Choosing the right SEO specialist
Finding a good contractor is crucial for the project’s success, and relying on luck alone at this stage rarely works out later: as a rule, blind hiring results in the need to look for a better option midway through the project. In this article we will discuss the pros and contras of large and small SEO companies as well as freelancers vs. staff employees.
Common mistakes in searching for a SЕО specialist
Penny wise, pound foolish
In an effort to cut the costs, small businesses turn to freelancers, who, they believe, are just as effective as SEO agencies but have a lower price tag on their services. Unfortunately, often this is not the case. If the chosen freelancer maintains business connections with proven programmers and copywriters, then the client is in luck – but the alternative means the client will be likely stuck with contractor team members found online at the last moment, without any chance to safely test their competence. Another unpleasant possibility is that freelance SEO service providers sometimes fail to include the programming and content-writing costs in their initial offer, in which case the client ends up paying almost the same money as they would to an agency.
Some freelancers, for the lack of real competitive advantages to offer, practice price dumping. A telltale warning sign is a "SEO expert" promising to promote your website for a total of one or two hundred bucks. Guess how many hours a day such "expert" is going to spend on your project for this kind of money.
Ain’t broke? Don’t fix it!
Thinking of switching to another SEO service provider who promises a faster promotion at a lower price? Think again! Some businesses like to change their SEO contractors every six months or so to try out different approaches, but the truth is that constant changes never bring good results. Typically, things even turn for the worse, although the compound negative effect may not be immediately visible as each subsequent hire in many regards starts over.
Going for heavyweights
A big name in the industry doesn’t necessarily guarantee great service. Many large agencies assign two or three dozen websites to a single SEO account manager, which results in mass-processing of various projects with unique needs and, in extreme cases, outright abandonment of them. There have been precedents of clients changing password to the admin panel and the SEO providers requesting the new password six months later – meaning no actual SEO work done for two quarters – while faithfully sending monthly reports on the services provided! The worst is that an agency that large has no fear of the consequences, unless the client is large as well: losing a few small or middling accounts has only minor impact on their bottom line. Smaller SEO agencies do value their clients and reputation but typically have less experience.
Word of mouth
Asking around for a SEO expert among friends and business partners is another popular approach. After all, a friend of your friend is likely to be your friend as well. However, being a nice person or a good friend doesn’t make one skilled at their job – in fact, quite often it is wannabes and underachievers that need friends’ recommendations to get new business, while competent professionals usually have less trouble finding work. Moreover, in any problematic scenario interacting with someone you have hired following a friend’s advice may be difficult. The rule of thumb for working with recommendation hires is to treat them as any other contractor or employee, including checking their competence, asking all questions you need to ask, signing an agreement, etc. Better safe than sorry.
Freelance SEO Specialist
Good for small businesses.
- values reputation;
- offers lower prices;
- is flexible;
- requires no office workplace;
- typically has few projects and enough time for each. (Naturally, the above doesn’t apply to cons pretending to be freelancers.)
- is not always reachable;
- hires unproven subcontractors, multiplying the risks;
- charges separately for content writing, redesign, etc.
Clients can manage the risks associated with hiring a freelancer by signing a detailed contract – a method often overlooked. If availability throughout the day is an issue, finding a local specialist may resolve it.
On-staff SEO specialist
Good for small and medium-size businesses.
- works exclusively on your project;
- is easier to supervise and motivate;
- usually agrees to work at the office;
- can be motivated by bonuses and penalties;
- is always within reach during work hours.
- adds wages and taxes costs to the promotion budget;
- is difficult to reach while on vacation as opposed to the freelancer;
- has no personal stake in minimizing the promotion costs.
Small SEO agency
Good for medium-size businesses.
- values each client;
- is open to negotiation;
- has no big-brand premium included in the price tag, as opposed to larger SEO companies;
- has programmers, content writers, and web designers on staff.
- has little experience;
- often hires less competent specialists due to small payroll budget;
- due to the above, offers its own staff little to no motivation.
If you are lucky and the agency’s employees are experienced, you will get personalized approach and great results. Typically, an up-and-coming agency is always willing to walk the proverbial extra mile to meet your requirements, since it values both your account and its own good reputation. However, in the worst-case scenario you may get an intern who haven’t heard about SEO until this morning entrusted with your website promotion.
Large digital marketing firm
Good for medium-sized businesses and large enterprises.
- has vast experience;
- assigns multiple specialists to handle large-scale projects;
- offers one-stop services from redesign to content writing;
- has proprietary software;
- constantly participates in industry conferences, follows the latest news, communicates with leading experts, can pay for staff training;
- if the assigned SEO manager fails to deliver, readily provides another one.
- doesn’t value each client that much, since there is no shortage of business;
- fights negative feedback rather than its causes;
- includes the big-brand premium in the price tag;
- often buys high placement in the rankings instead of optimizing pages for it;
- trains account managers to respond to client dissatisfaction in non-constructive ways.
One of the best ways to evaluate a SEO agency is to go through their portfolio. Each case usually includes the client’s contact information. Reach out to two or three previous clients and ask about their experience. Be ready to take into account the subjective part of the feedback as well as the possibility of the client actually hindering the promotion of their sites. Another method is to look at the SEO agency’s job opportunities: if the requirements include a couple years’ experience or the salary offers top at 30K, perhaps it is best to pass on this provider. Entry-level SEO specialists with poor financial motivation can hardly be expected to deliver the results you are looking for.
When searching for a solo expert, look at the portfolio as well. You can also ask the top candidate to check your website for SEO errors or draw up a project development outline. While it is unlikely that someone will do a detailed audit for free, a quick once-over may demonstrate the contractor’s competence as well as uncover your website’s major flaws.
Whoever you choose, rest assured that the time you spend following these recommendations will help you avoid unnecessary expenses and find the right SEO service provider.
Our team has a proven record of successful projects and is made up of seasoned SEO experts, web designers, programmers, and content managers. Contact us and ask for a SEO audit for your website and a comprehensive, white-hat-only SEO promotion plan at a reasonable price. Have a free online consultation with our expert online or leave a contact request, and we will get back to you at your convenience.