Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consulting is becoming very popular these days, and for good reason, because the internet is growing and being ranked highly is more important than ever. But as a business owner, you might be asking yourself these questions:
– What is an SEO consultant?
– What does an SEO specialist actually do?
– Do I need to hire someone to do SEO for my company website?
Well, typically a “consultant” of any kind is an expert on a particular topic and they are paid to give advice about that topic by individuals or companies who need it. So in that way a SEO consultant is no different. They are an expert on search engine optimization and are paid by businesses and site owners to give them advice on how to get higher rankings, more targeted traffic, and ultimately more profits for their websites.
At the very least, a professional SEO consultant or consulting firm should have a lot of experience and expertise in the following areas (plus a lot more)…
This is the stuff you do on your site. Most people tend to think of SEO as an off-site strategy, which typically means link building and social signals, but there are a lot of things that need to be done on your site before any of the other techniques will work. Basically your website needs to be “search engine friendly” in order to rank well, no matter what you do, and your SEO consultant should be able to advise you in what you need to do on your site to get it ready to rank.
Here are some of the on-page factors that your consulting company should be able to assist you with:
(Note: I am not going into much detail on any of these because this post would turn into a full book if I did. Your search engine optimization specialist can fill you in on all the details — and make sure they do, or don’t hire them!)
* Title tags – Getting a title tag right is a lot harder than you might think. And a properly optimized title tag can work wonders for SEO.
* Description tags – Pretty much the same can be said about this tag as with the title. It’s very important for on-site search engine optimization but not easy to “get right” unless you are a professional.
* Meta tags – In addition to the title and description there are a lot of other meta tags that may or may not be important, depending on your particular website and situation. The SEO guru that you hire should be able to advise you on these.
* Quality content – The most important part of any website and vital for achieving high search engine rankings. But are you pages actually well written with truly quality content from the perspective of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines? You probably think so but you might be surprised!
* Keyword density – Something else you don’t want to mess up. Too little and you might never rank for the terms you want to rank for, too much and you might be penalized for over-optimization. It’s a fine line to walk!
* LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) – The basic summary of LSI is that the content of a website are crawled by Google and other SE’s in which the most common words or phrases, along with their synonyms and related words, are identified as the keywords for each page.
For example; if the title of your page was “Animal Facts” the search engines would expect to find other words related to that in the content of the page – such as dogs, cats, birds, etc…
This helps you rank higher because the SE’s realize that your page/site is truly about the subject. Plus, you may also rank for LSI terms in addition to your main keywords.
* Site structure – Are your pages using structured data to support listings? Can search engines crawl your site easily? Are duplicate content issues being handled correctly on site? Is the design SEO friendly? These are all things your consultant should be able to tell you and help you fix if needed.
* Headers – Are your heading and sub-headings using the correct HTML tags and proper keywords?
* Site speed – This is increasing in SEO importance as everything on the internet gets faster and faster. People are impatient so your site needs to load very quickly for best results.
* Mobile friendly – Sites tend to show up very differently on devices such as smartphones and tables than they do on regular computers. The world is becoming increasingly mobile and more people are getting online via mobile devices than they are computers these days. So it is very important that your site is mobile friendly and optimized correctly for it.
…and a lot of other things! They need to be very good at optimizing your website or teaching you how to do it yourself. You are hiring them because they are experts at this stuff, so be sure they really are before handing over your money.
Once again, I won’t get into any real detail on the various off-page SEO strategies simply because it just isn’t feasible. There are hundreds of entire courses, ebooks, membership sites, videos, blogs, and all sorts of other stuff devoted strictly to this subject and it can’t be taught in one post. That’s why you are looking for an SEO agency, so their experts can either teach this stuff to your team or do it for you. I’m just giving a quick summary so you know what you don’t know, and can make sure your prospective consultant does!
* Link Building – This is one of the most important parts of SEO, but there are some good ways to do it and a lot of horrible ways to do it. You need to know the difference and do it right. Few things, if any, can boost your rankings more than getting the right backlinks. And nothing can destroy your rankings and the future of your website or business faster than being penalized from using bad link building tactics. It’s absolutely crucial that this is done correctly!
* Social Media – This is growing significantly in importance as a ranking factor. In fact, it is now one of the most important parts of SEO. Is your content getting posted on social networks? Does it get shared by trusted and respected people in your industry?
The more likes, shares, tweets, plus ones, pins, stumbles, diggs, favorites, and any other social media love your site gets the better it will be for solidifying your rankings in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Not to mention the fact that those things will bring in a lot of direct traffic and give your business branding a huge boost.
* Videos – In many ways videos are the future of the internet and video marketing is the future of SEO. YouTube itself is the #3 most visited website in the world and the #2 search engine in the world behind only Google, who coincidentally owns them.
Videos that are optimized correctly tend to rank very well, and typically do so much faster than a regular website would. They are also great for links, exceptional for exposure and branding, and are awesome content all in themselves. Plus, they get shared and re-posted far more than text content does.
