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Web Marketing: How to Find an SEO Professional

A good SEO professional is someone you work with for months or years. She can advise you in web marketing strategy and help you make long-term improvements to your website. And she is also aware of your business objectives beyond higher rankings or more traffic. Try the following places to start your search:

  • Talk to other business owners. Find out whether they’ve worked with anyone, and if so, how they liked that person. Referrals are still your best information source.

  • Check industry associations and analyst websites, such as SEMPO or SEOMOZ. Both have marketplaces where you can request bids, and both provide lists of members or recommended vendors.

  • If you’re looking for someone local, search for search engine optimization. If an SEO consultant can’t get a top-10 ranking for that search, consider using another consultant.

Avoid looking in the following places:

  • In your inbox: Never talk to an SEO professional who e-mails you out of the blue.

  • Any website or professional who guarantees you a ranking: No honest SEO professional does this.

  • Any website or professional who asks you to put links to his other clients on your website: That’s a link exchange network.

  • Any website or professional who emphasizes optimizing your meta tags: Optimizing meta tags is only 5 percent of the battle.

How to check qualifications

Narrow your search by checking a few qualifications. Take these steps:

  1. Search Google Blog Search for the company name.

    Check for angry posts. You are bound to find a few, but if you see a long history of complaints, think twice.

  2. Visit a firm’s website in Firefox, with the Google Toolbar installed.

    What is its PageRank? Don’t worry if it’s low. But if it’s 0, the company might have been penalized by Google.

  3. Type the first key phrase in the company’s title tag into major search engines.

    How does the company rank?

  4. Read the firm’s blog.

    What’s the company’s philosophy? Make sure to find a firm you’re comfortable with.

  5. Call the firm.

    Talk to representatives and make sure that you’re comfortable working with them. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them.

What to ask an SEO professional

Before you start working with an SEO consultant, get the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the consultant’s SEO process? What can you expect to see happen in the first month? The process should make sense to you. If he can’t explain it, don’t hire him.

  • What is the first thing he would do on your site? The SEO professional should look at your website before speaking with you or look at it later. Either way, don’t demand a lot of information — this is what you pay him for, and he shouldn’t have to give information away for free.

  • How are results reported? If he mentions ranking reports, don’t hire him. Traffic matters more than rankings. Any good SEO pro will know that.

  • How long has he been an SEO professional? There’s no specific right answer here, but a response like “six months” should give you pause.

  • If you’re unhappy with the service, can you end your contract before the scheduled end date? Many unethical agencies bind you to a contract and charge your credit card month after month.

  • How often will he speak with you? Your SEO professional needs to periodically review results and strategy with you.

  • Does any service cost extra? Many SEO firms charge extra for copywriting and other work. That’s fine — just make sure that you know before you start.

Don’t worry about specific answers to these questions, except where noted. The main thing you’re trying to get is an impression of the person or company you’ll be working with.

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