How to Hire an SEO. Tips from Google and Others

Seems like everybody is an SEO these days! The last few years just about every web design and development company, marketing and advertising firm has added SEO to their offerings.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Optimizer: Definition from Wikipedia: SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results [as opposed to Search Engine Advertising such as PPC which is not usually considered to be in the realm of SEO] 

Unfortunately many of these SEO’s have little optimization experience. We see many “SEO’s” running basic online web checking tools then building proposals around those results. More often we’ve seen proposals to perform SEO tasks that just won’t result in any meaningful improvement, wasting time and money. One of our new clients went through two SEO’s over two years with little to show for it. When we looked at some of what the prior SEO’s had done, such as submitting low quality articles to article submission sites, it was clear why they saw little improvement. 

The problem has become so bad that even Google talks about the problem in its advice to website owners and makes some suggestions. Here are the highlights from Google as well as additional information about hiring an SEO from other sources.

Google on Hiring an SEO

Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including: 

Review of your site content or structure 
Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript 
Content development 
Management of online business development campaigns 
Keyword research 
SEO training 
Expertise in specific markets and geographies. 

Some Warnings From Google

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider: 

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue. Amazingly, we get these spam emails too: 

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. 
Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. 

You should never have to link to an SEO.
Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive. 


Google Suggests Some Questions to Ask an SEO

* Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
* What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
* How long have you been in business? 

Google’s complete article on SEO referred to above 


Tips on Hiring an SEO From Other Sources

“Choosing a Search Engine Marketing Firm”  An excellent article published on SEMPO, The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. SEMPO is a global non-profit organization serving the search engine marketing industry and marketing professionals engaged in it. 

How to Select an SEO Company. A video interview of long time SEO Jill Whalen. She covers more questions to ask an SEO and discuses some practices that should raise a red flag.

SEO Practices That Are A Waste Time & Money

SEO Myths. Which myths do these senior SEO’s agree are wasteful pursuits? An article we published in which we see if there is agreement between four seniors SEO’s, including myself, on what SEO practices are myths and boondoggles (wasteful pursuits) including these myths – 

Having an XML Sitemap will boost your Google rankings. 

Meta tags will boost your rankings. 

H1 tags are a crucial element for SEO. 

Submitting URLs to search engines is important. 

Keyword Density is important. 

Our SEO firm is endorsed/approved by Google. 

SEO is about rankings.


When to Run Away from an SEO Company by Chris Boggs at Search Engine Watch covering even more SEO boondoggles and questionable tactics including: 

SEO Landing Pages 

Reciprocal Linking 

Social Bookmarking 

Article Syndication 

Over-Optimizing Press Releases 


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