Hiring An SEO Expert Made Simple: 6 Most Important Indicators

Hiring An SEO Expert Made Simple: 6 Most Important Indicators

Hiring a reliable Search Engine Optimization Specialist or SEO Agency can be difficult since SEO is such a complex topic, and so many of these experts exist and can be found freelancing in today’s society.

Anyone with minimal knowledge of Google’s Keyword Tool can show up and make promises of #1 Google Rankings and 1000% traffic increases.

But we’ve all had, or at least heard about the horror stories that have occurred with dealing with some of these so called “professionals”. Those SEOs are more akin to snake oil salesmen of the past then true marketers.

Lucky for you, as an SEO myself, and someone who wears a white hat only, i’ve put together a list of six guidelines to ensure that you hire the right SEO or SEO company for your business. But first, i’ll define and discuss the pros and cons of a freelancer versus an agency.

What Is An SEO company anyway?

seo company - services in portland or - doorbell digital marketing

Great question. I love your curiosity.

This great Forbes article explains it pretty simply by describing the primary function as “help[ing] companies get business from search engines” by “1) creating content, 2) building high quality links…..and 3) analyzing results and adjusting accordingly.”

These are typically the functions that any SEO should do but any good SEO firm will be able to focus primarily on with expertise and dedicate multiple resources and teams to different aspects of each function as well.


  • More money to dedicate towards good software & resources to help your business
  • Multiple employees with different perspectives, responsibilities and areas of expertise
  • Usually have set processes in place for success


  • Can be somewhat inflexible and set in their ways
  • A bit more expensive due to overall operating costs

SEO Specialists (Aka Freelancers)

A search engine optimization consultant, otherwise known as a freelancer is another viable option if you’re looking to contract out your SEO needs. They might have similar goals as an SEO agency might, but their methodology can vary wildly depending on the individual.

If you find the right person, this can be a great opportunity. But you’ve got to be careful about some of these individuals, because they might not have the skills to back up their claims.


  • Are willing to take time to experiment/try new things
  • Don’t have as many overall clients so they can give personalized attention
  • Will tend to have cheaper services


  • Only one perspective, even if they are an expert
  • Might not have the same level of tools or analysis capabilities
  • Aren’t as credible

So now that you know a little about your options for professional SEO services, here are those guidelines I promised. If you follow these carefully, you’ll never have to worry about hiring the right SEO consultant ever again.

No One Can Guarantee A #1 Ranking For Any Keyword

If they say anything about guaranteed rankings, especially sooner than 90 days, politely excuse yourself, and run away briskly.

Nowadays, search engines are getting a lot smarter. They are on a mission to serve only the most quality and relevant content possible.

In order to do that they take into account over 200 ranking factors about a given website. For example, depending on your site size and content frequency, it can take anywhere between hours and weeks for Google to add your site to it’s index after creation.

So, when you hear that promise, run away.

The person might even be telling the truth, but their methods will have you getting penalized and possibly even de-indexed shortly after as well.

Look Into Their Portfolio & Past Clients

Ask them about the campaigns they’ve worked on and why they ended.

Not all SEOs are created equal. Just because someone says a bunch of seemingly professional web jargon like “robots.txt” or “meta tags” doesn’t mean that they are qualified to improve your site.

They might have just read an article or two about SEO prior to the interview. Make sure to require them to walk you through their previous clients and experience. If they are a single individual, have them describe if they worked either in house, at an agency, or were a freelancer.

For SEO agencies, ask how long they’ve been in business, who some of their clientele are, and then get in contact with those past clients and get their opinion as well.

Also, be sure to ask about what the results were of their past experiences, and that the reason why the specialist left was due to a completed project, not for some other reason.

Request Examples Of Successful Campaigns

Have them show you examples of their past website’s current rankings and how it looks.

Any SEO that did a great job for their previous company should be proud of their past work. The site should still be doing relatively well, and not be too radically different.

The reason for this being that if their tactics were based on search engine recommendations and best practices, then the implementations and strategies should be somewhat future proofed as long as it wasn’t too many years in the past.

If nothing else, the sites should still be ranking fairly well. When they’re not, or even de-indexed, that’s not a good sign. It might be the case that someone else came into the business and made that mistake, but be sure to contact the employer to verify that information.

Quality SEO Services Aren’t Cheap

Be extremely skeptical of low priced packages and “specials”.

No one, and I mean absolutely no one can do quality SEO for $99.

The time it takes to create a viable content strategy, conduct proper audits and industry analysis, make code and technical changes, and generate quality backlinks (especially for B2B companies) is to the tune of 6 months to a year just for a proper full optimization and results.

If someone (or even a team) is dedicating that level of effort and strategy to your site and business, they cannot possible make a profit charging $99.

Realistically, those companies have a really gimmicky SEO strategy that will probably hurt your company’s SEO in the long run. So when hiring a search engine specialist, be willing to dish out a few more dollars for top quality. 

See What Google Has To Say About Them

Search their first and last (or company) name.

That’s right. Do it.

Most quality SEO specialists for hire will have their own names and websites optimized. It makes sense right? It’s their job to increase search visibility and rankings on the web, so they should know how to do the same with their personal brand and website.

If you can’t find them by doing a basic search on the web or at least on social media, then there is a problem. Either with their skill level or lack of transparency as a business, both of which are red flags.

Reports, Reports, Reports

Some digital marketing services can be a bit intangible.

So an ethical and skilled SEO should want to hold themselves accountable because they know how to  produce. They should be completely transparent with their efforts on a monthly, and even weekly basis.

For most companies or specialists this comes in the form of a report, or a report and meeting if you’d prefer. The report should be easy to understand, comprehensive, and should show very clearly how they are helping to increase your company’s bottom line.

This article does an excellent job of showing what a proper report should look like.

So there you go, how to hire the right SEO broken down. If you’re currently looking for quality and effective SEO services, feel free to get in touch and inquire about my services. I help businesses get found and convert searchers into buyers on the internet.

Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the CEO and Chief Strategist at Doorbell Digital Marketing with over 7 years of SEO and Content Strategy experience under his belt. He’s also a husband, lover of creative side hustles, taco fanatic, and a big fan of the outdoors.

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