What should I ask when hiring an SEO?

Perez
What should I ask when hiring an SEO? I have been ripped off so many times I'm very frustrated and skeptical of all toe SEO freelancers and agencies.
Even someone from this group screwed me over. They did some of my on page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and repeated the same exact meta data for every category and product page and then changed one or two words. I'm still trying to clean up that mess!
So, all that said, I do need to hire someone but I need to know if you were in my situation what questions would you be asking and what would be red flags? Thanks.

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Steve Toth 🎓
I would say the main thing is that they should be able to articulate what they are going to do and it should make sense to you. Talk to a few companies and pick the one that makes the most sense to you.
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Martin
Request references of other businesses they have helped. When you zero on a company you want to hire, request them to add your business to their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) where you can get progress updates of your campaign. Request a zoom call where you can freely talk to your SEO consultant and ask all the questions you have in mind. It's important to see how your consultant answers your questions. Make sure the contract specifies the responsibilities each party is responsible for.
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Mark » Martin
Really?
I think the first question to you is… what's your budget
Guessing you wouldn't do that fit $500 a month
Martin » Mark
Before I ask for the budget, I check how competitive is the niche and what is the scope of the work. This way when they tell me their budget, I have a better idea if they are at a reasonable budget.
Mark » Martin
Okay
So applying that answer to this question….
You haven't qualified or quantified this guy……
If he is a local plumber
Would you duck log him on to the CRM etc etc
Course you wouldn't
To me saying "
I'd bend over backwards and give any potential client everything and anything"
Sounds a bit desperate .
You either know how to rank or not
The rest is customer service
Plating a customer is not ranking and being over indulgent to a customer who doesn't know what they are talking about is just a waste of everyone's time and an ego show.
Would I do it for a million?
Yes
Martin » Mark
Go back to the question Angel asked. We are not talking about the process of onboarding clients. Of course, I wouldn't take anyone. I qualify them first. I wouldn't load them in the CRM if they don't meet my expectations. I offer top customer service to all my customers.
Mark » Martin
Congrats!
Just saying
But honestly…. How many clients do you have and what is the average monthly spend.
I'm guessing not that
Much and you are saying you log them onto your CRM?
I call bull shit
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Martin » Mark
Everyone has their own methods. We use a CRM to have better control of what we are doing for our clients. I had too many docs on my laptop when I just had a few clients. As the number of clients started to pile up, we needed a better way to manage all of them. CRM has helped a lot. Now I am not running like a roostr with the head cutoff
Mark
I hear you, but a crm is the Crown Jewels of a company…
Keith L Evans 🎓 » Martin
This is exactly what to do

Aaron
what type of version control do you use?
if they don't know what you are talking about or can't give exact details, they are rank amateurs'

