Online Work Tips & Best Practices

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  This age-old adage could not be more fitting to the world of internet marketing today, where information is abundant and everyone is vying for the top spots in search rankings for Google, Yahoo and Bing. Better search engine rankings can lead to increased traffic, sales and profits. You could have the best blog in the world, but what difference does it make if your voice can’t be heard?

But how exactly does one proceed to rank their pages higher in search engine results? The answer is through search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the art of optimizing your website for the major search engines. Through a combination of keyword research, on-site and off-site optimization, and competitor analysis, it is possible to make it easier for search engines to find your webpage and rank it higher for certain relevant key search terms. Running a full SEO campaign can be a daunting task to handle alone; fortunately SEO experts are here to help. Here’s what you need to know to make informed decisions when hiring SEO consultants.

Understanding the Basics: SEO Strategy

When interviewing freelancers it is important to have a general idea of what an SEO campaign involves.

First and foremost, at the heart of SEO lies keyword research. This goes beyond simply finding the key search terms that receive the most traffic. It is first important to understand why you want to drive traffic to your site. If you want people to buy a particular product, you want to optimize for keywords that will bring in people who are ready to buy rather than those who are simply just looking. Most keyword research tools are based off of Google’s Keyword Planner, which lists the traffic, competition and costs per click for Google AdWords campaigns.

Be wary if an SEO freelancer claims he or she can get you to the #1 spot in Google. The search engines rely on a number of factors to determine page rank, including popularity in social media and the age of a website. Furthermore, there is a human element to how customers and viewers respond to your content, products and services. These are things you cannot directly control and there is no magic formula to getting to the top of search rankings.

What SEO freelancers can help you with is giving you a technological edge over the competition within your particular niche. They can improve your chances of ranking higher, but it is up to you to offer the quality services or products that will make people take notice.

SEO Campaign

Generally speaking, an SEO campaign can be broken down into two parts: onsite and offsite optimization. Onsite optimization involves designing your website in a way that enables search engine crawlers to read it. This typically entails modifying the headers, titles and content of your web pages so that they are optimized for certain key terms.

Offsite optimization encompasses everything you do offsite to drive traffic to your site. This includes social media, link building, guest posts, and article submissions. Link building in particular is an essential component of the campaign, as search engines currently factor quality links heavily into a website’s page ranking. Participating in social media, writing a guest post for a more popular blog, and submitting informational content to article directories all generate links back to your website. As you may have already guessed, this means offsite optimization requires a ton of content writing. As a result, SEO freelancers often fall into two categories: SEO writers and SEO campaign managers.

How to Screen SEO Freelancers

Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO involves, here are some tips for hiring an SEO consultant.

  • Talk to references and view past work examples. A brief list of current and former clients can speak volumes about a potential SEO hire. As with any business, references are a good way to screen potential hires. There are simple SEO tools available on the web to quickly check a website’s page rank. If a freelancer is not comfortable sharing past success stories there should be no reason for you to take on the risk of hiring them.
  • Ask about their SEO strategy. A proper consultant will be able to explain what strategies they will use to improve your ranking as well as an estimate of the duration of the campaign.
  • Ask for an initial technical review of your website. This will help you understand what exactly they will change, as onsite optimization will require some modifications to your code.
  • Watch out for black hat SEO. Avoid clients who use black hat SEO techniques like spamming comments sections with links, as these can land you a penalty from Google. Search engines’ webmaster best practices also prohibit common SEO tricks like hidden text, spam content and excessive anchor text linking.

Finally, once you’ve made a hire, make sure to communicate often with your freelancer as you would with any other consultant. You can track the success of your SEO freelancer by monitoring the number of links and the amount of traffic coming back to your website through Google Analytics. Consultants use these data to determine what is working best for your site.

By taking these tips into consideration, you will be well on your way towards bringing traffic to your webpages through SEO.

Have any best practices on how to hire an SEO expert? Share them in the comments section below!

Yoshitaka Shiotsu

Writer and SEO Consultant

Yoshitaka Shiotsu is a freelance writer and SEO consultant on oDesk. He specializes in SEO writing, internet marketing and creating quality content for the web. Yoshitaka has provided content on a variety of topics including science, technology, travel, fashion and the food and beverage industry. He brings the researching prowess, intelligence and diligence of a chemical engineer together with the mindset of an internet marketer and salesperson. Yoshitaka Shiotsu graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is currently in the process of co-founding a materials-startup based in Gloucester, MA.