Google's Advice on Hiring A Good SEO Company (includes annotations and our own Advice)
Finding transparent and unbiased advice on how to hire an SEO company or a search engine optimization (SEO) freelancer can often be very challenging.
You’ve just finished designing the website for your business or blog, and now, you are wondering how to hire an SEO?
Before I go ahead and talk about the advice offered by Google on hiring an SEO, and share our own recommendations about hiring an SEO company, let me be very honest..,
Google’s information on “how to hire an SEO” company or freelancer is the best SEO and unbiased advice I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of them).
Also, let me add and emphasize one more thing about SEO..,
SEO works better when it is implemented during the start of the web design phase.
Are you a start-up business owner thinking of designing a website but haven’t yet contacted a web design company near you?
If the answer is Yes, then let me congratulate you and tell you that you are off to a good start.
Let me explain.
Many business owners make the mistake of thinking of web design first, and SEO later down the road after their website design phase is complete.
Do you want to:
- Build a successful business and a robust online presence
- Attract customers to your store and,
- Grow your local business
Then you must think of search engine optimization (SEO) during the web design phase, and not once your website design is complete.
The other mistakes many small business owners make is to hire an SEO with the cheapest SEO price possible. This is a big mistake because Good SEO is not cheap and doesn't cost $99/month.
If you still decide to go ahead with that cheap SEO price, I must inform you that the cheap price you paid or are still paying will cost you dearly.
Do You Think You're Ready To Hire An SEO Agency?
Ready to hire an SEO freelancer?
With the sheer amount of SEO companies and fly-by-night freelancers, hiring an SEO can often be very challenging because everyone claim to be the best at SEO.
Go ahead and call your local SEO agency and ask them one of the following questions:
- Are you the best SEO company I could hire?
- Why should I choose your SEO company instead of going with your competition?
What do you think their answer would be? Do you think they will be unbiased?
So who else could you ask for advice about hiring a search engine company to help you promote your website?
I was happy to learn that Google released a “How to hire an SEO” video to help business owners evaluate and choose the right SEO expert or agency.
The video shares excellent tips on how to hire a good SEO company. However, I would like to take the tips up to another notch by explaining a little more than the short video does.
Here is the "how to hire an SEO" video with transcription, and my input.
This is what Maile Ohye (Google) outlined as the “General SEO hiring process”:
Step 1: Communicate with the SEO analyst or company you want to hire
You want an SEO analyst or consultant that once hired, will feel part of your team and cares about your business, your customers and your goals and will share SEO advice with you and recommend best SEO techniques so you can learn from them and benefit you and your business and not just be an expert in implementing search engine optimization tactics.
We've been contacted by many so-called SEO professionals (mostly from India) asking us to outsource our SEO projects to them and doing so will save us a lot of money.
There is no way to tell if the SEO consultant you're thinking of hiring will outsource your SEO campaign to an overseas company but you can still ask and listen carefully to their response. If you don't feel comfortable, then you don't need to continue the conversation.
It is important that you can reach out to the search engine optimization company (especially cheap overseas SEO agencies) via email and schedule a phone call to get to know them, and them getting to know you and your business better.
If you are thinking of hiring a small business SEO company overseas, think about the time zone difference and ask yourself...
How can you communicate with them if when they are asleep, you're awake, and when they are awake, you are fast asleep?
Important note - BuzFind never outsources SEO projects to overseas SEO companies. All of our SEO services are 100% done in house here in the US.
Step 2: Ask the SEO company you're considering to hire for references
Before you go ahead and hire them, check their references and ask them if you can talk to their existing clients.
If they don't want to share that information with you, then it is a sign to look elsewhere because you need to talk to their past or existing client to see how effective they were and whether the SEO consultant offered them guidance and whether they felt like they cared about their business.
Whenever we work with a client, we ask them if they give us permission to share their phone number so we could share it with potential customers if they ask, and to be honest, no one has said 'NO' yet.
Because when a business owner hires us to promote their small business with search engines, we become part of their team and work with them as if it is our own business.
Step 3: An audit is a MUST
In order to promote your company with search engines, a good small business SEO company will always need to perform a site audit in order to find on-page issues and technical bottlenecks that could be preventing your small business website from improving its online presence and achieve top ranking.
When doing an SEO audit, knowing what to look for, how to find site's performance problems, how to fix them and how to prioritize the SEO techniques and ideas that will boost your website's online presence and increase free website traffic is what makes a good SEO consultant.
Another Note - A good SEO company that stays on top of what needs to be done and keeps reminding you to make time to implement their ideas and techniques is a good company to partner with.
