What to Expect from your SEO Consultant

Very few services such as those offered by SEOs can be readily priced, without having a good idea of what the scope of the project will be. In reality, if someone gives you a “package price” without knowing more about what the job will entail, one of two things is probably true:

  1. they’re quoting you high pricing, “in case” the scope is extensive;
  2. they’re quoting you a limited scope, “regardless” of what the job really calls for.

Either way, you won’t be getting the best value possible for your money – you’ll either end up paying too much or receiving too little. Sometimes both.

What to Watch Out For

If someone quotes you pricing for optimizing your site without even knowing its URL or having a chance to at least check it out superficially, then you’re most likely talking to a rank amateur. Just knowing how many pages your site includes is not enough information to allow anyone to put together an accurate cost proposal. A conscientious SEO will generally take some time to scrutinize a site before providing pricing for optimization… there are simply too many variables to consider and the good ones like to provide their clients what they really need – no more, no less. The larger the site, the more time needed, in order to detect all the issues worth attacking. In some instances, such as a large ecommerce site, a full site audit may be called for.

Likewise, if an SEO offers a “guaranteed” ranking, run, don’t walk! NOBODY can guarantee anything more than a conscientious effort. Rankings are fluid and in a constant state of flux, as well as being subject to the many algorithm changes employed by the search engines. Moreover, the specific terms for which they may say they can achieve high rankings may or may not offer much by way of more business for you. Wikipedia ranks #7 & #8 for the term “edit” – don’t let anyone take advantage of you by ranking your page for “pink & purple people-eaters” (unless that’s what your page is really about, in which case, the competition shouldn’t be too heavy 😉 ).

What to Expect

When preparing a cost proposal for optimization of a website, there are many things to take into consideration, such as the niche, competition level, the size of the site, the platform and markup involved and the general condition of the website, technically and in terms of content, to name just a few. A conscientious professional consultant will normally ask for access to your Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and Google Analytics accounts for the site, and depending upon the site, may also ask for CPanel or FTP access.

They’ll also take a look at the underbelly of your site… its architecture, usability, accessibility, page-load speed, indexability and more, to determine how extensive the scope will be. Whether they’ll be implementing changes or simply making suggestions and whether they’ll be in the loop for all activities that can affect the site will be a factor, as well.

Mostly, it boils down to is time – how much time the SEO consultant will have to dedicate to your site every day, week or month.

After the SEO has had an opportunity to assess your website, your market, your goals and your competition, they’ll be able to present you with a cost proposal to achieve your goals. Some may propose two or more approaches, in an effort to work within the limits of your budget. Typically, they’ll want to either sit down with you or get on a call and go through all the line items. This is the time to ask plenty of questions, to ensure you thoroughly understand the costs and potential benefits, the timeline and any peripheral issues that could arise. Realistic expectations will help keep your relationship healthy.

Once you’ve agreed upon what the SEO proposes to accomplish for you, they’ll prepare a contract and Scope of Work (these documents are important for both of you), and you can begin moving forward. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as the project progresses – your SEO should be happy to help you understand why they’re following any course of action.

Something to Remember

SEOs know stuff… stuff you may not understand. But they’re not gods and they’re not perfect. Furthermore, SEO isn’t an exact science. So as you move forward, remember that you know stuff too – stuff they may not know. And all either of you can do is put your knowledge to work the best way you know how. Sometimes you’ll try an idea that falls flat. That’s okay – it eliminates something. You and your SEO need to work as a team, responding rapidly to new data, taking advantage of new opportunities and backing away from misguided ideas. Testing and thorough analysis can eliminate most bad ideas, but not all.

Is the ROI There?

The acid test is whether the efforts paid off for you. Did they help you gain more business? Did your rankings for several important keywords improve dramatically, bringing you more highly focused traffic. Did you reduce your cost per sale? To get an accurate picture, you need to calculate your ROI (return on investment), weighing your costs against your gains (here’s a way to understand and calculate ROI: https://docsheldon.com/how-do-you-calculate-roi/).

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Doc Sheldon has worked in marketing since the 1980s and he's been writing professionally since the 1970s. He owned and published weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines during the ’80s, before becoming a business consultant and ultimately "retiring" in 2008. He began studying SEO in earnest in 2003, and now specializes in technical SEO. His passions are the development of the Semantic Web, trying to figure out what changes may be coming next from the search engines and eliminating misinformation.