- What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and why is it important for your business' online marketing?
- There are 10 main factors every business owner needs to consider before hiring an SEO expert.
- Read this guide to learn all about SEO, how to hire an SEO expert, what to look out for and much more.
Editor's Update 06/07/20:
Should I hire an expert SEO company? While it's possible to do SEO on your own, there's often a massive difference in the results when you hire an SEO company. An SEO company has specialised skills in all things SEO, so you can trust that all aspects of SEO are being covered. It's more expensive than doing it yourself, but if you're looking for long term results, it's certainly worth hiring an SEO expert.
There are many ways to find an SEO expert. One of the best ways is to ask peers in your professional network for recommendations on SEO specialists and agencies they have worked with. You can also research companies in your local area on Google and read reviews and client testimonials. LinkedIn is another great way to find SEO experts as people often advertise if they're open to new work opportunities on their profile. Or simply ask for referrals in your professional network.
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of improving your website so that it ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs) and is easy to find online. SEO also improves user-experience and makes it easier for users to navigate your website and offers information and actions to help site visitors solve their questions or achieve an outcome (such as buying a product).
Why is SEO important?
SEO is important for your online marketing as without it, your potential customers may have trouble finding your website and may be more likely to interact with your competitors instead. Here are some of the benefits of SEO:
- Improved SERP rankings
- More visibility
- Increased website traffic
- Increased leads
How to hire an SEO expert
Finding the right SEO provider can be a challenge and if you don’t know much about online marketing the chances are you won’t know a good SEO provider from a bad SEO provider, or what to expect from their services.
If you’re planning to hire an SEO provider to benefit your small business marketing, here are 10 factors you need to consider to help make your search for an SEO specialist easier.
1. There are no shortcuts
When it comes to SEO, there are no tricks or secret tactics that your SEO provider can use that will make your site quickly rank at number one on search engine results pages.
Long-term favourable results rely on the implementation of recommended best practices to make your website search friendly and easy for visitors to use.
If you have a quality website which provides a good experience to site visitors and is technically sound you will see the benefits of higher ranking in search results and more visitors delivered to your site.
This takes time to achieve and involves first analysing and making improvements to your website before you will see any potential benefit. It can take between six and 12 months before changes start to have a positive impact.
However, once you have optimised your website and gained some traction in search, these organic (unpaid) results will continue to drive benefits for your site.
Impatient business owners may be tempted to use short term tactics known as black hat SEO techniques to try to trick search engines to rank their site higher, faster. This is doomed to failure as search engines such as Google now have sophisticated technology to identify and deal with black hat tactics.
Failing to follow Google’s quality guidelines will result in your website being penalised through demotion in rank, making it less visible to searchers. In extreme cases, your site may be taken out of Google’s index altogether.
Takeaway: Plan for an extended period of groundwork before expecting results.
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2. Avoid ‘cheap’ SEO packages
As a small business owner, tight control of the budget is essential to your success. But when it comes to the cost of SEO, ‘cheap’ can end up costing you dearly.
If you don’t have time to research or understand what’s involved in SEO, your only focus may be on SEO pricing. Unfortunately, that may not provide the right SEO strategy for your business or put you in the hands of the right people to maximise the chance of returns.
A key principle to understand is there are no guarantees you will get results and the likelihood of your success is very much dependent on the strategy and level of SEO experience you employ.
A professional SEO provider with significant experience and history of proven results will charge you a competitive rate for their time. When hiring, the bottom line is you are paying for time spent to manage your SEO campaigns.
In general, the time you need and therefore the price you pay will depend on your business goals, the level of online competition for your industry and how fast you want to see results.
Keep in mind:
- If you want relatively fast results will you need to pay for more time
- If you want to target competitive keywords and markets you will need a bigger budget
- If you want to beat your competitors, you will likely need to invest more than they are
- The long-term success of your campaigns will depend on the quality of your SEO
The average price range for SEO in Australia
SEO takes time and professional time costs money. According to Moz, the average cost for reputable SEO in Australia (agency) is between $150 - $200 per hour (before GST).