Chris » Aaron
How long do you wait for results before rolling back? Would you please tell me a bit more about how you use version control to ratchet up rankings?
Aaron » Chris
We don't use time so much rather, the disparity and velocity of change of our indexed/crawled metrics compared with the target index and mirrored other location index metrics of the top 20-100 pages, Google My Business (GMB) results against target keywords and keyword semantic trees.
What we want to see is movement in the right direction based on current algo processes. This can sometimes be within hours or more normally weeks of being crawled and it's not always in the positive direction because sometimes positive changes can deliver an initial negative result. Google sometimes uses a built in systematic negative result process, which I'd have to say is to f*ck with SEO users.
GIT (other brands github, gitbucket) is an effective means of version control. It allows for you to roll back in bulk, piece by piece or to any previous change. This is much more advanced and organised than just making backup copies and trying to fumble your way back after a problem.
There are many advantages, for example, with proper analytics this can be used to roll back to previous content, meta versions that match a new Google algo update within minutes. So you're not poking around in the dark for months. Clients who have worked with me will comment on how stable my work is long term when others are going through fest and famine cycles as googles algo updates.
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Natalie
Jesus. This is what makes it so difficult for people that actually do well for clients and work their asses off. The barrier to entry is low and unfortunately that means things vary greatly and clients get scared to try someone new.
Ask all the questions you can and just follow you gut.
I disagree with some of the comments about essentially micromanaging the people you hire and being across all their moves. My clients don't care what we do, they don't ask and that's not the focus of the conversation. We talk about how and where we are kicking the goals we focus on and that's what matters. They don't even care about keywords. They focus on their revenue.
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Bryce » Natalie
I agree! My clients don't care what I'm doing they just want the phone to keep ringing.
Natalie » Bryce
It's hard because both ours and Angel's perspectives are correct. It's so hard for people to find good providers. I feel for them because it's a shit show out there.
Bryce » Natalie
That's true. I feel like I explain my processes fairly in depth when I first sign on the client, and I send reports of traffic increases and analytics to show our results. But it wouldn't be super effective to have all my clients trying to micromanage all our work. They trust us as experts from the initial explanations of our processes and that is usually good enough.
Having said that, I guess anyone can sound like they know what they are doing if they are confident enough, so it can be a struggle to weed out and qualify an SEO agency just based on explaining their process
Perez » Natalie
I hired an agency that took my average position from about 25 to around 45 within 5 months. This was suppose to be a "credible agency" too.
I took a similar approach in not caring about the work being done I just wanted results. $15k later the results I described above was what I ended up with.
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Natalie » Perez
This is why I'm saying ask the questions and follow your gut. There's no one way to know unfortunately.
Were there any improvements in traffic and conversions?
Talking about avg position with no additional context here is not enough for me to give any insights or recommendations.
So, follow up questions
– Is that for one search query or all?
– If all, was that accompanied by an increase in impressions and traffic?
To give you context of the validity of my insights.
I have been running my agency for nearly 5 years and my client retention rate is 100%. I have no vested interest here in what you do. So I hope we can have a productive conversation that brings you some value.
Perez » Natalie
It was overall ranking and it did drop traffic by about half. I wasn't getting much traffic to begin with but I was expecting improvements even if they would have been gradual.
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Natalie » Perez
Ok that's suspish. I would just try to ask the questions you can and feel the provider out. Make sure that you feel their interest is mutually beneficial and not one sided just for their revenue.
I'm sorry this happened. It's what I hate about this industry and what keeps me working so many hours. We honestly do the best we can for people and not everyone is the same unfortunately
Perez » Natalie
Pm'd you. Maybe we can talk about this further through pm.
Zachary
The majority of SEO consultants have your best interests at heart when they begin your campaign, and then find their concepts falling apart. But they should realize this around the first month and correct. 5+ months is BS, and I'm sorry that you wasted your money on that.

Mike
Gonna play devil's advocate, screwed over HOW specifically? You list a couple oddball changes they made. Seems likely they might have been incompetent but generally Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more so about thinking about content, keywords, keyword research and links. The "doing" at the end of the day is fairly "basic". So when you list some basic sounding stuff they did, was there a rationale or strategy for the changes, etc.Did you achieve any measurable success? Also, what is success to you (obviously to a general business owner, leads, but..) Have any rankings improved or new keyword areas targeted? Have there been any pages assigned to Target specific keywords and optimized around that? Has the content of the site been re-positioned for the best keyword phrases? Has any link building been done? Etc.
For analogy, Sometimes, you go to the mechanic and all it is is a loose bolt, so the "doing" may be minimal but the knowledge to identify a loose bolt being the "noise" vs changing the wheel, brake, ball joints, toe rod… For the sake of "doing" was the result beneficial to both parties?