“Hi. I’m Maile Ohye, and I work with Google Search.”
Let me tell you a little bit about Maile Ohye so you understand why I recommend this video to every small business or blogger.
Maile Ohye was best known for having an exceptional talent for sharing advanced technical tips on various SEO topics in a natural way that everyone could understand.
Maile Ohye joined Google in September 2005 as a Developer Programs Tech Lead left Google on February 22, 2017.
"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 result in a reduction in search rankings."
In addition to resulting in a poor position in search engine result pages (SERPs), shady SEO practices can get your website banned altogether.
With a sheer number of SEO companies in the US and overseas freelancers vying for your money, finding the right search engine company that doesn’t:
- Employ shady SEO techniques and outdated tactics
- Use SEO template for all customers (cookie-cutter SEO)
- Apply duplicate content with different titles and URLs
- Offer blog posts only
and so on.
“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 first, it’s not black magic, and second, 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 an 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.”
Allow me to share the following important points about search engine optimization(SEO)
- SEO is not black magic
- There's no Search engine optimization special sauce to get your website top position overnight
- It takes time to achieve positive long term results (approximately four months to a year).
- No legit and ethical SEO agency can offer guaranteed SEO results
- Google will never call to provide you search engine optimization services
Beware of anyone claiming to be from Google
“A successful SEO also looks to improve the searcher experience, from search results to clicking on your website and potentially converting.”
The right search engine optimization firm will know which keywords will boost click through and convert, and which offer terms won’t.
Let us look at the following two keywords as an example:
- Search engine optimization (SEO) - This keyword is an informational term that will attract readers looking for information about SEO, or want to learn SEO
- Affordable search engine optimization - This one we call a ‘buying keyword’ that targets visitors looking for SEO services
A good SEO provider looks at your website’s:
- URL structure
and offers recommendations to improve (if deemed necessary) your website design to convert visitors into customers.
“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.”
A legit SEO professional will:
- Share Google or Bing SEO guidelines with you
- Recommend best SEO practices such as optimal page load time, good quality and relevant content, short URLs, and so on
- Go even further by recommending a good web hosting company
“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.”
The SEO analyst you hire will help you transition your existing website to mobile-first indexing to improve your ranking for mobile searches.
“In most cases, the SEO will need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements, and then see potential benefit.”
A legit SEO expert knows that it will take about 4 to a year for your website to see any improvement. If anyone tells you they can get you top ranking in a month or less, look elsewhere.
I’ve seen many promises made by SEOs and so-called search engine optimization professionals to get your site ranked in search engines within 24 hours.
As Maile stated,
SEO is not magic!
However, it is possible to get your website top ranking within 24hrs. But this is only achievable when the SEO uses shortcuts and unethical SEO techniques that will get you short-term results, and your website possibly banned.
SEO is hard work and requires a substantial amount of keyword research, competitive analysis, and quality content.
Sure, you can hire a cheap SEO company to save money. However, most cheap SEOs uses shortcuts and outdated techniques such as “keyword” meta tag which is no longer used by Google in web search.
I do not recommend taking the cheap SEO route because doing so will cost you and your business dearly.
“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 Google a response in a forum that supports both:
The SEO’s description of the issue that needs to be improved to help with ranking.
The approach they prescribe to accomplishing this task."
An experienced search engine optimization company or freelancer will describe the issue your website is facing with substantiated documents from:
- Renowned SEO companies
- Or other groups well versed in search engine optimization and marketing such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Moz, Search Engine Roundtable, to mention a few
Then describe the steps they will take to fix the issues and improve your SEO campaign.
“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 buy links, because if you search for Google advice on this topic, you’d see blog posts and videos from us that clearly explain that adding keywords to the meta tag wouldn’t help.”
Remember the old saying “Know Your Enemy”?
Just like you would perform a competitive analysis of your competition, you should do the same thing when contemplating an SEO agency.
Before you hire that low-cost SEO company, you must get to know that company beforehand because hiring an SEO help can make or break your business.
“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.”
Many SEO freelancers and cheap SEO firms will include link-building strategy in their optimization processes. However, as stated above, beware of any search engine optimization provider or company offering 1000s link building scheme or uses PBN (Private Blog Network) to build links.
Google frowns on the use of PBN or link farms techniques. Be afraid, be very afraid of public blog network and link farms.
Just focus on building quality links naturally, and you’ll be okay while making Google and your readers very happy.
“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.”
When designing and optimizing your website, always focus on your readers/customers first and search engines second.
When you put your readers first, Google and other major search engines will reward you tremendously.
