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The impact that SEO has on a business can be tremendous.

Not only do good search rankings provide enhanced traffic and qualified buyers, they also provide brand authority and trust. SEO is important, and if you’re not taking search performance into consideration, you could be falling behind.

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Why Might You Want SEO?

You’re a New Business

A megaphone analogizing getting the word out about your businessYou’re a brand new business or startup. You need to bring in traffic and build authority in potential buyers’ eyes. You need to make sure Google and other search engines can properly use what’s on your website. You’re taking your business’s future very seriously.

Decline in Pre-existing Traffic

A bar graph showing a decline

Something went wrong and you’re not sure what.

Your business isn’t getting as much search traffic as it used to and you need this fixed.

Local Influence

A local pinpoint icon for a mapYou’re a local business and want to have an increased search presence in your area. You want nearby potential buyers to find you and come to you before the competition.

Site Migration

A folder analogizing a site migrationYou’re relaunching your site or moving your content onto another site.

You want to make sure you don’t lose your search traffic and rankings in the process.

Continued Growth

A line graph showing upwards growthSearch is a channel that’s important to your business’s health. You want to make sure your SEO traffic and leads are always growing and never neglected.

What to Look for in an SEO Agency or Consultant

Finding a competent SEO consultant or agency can be a daunting process, especially when you don’t know much about SEO. Even more important is the potential risk you face when handing your website and its sensitive data over to somebody else. When choosing an SEO and related services, it’s important to do your due diligence. Here are some key things to look for.

Top Industry Experience

Look at your consultant’s LinkedIn/Resume. If you’re hiring an agency, look at individual members in the agency. Check to see where else they’ve been employed. Try to find ones who have experience at top digital performance firms like iProspect, Razorfish, or Wolfgang Digital. Try to find somebody with a mix of agency and freelance experience with both blue chip clients and SMBs – in both the B2C and B2B sectors.

If you want to see what a proper SEO consultant résumé or CV might look like, my LinkedIn should be a good example.

Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Other Large Search Engines

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world? Hopefully your consultant knows both this and how to optimize for it.

Look for a consultant who knows how to optimize for all the major search engines, not just Google.

White Hat SEO

Unless your business is only interested in very short term growth at the expense of long term marketing health, it’s wise that you choose an SEO who only uses White Hat practices.

Black Hat SEO (cheating search engine algorithms) is becoming easier to catch and penalize for, and in the long run, will cause a lot of damage to a site’s traffic. If you care about long term search traffic, make sure you’re hiring somebody who is White Hat.

Technical Knowledge

Often times a site will require several technical changes to make page content more “search engine friendly.” Check to see that your SEO makes callouts to this skill in his CV or résumé. He doesn’t need to be one of the world’s top programmers, but he does need to know how to communicate with them in order to explain necessary technical SEO implementations.

Content Marketing

Top-of-funnel content marketing is a great way to improve your site’s trust with search engines. Make sure your SEO has lengthy experience in this arena.

Local SEO

Bottom-of-funnel local SEO is key if you’re a business relying on customers in a certain area. If you’re local, make sure to ask about this one as well.


Look through your consultant’s LinkedIn or online profile. Does he/she have any recommendations for SEO work?

Recommendations basically mean that clients were happy enough with both communication, responsibility, and results to use their own time to do free promotion on behalf of their consultant. This says a lot.


Check to see if your consultant has authored any works on SEO or digital marketing. Make sure you can find at least a few signals that demonstrate your consultant’s passion for his/her line of work.

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What Not to Expect from Your SEO Services

It’s important to have proper expectations when looking for a search engine optimizer.

First, don’t expect immediate success. This can only happen with viral marketing, and is usually impermanent anyway. True search engine optimization plays out over several months or even years. It’s a slow process, and search engine algorithms like to see consistency over time.

Don’t expect to immediately see a ton of leads or purchases clearly attributable to SEO. Search can be part of the larger marketing landscape and depending on how your business generates revenue, it may be a good idea to have a linear attribution model in place rather than a last click one.

Don’t expect your SEO to be able to rank your site for the most competitive and high volume keywords. If you’re a shoe startup, it’s going to be nearly impossible to rank #1 for “Shoes” or “Sneakers.”

On this note, it’s important that you do your best to disregard any blind aspirations to rank for keywords that you think are valuable without actually having data to back up these beliefs.

What to Expect from Your SEO Services

A magnifying glass analogizing searchOn the other hand, you should expect your SEO to guide you in the direction of proper keywords to rank for.

Unless you’re a conglomerate and you’ve hit a glass ceiling, you should expect to see quarterly or yearly growth.

You should expect your SEO to track keywords and provide you with reports on these keywords either on a weekly or monthly basis.

A funnel with leads and sales being filtered throughYou should expect your SEO to use various pieces of software to gather as much data and intelligence as possible. I myself have about twenty pieces of software I use.

You should expect your SEO to prioritize work to maximize ROI. Some action items will have a much higher impact than others and often times these should be done first.

Expect your SEO to know about recent industry updates. Google changes its algorithm twice a day and pushes out huge changes 3-4 times a year. Your SEO should be telling you about these changes when they happen and let you know whether or not your site may be affected.

Expect your SEO to be able to integrate with your other marketing teams and with your developers. SEO is completely holistic, so your consultant needs to know what he or she is doing with both other channels and with tech.

Expect to learn about SEO from your SEO. You want to have consistent and clear communication between consultant and client, and you want your SEO to be able to explain strategy and implementation well enough that you learn about search engine optimization in the process.

A bar graph showing upwards growthFinally and ultimately, you should expect to see positive changes to your bottom line. This could mean your lifetime value is increasing while customer acquisition cost is decreasing; or it could mean you’re seeing more profit from ad revenue. Either way, it’s important to look for a positive ROI in your marketing efforts.

How Much to Pay? Dollar bills

So how much should a business or individual pay for these services?

This depends on the level of experience of your consultant and the scope of what you want done.

A single deliverable could be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and an average hourly rate could be $75-150. A high end hourly rate may be $200-400 and may be offered if the consultant or agency is super experienced (efficient and knowledgeable) and/or reputable. It’s important to analyze your budget and needs and talk this through with the person you’re considering.

Also understand that costs will rise or decrease depending on what’s been done already, SEO software costs, the competitive environment of your niche, and the level of experience that your team members have. There are many factors to take into consideration here.

Need Some Help with Your SEO?

So now that you know what to look for in an SEO, take the next step: analyze our experience and decide if we can help you.

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Sturm Media LLC