Choosing an SEO Professional

Years ago, I worked for a company that had a website that did nothing. No one shopped there, and as far as we could tell (which wasn’t very far, because we didn’t know how to keep track) no one went there. The owners went to a round table discussion on websites for people in our industry, and returned with a very clear conclusion: everyone had websites, and none of them did anything.

You have to have a website, we figured, because people asked if you had one, and you couldn’t say you didn’t have one without looking unprofessional. But it was largely a big hole into which you poured money.

We decided to change that, at least for our company. I was chosen, since I was the marketing person, and I set about learning how to make a website do its job.

I remember how frustrating it was to search for that information. There were no books on the subject at the time, and the online information was written for specialists by specialists. What’s more, SEO forums made it clear that a) there were a lot of shady characters in the business, and b) a lot of SEOs didn’t have much respect for their clients. The undertone of “Stupid clients don’t know anything” was unmistakable at a lot of otherwise excellent sites.

We looked for a local SEO professional, therefore, since we figured we’d be able to meet face to face and ask around. There weren’t any. I had to learn to do it myself. That’s why I write this blog, actually: competent businesspeople should be able to learn how to help their company websites produce a good ROI, in my opinion, without being mystified or condescended to.

Things have improved. As SEO becomes more mainstream and less mysterious to businesspeople, more information is available, and of course there are more of us SEO professionals around.

So what should you look for when you seek to hire someone to help you in this area?

  • People who can and will tell you what they do. There’s no reason for SEO to be cloaked in secrecy as though it were a dark art. While it takes a certain amount of ability and an analytical turn of mind, SEO isn’t mysterious. It just requires specialized skills, experience, and time that most businesspeople don’t have.
  • People who can distinguish between black hat and white hat strategies, and who will tell you exactly how gray they are willing to get. If they can’t or won’t answer this question, you may find yourself in murky waters, with potential consequences for your website.
  • People who give you realistic expectations and honest information. While you want someone effective, reputable SEOs won’t make guarantees. We know that there are too many factors involved for anyone to give you an honest guarantee of performance.
  • People who communicate with you honestly and respectfully. There’s no reason to tolerate poor communication. You have a choice.

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