“Additionally, if you’re a more established brand with complicated legacy systems, then good search friendly best practices likely involves 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.”
Sometimes the marketing company will recommend updating your site infrastructure or suggest a different platform such as Joomla! or WordPress that can help you implement SEO features to tweak your site’s marketing campaign, and make it more flexible and faster.
I believe the last “If you own a small, local business, you can probably do the initial work yourself.” statement is a bit misleading.
Unless you have the time to learn SEO (and you can) and HTML, you’ll do best by seeking the help of an SEO professional and use that time to focus on running your business.
"Check out our 30-minute video series on "how to build an online presence for your local business"
Here is the the "Bring your local business online #1: Introduction and hot topics" video Maile referenced:
"Now. If you still believe you want to hire an SEO, here's a general process.
1. Conduct a 2-way interview with your potential SEO. Check that they seem genuinely interested in you and your business.
2. Check their references.
3. Ask four (and you'll probably have to pay for) a technical and search audit.
4. Decide if you want to hire."
The above are important processes you should follow when seeking the help of an SEO provider.
A good SEO firm should:
- Care about your business and work very hard to promote your business as if it was his/hers
- A legitimate search engine marketing company should have no problem offering to share their references with you. Maybe not all their clients' reference but at least 2 or 3
- A genuine SEO agency will recommend a website audit before starting any optimization. Note that many SEOs will charge a price for SEO audit
- The SEO should not rush you into hiring them nor mention something like "this SEO offer will expire in a month" or something similar to that
I can't emphasize this enough — If you don't want to have communication problems, hire a local SEO or one that is located within your country.
"Let's break this down and start with step 1
Conduct a two-way interview
In the interview, here are some things to look for:
- A good SEO doesn't focus only on search engine ranking, but 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? And 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 a business's goals, their customers, and other existing marketing efforts.
SEO should compliment your existing work."
At BuzFind, we see every client as a partner and not just a customer. We want to have a long lasting partnership that is mutually beneficial for your business and ours.
We believe the more information you provide us about your business, your products or services, and your targeted audience, the better we can help you achieve your goals and grow your company.
"Step 2: Check references
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 our 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."
With too many difference business niches, it is almost impossible to find an SEO that has direct experience about your marketing, products or services.
Does it mean you should not hire such an inexperienced SEO?
Professional and experienced search engine optimization analysts or companies have the ability to learn about your business and understand what needs to be done. Just hear them out and let them explain how they can help your business grow online.
If you are not happy with their response, you don't have to hire them.
Again, a good SEO should genuinely care about your business and is willing to share with you all the information needed for you to make the right decision, including but not limited to helping you learn a little bit about SEO.
I said a 'little bit' because there is no way an SEO can teach you everything there is to know about search engines and how to do SEO because it:
- Takes time to learn about search engines and SEO
- Requires patience and dedication
Step 3: Request a technical and search audits
"If you trust your SEO candidate, give them restricted view, not full or right access to your Google search console data, and even your analytics data."
An SEO can't do anything to help you optimize your site for search engines if you don't give them some type of access (limited) to your Google analytics and your Google search console. Google's search console and analytics have a lot of important date your dedicated SEO analyst could use. Without data, the analyst can't do what needs to be done and do it right.
"Before they actually modify anything on your website, have them conduct a technical and search audit to give you a prioritized list of what they think should be improved for SEO."
A good SEO marketing company will always recommend changes to be made to promote your business, however, they will never make those changes before discussing them with you first.
"If you're a larger business, you can hire multiple SEOs to run audits and prioritize improvements, see what each has to say, and then determine who you could work with the best."
That is a very good advice and I highly recommend it to large businesses able to afford the cost of multiple different SEO audit.
But if you are a small business with limited resources, then you can do without multiple audit from different marketing agencies.
The SEO should prioritize improvements with a structure like:
- The issue
- The suggested improvement
- 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.
- 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.
- A plan of how to iterate and improve on the implementation, or perhaps how to experiment and fail fast should the results not meet expectations
That covers the structure of the technical and search audit."
SEO Technical Audit issues
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
- URL parameters
- Server connectivity
- And response codes to name some
A technical site audit will cover more areas than what's listed above and each audit will vary depending on the type of website you're running (eCommerce/web presence).
Usually, an SEO provider will have a customized SEO audit checklist. A marketing company's audit might cover hosting, site layout, and so on, while company 2 might not include them in their audit report.
"If they mention 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 explained it should be cleaned up for long term site health, not initial growth."
"I mention this because lots of duplicate content exists on web sites, and often it's not a pressing problem."
