How to Tell a Google SEO Expert From a Wannabe
If you Google “SEO expert” you’ll find pages and pages of service providers. Some are good, some are bad. Some will get your website on the front page of Google, others will (unfortunately) get your website blacklisted and blocked from displaying in Google search results.
Finding a Google SEO expert is a risky gamble, especially if SEO is something you don’t know much about yourself. (This would be a pretty darn good reason to look for an expert!)
To protect the credibility of your own brand, it is critical that you interview multiple candidates and look for various clues that will help you tell who is a Google SEO Expert who will get results and who is an amateur who is still learning.
Ask About SEO Experience
First, you want to know how long a candidate has been offering SEO services, but take this with a grain of salt. It’s common for a “newbie” to exaggerate or overstate their experience. Nobody wants to admit this is their first year when competing against real experts who have been specializing in SEO for 7+ years.
With that being said, a white hat SEO specialist who is new to the industry may still produce better results than an SEO provider who has been offering services for 5 years but follows risky black hat strategies.
So what’s more important than how long a person has been offering SEO services?
Proven results are the kind of experience you want to look at.
This may come in the form of testimonials, but be weary of those. Testimonials can be faked… but authentic case studies can’t. Look for SEO experts who can share a story about challenges face by clients and how they helped overcome those obstacles. These stories don’t need to be published on their website, but you should include the following question when initially contacting each candidate. (Yes, you do want to contact multiple candidates in order to choose the best option!)
“Can you please give me some examples of your biggest success stories?”
An open ended question like that will tell you who is being sincere, and who is telling a story… especially when you do a little research to fact check. Keep in mind that every SEO provider will have their own unique perspective based on their own personal experience… that is impossible to duplicate.
Ask About SEO Strategy
Start out by asking “How can you guarantee to get my website on Google’s first page?”
Eliminate all candidates who answer with anything* other than “that is not something I can guarantee.” (It doesn’t have to be those exact words, naturally.)
A Google SEO Expert will tell you that front page placement is not something you can guarantee, but it is a goal to aim for.
Then you can ask which search engine optimization methods and strategies the remaining candidates will use to improve your website ranking.
Again, this part can be tricky when you don’t really understand how SEO works yourself. However, you can still determine if a response sounds personalized or generic. Compare the recommended strategies against previous conversations (to make sure the prior success stories and experience line up) and consider the most basic differences between black and white hat perspectives. Specifically:
- According to the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines, “any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme”. If an SEO provider focuses heavily on building back links, beware.
- Content creation is an important part of SEO. A Google SEO expert will carefully explain the difference between content made for SEO and content made for people. If web pages are edited or blog articles are written strictly to increase keyword optimization, this will backfire.
- Effective SEO requires elements performed onsite as well as off site.
- SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-time deal. (This fact is more for you because you might feel frustrated to learn that most SEO experts offer a subscription based service.)
Before hiring any expert, it’s wise to educate yourself on the details of the service first. That is the best way to determine who is truly an expert and compatible with your requirements. Believe it or not, SEO is not that complicated… but working with an expert is a convenience that allows you to focus your time and attention on more important things.
Don’t Be Cheap
If you want a real SEO expert, don’t go for the cheapest price. Skills aren’t cheap, and cheap (providers) aren’t skilled. You get what you pay for.
How Independent Do They Need To Be?
You want to hand full control over to your SEO expert and let them do it all without you, right?
If you care about how your customers view your brand, you will want to remain involved with the process as much as possible. Be weary of trusting your reputation to any SEO provider that is comfortable taking the reins because it means they don’t really have your best interest in mind.
Why You Want a Real Google SEO Expert
There are so many followers in the SEO industry, and that’s perfectly fine. However you don’t want a provider who is only going to parrot an industry leader, including their mistakes. Although SEO is simpler than you might think, it is also data driven. Extensive testing and analysis must be done, reporting on statistics that justify why certain actions are more effective than others before acting on theories.