Make sure your new SEO specialist understands how they fit into the larger organization. Let them understand the bigger picture, helping them to feel valued, welcome, and motivated to contribute to the overarching goals.
This is critical, especially during the early days. Address any concerns or questions that may arise. It’s not just about ensuring they know what to do, but also giving them a form in which to offer feedback on your approaches, fostering a more collaborative environment.
Collaboration and Ongoing Performance Evaluation
You’ve gone through the process of how to hire an SEO specialist, but the work does not end here. To ensure your SEO efforts are successful, consider the following:
Discuss ongoing projects, address any concerns or issues, and provide feedback. Everyone should be working towards the same goals, so an open forum where people feel free to voice their concerns will be conducive to a supportive culture.
Set Clear Performance Metrics
Specify web traffic growth, sales growth, and improved search engine rankings as key performance indicators. Ensure that everything is agreed upon by all relevant parties.
Regular Performance Reviews
Assess how they are meeting the goals, ensuring you review challenges, address the metrics, and plan for the future.
Provide Constructive Feedback
Offer constructive feedback, whether in positive reinforcement or constructive criticism, to help them grow and succeed in their role.
Based on performance evaluation, focus on different aspects of SEO, like link building, content creation, or trying out new strategies.
Learning how to hire an SEO expert is a challenging process because of the number of different factors involved. But with careful planning and consideration, you can find the right professional for your business. Understanding each of the above components will ensure that, with the right SEO professional, you are making the best possible decision for your business.