How to Hire an SEO Specialist Who Won’t Ghost on You

Often SEO (search engine optimization) can feel swamped in a fog of mystery, so today I want to share what SEO specialists do + how to choose the right SEO consultant for your business. I’ve even included a few questions to ask your prospective hire when you’re accepting quotes or holding interviews.

While it takes years of experience to develop as a high-quality SEO specialist, I think it’s important for people (not just my clients!) to understand what SEO is, why SEO can benefit your business, and how you can implement simple actions to optimize your business for search engines.

hire seo specialist

When it’s time to outsource SEO

But, for most of us business owners, there comes a time when we need to stop doing everything ourselves and start hiring.

Maybe you’re a web designer, developer, copywriter or agency looking for an SEO partner to assist you behind-the-scenes in delivering your (awesome) client sites, or you’d love to have an SEO specialist as part of your (outsourced) team.

Maybe you run a business and you’re thinking it’s time to hire an SEO + digital marketing specialist so more of your ideal clients can find you online.

In the spirit of community over competition, I want you to go into a discussion about SEO with your eyes open. (This post is not about how you can hire me! I’ve included some examples as a benchmark you can compare.)

What does an SEO specialist do?

Essentially, an SEO specialist works to increase your visibility online - not just your site, but your business - helping to increase both the quantity and the quality of your web traffic so that more ideal clients find you when searching on Google and other search engines.

But it really depends on the specialist, their expertise, how involved you want them to be, and how experienced they are. Some will stick purely to the “techy” side, some will provide hands-on updates, whereas others expect to be more involved in your digital marketing by advising on content and strategy, and some will do it all!

For example, on a day-to-day basis I may be:

  • Training a client’s marketing team on how to SEO their own site

  • Working with a web designer partner on delivering their client sites

  • Carrying out SEO and digital presence audits

  • Writing SEO reports (see the FAQs below)

  • Meeting with a new client to discuss their specific:

    • Long-term and short-term business goals

    • Digital marketing strategy

  • Providing SEO support, such as implementing strategies, updating sites, fixing issues, evaluating progress, verifying results...

Why bother hiring an SEO strategist?

Unlike adverts, cold pitching, and direct mail, SEO is an inbound marketing strategy (aka permission-based marketing). Instead of interrupting your prospects, you're empowering them to make their own decisions. With an SEO strategy customized to your unique business, more potential clients will discover you online, be the right fit, and choose you.

While SEO is technically free - you don’t pay to rank on search engines unless you’re buying ad space - it IS an investment of your own time away from client work and/or hiring a specialist.

What’s SEO worth?

SEO can be hard to pin a price on - the value is different for ,different businesses, but here are a few of the benefits of SEO:

  • It’s the difference between new and recurring customers finding and choosing YOU rather than your competitors.

  • Clients become pre-qualified thanks to your new SEO, so you’ll find yourself working with more dream clients that are a good fit for you.

  • You’ll use your website to its full potential - after spending time & money on your site, SEO can help you get more eyes on it.

  • Planning content becomes easier because you understand the kinds of phrases (aka keywords) your ideal customers use.

  • It gives you more time for your zone-of-genius dream-work because you can spend less time on other types of marketing.

  • The right strategy can bring more money into your business within 3-6 months.

SEO is a game-changer - more clients & cash, more freedom & time - helping you make a greater impact on the people, places, and causes you care about most.

How to Choose the Right SEO Strategist for Your Unique Business

Where can I find an SEO consultant and what should I look for?

1 | Ask around in your business networks and see if you can get a recommendation. My new clients often come from referrals - word-of-mouth is a great way to find an SEO consultant.

2 | Check out their site - have a look around their About page and blog, too.

  • Are they experienced?

  • Do you like what they’re saying?

  • Do their values line up with yours?

  • Do you get a good gut feeling from them?

3 | Read their testimonials - what kinds of results are they getting from their clients? You can even ask them if they could give you a reference from one or two of their clients.

4 | Arrange an introductory meeting or video call with them - this will likely be about 30 minutes or so and shouldn’t cost you anything.

5 | Ask them questions about their experience, the scope of the project, what services & support they provide, what working with them looks like - see the FAQs below.

What should I watch out for when hiring an SEO specialist?

“I guarantee I can get you listed for xyz popular keyword”

No one can guarantee you a certain spot on Google (page one, desired keywords, etc.). Why? Because Google keeps its algorithm a closely guarded secret. There’s no such thing as “insider knowledge” with Google, as they use artificial intelligence as well as human input to continue evolving to improve user experience. Plus, if black hat SEO methods are used to bounce you into the top, it’ll be temporary and your site will be severely penalized and may not even recover. What SEO specialists CAN promise is increasing your traffic and pre-qualifying your leads to improve conversions, which in turn brings in more customers.

self-professed seo “gurus”

It’s a great situation if their clients say they’re an expert, but it’s a whole other situation if they’re claiming to be an SEO guru themselves!

