For a business planning to hire talent whether a potential employee, agency or a freelancer, it’s gets really difficult to ascertain if you are making the right decision. Often, businesses hire a SEO (since everyone recommends and talks about it) without actually understanding what an SEO does and if their expertise is exactly what the company requires. In this blog, we will talk about what a SEO does and how to identify the right talent for your needs.
Who is a SEO?
A SEO (Search Engine Optimizer) is a person who understands search engines. They are well aware of the best practices (also known as google guidelines) to implement in order to drive relevant traffic on to the website.
A SEO only deals with the search engines and works towards optimizing your website on SERP. They DO NOT expertise in Email Marketing, Content Writing, Content Marketing, Social Media Ads, Google Adwords, Social Media Optimizations etc.
If your requirement is all of the above, then, let me tell you – it’s not a one man job! Even if they manage to pull it off somehow, you won’t get the desired results which will lead to a bad relation. Honestly, you should only be looking at agencies if that’s your requirement.
Let’s clarify the terminologies to avoid confusion:
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
SMO – Social Media Optimization
SEA – Search Engine Ads
SEM – Search Engine Marketing (Includes all of the 3 mentioned above!)
Often, SEOs are hired thinking that SEO is SEM, but it’s different! The aim of a SEO is to ensure that the website has a lot of visibility on SERP so that, there is a constant flow of relevant traffic on the website, as well as the traffic converts either into a lead or a sale.
SEO can be further divided into 3 types, they are:
- On Page SEO,
- Off Page SEO and
- Technical SEO
These are the 3 key areas that a search engine optimizer works on to help improve your website’s visibility on SERP. Let’s go ahead and de-jargonize these terms into a language that we can understand.
- On Page SEO – Presentation
- Off Page SEO – Recommendation
- Technical SEO – Foundation
Hence, On Page SEO, Off Page SEO and Technical SEO is simply the presentation, recommendation and foundation of your website, respectively.
How to hire the right SEO for the job?
In order to hire the right talent for your SEO needs, you first need to understand your websites current standing. This is an easy process thanks to several free online tools, one such tool is SEOptimer.
SEOptimer is a free to use website audit tool available online. You can use this tool to get a basic understanding of which area of your website need you need to focus on.
ALSO NOTE – Since it’s a FREE to use tool, it won’t give you a detailed audit of your website. However, it gives you enough information to understand who you need to hire.
Simply enter your website URL in the box and click on start audit.
Once the audit has completed, you will see a similar screen as shown below:
You don’t really have to scroll down and read everything, however, if you want to then go ahead. The only valuable information here which will help you in making the right decision is right there on top. Based on the grades assigned, we can understand:
On Page SEO – Can be better.
Links (Off Page SEO) – Excellent!
Usability (Technical SEO) – Needs Attention!
Performance (Technical SEO) – Very Good!
Social (Social Links) – Can be better
Now, this is very important – ASK the SEO guy what they expertise in!
In general, a search engine optimizer will specialize in one of the 3 types. They may be able to work on all 3 however, unless you’re hiring someone with 5+ years of experience, it’s very rare to come across a profile who has mastered all 3.
In this case, it will be an absolute waste in hiring a Technical SEO Expert since your website’s usability and performance is flawless!
Hiring an On Page SEO Expert will help in improving the On Page Grade/Score but they will be weak (comparatively) in off page activities such as link-building. However, they can optimize your website to make social sharing a lot easier and help improve the social score/grade.
The right decision is to hire an Off Page SEO Expert who can help build quality backlinks to your website, relatively a lot faster than the other 2 experts. They can also help with the Social Score/Grade.
Questions to ask the SEO Expert before hiring
First you need to give time to the expert to analyze your website (at least a week) to identify the issues. They will perform this action by mostly auditing your website (in depth audit) to understand which area on your website needs attention (on page, off page or technical).
You MUST NOT share your findings with them at any point during your conversations until you’ve decided to hire them!
Hiring someone to work for you is like building a relationship and you must make sure that you’re not forming a relation with the wrong person. A knowledgeable SEO expert won’t just share his findings but an an action plan along with the audit.
Here are a few questions you need to make sure are answered if there is no action plan along with the audit.
If you have decided to go for an On Page Expert based on your analysis:
- What are my top performing keywords and pages?
- What is the bounce rate for few of the top performing pages and the website overall?
- What keywords should I be targeting?
- What are you first planning to work on and why?
- What is the strategy for the next 6 months?
- When can I start noticing an improvement on my website?
These are some of the most important questions to ask before you make a decision to hire them.
What are my top performing keywords and pages
It is important to know which keywords are currently ranking well on SERP and which pages are driving the traffic. You could be ranking at #1 for 10 keywords which accumulatively drive just 10% of the traffic.
On the other hand, you could be ranking for just 3 keywords at #1 which are responsible for 90% of your website traffic.
