Hello, everyone! Welcome to the 4th issue of our email newsletter on Web Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For new subscribers, my name is Anna Tulchinsky. I am based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and I am the author of this newsletter as well as all other information posted on this website. If you find this newsletter interesting and helpful, feel free to forward it to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to subscribe.
|How to evaluate an SEO consultant|
|Why hire a local SEO consultant?|
|What can be outsourced to an SEO consultant|
|Note from the editor|
If you decide to seek additional help with your optimization project, remember that your website is your company's face. It is the first thing people see. The look and feel of your website has a direct affect on users' opinions not only about your management but also about your products. By associating impressions received from your website, users form opinions about your products and services before they even get a chance to see them. In fact, many users often even judge your products and services by the way your website looks and by the quality of content it exhibits.
An SEO consultant working on your site becomes an "invisible spokesman" for your company, a person whose education, knowledge, skills, and even personality would be manifested through your website, influencing users' decisions and affecting your company's revenue.
If you are thinking of hiring a consultant to help you with your SEO project, it is wise to ask and receive answers to the following questions:
How many industries has an SEO consultant been exposed to in the last three years? Ask for specific examples.
- How many web sites did an SEO consultant work on in the last three years? Ask to provide customer references.
- Does an SEO consultant have first-hand web design and development experience as well as user-interface development experience? Ask to provide samples.
- Does an SEO consultant have a University degree, preferably in Linguistics?
- Does an SEO consultant own an SEO-related website, so that you can evaluate their writing and marketing skills?
- Does an SEO consultant have previous hands-on Sales experience?
- Does an SEO consultant have first-hand knowledge of customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Salesforce.com or NetSuit, for example?
- Can an SEO consultant explain, in a matter of 10-15 minutes, what is involved in a typical SEO project?
- Does an SEO consultant insist that an SEO project is a lengthy endeavor that requires ongoing investment? Note that even a large SEO project, having been successfully implemented once, requires very little maintenance in the future.
- Does an SEO consultant want you to believe that monitoring keyword-purchasing programs, such as Google's AdWords, for example, is a difficult and time-consuming task?
Answers to these questions would assist you in evaluating the scope and depth of an SEO consultant's knowledge and help you to arrive at an informed hiring decision.
The largest part of any SEO project is creation of new and optimization of existing web content. This optimization involves revamping and re-formatting existing pages as well as writing and adding new ones. As with any writing, it can be done remotely, so why hire a local SEO consultant?
Hiring an SEO consultant from your own city offers a number of important advantages:
First of all, when synchronization across teams or departments is inevitable, your local SEO consultant can work onsite, thus gaining access to all participating team members as well as decision makers.
- Secondly, if your SEO consultant is working on your premises even a couple of days a week, you have a better means of monitoring the progress and quality of the SEO project.
- Third, in business scenarios where Intellectual Property issues may be involved (technology sector, for example), the mere signing of aNon-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or Non-Compete Agreement (NCA) is hardly a strong enough measure to secure your most valuable assets. What if you end up in a situation described by Google:
One common scam is the creation of "shadow" domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client's behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor's domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.
It is a well-known fact that NDAs and especially NCAs are very hard to enforce and even harder to argue in courts. Just imagine the type of expenses you would have to incur, if you would be forced to take legal actions in another country or even another city. Regrettably, you may find yourself wanting to settle on less-than-perfect terms.
And finally, consider the time you would spend arranging conference calls, writing emails, clarifying previous emails, making sure you avoid potential or correct the-already-happened misinterpretations. All of these are parts of a normal long-distance work process, but why subject yourself to additional administrative burden?
Having all parties in the same geographical location offers the highest degree of comfort, flexibility, privacy, and security. Needless to say, however, that albeit its importance, the geographical location of your SEO consultant should not be the main factor influencing your decision. Thelevel of education, writing skills, and previous SEO experience are the three most important things you need to think about when selecting an SEO consultant.
Once you learn what is involved in a successful SEO project, you will quickly see that you cannot outsource your SEO project 100%, and that your SEO consultant will be working with you or your team very closely in the course of the optimization project.
The question is what is best to outsource to an SEO consultant and what is best to do in house?
Based on my experience, I find that it is best to get your SEO consultant to do the following for you:
Explain to you and your team what is involved in an SEO project (in the form of a presentation or a short workshop). You can't manage well what you don't understand.
Conduct a critique and review of your existing website and record all pluses and minuses (it is best to have an outsider do this for you; otherwise, it is very easy NOT to find flaws and problems with your website, thus falling prey to what can end up being very expensive self-complacency).
Conduct a competitive analysis and produce a detailed report. Time and time again I see how companies dive into a lengthy and expensive website re-design and optimization project without conducting proper competitive analysis. To out-do your competition while remaining cost-effective, you need to spend 5-8 hours on each competitor. Here is a nice format you can use to create a summary report (here is a good format you can adopt). Make sure to check the following:
Website size (number of HTML pages and supplementary materials, such as white papers, demos, help manuals, product sheets in pdf, etc.)
Look-and-feel and user-friendliness of their website and whether or not it is appropriate for their business
Current ranking on search engines (use this free tool)
- Ads on Google and other search engines
- Incoming links (use these free tools)
- Outgoing links (use these free tools)
- Keywords and META tags (use this free tool)
- Whether or not their website copy is keyword-rich?
- Do they conduct lead registration through their website? What kind of questions do they ask in their registration form?
- Do they offer free web seminars and if yes, what service do they use (Techonline or proprietary?)
- Do they issue newsletters?
- Quality of their white papers and related documents
- Management team and their background
- Financial reports or VC reviews
- Other questions that will help you better understand your competition
- Page-by-page optimization of your existing pages for specific keywords
- Optimization of your Title tags and META tags as well as image ALT tags
- Creation of internal links along with a Site Map
- Creation of supplementary web content to boost your rating and create outgoing links (creating 'Resources' section for your users, for example).
- Directory listings to create incoming links (make sure you go over all links carefully)
- Enrolment in Google's AdWords campaign and other keyword purchasing programs (make sure you monitor the results)
- If you are in a general consumer business, your SEO consultant can be your SEO copywriter as well, but keep in mind that this service is expensive.
Depending on how experienced your SEO consultant is, in some cases, you can hire them for a few months to do a rewamp of your site and optimize it for all of your desired keywords.
If there are specific Web Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) topics that you would like me to discuss in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.
For related Web Marketing and SEO information, browse through theResources section on this site.