Many business owners ask themselves this question every day! Usually these are business owners who have either (A) not invested in a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, or (B) have hired one that claims to know what they’re doing, but they really don’t! (I know, it’s sad.)
Today I want to talk about SEO, but first I want to share 5 questions businesses should ask to determine if SEOers really have the goods they claim when it comes to SEO strategies.
5 Questions to Differentiate an SEO Expert from an SEO Imposter
1. When did they start in the industry, and how?
If the answer is anything less than a year, they’re a newbie. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work with them, just realize what you’re buying. If this SEOer claims to be an expert, alarm bells should be going off. And consider this: stating they are an expert is being dishonest with you; so how honest will they be about actually doing the work?
2. Do they have any proven successes they can share with you?
Fact: when someone does something well they want to scream it from the rooftops! SEO isn’t an industry where a person needs to remain anonymous, so who did they work for, what were the goals, how did they achieve them, and what are those results? Don’t simply take their word for it. When someone claims they did the SEO, ask for a recommendation from the site they claimed to have worked on.
3. Do your own research!
Go out to Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land. Read up on the stories these news sites are publishing relating to the changes Google just made. Digest those changes (ask a different expert to explain them if you need it translated from geek speak) and then ask the person selling you on their SEO expertise about the changes. What do they have to say? Do they really understand it? And are they even following the changes Google is making? If the SEOer is worth their salt they will know about the change, or can look at it quickly and answer your questions.
4. Don’t let SEO Jargon fool you!
Sometimes the less experienced will throw out lots of jargon as a smokescreen to both impress you and make you feel like “wow, I really do need help!” Don’t wholeheartedly buy into the jargon. Jot down some of the terms they drop and Google them later. You’re likely to quickly find out what they mean, and you can pitch the terms back at the SEOer in a later conversation. (Here’s some jargon to get you started: RankBrain, 301s, 404s, SERPs, redirects, backlinks, Google Console.)
5. Are they using black hat SEO strategies?
Yes, I just used some jargon on you but don’t worry, because I’m going to explain it. Black hat SEO is basically using whatever approaches they (or someone else) came up with to rank businesses on the front page of Google—but they are cheating! Black hat SEO methods could get you banned from Google if they discover what you’re doing. You must know where your SEOer stands on black hat SEO.
An example of a strategy SEOers used in early 2009 was to put a whole paragraph of keywords on the bottom of a home page, and make the font color the same as the background, perhaps one shade off. It wasn’t noticeable to the human eye unless a user scrolled forever, but it was there and Google considered it cheating. Some would call this “gray hat,” but it is in fact shady. And you don’t want to be connected to shady! BTW… I Googled the example I’m referring to (name withheld) and they still have the keyword stuffing tag cloud on their website! Here’s a screen grab of the space below the footer on their home page.
There are many more questions you can and should ask any person you consider hiring to do search engine optimization on your website. The above is my short list of 5 important questions I always want to know, and encourage others to ask.
And now to answer the question, “Is SEO all it’s cracked up to be?”
5 Things You Need to Know About SEO
1. SEO is important.
The simple fact is that if you want search engines to find your website, you must implement SEO strategies so they can! These strategies range from having keyword-rich title tags such as H1s, H2s, H3s, having URLs that are SEO and user friendly, and content that naturally flows and integrates keywords within it.
2. SEO is more than what you see on the surface.
Good SEO practices include site maps, optimized image titles and descriptions, analytics tracking, webmaster tools, and so much more. If the person is selling you a package that only focuses on the things you can see, that is a big problem. After you hire them, the best place for an SEOer to start is with a complete audit of your website. They should provide a written report of what needs fixing along with a proposal that shows the timeframe it will take to effect repairs.
3. Quick is not the answer.
There are some changes an SEOer can implement that will make an immediate difference to your business’s placement in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), but do realize that creating a solid SEO foundation takes time. You’ll need to be patient as they do their work.
4. SEO is not “fix it and forget it.”
Google constantly makes changes, and what works today to keep your business on the first page of SERPs will not always work tomorrow. Just as your car needs maintenance, so does your website, and SEO is one of the big components of that.
5. Yes, there are many different types of SEO.
I’m not just throwing out jargon here, there are indeed many components of SEO, including:
- Local SEO – optimizing the website and business so it appears in local search results and on mobile phones
- On-page SEO – usage of keywords within the content
- Off-page SEO – links to your website from other sources
- Technical SEO – schema markup, URI structure (yes, that’s U-R-I not U-R-L), and other esoteric but critical technical terms that even I don’t know
Again, there is so much more to SEO than most people realize, and the list is ever-evolving.
Now that you understand a little more about SEO, when someone asks “Is SEO all it’s cracked up to be” what will your answer be?