You could have 3-4 pages that are doing well on the website in terms of driving traffic or perhaps just 1 page that is doing all the work.
What is the bounce rate for few of the top performing pages and the website overall?
It is important to know if your website is suffering from high bounce rate. Let me explain what is a bounce rate with a simple example – If a person lands on your website, reads the content on that page and X’s out of your website, then, you have a bounce rate of 100%
If the person lands on your website, reads the content on that page and navigates to another page on your website, then, your bounce rate is 50%.
The more they interact with several pages on your website, the lower is the bounce rate. Low bounce rate is what we are looking for as, it indicates that the user in engaging well with the website. (Finds your content good)
If your top performing pages have a low bounce rate (up to or less than 35%), then, things are good! Where as if they have high bounce rate (more than 80%) then there is an opportunity to work on. It is the same for the overall website as well.
To make it simpler, if your overall bounce rate for the website is 90% then you can read that as 9 out of 10 people DO NOT engage with other content on your website, besides the one they came searching for. Whereas, if the bounce rate is 30% then, you can read that as 7 out of 10 people DO ENGAGE with other content on your website.
What keywords should I be targeting
It is very important to understand your limitations on search engines. You cannot be targeting keywords with massive search volumes when your page rank is low. Page Rank or PR is a hidden metric which decides whether you can rank for certain keywords or not.
The Page Rank improves overtime by itself and we can build links (backlinks) to improve the PR on a website. However, link building takes times and the more competitive keywords your target (high search volume), the more links you need to rank for such keywords.
Besides there are other ways that you can drive traffic to such pages which we will discuss in sometime.
What are you first planning to work on and why?
There are several ways to reach the goal and you should know how they are planning to do that. You should ask for their vision and how they are planning to achieve it. Every SEO will have a different take on where to start.
Someone might start with optimizing titles and descriptions whereas, someone might start with internal linking or creating new content altogether and optimize. This question will also let you peak in their mind and understand if their vision aligns with your priorities.
What is the strategy for the next 6 months?
Unless you have a mammoth website with over 1K pages, the on page optimizations shouldn’t take 6 months. To put things into perspective, assume you have 50 pages on your website. The on page optimizations won’t take more than 1-2 months at best.
So ask them what are they going to do next?
Will they assist with content planning or content creation?
Will they build backlinks? If yes, then how many each month?
Will they assist with social media?
Will they keep building links on website such as Quora to drive traffic?
Basically, how will they keep contributing for the next 4-5 months?
When can I start noticing an improvement on my website?
Finally, at the end ask this question. They should be able to give you somewhat of an accurate answer to this question. That is because Google can just wake up and launch an update that literally throws the entire strategy out the window.
FYI, in 2022 Google released more than twice the number of updates than it generally does. There are two updates which are fixed every year in May and November. This is when Google makes changes to their ranking algorithm and throws the entire SEO community into chaos.
Let’s see how an expert would come back to you with an action plan after the audit. We will assume a scenario where you have 50+ pages on the website with a high bounce rate and mostly all keywords ranking on page 1 are low volume keywords.
An On Page SEO Expert with an action plan
Based on the audit I have discovered that there are several areas which need attention. We need to work on:
- Optimize Titles, Descriptions and hierarchy tags with keywords
- Optimize Images to counter slow speed issues
- Use ALT TEXT to rank images on SERP which has the possibility to drive more traffic.
- Work on internal linking as the website bounce rate is too high
- Identify low competition – decent volume keywords to increase traffic
The Titles and Descriptions are either too long or to short which either way are negatively impacting your visibility on SERP. Google truncates titles over 70 characters and descriptions over 155 characters as it goes beyond the visibility limit as assigned by Google.
We also need to ensure that we strategize and re-work on a few titles with our primary keyword present in them as well as try to include more of our targeted keywords in the meta description to rank better without using black hat techniques such as keyword stuffing.
Optimizing for hierarchy tags gives structure to your website which helps the crawlers understand what the topic is about and what all topics we are covering within that article. It’s great for visitors as well as people generally scan content and stop at sections which interest them. It’s like reading a news paper, we scan the headlines and read what interests us.
We also need to either compress the current images or change the format to NextGen Formats to ensure your website loads a little quicker. You should know that your website loading time is a crucial ranking factor on SERP. Google is reluctant in placing slow websites high on SERP unless they consist of invaluable high quality content.
I also noticed that your bounce rate is high. This is because we haven’t internally linked the content well enough. Internal linking helps visitors find other pieces of information on your website which may be of interest to them. Since relevant pages aren’t linked together, you are experiencing a high bounce rate.
There are several other opportunities present which can be worked upon to decrease the website load time, however, I would only be able to suggest changes as I lack the in depth specialty required to code. I can share my suggestions with your developer and they can work on these tasks.
To perform all these tasks, it will take me 1-2 months. Ideally, just one month however, I am taking the fresh content that we create into consideration as well. I’m choosing to do this first, so that I can give 100% of my attention to creating a strong keyword strategy designed to drive traffic to your website.
