What You Should Know Before Hiring an SEO Consultant
Search Engine Optimization is a rapidly growing industry. Forbes reported in their forecast that SEO related spending by businesses in the US alone would be close to $80 billion. This is likely because companies are starting to realize the importance of targeted marketing over conventional broad advertising. Although traditional advertising mediums such as radio and TV ads have their benefits, they are largely beneficial for branding efforts rather than lead-generation purposes.
As large companies have deeper pockets and can afford to invest in branding campaigns to make their brand a household name, most local businesses are not trying to do this. They simply want to generate more phone calls. And it is much more cost-efficient and effective to have your message heard by people who are looking for your service rather than casting wider nets and hoping for the best. That is exactly why SEO investing is on the rise.
However, SEO can be as confusing as it is effective. Unlike paid traffic where you can basically get results within a matter of days (sometimes hours), organic traffic is a much more challenging beast. There are many variables at play and all of them weigh differently in Google’s core search algorithm. As such, unless you have a background in digital marketing, you likely have no idea how to gauge an SEO consultant’s competence (or lack thereof)
In this article, we will cover some of the most important things you should understand before hiring an SEO consultant or SEO services for your business. We will address terms you should be aware of, how to track and measure results of the SEO work being done on your website and much more.
SEO Terminology: What You Need to Know
Organic vs Paid Traffic
First of all, let’s draw a clear distinction between organic traffic and paid traffic.
Paid traffic is any kind of traffic for which you are directly paying the source or channel that the traffic is coming from. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn ads are all examples of paid traffic because you pay for every click (or impression) that your Ad gets. “PPC” is a commonly used abbreviation which stands for Pay Per Click and is generally used in the context of Google AdWords.
Organic traffic is traffic coming to your website that is the result of your site’s reputation, authority, content etc. Building this authority, having good content and making Google believe that your website adds a lot of value to the Internet (and by extension, your customers) is what search engine optimization is all about!
“Organic traffic gets 94% of clicks while paid Ads only get 6%”
In other words, if a keyword gets 100 searches per month, studies show that 94 of those people will go straight past the Ads and click on the organic listings while only 6 will click on the Ads. Very similar to how most people stop paying attention to the TV when Ads are playing.
What are Keywords?
A “keyword” is not exactly just one word but a “search phrase”. For example, if you own a physiotherapy clinic in Melbourne, one of your keywords could be “physio clinic Melbourne” or “back pain physio Melbourne”.
Keywords are at the core of any SEO strategy or campaign and it is very important that you choose the right ones that are likely to yield the best ROI.
How to Choose the Right Keywords?
Most SEO and digital marketing companies will offer an analysis of your website before giving you a quote for their services. This analysis should consist of recommended keywords and their respective search volumes.
It is VERY important that you know your keywords’ search volumes before you commit to an SEO consultant and start a campaign. Google reports how many people (approximately) are searching (per month) for any given keywords through their AdWords dashboard. Of course, the reason they reveal this information publicly is to convince people to buy Ads.
We can use this information to get a pretty accurate approximation of the potential ROI of ranking at the top for your keywords. Also, give some thought to the buyer intent of your keywords. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers who are typing these keywords into Google and think about how further along the buying process they are. In other words, are they ready to buy right now or are they just doing some research?
For example, someone searching “physiotherapy Melbourne” may be looking for a physio clinic and might make the call if they find a decent website. But someone searching “physiotherapy clinic for neck pain in Melbourne” is more likely to become a customer sooner as their query is more specific. On the other hand, the longer a keyword gets, the less often it is searched which means the search volumes for these types of keywords might be lower. So consult with your SEO specialist and make sure you choose a combination of keywords that are most likely to bring you traffic that you can monetize.
The reason this is important is that the nature of your keywords will have a direct impact on your conversion rates. So if you are 5 or 6 months into your SEO campaign and you feel that the number of phone calls or leads has not been satisfactory, you will need to look into your conversion rate (more on Conversion below).
Organic Rankings vs Local Map Rankings
A common point of confusion for people is the difference between your organic rankings and map rankings. Remember that these are 2 different entities and ideally, your SEO consultant should focus on ranking both of them. They often go hand-in-hand but sometimes, one requires more effort than the other.
