If you’re the owner of a small business, you’ve got dozens of tasks on your mind: generating leads and sales, personal branding, social media marketing, employee payroll…the list goes on and on.
How much thought and effort have you put into search engine optimization?
This is the process of attracting organic (free) traffic from the search results in search engines. You need your business to appear high-up in the organic results or potential clients won’t even know you exist.
Do this process right, and you’ll get targeted traffic landing on your website to learn more and/or buy what you’re selling. Fail, and your potential clients will find your competitors without even knowing you exist.
Often, small business owners are trying to make small marketing budgets stretch. They may even take search engine optimization upon themselves, cobbling together a DIY campaign that doesn’t get results or ultimately damages them.
Or, they hire a company that’s making them lots of false promises, like "You’ll be #1 in Google!" (Nobody can promise you that, by the way).
Here are three compelling reasons to hire a pro if you’re wondering "Should I pay for SEO?"
1. You benefit from an expert’s experience and knowledge.
Although nobody but Google knows the answer, it’s widely estimated that there are 200 factors used by Google's search algorithm to rank websites and pages.
This part of your marketing is a LOT of work and responsibility—are you willing to do it yourself or trust your company’s success to an overseas firm that offers you rock-bottom prices?
If you hire the wrong company, it’s not just about poor results. Many of these companies employ illegal techniques. These are shady practices that Google will punish you for, perhaps even by removing you from search results entirely.
A good search engine optimization strategist is on top of the ever-changing rules and trends and will play by Google’s rules. They will evaluate your competitors and help you create and implement a strategy that will get results.
2. They’ll help you create a better user experience.
When it comes to SEO outsourcing, it’s important to look at it as a holistic process. Their efforts should impact your entire website, not just the pages with optimized content.
That’s why it’s essential to find a reputable marketing company that doesn’t just focus on keywords. While targeting the right keywords and using them the right amount of times throughout your website is key, there’s more to it than that, such as:
• How fast your site loads
• If your navigation is user-friendly or not
• Mobile friendliness
By hiring a well-rounded marketing company, your strategy isn’t just focused on keywords, but on other essential factors that can make or break your success.
3. They’ll analyze the data.
It’s one thing to make changes and test out different things, but how are you measuring your success or lack thereof? You’re only going to see results and improve what isn’t working if you’re diving deep into your stats and making adjustments.
If you hire an SEO specialist, he or she can provide you with stats such as:
• Number of visitors
• The keywords people are using to find your site
• Bounce rate (how many people are landing on a page, not interacting with it and leaving)
• What content visitors are interacting with
• How much traffic you’re getting from social media
It’s unlikely that you have the time or training to look closely at your analytics and pull out the relevant data. By opting for paid search optimization, you can focus on what you do best within your business.
Questions to Ask Before You Hire an SEO Specialist
You need to look at this process as a job interview. You’re hiring a VIP for your company—the person who is going to attract visitors and keep them on your site.
Before you hire another person for your team, here are six questions to ask your potential new employee:
1. Can you guarantee that our site will rank #1 for a search term?
This is the first question you should ask, because if the answer is "Yes," they’re not a reputable company. Like I mentioned above, nobody can guarantee this.
2. How do you plan on improving our search engine rankings?
If your consultant or firm is good, they’ll have a tried-and-true search engine optimization strategy they’ll happily share with you. Watch for vague answers around linking or keyword research—there’s much more to it than that.
Speaking of links, as them about how they plan on building links. One good backlink is worth more than thousands of low-quality backlinks, and some consultants will try to wow you with the number rather than the quality.
3. What’s your reporting process?
Ask your potential company what metrics they track. You need to be informed of what’s happening, and usually companies send a monthly report (at least). Be wary of those who don’t have a solid schedule to keep clients in the loop—this is often because they don’t have enough good results to share.
4. Do you optimize for voice search?
When you hire someone, they need to think beyond the right-now and focus on the future of your business. A short-sighted strategy isn’t going to get you results in the long run, and voice search should absolutely be on your radar.
According to ComScore, 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020, so you should be optimizing your website for voice search now.
5. Can you provide referrals or testimonials from clients?
A reputable company should have online referrals that include the names and organizations of those who recommend them, either on their company site, or on Google or Yelp.
If someone doesn’t have any examples of past successes, they’re not going to be able to take your business to the next level.
Here’s a good trick: ask them which client has been with them the longest. If it’s under a year or two, run! That means that they probably employ short-term techniques that don’t last.
6. Why should I hire you?
Listen for red flags like "We’re the cheapest" or "We get you the largest number of links." You want to hear that their plan involves a longer-term strategy with research, implementation and testing.
These are some great ways to help you find a reputable, professional business to tackle your SEO needs. If you’re asking, "How much does SEO cost?" my answer is: that depends. A trustworthy firm will work with you to find the package and pricing that’s best for your business.
Hiring an SEO specialist is a big decision, and there’s a lot at stake.