“PYO strawberries” are words usually found on a hand painted wooden sign at the side of the road in the British countryside during the summer months. It means “Pick your own strawberries” for the non-countryside types! This can be adapted to the SEO world too. This post is aimed at business owners who want to hire SEO’s but aren’t experts themselves or who plain know nothing about SEO.
I am often asked who I recommend to do an SEO job or whether a particular SEO is a good choice. I can recommend some very good experts, but it’s far more useful to be able to pick your own. You will know exactly the kind of person who will fit well within your team, and the sort of background you’d like them to have. It’s not easy however to know for sure that this expert is indeed an expert or a charlatan.
I have no idea about car engines or even how cars work so it’s not going to be easy for me to know if a particular mechanic is going to rip me off or whether s/he is going to do a good honest job. Word of mouth (WOM) is a common way of picking a good one, but a double check never hurts. I would ask a knowledgeable friend of mine what are good questions to ask and what the responses should be. If my tires don’t need changing (because my friend told me so), and the mechanic says I need to change them, then alarm bells go off. The same sort of technique can be applied to choosing an SEO.
Here are 5 useful filter questions to ask:
- Why is PageRank important?
The PageRank scores which we have access to via Google give an idea of how important Google thinks the site is. It is an abstraction and not an exact measure, so success will not be solely based on this score. PageRank uses the links between sites to establish which ones are more important. The more quality links in, the better. PageRank is not something that your SEO should be focusing on to be honest. They be telling you about how measuring conversions is far more important to you.
- Will you optimise my content for LSI?
It isn’t necessary to optimise for LSI (Latent semantic indexing). The the content will be optimised based on relevant keywords for the business and written for the user. LSI is a very old technique which has more than changed since it was first introduced. Only Google knows which techniques they use to analyse text. Paying attention to semantic fields is of course very useful though. Don’t trust an SEO who says that they will optimise you site for LSI. They can’t. And it’s pointless.
- How much time will it take you to get my site to #1 for my target keywords?
There can be no real time frame as it depends on such a large number of factors. Conversions are far more important than how high you are in the rankings. Being at #1 for a term which brings you no revenue is useless. While rankings will be monitored regularly, this information will feed in to the rest of the data gathered about the site to determine how well it is performing.
- How will you increase my inbound links?
The discussion should be about finding sites that are in your niche and which will draw in your target audience as well. Using social media methods to build quality link volume is a good strategy too, and would indicate that this expert maybe has experience in social media marketing as well. You can ask about this also. If they start telling you that they will get reciprocal links, buy links, and submit to lots of directories, the alarm bells should be ringing.
- Will you submit my site to the search engines?
You do not need to submit your site to the search engines. If they start telling you about how they’re go through this process for you and say yes, then back away immediately.
This technique should weed out the bad ones from the others. I do believe that SEO and social media marketing (SMM) compliment each other very well, so if an SEO is proposing using that in conjunction with the SEO efforts, by all means consider going ahead with this. When it is well managed and transparent, it can work wonders for you.
The big name SEO’s out there are an easy pick but there are also a lot of very very good little guys out there who will do an excellent job for you. Picking someone local has its advantages because you can meet up face-to-face as often as you need to, but having someone in a different country is easily managed through skype, email and collaboration environments like Basecamp.
Now you’re satisfied the SEO is an expert:
Once you have picked your expert and you are happy with them, you must also be prepared to trust them. They will ask for certain things to included on the site like additional text for example of even for a site redesign in an extreme case. Ask as many questions as you need to but now that you have hired them, let them do their job. There is a temptation to take the clear and accessible explanations to mean that it’s easy. It’s not, and the expert has experience and specialist knowledge that you don’t necessarily have. Trust them
So to sum it all up:
If the seo says “I will focus on pagerank, optimise your site for LSI, get you to #1 in a week, and submit your site to a load of directories” – run for the hills screaming.