“Map rankings” refer to ranking in the “map pack” (also called the “3-pack) which appears at the top for most local keywords. If your keyword has a location in the phrase, such as the name of a city or suburb, then there’s a very good chance that the results will display a “map pack”.
Ranking in the map pack can be very valuable for local businesses, especially for businesses that have a physical location. The majority of searches performed on Google are on mobile devices. The map pack gets a lot of real estate on the small screen of mobile devices and has a direct Call button. This convenience and ease of use for the customers make the map pack attractive to businesses.
However, as there are only 3 spots the competition is higher than ever. If your map ranking is lower than #3, then you do not appear anywhere and have virtually no visibility, unlike organic rankings which yield progressive results.
Organic rankings are shown below the map pack and link straight to your website. Here’s a snippet of what they look like (on desktop), as you have probably seen when you searched something on Google.
Ideally, you want placement in both the map pack and the organic results. The distribution of traffic between these 2 also depends on the industry. People that are looking for someone to fix their problem as soon as possible are more likely to click on the Call button and may not care as much about what your website looks like. For example, if a pipe broke in your house, you probably need a plumber as soon as possible and you’re not going to spend 30 minutes doing research.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a lawyer or a surgeon, it’s a much more serious and potentially delicate matter, so you might take the time to do your due diligence and look at several websites and read reviews before making a decision.
How to Measure Your SEO Results?
Rankings are King
The best method of monitoring results of your Search Marketing campaigns is tracking your rankings AKA your website’s position in the search results for your main keywords.
All SEO Agencies have their own methods of reporting and presenting the data to prove that the SEO work being done is getting results. All that is great but at the end of the day, remember that the primary indicator of whether it is indeed working, is to see how well your rankings are progressing.
Sometimes, an SEO company will try to deceive you by showing all sorts of charts and graphs and snapshots from your Google Analytics to try and prove that the website is getting traffic. But any kind of traffic does not lead to getting phone calls from your ideal customers. It is targeted traffic we want and that is why you are investing in SEO rather than other traffic acquisition methods.
Remember that getting a good ROI from local search engine optimization is not about the volume of traffic but the fact that said traffic is highly targeted and your ideal customer demographic.
So above all else, your priority should be tracking your rankings and if they stay stagnant for too long, it is an indication that your SEO consultant has hit a wall and is not able to figure out what is holding the rankings back. This often happens with high competition keywords where your website could get stuck on the lower first page or the second page.
Before your SEO agency starts working on your site, it is important that you note your baseline traffic levels so you can monitor the effectiveness of their work in the coming months. If you are tech-savvy at all, you should be able to install Google Analytics on your website. If not, ask the SEO agency to do so and make sure that you have access to the dashboard.
Google Analytics can be complicated and overwhelming to look at on first sight. But remember that at this stage, we’re only looking at the number of Sessions and Users on your site. We don’t really want to analyse traffic flow or user behaviour at this stage. That comes much later. Right now, we just want to know how many people are visiting the website over a 30 day period.
Once you have this snapshot, comparing it to the same numbers 4-5 months into your SEO campaign should tell you how well your SEO is working. Now of course, ideally you should know that SEO is working because you’re getting more phone calls but it is not always as simple as that.
Conversion Tracking & Optimization
Once you start getting more traffic to the website, you should start getting more phone calls and leads. At this stage, you should consider studying your website’s conversion rates more carefully.
Of course, you need to make sure that you are building your SEO campaign on the right foundation from the get-go by having a decent looking website. But when it comes to the smaller changes and tweaks that can improve your conversion, it is best to learn from studying your current traffic flow.
For example, if you find that a particular page is one of the biggest “Exit points” for your visitors and it doesn’t quite make sense for it to be so, that page needs more attention as it is clearly losing traffic.
Conversion optimization is a step that many people miss from their strategy. More traffic is great but it is not always the best solution (or the most cost-effective solution) to get more leads. Making the best of the traffic your website is getting will make sure that you’re getting the highest possible ROI on your marketing dollars.
A.P. Web Solutions is a Melbourne-based SEO consultancy working with local businesses Australia-wide to generate more leads through organic and paid search. Call 1300 780 112 to speak to one of our SEO consultants!