8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Expert

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SEO or search engine optimisation is without doubt one of the most important areas to enhance your online presence.  But for many business owners, there just isn’t enough time in the day to learn the full details of it and to keep up to date with every change.  The best idea can be to hire an SEO expert but what are the key questions to ask before engaging someone’s services?

Past clients

It is important to see evidence that the expert can do what they are saying and the best way to do this is to see the results from previous clients.  A good SEO expert will have a list of current and former clients who have provided references for them based on the work done.  They may even have a case study or two that details exactly what they did.  Look for experience in your industry or similar businesses to ensure they have the knowledge suitable for your type of business.

The ‘how’ question

Asking how they are going to do improve your search engine ranking is another vital question.  They might not have a fully developed exact strategy at an interview stage but it is a good idea that they have some suggestions or general ideas about the ‘how’.  Saying they are going to is one thing but showing how they would go about it is more important.  Key points to watch for include a technical review of the website to look for SEO weaknesses as well as a clear on-page optimisation strategy.

Ensure they are compliant

SEO has rules just like anything and if you break those rules, you can be blacklisted and even thrown off the internet.  These tactics are known as black hat tactics and aren’t what a legitimate business is looking for.  So you should ask questions about their adherence to search engine webmaster guidelines – Google publish theirs, for example, listing 12 common SEO tricks that are prohibited.

Watch for unrealistic promises

If an SEO expert guarantees that you will be 1st on the search page, then end the interview – they are offer unrealistic promises that they won’t be able to fulfil.  A good expert will talk about improving your ranking, looking at tactics going forward to keep up the improvement and discuss legitimate ways to make the website more SEO friendly – their only guarantee will be that if you follow their advice, you will see an improvement.  And if the expert claims insider relationships that will ‘make sure’ your position improve – leave immediately!

How to measure success

It is a good idea to lay out upfront what success will look like and how this success will be measured.  It might be an exact figure in terms of traffic increase or a percentage.  It might be other aims such as increase in customer numbers, email signups or whatever the business is focusing on.  Whatever the metric, the SEO expert should be able to tell you how they will measure this success and what steps will be taken to keep you appraised of the ongoing progress.

Discussing that progress

Another question to ask upfront is how and when progress will be discussed.  This might be through face to face meetings, depending where you are both based.  It might be through video conferences, emails or even instant messaging apps.  In addition to how you will receive these updates, you should also have laid out how often you will receive progress updates – weekly, monthly, quarterly or such.  Weekly is a good measure for short progress updates with a larger, comprehensive update once a month but it will depend on the nature of the contract you take.

Payment terms

Once you are happy with what they do and how they do it, you should always discuss payment terms.  Are they paid hourly or by a set charge for the work done?  Is there a retainer charge for keeping a space open for your business as needed?  Most experts will work on a project-based system.  Also, you should know how often they require a payment – monthly, every 60 or 90 days?  All of this should be documented alongside other terms.

Ending the contract

You should also find out what happens if you or they have to end the contract or cancel it early.  Ensure that you maintain ownership of all of the optimised web content that you have paid for.  This should be stated in the contract to ensure that if you part ways, the expert doesn’t take all the content they have optimised for you with them.  Also check for any cancellation charges – you never know what is going to happen in business and need to prepare for it.


Working with an SEO expert is the best way to ensure your business gets those vital search engine ratings but isn’t necessarily a cheap venture – you are paying for the experience, qualifications and knowledge of the expert.  Consider potential gain versus the cost and ensure you ask a lot of questions before making a commitment.

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