Five Golden Tips…

Sorry. That title was a bit of a stretch, I’m trying to stick with the song over here! One thing I can assure you is that these tips are going to be awesome. If you’ve got a blog or website you’ve (hopefully) spent some time thinking about SEO (search engine optimization). If you’re considering hiring a pro, or looking to try your hand at some quick fixes, Chris has provided some great insights. He’s been a great asset to me as I’ve navigated my way through my Master’s degree, so I’m really excited to bring his expertise to you!

All I Want for Christmas is a #1 Ranking: 5 Things to Consider When Hiring an SEO

My name is Chris Thompson and I am an in-house SEO at Group Publishing. I am also a graduate and valedictorian of the Internet Marketing Master of Science program at Full Sail University. In my personal time I mentor students of the program through my blog.

To help you in your search, I have stuffed your stocking with 5 things to consider when hiring an SEO.

1) Understand the needs of your business before asking others to understand it

Before engaging any vendors, take the time to understand your business and create a list of your requirements. Be as specific as you can. This involves looking at your technology, buying processes and organizational structure. If you can’t understand your business and its complexities, then a vendor won’t be able to either.

2) Ask the right questions

Not all SEOs are created equal. Some are rockstars with proper education and proven experience. While others have read a few blogs and consider themselves experts. SEOmoz recently created a brilliant outline of questions and topics to cover when interviewing an SEO or agency to see if they know there stuff. You can check out this 10 minute video for more information.

3) Research and connect with as many references as possible

All vendors can put on a great sales presentation, but look to their past results for proof. And make sure that you connect with more clients than the ones that they provide. Agencies especially aren’t going to offer up past clients that had a less than glowing experience with them.

4) Talk specifically about your business

Everyone’s business is different. Your audience is different. Your offering is different. Your internal structure is different. Make sure that when you talk about the agencies they plan for your specific business. If they really want you as a client, they will do their diligence before meeting for the first time.

It helps to go into the research and discovery process with some form of a goal in mind and then talk about how the agency or SEO will help you to accomplish that goal.

5) What is their stance on black hat versus white hat SEO?

Whether you decide to hire an in-house SEO or to outsource to an SEO agency, make sure that they are not engaging in forms of black hat SEO. If you are not familiar with black hat SEO, I would recommend reading up on the various black hat SEO tactics. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the concept is all the same – to intentionally cheat the search engines by going against their rules and guidelines. Sadly, black hat SEO often works and generates results for some, but only for a short time as the major search engines will find out. They have teams dedicated to learning the latest black hat techniques and leverage heavy penalties when they are discovered.

Let me ask you this – have you noticed an aggressive offline push by JC Penny lately? The reason is because JC Penny, or technically their SEO agency, was caught buying links for the retail giant. Google essentially black listed them and blocked their entire site from the search engines. This cost JC Penny millions in online revenue. To their credit, JC Penny has since worked with Google to clean up and remove the purchased links, but it forced them to pursue alternative marketing methods, such as radio and television.

In closing, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having an experienced SEO that knows the rules and how it works so that they do not inadvertently harm your brand or bottom line. Most importantly, a good SEO or SEO team can create a scalable search strategy that supports your business for the long term.

Merry Christmas and Happy Optimizing!

If you have any further questions or would like some SEO advice, connect with me on Twitter @ThompsonSEO.

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About Donna Queza

I'm an optimist grounded in realism. That's what I love about working on the web -- the possibilities to be creative and distinctive are endless, but there's always a need for those reality-driven, data-fueld folks who make our dreams into realities. I like to think I hover somewhere in the middle - creative, quantifiable internet marketing solutions.

3 responses to “Five Golden Tips…”

  1. erin @WELL in L.A. says :

    Great tips! My question is… what is your favorite WordPress SEO plugin? Cheers!

  2. Chris Thompson (@ThompsonSEO) says :

    Hi Erin,

    It depends on what you are looking for, but as it pertains to SEO, the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast is by far the best. It helps solve all types of common SEO issues and gives you tremendous flexibility for optimizing your WordPress site. The developer is a thought leader in search and knows his stuff. The plugin does require a bit of technical knowledge, so I would recommend playing with it a bit to learn its value for your site.

    Cheers,
    Chris

    • erin @WELL in L.A. says :

      Thanks, Chris! That’s what I’m using! I’ve had some problems with my index SEO, but it may be related more to a change in the theme I’m using on WP… might be time to hire an expert for a fix!

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