Steer clear of self-professed SEO “gurus” offering you quick fixes and RUN from anyone quickly promising you the top position on page one of Google! We can help you rise through the rankings, but it’s impossible to guarantee it.

Keywords for sale

Also, be wary of anyone selling you keywords - you cannot buy exclusive use of keywords. You can buy ads which Google will display when people type in a phrase of your choice (keyword). This is not SEO, it is SEM: search engine marketing. SEM is a perfectly legitimate tool that businesses use, but it’s different from SEO. It’s an optional extra.

Amazing results in days

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Results from well-executed SEO typically take 3 - 6 months, sometimes longer. SEO is a long-term marketing strategy which builds momentum over time, kind of like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill.

FAQs - 7 Questions to ask your SEO Strategist before you hire them

1 | What experience do you have?

Hopefully, you’ve already done a little digging yourself and checked out their client testimonials and reviews. But it’s a good idea to get a feel for their level of experience too… What types of companies have they worked with before? How long have they been working as an SEO specialist? Find out what they’re going to add to your business.

2 | Are you familiar with my platform?

Some may work exclusively with WordPress. Others, like myself, may be experienced with WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, and other platforms.

3 | What niches have you worked in?

You may want someone who has lots of experience with your particular niche. What may be more important than a certain niche is whether your SEO specialist has experience with local businesses (like brick & mortar offices, studios, food trucks, etc), product-based or service-based companies, or the needs of an e-commerce enterprise, and so on.

4 | What’s it like working with you - what support do you provide?

As mentioned earlier in this post (under “What does an SEO specialist do?”) different specialists may provide different types of services. I personally customize the support to each client and their business, typically beginning with an SEO Audit + Jump Start. This involves discussing their goals and an in-depth analysis of their brand and digital presence to identify where they’re currently sitting. And it includes what they can do to improve their visibility, strategic content & digital marketing recommendations, optimizing a number of pages & posts, plus coaching & educational strategy sessions.

Or, you may be looking for an SEO specialist to come in and train your team or to partner with you on web development projects. I happen to have experience in these areas, too.

Think about what YOU want out of hiring an SEO consultant. Get them to describe an example project and see how it sounds and find out what you are expected to contribute (time, space, writing blog posts, learning the basics, having a team member trained…?).

Will they be providing SEM (search engine marketing - ads you’ll pay for), as well as organic SEO? You should expect an SEO Audit as standard (it may look different to what I personally offer).

Maile Ohye, Google’s Developer Programs Tech Lead, shares tips for hiring an SEO consultant.

5 | What techniques do you use? How will you optimize my site?

Your potential SEO partner should be able to explain what they do without stuffing their content and chat with jargon. It’s one of my core values and I love to see the fog clear on a potential client’s face when they grasp, for example, that a long-tail keyword is simply a phrase (at least 4 words long) that a potential customer types into Google when searching for the problem you solve/question you can answer/product/service/solution you offer.

Some phrases you may hear are keywords, ranking, organic search, page speed, user experience (UX), metadata (meta descriptions, title tag, alt tags), URLs, local SEO, backlinks, on-site, off-site; and SEO tools such as Google Analytics, Search Console, Google My Business, and Yoast.  

If you’re not sure what a phrase means when chatting with your potential contractor, please don’t be shy and ask them to explain it in “laywoman’s” terms!

6 | What’s included in your SEO Report?

SEO consultants should give you reports and updates on your progress, but the type of report really depends on the strategist you hire. Many SEO specialists provide an export from an SEO tool. While this data is helpful, I don’t believe it shows the whole picture. Therefore, I build a report that’s 100% customized to your business, takes into account your specific long-term and short-term goals, and includes:

  • The findings of your SEO and digital presence audit

  • Competitor research

  • Keyword research

  • Explanations in simple “laywoman’s” terms

  • At least 5-10 custom recommendations

  • Next steps to further improve your SEO

7 | When will I get results? How long will it take to improve my search engine rankings?

An ethical SEO consultant shouldn’t make you any over-the-top promises of specific results in a certain time frame or for a particular keyword, for example:

❌ “I’ll get you on page one of Google for [keyword].”

❌ “You’ll have $10k in new business within one month.”

❌ “I’ll guarantee you’ll see 5,000 extra monthly visitors to your site in the next 3 months.”

The kinds of results we can stand by will sound like:

✔️ “Once your new SEO strategy is implemented, you’ll experience more of your ideal clients finding you online.”

✔️ “We’ll target specific long-tail keywords with new content to dramatically increase your traffic.”

✔️ “We’ll significantly improve your ranking and bring in more pre-qualified leads to increase conversions.”

✔️ “Results typically take 3-6 months, sometimes longer.”

While it is possible to make estimates for timing and traffic, getting to that point depends on a variety of factors such as knowing the industry, competition level, goals of the client, other digital marketing methods being used, data history, and more.

I hope that’s shone a light for you. Any insights or a-ha’s? Any questions? Pop them in the comments… 😊

how to hire an seo specialist that won't ghost on you
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Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!