asd Like Tinder, before you try to find yourself a freelance SEO consultant, first you need to understand what your needs are and it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, maybe you need an SEO consultant to tell you what your needs are, then find the right freelancer to fill in those gaps. Unlike tinder, it isn’t about being being the sexiest seo it is about far more. Different consultants have different strengths and weaknesses.
There are three key areas that you want to focus on, they overlap of course and even within these, they are diverse.
- On site content
- Off Page (digital PR)
There are also people who specialise in data, international, ASO and more, there is also a value question as well as platform specialisms. Generally I would prefer to work with a specialist consultant than an agency, but often for businesses to get access to a range of specialists that is why an agency might be more of use. Like on Tinder, everyone wants something different
The commitment There are a few things that you need to get right at the start and the first is terms of service, in the past people would want an SEO consultant purely for a migration a particular project or just to give them an audit of the site, this would often turn into something more than a one night stand but be clear from the outset the initial agreement, what is and isn’t included.
The service Be clear who will do it – often an SEO consultant will re-write your title tags / description tags, often they will just tell you it needs doing and how to.
The quality You do pay for what you get, and whilst paying for the premium service might not seem worth it, experience, knowledge and expertise is actually the most valuable thing in a consultant.
We asked a few people who either are SEO consultants OR have worked with them for their advice on what to do and what not to do when choosing and working with a consultant
Matt Jones – Owner of Seven Hills Search
Choosing an SEO consultant to work with can be difficult and seem quite daunting at time. With so many different consultants offering varying prices, service offerings and ways of working, it can seem like a mammoth task to find the one who’s perfect for you. But there are ways to make it easier for yourself.
Firstly, assess your exact needs. Once you know exactly what you’re hoping to get from an SEO consultant, the search becomes easier. Knowing what you need allows you to drill down a large list of consultants to a smaller, much more precise list. Find SEO consultants who specialise in what you need – most of us consultants offer basic SEO elements (audits, page optimisation, etc) as standard, but do you need someone with a link-building background? Or a passion for data-analysis? Part of becoming a consultant is to have the freedom to focus on the aspects of SEO that interest us most, so if you find someone who specialises in what you’re looking for, you’’ likely get much better results.
Secondly, be realistic with your budget. This one is very important! We all know how the world of business works, customers want the cheapest possible option, service providers want as much as they can feasibly get. However, when it comes to finding an SEO consultant, your budget can be one of the most important aspects when it comes to finding the perfect fit. Most SEO consultants with a decent amount of experience behind them don’t come cheap, and that’s the nature of the industry. Whilst most SEO consultants may list off a similar list of tasks that they can do for you, you’re paying for the experience of the individual and that’s the most important thing to remember. You’ll almost always be able to find someone to do it cheaper, but an SEO consultant’s job is not only to identify and help fix SEO issues on your website, it’s to gain a deep understanding of your business, understand how your customers act and what they’re looking for, integrate with your team and/or other third-party providers to ensure a seamless experience – essentially, they’re there to apply their years of hands-on experience to your business.
It’s important to find a consultant who suits you and your businesses personality. Arrange a quick call/meeting with them initially, have a chat about how they can help but more importantly, see how you connect on a personal level – kinda like those awkward first dates where you’re trying to assess their suitability for you. The better the relationship you build with your consultant, and that’s both professionally and personally (a quick chat about personal life every call goes a long way), the more invested they become to you and your business.
Andy Chadwick – Co-founder of Keyword Insights and Snippet Consulting
Unfortunately stories of small businesses paying thousands of pounds to unscrupulous or inexperienced SEO consultants are all too familiar. SEO isn’t a regulated industry and there are no formal qualifications as such, so becoming a freelance “SEO Consultant” is an easy route for anyone wanting to an easy route into the nomadic or self employed lifestyle.