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Trenton » Perez
How do you go about finding what needs to be done?
How much content should I be creating each month? They should talk about needing to research competitors first.
How do you manage that? Quality control it? They should say they create content outlines for their writers and then they or another SEO edits the content.
What's your backlink process look like? What tools do you use? They should say they either hire it out, or talk about their in house keyword research and outreach process based on that keyword research.
If it's a WordPress site you can ask specific WordPress questions like
"I have 1000 images with no alt tags, how would you go about creating alt tags for all of them?" If they're experienced they'll say they use an AI plugin, or a bulk upload plugin.
"What's the first thing you consider for speed optimization?" They should say they'd look at your hosting, then suggest WP Engine/Kinsta and Cloudflare.
"How are you going to handle updating all 1000 of my Page titles and descriptions? They should mention a bulk change plugin.
"How are you going to handle optimizing all 100 of my categories and tags?" Again, they should mention a plugin to bulk edit.
Before any answer though, they should mention the research they'd do first. Everything requires context, and experienced people start with getting the lay of the land first.
You'll know they're good if they can give specifics about a Content Management System (cms). Example: "in HubSpot there's a load jQuery in the footer box" when talking about how to handle speed in HubSpot
Marcus
Skip the audit, anyone can use ahrefs, or any automated audit tool.
Escrow a payment for an SEO plan, if it's suitable get them to provide timelines for delivery with some gauge for expected/ballpark results (nobody can give you an absolute definitive answer with SEO ranking results beforehand, and they really shouldn't).
If the plan matches your needs, pay them, and get a quote done for the plan to be put in motion with deadlines.
Give them enough time to warrant results, and be clear about both sides on expectations.
Fernan
What people should realize is that they must have a marketing funnel in place to make sure that the free traffic SEO brings will not remain just traffic.
If you are going to hire someone and make sure you do not get burned then here are a few tips for you
1. Ask them to sell your own product or service to you.
Someone who understands how marketing and sales funnels work can do this.
If they cannot do that, do not expect them to understand how important your business is to you.
You need someone on board who shares the same vision and passion for your business.
Especially your SEO specialist
2. If they keep telling how good they are, ditch them. You need someone who can empathize and knows what your problem is rather than talk about their accomplishments.
3. Ask them to give you a 3 step plan.
Einstein said, if you cannot simplify an idea then you never understood that idea.
Trust me, it is hard to simplify a complicated system like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but it is possible. If they can simplify things for you (not simplier) then they know what they are doing.
Brent
Here is the thing Perez, SEO in itself is a very broad concept with a lot of people having different approaches and there is virtually no bar to meet. No standard that qualifies somebody as "Experienced". I'd say that every business owner needs to know the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make an educated hire, or have a decent marketeer in their team that can help with doing so. So, you'll get a lot of mixed messages, hell, you're probably even spammed now by a lot of people who claim they can help you without actually digging into the problem. So, beforehand perhaps ask for an audit of your website and a plan. Let somebody with a fair share of understanding review it, or do some research on that plan and decide that way. Unfortunately, with SEO, you gotta wait a tad for more feasible results while with many Pay-Per-Click (PPC) forms of marketing, you can call out the bullshit really quick.
Shubham
I can see two aspects in this scenario. Either there were unrealistic expectations from your side, or the SEO you hired was really that bad.
What to expect from any SEO you hire? (Read this as how to hire an SEO):
✅ Realistic goals. Don't fall for "guaranteed results" in six months. Even if you hire an SEO who has worked for the Google search team, you won't get that kind of result.Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marathon, you can rank a couple of posts in a matter of months but even that will take lof effort.
✅ Strictly following the guidelines laid by search engines. People are selling a crapload of black-hat SEO results and people are unknowingly falling for it.
✅ Weekly reports of various SEO metrics. Although numbers are misleading. The fact that the SEO you hired is sharing reports tells you that he/she is keeping track of metrics that matter to you the most.
✅ Ask the SEO if they're okay to get paid for results. If they disagree for any reason, it's a red flag. However, don't be too rigid on this, there will be people who have an amazing track record as an SEO, and they don't charge for the results, they will charge for the value they create.
These were a few quick things I could think of. If you need any other help related to SEO, let me know in DM. I'll be more than happy to help.

Perez » Shubham
What I expected was progress. I had a few keywords that were in the high teens. 5 months later they were in the high 20s and 30s. Going from 18 to say 10 would have kept me content because I would have seen progress.
Shubham
Expecting progress is totally fine. Let's talk directly and let's see what can be done. Shooting you a DM.

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