Elance Blog

The 8 Questions To Ask When Hiring an SEO Expert

So you've finally decided that search engine optimization (SEO) is important for your business. You have heard for far too long that SEO is a great deal compared to print advertisements (up to $40,000/month) or banner ads ($10,000/month) on major sites. You've done the research and you know the opportunity is there–however there is one problem. There is too little time in the day and you need to focus on running your business.

You've decided that you need to hire an SEO expert to help you bring more traffic and conversions to your website. The question is:

What kind of questions do you need to ask yourself when evaluating SEO candidates?

1. Can they provide any case studies or examples of sites they have worked on?

Asking this question immediately gives you a glimpse into their 'portfolio', so to speak. Web designers and developers have their portfolios. Expert SEO  professionals should have a portfolio ready to show you, and their Elance portfolio is the perfect place to display it. In addition to samples, they should be able to discuss why each project was a success and what methodology they used to attain success. If the portfolio looks unimpressive or the candidate has a hard time explaining their methods to you, that should be a red flag.

2. Do they have their own sites? What is an example of a recent success and why do they consider it a success?
Asking this question gives you insight into other skills the candidate might have, such as affiliate marketing, paid search, web design, web development, WordPress expertise, and more. This is a great gauge to see just how valuable they can be to your company. Ensuring that they have examples and why they consider each site a success is important to seeing their different approach to websites and whether it is a fit for your business or not.

3. What is the biggest mistake they have made with SEO and what have they learned from it?
All SEO professionals have made a mistake at one point or another and it is important to see what mindset they developed after making that particular mistake. For example, when I first started with SEO, I mistakenly thought that a keyword was getting 10,000 searches a month when it was in fact only getting roughly 900 searches a month. This only happened because I did not know that it was important to switch from 'broad' match to 'exact' match when doing keyword research. I unwittingly optimized for that keyword and it took three months before I realized my fatal mistake. Go me! I now understand that for the most part, I should be using 'exact' match when doing keyword research.

4. What tools do they use?
Tools are important for any SEO professional–they help uncover important metrics and great opportunities in a fraction of the time it would take if you did it manually. If the professional isn't using any tools and they are claiming to be an expert, that should be a red flag. Some popular tools that SEO pros use are SEOmoz, Raven Tools, and SEO Powersuite. There are many more but that's a post for another time.

5. If their proposal is chosen, are they willing to do a set list of tasks to be completed in the next 72 hours?
This will help you uncover a few things:


  • How serious they are: If they really want you as a client, they'll gladly accept this task to prove their worth to you.
  • What their process is like: Is this how you want SEO done on your site?
  • How well they communicate: Is the level of communication acceptable? The tasks that you assign don't have to be very complex. It can be as simple as asking them to do keyword research or a competitive analysis for you. You just want to see if you are comfortable with their style of work.

6. What is their #1 rule when it comes to SEO?
This question gives you more insight into how they think. You might get an interesting answer every now and then.

7. How does their Job History look?
Were their past clients happy with the quality of their work? What type of work did the SEO expert do on his site? Would they do business with him again?

8. Do they offer any guarantees?
This is a trick question–on one end, the candidate wants your business so they might answer yes just to get you to sign. However, offering any guarantees should be a red flag–even if the candidate has had a perfect track record. No one controls the search algorithms except for the search engines themselves. However, offering estimates is a good alternative.

Keep in mind that this is not the end-all and be-all list of SEO interview questions–but I guarantee they'll help you cover useful tidbits of information about your prospective candidates! I hope this helps and I wish you the best in growing your website online!

About the Author
Eric Siu is the Director of Business Development at Evergreen Search, an online marketing agency in Los Angeles that specializes in search engine optimization. Eric also blogs on topics such as Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO. Evergreen Search is focused on bringing effective, long lasting online marketing solutions to remarkable businesses that want to get better. You can find him on Twitter at @ericosiu.

Comments

It is also very important to ask for references and call them.
We ( )include our references in all our proposals.