At low price points you may find your work:
- Is being outsourced overseas at a cheaper rate to make a profit for the provider
- Comprises black hat strategies for quick results (often followed by a penalty which is at least twice as expensive to fix)
- Not suited to your business or goals, but follows set activities, and the provider expects that’s you won’t stay with them for a long period as they rely on the volume of sales at a ‘cheap’ price point to remain in business
Chose the wrong service provider and your cheap package could end up costing thousands of dollars with very little to show for it.
Takeaway: Be realistic about your SEO budget. You will need to spend enough money relative to your revenue to reach your goals and be competitive in your industry. For most small businesses with medium competition focusing on a specifically defined market expect to pay at least $1500 to $2000 per month on SEO to achieve results. If this is too high, look for a reputable freelancer rather than an agency.
[Source: Created by Leah English]
3. Open communication is essential
Outsourcing SEO activities is ideal for small business owners who can’t afford to hire an in-house marketing team.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should abandon your SEO provider and leave them to their own devices. Your SEO provider should ideally become an extension of your business and regularly call on you for information and feedback.
You should be asked for information related to a variety of aspects of your business, not just your products and services. You should also be asked for feedback on any work completed. This may involve approval of blog articles if content marketing is a part of your SEO strategy.
Timely completion of collaborative tasks is one key to SEO success.
It is also important to notify your SEO provider if planning any changes to your website. Your website is the heart of your SEO strategy and even the smallest change could potentially undo months of hard work.
If you have an independent web developer, your SEO provider should be able to liaise with them directly and ensure any changes that are made are done in accordance with SEO best practices.
Takeaway: You will need to be involved with your web marketing strategy through responding to questions, providing information and approving projects and campaigns in a timely fashion. Your SEO provider won’t appreciate attempts to micromanage, but they should regularly liaise with you and keep you up to date with their activities and results.
[Source: Purchased at www.depositphotos.com]
4. Understand how SEO will work within your wider marketing strategy
When integrated with a holistic marketing strategy, SEO has significantly greater potential to generate the return on investment.
Your SEO strategy will cover a wide variety of areas relating to your website, such as technical, onsite and offsite optimisation. However, integrating SEO into your social media, email marketing and paid search strategies can help to magnify results and further benefit your website.
This is especially true for content marketing. A great way to boost your SEO strategy is to share the articles that your SEO provider creates for you. By sharing your content on social media and linking to it in email marketing campaigns you are growing your organic audience, directing them to your website, and amplifying the impact of your SEO strategy.
While your website is your strongest marketing asset, your opportunity for success with it is only as high as the quality of your business products and services.
SEO can’t make up for poor business or marketing practices. Before seeking out an SEO provider, evaluate the success of your current marketing strategy. If it needs improvement, look for a provider with relevant experience who will be able to help you integrate and improve both your SEO and general marketing strategies.
Takeaway: Understand how SEO will work within your wider marketing strategy and ensure a consistent approach.
5. Be prepared to make changes to your website
The results of this evaluation could mean you need to make a major design, structural and technical changes to your site. It is important to implement as many of the recommended changes as possible to ensure your SEO strategy is built on a solid foundation.
These changes may require the expertise of a web developer. If you don’t have a web developer your SEO specialist should be able to recommend one fit for your needs. This will be a separate cost and is important to factor in when evaluating how much you’re able to spend on SEO.
Once initial changes are made to your website, be prepared for your SEO provider to request smaller, regular changes over time. SEO is not a set and forget tactic, it requires regular tweaking and adjustments to strategy to achieve success.
Takeaway: SEO is dynamic and frequent changes to your website and tweaks to your campaigns will be needed to achieve and maintain strong results.
[Source: Purchased at www.depositphotos.com]
6. Know the pros and cons of hiring an SEO agency versus a freelancer
Choosing between a marketing agency, specialist SEO agency or freelancer will depend on your budget, business size and business goals.
While all options have pros and cons, your final decision should ultimately rest on the ability of the chosen party to assist in meeting your business goals.
An agency comes with benefits. If the agency is a specialist SEO agency, they will likely employ a team of established professionals who have an in-depth understanding of online marketing practices.
This provides a resource for you to call if there is ever an issue with your website. Or, if your account manager is unexpectedly unavailable, you can be assured there will always be someone within the agency to help you.
Freelancers are often cheaper when compared to an agency. If you have a micro business or don’t have the budget to support a fully integrated SEO strategy, this might be the option for you.
