What to Expect From an SEO

You’re planning to hire an SEO, but you’ve heard that it’s easy to get burned. What should you expect from a reputable SEO? Or perhaps you’re thinking about starting your own SEO business, and you want to make sure you do well by your clients. What should you be doing? Keep reading.

As you might expect, this topic comes up from time to time on our SEO Chat forums. The most recent time it came up, less than two weeks ago, a number of our members who do SEO professionally weighed in on what they do for their clients. While certain practices in general turned out to be very common, clearly no one took a “cookie cutter” approach to SEO.

Ideally, the exchange between client and SEO is mutually educational, as the client learns at least some of what is involved to make their website do what they want, and the SEO learns something about the client’s business. Both parties need to be able to respect and understand each other for this relationship to work.

With any luck, this should be evident at the first meeting. If you’re a client, expect the SEO to ask lots of questions. If you’re the SEO, though you’ll be spending time asking questions and taking notes, be prepared to spend some time educating the client in what you do. When a client understands what you’re doing and why, they’ll probably cooperate more. That’s pretty important if, for example, content is a concern for the site (as it often is).

After the first meeting (if not before), the SEO will have analyzed the client’s website, and created the first report. What is in that report? Well, before you can move forward, you need to know where you’ve been, so it will probably start, as one of our members notes, with a benchmark rank report that shows positions of all keywords on multiple major search engines, and current traffic. If you don’t have some kind of analytics already set up on your site, that will be recommended (and the SEO will need access to it). But that’s just the beginning.

An SEO will need to look at the on-page and off-page optimization of your site. So he or she will look at what is already there and make recommendations for individual pages concerning title tags, content, links, keywords, etc. As the client, you might get a few unexpected recommendations.

For example, as the SEO gets a better handle on your niche, he or she will probably get a better idea of what keywords you might be able to rank for. They’ll often recommend trying for a larger list of keywords than you might have initially intended. Such a list can help attract long tail traffic, which converts better.

For example, say you’re a dentist and have been trying to rank for the word “dentist” plus your location. You may be missing out on a lot of visitors that are ready to pay for your services. Have you tried to rank for, say, “dental implants,” if you perform that service? Or “root canals”? Or a long list of other dental procedures? Anyone doing a search on those specific terms knows exactly what they need, so you can show them the advantages of getting that service from you (and not one of your competitors). 

Speaking of competitors, as the client it helps if you know who your competitors are, so your SEO can examine their websites and get a feel for what you’ll need to do to beat them. The SEO will also use this information to help him or her determine what keywords you’ll be able to rank for, and that will attract reasonable traffic.

Most of the SEOs on the SEO Chat forums discussing this issue recently noted that they (or their companies) send out monthly reports. Some of these reports can get pretty detailed. One member noted that his company’s report included the following:

  1. What we did last month: content creation and link acquiring efforts.
  2. The results: updated positions for keywords with up or down arrows next to each key phrase and position gains or losses and new traffic report.
  3. What we’re going to do next month.

Another member noted that his company’s monthly reports included “traffic, sources, rankings, search query reports, and expenses.”

Not all companies that do SEO-related work engage in content creation, but at the very least, they will help their clients to create content by giving them some understanding of what kind of content is desirable from the standpoint of SEO. Those that do create content may create both on-site content, in the form of blog posts, and off-site content, in the form of articles, comments, forum posts, and email marketing/newsletters.

Content creation is only part of the battle; the other part is links. And there are a number of ways an SEO might go about gaining links. One way is to draw attention to the content; how the SEO may do this will depend on the industry. He or she might submit to review sites, industry-related directories, offer the content or excerpts of it as guest posts, put up excerpts on social bookmarking sites, and/or make blog comments on related blogs that tie into the content’s topic.

A good SEO will go even further. Do you know the demographics of your target market? This is important; if you know what kind of people make up your market, you can figure out where they hang out, and try to get your message to them there. Getting on the right online social network – and there are tons of them, with different purposes – is a step, but it’s not the whole ball game. As one SEO Chat member noted, “Real estate, for instance, has several paid traffic sources that have higher conversion rates than PPC.” This is the kind of thing that an SEO who works with those in your field is supposed to know. Knowledge is power.  

By the way, just as your SEO checked out your site to see what could be done, and to make the initial report, you should check your SEO before you sign up. You’d ask any professional you’re thinking of hiring for references; likewise, ask any SEO you’re thinking of using for links to past projects. One respected SEO Chat member notes that you should “Look at the back link profile of domains they have promoted. You should be seeing high quality links (as opposed to profile links, link schemes, and shady grey/black hat link building techniques). A good SEO company will leverage the expertise of the business they are promoting. Real SEO learns about the business they promote in order to do a GOOD job and follow Google guidelines throughout promotion.”

Finally, a good SEO is accessible. That may mean a phone consultation after the initial report to discuss the strategy moving forward, and agreed-upon regular content after that. That can also mean, as it does for one SEO Chat member, that “my clients have full access to my phone number, my e-mail and a monthly face-to-face meeting to discuss ongoing site results.” The key point is regular, ongoing communication between the SEO and the client to make sure that the job is done to the client’s satisfaction. While it is true that your SEO works for you, you need to do your part to make sure he has what he needs to get the job done. Good luck! 

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