What to Ask SEO Consultants

Jan 15, 2024 | SEO

One of the main catch 22’s we find our agency client’s in is that they have a need for an SEO team member but they don’t have anyone in the team who is knowledgeable enough within the world of SEO to really grill any candidates during the interview phase. This situation is 1 of the critical reasons Interim Digital exists as we have channel specialists vetting other channel specialists to make sure that every member of our community really does know their SEO onions.

Hiring the right SEO consultants or digital marketing freelancers can make a world of difference, but how do you ensure you’re making the right choice if you haven’t got the luxury of in-house channel specialists to help weed out best of the bunch? OK so we’re about to reveal some of our secret sauce here but these are some questions we ask when interviewing potential SEO consultants for our community:

1. SEO Industry and Agency Experience Matters:

  • How many years of experience do you have as an SEO consultant and where were you before you jumped ship to freelance?
    It’s essential to gauge the depth of their experience as we’re always wary of anyone who has only been industry for a couple of years who then goes onto freelance. The complexity of SEO means that (in our opinion) it’s essential for any freelancer to have a bear minimum of 5+ years experience in fast-paced digital agencies or in-house teams before they even consider going freelance. The reason being is that the best place to learn the ropes of SEO is in the company of SEO peers. It’s very difficult to get to the top of the SEO game without being surrounded by fellow channel experts. Equally, agency experience gives future SEO consultants the edge when it comes to client and project management.
  • Can you share examples of successful SEO projects you’ve worked on?
    Concrete examples of past successes can give you insights into their capabilities and the potential impact on your clients’ projects. Coining industry terms such as “Screaming Frog”, “AHrefs” and “GSC” can only get SEO consultants so far. Be wary of any potential SEO freelancer who can’t pull on real life anecdotes of accounts and campaigns they’ve worked on. Whether it be a bad or good tale (we all know how difficult it is to battle with large dev teams as SEO’ers) anecdotes are one of the critical measures we use to vet our community members. No anecdotes = major red flag 🚩
  • What industries have you worked in?
    An SEO consultant with diverse industry experience is more likely to bring adaptable strategies that can be tailored to your agency’s unique clientele. The great thing about agency life is it provides exactly this; i.e. exposure to several sectors all at once. Whilst the ins and outs of SEO strategy remain the same and are market-agnostic to a point, having specific sector knowledge helps freelance SEO’ers relate to specific business KPI’s and needs within each market. In addition to different sectors, agency life also often comes with hands-on management of multilingual search campaigns; a skillset that is extremely desirable for a lot of brands and agencies if done correctly! This level of business and market understanding it what takes freelancers from good to great and are the types of partners that agency’s should cling onto forever.

2. SEO Strategy Approach:

  • What is your approach to on-page SEO?
    Open questions are your saviour when comes to drilling down into whether your potential SEO freelancer cuts the technical mustard. Asking them to expand on how they approach SEO in general, from Tech to content is key. If they can seamlessly navigate from technical anecdotes to spotting content opportunities through to mapping those opportunities into commercial KPI’s for your clients then your gut feel should be that they are *probably* a good fit.
  • How do you approach link building and content marketing?
    Acquiring links is, quite frankly, the hardest discipline within the digital marketing ecosystem. If an interviewee expresses a.) how easy it is or b.) refers to any guarantees then get them out of your agency front door…STAT. 🚩
  • What tools do you use for keyword research and analysis?
    Familiarity with industry-standard tools is a given for SEO consultants worth their salt. Instead of asking them which tools they use ask them about the specific features within the tools they use and why they think they’re great. If they can pull out specific parts of tools that can be knitted into making strategy creation more streamlined and data driven then you’re onto a winner.

3. Communication and SEO Reporting:

  • How do you communicate progress and results?
    We talk a lot about how clear communication is key on the Interim blog. Ensure their reporting style aligns with your agency’s preferences and meets client expectations but they also articulate the takeaways from the data is key. You could even look to introduce a task here by providing them with a Looker Dashboard and asking them to analyse the data and provide recommendations based on what said data is telling them. If those recommendations are commercially driven and achievable you may well have found yourself a good SEO consultant!
  • What KPIs do you focus on, and how do you measure success?
    A reliable SEO consultant should be able to articulate key performance indicators and demonstrate how they translate to tangible results. Similar to the above point, knitting observations into KPI’s is part and parcel of being a great SEO Freelancer. If your candidate refers purely to rankings and number of links then show them the door.
  • Can you provide a sample SEO report you’ve created for a previous client?
    This isn’t always a possibility given the sensitive nature of analytics data but if they can, then great! Even if it’s a template within Looker Studio or GA4, the can help give you a steer in terms of their skills in the art of reporting. On the flip side, don’t hang them out to dry if the actual creation of the reports isn’t within their skillset. Looker Studio and GA4 are an art form of their own these days and there are plenty of Google Analytics freelance specialists within this specific field who can help with this if your SEO freelancer can’t.
  • Keeping Abreast of SEO Trends:
  • How do you stay updated on the latest SEO trends and algorithm changes?
    The digital landscape is ever-changing; a competent SEO consultant actively engages in continuous learning and adaptation via online learning, being active on LinkedIn, keeping up with industry peers and some even work out of agency offices to help stay in the game.
  • Can you provide an example of how you’ve adapted your strategies to a major algorithm update?
    Their ability to navigate and adjust to changes is crucial for sustaining long-term SEO success but it’s not only the adapting which is key, it’s the ability to diagnose the issue in the first place. Ask them how they would understand a sites issue before they go about fixing it.

5. Freelance SEO vs. SEO Agency:

  • As a freelance SEO consultant, how do you manage workload and client commitments?
    Freelancers often juggle multiple clients, so understanding their capacity and commitment to your projects is vital. Equally, be understanding that freelancers are often freelance for a reason and that reason is often flexibility. If they work weekends and evenings because that fits their lifestyle make sure you unearth before partnering with them so as to not cause any communication issues further down the line.
  • What advantages do you see in hiring a freelance SEO consultant over an agency?
    This is more a question for the brand stakeholders out there but recognising the strengths and limitations of both options can help align their approach with your brand’s needs. If they come from agency stock they’ll understand the pressures that come with agency life and the occasional bottle necks which they can make sure are mitigated by engaging with them as opposed to a large scale agency.

6. Local SEO Expertise:

  • How do you approach local SEO for businesses targeting a specific geographic area?
    Although not focused on as much as the real juicy SEO strategies, for many clients, local visibility is still absolutely paramount. If this is the case for your agency, ensure the consultant has a solid grasp of local SEO tactics. From citations to profile creations, ask them the processes they follow to create, launch and update local profiles to ensure the best visibility for your clients.

7. Budget Considerations:

  • What is your pricing structure, and what does it include?
    Understanding the financial aspect upfront helps avoid surprises later on as some SEO consultants are happy to bill down to the hour whereas others stick stringently to day rates.

Conclusion: Choosing the Right SEO Consultant for Your Digital Agency

In the world of SEO, finding the right consultant is a crucial step in ensuring your clients’ online success. By delving into their experience, approach, communication style, adaptability, and budget considerations, you can make a well-informed decision. Remember, it’s not just about hiring an SEO consultant; it’s about finding a strategic partner who aligns with your agency’s goals and can elevate your clients to new heights in the digital landscape. With the right questions, you’ll be well on your way to building a lasting and successful collaboration with a top-notch SEO consultant.

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