* Content Marketing – People have become blind to most forms of advertisements. They don’t notice banners, they skip TV commercials, they ignore billboards, they have satellite radio or simply tune out radio advertising, they are figuring out the difference between PPC ads and organic listings, they don’t open promotional emails, and so on. Traditional marketing is dying fast, both online and offline!
So content is now the present and will be a large part of the future of marketing, especially online. Simply put; effective internet marketing is not possible without great content in this day and age. And that certainly includes SEO – even more so than most.
Your SEO consultant will need to know how to create useful free content and share it around the web in a way that attracts targeted traffic to your site, turns those visitors into prospects, and then converts them into buyers. Then, keep the content attractive enough to turn those people into repeat customers. It’s not easy but someone has to do it.
Anyway, internet marketing encompasses a lot of strategies, which includes the things above, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to it. And search engine optimization is under that huge umbrella of online marketing in which a lot of the tactics used overlap each other and help in more than one way.
What NOT to Do!
When it comes to search engine optimization there are a lot of things that you shouldn’t be doing. These are often times more important than what you should do. Avoiding these things is vital to your website’s success online! You can do 100 things right and just one mistake can completely ruin your rankings, get you penalized, or even banned. It is very important that the person or company doing SEO consulting with you knows what NOT to do and helps you avoid them.
Here’s a quick summary of just a few of those things:
* Over-optimization – Using your keyword too many times inside your content or in your link building efforts.
* Unnatural linking – Too many links from one type of site, too many dofollow links, using the same anchor text over and over again, and so on.
* Link spamming – Blasting your site with links from anywhere and everywhere. Less is often more when it comes to SEO.
* Low quality links – You definitely want quality over quantity in this day and age of search engine optimization. Just a handful of super high quality, relevant links will beat out hundreds of low quality links any day.
* Certain types of links – Not all links are created equal. These days there are some link building tactics that can do a lot more harm than good. Your consultant should know what they are and make sure your site stays far away from them.
* Bad content – Spinning, copying, plagiarizing, or simply writing low quality content can be detrimental to your website in many ways.
The SEO industry is always changing. This is due a large part to the fact that Google and other search engines are always updating their algorithms (ranking factors) to stop spam and other shady tactics. So, a true SEO expert will stay on top of the constant changes in order to be up to date with the industry at all times.
Ask the company or consultant you are considering hiring a lot of questions about updates to be sure they are not using outdated strategies. Before talking to them you can always do a search for “Google Algorithm Change History” to at least get a quick idea of what important updates have happened recently. That way you can at least somewhat test their knowledge before hiring them.
* Intimate knowledge of your area – While it’s true that an SEO specialist could technically be anywhere in the world and still do their job effectively no matter where you are located, there are still some distinct advantages to hiring one who knows your city/area well. They will have a better understanding of approximately how long it might take to rank a site based on the typical time frame in your location, how much it should cost, the competition level, and more.
For example, we at BAM have ranked websites for businesses all over the world, but the majority of them have been in the Des Moines, Iowa area because that’s where our main offices are located. So we have a good understanding of what it takes to get high rankings for a local Des Moines business more than someone out in Los Angeles or New York would. Even though they could probably get the job done, we have an advantage from being in the Des Moines area and knowing the online landscape of it well.
Plus, you can actually meet with a consultant who is in your area if you want to. There are advantages to that if you are the type of person who likes some real face time with your consultants. Although, in my opinion, you really don’t ever need to meet with your SEO expert, but that is a personal choice.
* Most concerned with increasing your profits online – Every internet marketing specialist or online business consultant of any kind should be most concerned with maximizing your profits. After all, you hired them for their expertise in digital marketing. They should be able to help you get the highest return on investment possible for your business.
* Actually know how to do SEO the right way – Make sure the person you are hiring knows what they are doing. This might be difficult to judge since you likely don’t know how to do it either but you can get a good idea by asking questions, looking for testimonials and recommendations, and any other research you can. If you are hiring a large marketing company or a generic advertising firm, you might think you are safe because of their size, but really you need to be extra careful on this one. A lot of these big companies put SEO on their services list but they are far from being experts at it. Many don’t have a clue how to do it at all.
In fact, I’ve been told from a very reliable source who used to work a large agency that he was the only SEO specialist there who had ever actually ranked a website or done any other type of SEO before being hired. Yet, they had a whole search engine optimization team who were working for clients acting as if they truly knew what they were doing. So if you are talking to one of these big agencies then make sure you have a personal consultant that will be working with you and your website who really has the knowledge and experience to actually help you properly.
And that, my friends, is more or less what SEO consulting is all about. Clearly this is just a very basic summary and there is a LOT more to it. Plus, search engine optimization is an ever-changing industry, so there’s always different things to keep up with. But at least now you have a much better idea of what they are, what they do, why you need them, and some things to look for in order to ensure you are hiring the best person for the job. Your business success may depend on it so choose wisely!