Google’s Advice On Hiring An SEO Consultant

Some people think that Google dislikes search engine optimization (SEO) consultants. This is a half-truth – Google does dislike some SEO consultants, but only because these people try to abuse or manipulate Google’s system. When it comes to SEO consultants that follow Google’s rules, Google has the following suggestions:

  1. Beware any SEO that guarantees rankings. Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science. Even SEO consultants that are very, very good at what they do are still subject to Google’s ever changing algorithm. Therefore, there are no guarantees.
  2. Watch out for unsolicited SEO offers. If an SEO company sends you an unsolicited email offering services, that’s often a bad sign. Proceed with caution.
  3. Research¬† the SEO company before doing business with them. Try searching for the company’s name, the name of the people you’re dealing with, etc. Look for reviews, and don’t be afraid to ask for references.
  4. Understand what you’re paying for. Some SEO firms try to bill for services that they don’t explain, saying the process is ‘secret’ or ‘proprietary.’ While it’s true that some aspects of SEO are kept secret – for example, I’m not going to tell you each and every specific step I go through to find the best keywords to optimize for – the general steps should be explained to you and you should know what to expect.
  5. Be careful before granting an SEO firm access to your ‘stuff.’ Before you allow an SEO firm to view your Google Analytics account, access your website via FTP, etc., make sure you’ve vetted them carefully. 98% of SEO services can be accurately quoted without accessing any of your accounts.

This isn’t an exhaustive list – you can read Google’s “SEO for Webmasters” page to see their entire list of recommendations.

If I may be so bold, I have a couple of items to add to Google’s list:

  • Look for someone who communicates well. More and more, SEO is less about technical ‘tricks’ and more about developing great content. Whoever you hire should be able to express themselves well – otherwise, how can they help develop great content that will generate links?
  • Beware retainer fees and long-term contracts. Countless times, I’ve seen businessess pay too much for SEO services. When an SEO firm says they need money from you on an ongoing basis to “maintain” your rankings, find out exactly what they’re doing for you each month to deserve their fee. Unless they can show you specifically how your money was spent and what it achieved, fire that SEO firm immediately. This practice is particularly rampant in the auto industry, so auto dealers need to be especially careful.

Anyone else want to contribute some advice?