What to look for when hiring an SEO consultant

“Good SEO consulting work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”

– Jill Whalen

As a leading SEO recruiter, one of the most common requests I get from employers looking for freelance help is for SEO consulting. The good ones are worth their weight in one of the rare earth metals, if not gold. There are lots of very qualified, highly talented SEO experts out there who can take your business to new heights. If you’re a business owner dipping your toe into the SEO waters for the first time, here’s your “red flag” list:

1. The SEO expert uses the word “guarantee.” There is a lot more to SEO consulting than earning the top spot on a search engine results page, and any consultant who tells you that they can guarantee top ranking for a given keyword has been eating some bad mushrooms. They should also explain that improvements can take several months. Any one who promises an immediate quick fix is to be avoided.

2. They tell you that link exchanges are good. Using pages of your site to include links to other sites under the premise that it will increase your rank is a surefire way to land yourself on the search engine bad boy list. And once you’re on it, good luck getting off it.

3. They promise low cost instant results. That $700 SEO consulting special can sound highly appealing. Let me tell you what doesn’t sound appealing: Spending thousands to clean up the can of worms they’ve handed you. Like anything else, world class expertise comes at a premium. Good SEO consulting takes a lot of work, and good SEO takes time.

4. They claim to have a special relationship with Google or premium directory services. There is no such thing. I’ve never met anyone who has developed a “special” relationship with Google because of fast-lane SEO success. I once placed an SEO consulting specialist who kept bragging that he knew people at Google. Really? I’m actually connected with quite a few of them myself. But that comes with no special treatment or inside knowledge.

Where can you find an SEO consulting ace? Look for people writing on SEO blogs, on quora.com or even conference lists (if the conference is notable (here’s one I highly recommend), the speakers are likely to have been vetted). Or, you can call an SEO recruiter! Even if you find someone who is out of your price range, SEO’ers seem to know other SEO’ers, and they might be able to refer someone they know and trust.

Last resort…. call me!

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 80 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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