Nonetheless, a great SEO consultant is worth their weight in gold. Here are a few tips to help qualify a consultants credentials:
- Check their social channels (namely Twitter and Linkedin). Many good consultants often share their tips and results to the community. By seeing what they post and how people engage with their content you’ll not only get a feel for their personality (important if you’ll be working with them long term), but you’ll get an insight into their knowledge. It’s worth noting, I’ve worked with some great consultants who aren’t very active at posting, so they shouldn’t be discounted just because they aren’t very active; it’s just a bit more of a plus if they are. Of course most consultants will be on LinkedIn anyway which lets you see their work history so you can validate how long they’ve been in the industry and what their background is. I’d be wary of SEO consultants who don’t have LinkedIn (what are they hiding?) or have never worked in house and/or agency side as these are the most likely candidates to have just decided to become a “freelancer” (though not always).
- Check their website. Is it clear what they do and what their strengths are? Are there any testimonials or case studies that allow you to further validate their experience? Do they have a blog you can check to see how they write, how they communicate and what their knowledge level might be? Again, having a website which looks polished and ranks in itself is not always a great barometer of how skilled the consultant is; often great SEO’s have so much work on they don’t have time to focus on their own site (my own personal website is pretty woeful to be fair). But if they do have a website, it’s a great place to check and further qualify the person you’ll be hiring.
- Ask for testimonials. If they don’t have a website, or they do but there are no testimonials, they should usually be able to provide a current or previous client’s email address that they’re happy for you to contact. If you’re their first client, it could come in the form of a reference from their previous employer, providing it’s relevant (i.e. to do with SEO, whether that be in-house or agency side).
- Ask for case studies. They should be able to demonstrate the positive impact they’ve had on other sites and explain how they achieved their results.
- Ask if they’ve ever had a client they didn’t manage to get results on. Unfortunately, even the best SEO’s can’t positively impact EVERY site. If they say no, then it’s a red flag as I’d guess they were lying or are very new to the industry. If they say yes, ask them why think they weren’t able to make an impact. A great consultant should be able to reasonably explain why they weren’t able to achieve the results they wanted AND demonstrate they still gave said client some value. You want to work with someone who’ll be honest with you; even if things aren’t going the way they should.
- Pay attention to their lead time or availability. I know we all want things done right away, but if the consultant in question says they’d love to work with you, but only has xxx hours spare or can’t start for xxx weeks, its normally a positive sign. It means they’re in demand usually because they’re good.
- Ask them what their strategy is for you, and I mean specifically for you. If their strategy is “ahh we’ll do some keyword research, see what pages we need to get ranking and then carry out some on-page and off-page optimisation” then thats a big red flag for me. It’s generic bulls**t. Any consultant who’s serious about working with you or knows what they’re doing should have spent 30 minutes doing a top level analysis of your site and should be aware of any potential problems and opportunities. For example, if I was pitching to client who sold underground cable to broadband companies, I would make it clear on our initial call that there is likely very little volume for people searching for “B2B broadband cable” and so our strategy will likely rely on creating top of the funnel content, and not optimising our product pages. I’d then go into a little more information on how this looks and how we’d eventually get those who read our top of the funnel content to convert.
Berian Reed – Freelance SEO Consultant
Over the last six years, I have had the privilege of working with a wide range of online businesses ranging from colossal marketplaces to startup B2B SAAS operations. Over that time I have come to learn a few key “secrets to SEO success” when working with an external SEO consultant
- Align with business strategy From day one, focus on bringing them up to speed with the business goals and objectives. Start with the next quarter before moving further into the future. This will provide invaluable context and help ensure that they get to work on things that will immediately impact the business KPIs.
- Integrate with the team A common complaint from in-house SEO teams is that they feel siloed within an organisation, limiting their effectiveness and the overall SEO culture within the business. The same can be said with external SEO consultants. Treat them as part of the team, add to Slack, invite to Zoom parties, company get togethers etc. The closer they are integrated, the better the results tend to be.
- Celebrate the small wins I’ve fallen foul of this one many times. Whilst the larger SEO projects can naturally take months (even years in some cases) to materialise and bear fruit, there are often many small victories for SEO teams on a weekly basis. New featured snippets, indexation improvements, CTR wins, all time high keyword rankings. Share the small wins to build momentum, grow awareness and it may just act as a catalyst for the bigger projects that have been slowing down!