There are some talented SEO freelancers in Australia, however, it is important to keep in mind that they won’t have the same resources as an agency. Additionally, if they suddenly become unavailable or slip behind with work it could put your SEO at risk.
Takeaway: Your choice of SEO provider should reflect your budget, business size and marketing goals.
7. Ask about previous experience and clients
When researching potential providers check their team pages and see what kind of experience their employees have. These employees will likely be working on your account so it’s important that you are confident in their ability to achieve results for your business.
When meeting with potential providers ask for case studies on current and previous clients. Evidence that this provider can consistently achieve positive results for clients is a good indication that they will be able to do the same for your business.
The SEO and online marketing landscape is constantly changing. It is important that your SEO provider shows an understanding of current trends as well as a commitment to ongoing learning and developing to sustain positive results.
If you are looking for an SEO provider who also offers AdWords services, look for the Google Premier Partner badge. To become a Google Premier Partner an agency must demonstrate advanced AdWords knowledge, meet spend requirements, deliver agency and client revenue growth and preserve a satisfied client base. The badge is extra peace of mind that you have Google trained and qualified specialists working to grow your business.
Takeaway: Do your research, check the qualifications of the people who will be working on your SEO.
8. Good SERP rankings aren't guaranteed
Reputable SEO providers don’t promise search engine rankings because it’s impossible to determine the potential of a site to rank within a set period. Even Google advises to steer clear of providers that make such claims.
Although rankings are one metric that can help gauge the success of your SEO campaign, it is important not to place too much focus on them. Your overall goals should be to build targeted traffic to your site, increase brand awareness and see a return on investment.
A position one ranking for a keyword that does not represent what your potential customers are searching for will have little impact on revenue for your business. Relevant keywords put your business in front of a targeted audience and build awareness of your brand, increasing the revenue potential of your site.
Takeaway: Don’t focus on keyword rankings as a sole measure of your online marketing success.
9. Measure your SEO activity
A major benefit of SEO is the ability to measure and collect data about activity on your website and use that information to help shape your business tactics.
Your SEO provider will use tools such as Google Analytics to gather information about people who visit your website, how long they stay, what pages they visit and what actions they perform.
Completing set actions (such as a purchase or filling out a form) is called a conversion.
These conversions can be assigned a value based on the likely revenue they will yield for your business. Regular reporting from your SEO provider should demonstrate how SEO activities are helping to drive conversions and what value they are having for your business
You should work with your SEO provider to set goals that equate to real value for your business rather than vanity metrics.
Rather than obsessing over keyword rankings, your SEO should focus on the conversion rate of users or the percentage increase of organic visitors to your website.
It is reasonable to expect regular reports. An SEO provider who withholds results or tries to confuse you with vanity metrics and industry jargon should be avoided.
Takeaway: Ask about regular reporting schedules and what measurements your SEO provider will typically provide in their reporting data.
[Source: Purchased www.depositphotos.com]
10. Content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand
SEO goes beyond optimising your website and building links. There are many techniques an SEO provider could employ to improve your online presence and meet your business goals.
Content marketing is the process of creating engaging high-value content that will drive traffic to your website and encourage customer action. Content marketing involves creating onsite content (content found on your website and blog) as well as offsite content (placed on other people’s blogs or locations other than your website).
Offsite content can include relevant and valuable blog articles written by your SEO and outreached to relevant sites. The article will ideally contain a link back to your site, increasing the authority of your site in the eyes of the search engines.
The content your SEO creates for you can also serve as content to share on social media and in marketing emails. Linking these posts/emails encourages referral traffic to your website. Content marketing can also increase brand awareness and help develop a loyal customer base.
If link building is a part of your SEO strategy, content marketing or ‘natural’ editorial links are the best way to go. Avoid non-editorial links and building link networks to spam and low value sites as this can result in your site being penalised by Google.
Takeaway: Producing engaging, high quality content is a key component of most successful online marketing campaigns. You will likely need a content marketing strategy as part of your SEO efforts and to help achieve your online marketing goals.
Bonus: Google’s advice on how to hire a good SEO expert
How will you choose your SEO provider?
At the end of the day, the key to picking the right SEO provider lies in their ability to work collaboratively with your business to help achieve realistic business goals.
By keeping these 10 things in mind, as well as researching some questions to ask potential providers, you’re giving your business the best chance of online success.
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