Many SEO scammers will tell you that your site has duplicate content that can get you penalized. They are not telling you the whole truth.
Depending on the number of duplicate content pages your site has, a low number of pages with duplicate content will not hurt you. I still recommend you take the time toresolve them, but as Maile said, they are not a pressing problem.
There are 1000s of search engine optimization scammers that can't wait to take advantage of small business owners with basic SEO knowledge. They do it via unsolicited email and phone calls.
Important Note: A good SEO agency will not cold call you or email you.
"In the search audit, your potential SEO will likely break down your search queries into categories. Like branded and unbranded terms.
"Branded terms are those with your business or website's name. Like a search for 'Gmail' is a branded term, while the search for email is an unbranded or general keyword."
An experienced SEO specialist will ask for your keyword input (keyword list) then perform his/her own keyword research and analysis. Once done, he/she will categorize keywords into branded and unbranded categories.
"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 searcher sees in search results, to when they click on a result and use your website."
What Maile is saying here is that your SEO should make sure that customers using your branded based keyword matching their intent can find your business in search results.
If you need to focus on unbranded keyword terms, then the search engine optimization company you hire should be able to recommend best ways of promoting your small business for non-branded search terms.
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 has done, 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 rankings 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
- Has poor navigation
- A useless page title, or
- Isn't mobile-friendly.
"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.
An experienced search engine optimization firm should be able to look at your content and weed out pages with obsolete content. Page with obsolete content could still ranking, however, you can further improve your ranking by
- Tweaking your content even further
- Improve your page navigation (I am not talking about the navigational menu here)
- Rewrite the page title to make it more enticing and relevant to user's query and content
- Add better and higher quality images, and so on
Improve internal linking
Your SEO might say "your site is suffering because some of your best articles are too far from the homepage, and users would have a hard time finding it. We can better internally link to your content to feature it more prominently."
The SEO you're thinking of hiring will look at all your pages and recommend the best way of moving your high quality content closer to the home page. You do so by:
- Looking at pages with quality and relevant content that are either poorly ranking, or not ranking at all in Google search
- Inter-linking those pages from your homepage, or landing pages using optimzed anchor text to boost low ranking pages
The SEO might say "you have great content but not enough people know. 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.
Search engine optimization and social media marketing work extremely well when they are combined. You should always share your quality and relevant content on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on.
Now, whenever you're sharing your content on social media, make sure you don't share the whole content with your readers/followers. I recommend writing an enticing introductory or summary of the content then link directly to the article itself located on your website.
Learn from the competition.
Your SEO might explain "here's what your competitors do well. Can you reach parity with this?, and potentially surpass them in utilities? Or can you better show customers your business's unique value?"
The right SEO to hire is one that will communicate with you, on a regular basis, about what your competition is doing to rank higher than you and search results, look at your competition weaknesses and strengths, then share with you the steps needed to take back your top ranking position.
If you've already hired a search engine optimization or a marketing company and such company doesn't reach out to you at least 4 times a month, then you hired the wrong SEO.
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 SEOs, one of the biggest holdups to improving a website isn't their recommendation, but it's the business making time to implement their ideas.
If you're not ready to commit to making SEO improvements, while getting an SEO audit may be helpful, make sure that your entire organization is on board. Else, your SEO improvements may be non-existent regardless of who you hire.
So that wraps it up, thanks for watching, and best of luck to you and your business.
Here at BuzFind, we face this dilemma on a daily basis. It is important to understand that no experienced SEO firm or freelancer can promote your business with search engines and user alone.
The same saying 'It takes two to tango' goes when it comes to search engines optimization. You have to make time to discuss your goals, ideas and respond to every email or phone calls you receive from the SEO.
If you feel you don't have the time to run your business and work with the SEO company at the same time, then I recommend you delegate the task of communicating with the search engine company you hired to someone else.
As I mentioned several times before, finding and hiring the right SEO company is very challenging and can take a lot of the time from running your business. But before you start looking, I recommend that you:
- Make sure you set enough time aside to research the SEO companies you are contemplating of hiring
- Do not rush in and hire any SEO because that decision can make or break your business
- Don't choose the cheap SEO prices over quality because choosing cheap SEO over quality and experience will definitely break your business down the road
- Once you hire an SEO, you Must also set time aside (at least 1/2 daily - they might not call you everyday though) to communicate with the firm you hired to promote your website
- Respond to their emails and/or phone calls as soon as you can - Preferably the same day
Still don't know which SEO company to hire? We can help.
One of our SEO professionals is ready to assist you
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