Want to hire an SEO consultant for your health club or wellness business? These 12 tips help you successfully evaluate, contract with and manage the right SEO consultant for your business.
1. Decide upfront what kind of help you want
Here are just a few of the kinds of services you might want:
- PPC management and conversion analysis
- Retargeting (of your site’s visitors as they move around the web)
- Reputation management (of negative online reviews, for example)
- Content marketing and development
- A one-time SEO audit
- Ongoing SEO
- Keyword research
- Link building or link removal
- Geographic optimization — local, for your brick-and-mortar wellness center, or regional or national optimization, perhaps for a chain of health clubs or a virtual personal training business
While many consultants say they do all of the above, knowing where you want to focus upfront helps you set goals and choose the best candidates. You’ll want to know how long they’ve been doing SEO, and the answer should be at least 3 – 5 years.
Ask them for their take on realistic goals and timelines. If they recommend, say, four different services, ask them to prioritize those services and tell you how quickly each would likely produce results.
2. Decide in advance what you can afford
A well-run PPC campaign can often pay for itself (and then some!) in a matter of months. What can you commit to spend for at least 3 – 6 months?
Content marketing is an ongoing initiative. If you can’t afford ongoing content development for 3 – 6 months, other marketing priorities like organic social media, live events, or formal customer loyalty programs may be more valuable than a fleeting attempt at SEO.
It’s not realistic to expect instantaneous results in a matter of days or weeks. Even PPC campaigns often need to be tuned to find the right mix of ad type, message, landing page, and so on. Figuring out which elements are working and which ones can be improved takes time and experimentation.
3. Avoid the red-light district
The SEO world is full of sharks. Avoid the following con artists like the plague:
- Strangers who contact you via free email accounts (like Gmail) rather than through a business email account, allude to vague declines in your site’s performance, and offer free assessments and SEO services
- Anyone who offers ridiculously cheap content
- Anyone who promises to get you to #1 in Google or Bing search results
- Anyone who promises cheap backlinks
- Anyone who suggests that you create a second site which you will use to promote your first site
Their recommendations usually break one or more Google SEO guidelines. Google will penalize your website by lowering its position in search results indefinitely. Fixing this kind of problem can be difficult and expensive.
4. Don’t confuse marketing with results
Business owners sometimes think that big SEO firms, or the SEO firm that shows up first in their Google search, or the firm that has a website they like are the obvious right choices.
Not so fast. Big firms often have spotty quality and tend to provide cookie-cutter service. They may require a level of budget that’s not realistic for your wellness business.
Showing up first in a Google search is the result of many factors — it’s not an automatic indicator that they do great SEO for clients.
And pretty websites just mean the site’s graphic design had tastes similar to yours. Nothing more.
5. Get case studies and recent customer references
Look for examples of businesses that are as much like yours as possible — same size, same industry, same geography, same SEO goals, and so on.
When you talk to references, ask them for the names of two other people that are familiar with Firm X’s work.
6. Educate yourself on the basics of SEO
You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to know enough to protect yourself.
7. Ask them about Google SEO algorithm changes
Specifically, ask them to tell you about a time when one of their client’s sites was negatively affected by a change in Google algorithms. What SEO practice triggered the penalty and how did they recover from it? Ask them how many clients have been affected.
Google search algorithm changes are intended to improve search results by penalizing “grayhat” practices that attempt to game the system. Smart SEO firms don’t intentionally engage in these practices and shouldn’t have large numbers of clients who have suffered from such penalties.
8. Ask them to explain how they’ll improve your SEO position
Reputable firms should be very happy to explain the techniques they’ll use, including both on-page and off-page SEO methods. They should also highlight any technical issues on your website like broken links that can hurt your search engine ranking, and review your metadata (page titles, headings and tags).
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask them for some initial observations about the factors before you decide to engage them.
9. Ask them to explain search engine webmaster best practices
Google, Yahoo and Bing all provide design, content, technical and quality guidelines which warn against specific SEO tricks that will result in penalties for your site. They also provide specific positive recommendations.
Your contract should specify that they will follow these best practices.
10. Discuss reports, analysis and recommendations
Discuss how frequently they’ll provide them, and who will actually be responsible for reviewing this information with you and making recommendations.
If they use junior, overseas, or outsourced labor you may want to specify in your contract that a named principal will review the reports with your team and make recommendations to you so that you get the benefit of their expertise and experience.
11. Be ready to answer their questions
A smart SEO firm will have plenty of questions for you as a prospective client, including:
- Keywords you think are important
- Prior experience with SEO or PPC initiatives
- Your competitors
- Availability of Google Analytics or other website analytics
- Other online and offline marketing activities
If they don’t ask you questions like these, scratch them off your list and keep looking.
12. Get expert advice on the contract
Selecting an SEO vendor and executing an SEO contract are both technically complex processes full of unfamiliar concepts. In many cases, a long-term commitment well into the six figures is involved.
For that reason, we often partner with clients to evaluate SEO vendors and advise on the business aspects of their contract with an SEO vendor, and recommend a legal review as well by an attorney familiar with SEO contracts.
SEO is one of the most strategic investments your health club or wellness business can make. Healthy skepticism and a willingness to do plenty of homework before choosing your vendor set you and your health club or wellness center up for success.