Let’s talk about your keywords. I found that your website ranks for several keywords but unfortunately, they are barely driving traffic to your website. I also noticed that some of the content is optimized for really high volume keywords but are ranking on the 5th or the 6th page of Google.
I understand that your aim is to rank for such high volume keywords in order to drive traffic however, this will take time, maybe a year or two. Since the keyword has a very high search volume, most businesses like yours are competing for them. We can rank for these keywords eventually but we will have to build a lot of authoritative backlinks which is a time consuming process.
I can recommend identifying low volume keywords related to your business and creating content revolving around those keywords to drive traffic. It will be easier to rank for such keywords and will take relatively less time and backlinks. We can then strategically place links into these articles and drive the traffic on the pages which are optimized for the high search volume keyword.
In fact, we can place links of the high search volume keywords into the current articles consisting the low volume keywords which are ranking #1. It might just help in reducing the bounce rate on the website.
When we rank #1 on in top 3 for newly researched the low volume keywords with moderate traffic potential (typically between 100 – 1K), we can place links to the high search volume keyword optimized pages and create an opportunity for ourselves to drive traffic on such pages. If we keep creating relevant content then Google will eventually perceive us as an authority in that area. This is also known as establishing a Topical Authority which can help us get a significant boost for the high search volume keywords.
Again, there isn’t an exact time frame that I can share with you, however, I can assure you consistent improvement in SERP visibility and website traffic.
This will be an ongoing process and if we work based on my suggestions I can assure you that the traffic would increase between 50% – 500% in 6 months. The reason why the range is so vast is because of uncertainty of SERP. There could also be a chance that your competitor might notice the traffic increase and start optimizing for similar content which could affect the traffic share on SERP.
Sorry for the long text above, I just wanted to help you guys understand what a SEO person with a plan sounds like. In that extremely long pitch, he answered all the important questions and set the expectations as well. It seems long but if you’re talking on the phone it’s literally 5 minutes in length.
- Issues were identified and communicated
- A time frame was provided where applicable
- 2 Strategies were shared one which can reduce the bounce rate a little and one where we can drive traffic to the website.
- Expectations were set modestly and the reason behind it as well
Remember, what you are looking for is someone who has a clarity of mind and the ability to deliver. Make sure you also ask them if they have been able to achieve similar results before. Based on that you can be rest assured and hire the talent.
If you come across anyone with less than 1 year of experience, claiming that they can rank you for a high search volume keyword within 6 months, be very cautious of them. Either they won’t be able to deliver or indulge in black hat techniques and get your website banned from Google.
If your requirement is link-building or Off Page SEO then, this is what you need to ask:
- How many high quality links can I expect per month.
- Would you require content from us for guest posting or would you create it yourself?
- Can I expect PR as well (basically your articles featuring on News websites)
A beginner Off Page SEO Expert can create about 5-7 links in a month, an intermediate can create about 7 – 15 per month whereas, an expert can create more than 20 links in a month.
Remember, these are “dofollow links” that I am talking about. Simply put, there are 2 types – dofollow and nofollow links.
Dofollow links are difficult to win and takes time but are extremely valuable where as,
Nofollow links are super easy to create and barely takes 30 minutes to create 7-10 of such links.
A combination of both is required however, the one which moves the needle the most are the “dofollow” ones. Ensure you are very clear with the expert that you are looking at acquiring “dofollow” links.
There will be a time when that may not be possible because the other website has a policy that discourages giving away dofollow links. However, the expert should come back to you with a viable explanation as to why that “nofollow” link is still valuable.
It’s mostly because the website that he is trying to link with has high traffic potential. So even though your ranking may not improve with that “nofollow” link, you will definitely be able to drive traffic to the linked page.
There is a lot more that goes into Off Page SEO however, if you are a new business that has recently come online, then this point, this is all you should know.
I’m not going to talk about Technical SEO Experts here in detail because, you can read this guide or ask your developer to read it and get the job done.
I’m not going to lie, Technical SEO Experts charge an arm and a leg since they have to really get inside your website and fix the issues at the root level. It’s better to hire developers who understand the basics of search engines instead.
I hope after reading this really long article, you can at least make the decision of hiring the right talent for your SEO needs. Remember SEO can be divided into 3 types – presentation, recommendation and foundation. First understand which area needs attention and then hire someone who has keen understanding and comes with a actionable plan.
When your business starts booming, don’t shy away from hiring more talent for different types of SEO. Although, one can do all 3 with satisfactory results, hiring one for each will give you results which are beyond your expectations.
Consider SEM like your own business. At one point you were a one man army however, as you grew, you had to hire people to execute certain tasks, so that you can focus on what matters the most. SEM is similar, one person can do everything but, after a point, they too need to off load their tasks to focus on what matters the most. (their core expertise)
I hope this article has helped! Please do leave a comment below and let me know.