Search engine optimisation has gotten a bit of a bad name in recent years (and it's not like it has existed all that long). It's become associated with people who send dreadfully written emails with promises to “rank better for number 1!” and others who consistently over-promise and under-deliver.
In fact SEO has become such a poisoned phrase that prominent digital marketing sites like Moz.com and Majestic.com have in recent times dropped the “SEO” from their title. That doesn't mean anyone who calls themselves an “SEO specialist” should be avoided - there are plenty of good ones around – but there are a few things you should be wary of when hiring a specialist. Things like...
Promising to get you to position one
If anyone promises to get you to position number one for anything be on your guard. The goal of any digital marketing campaign should be to increase your rankings but no one, not God, Gandhi or Matt Cutts himself can promise you position one. It's like a marketing campaign guaranteeing they will increase your sales 50 per cent. It could happen, but there is no way you can guarantee it will.
They're really cheap
So maybe you have looked around a bit and have some idea of what a consultant should cost. Then you find this one guy (it's almost always a guy) who promises he can do the job for half the price. And it sounds almost too good to be true, but you want to believe him, you really do. Well, don't. There are risks associated with getting in someone who practises bad SEO (or black hat) techniques. They could buy a whole load of dodgy links (see below) and get your site hit with a penalty that that then hurts your organic ranking performance. Without trying to sound too dramatic about it, you could have paid someone to harm your business.
They mention outdated SEO terms
If someone is talking positively about things like “keyword density” and “exact match keywords” then you should approach with caution. In fact, according to SearchMetrics' latest Rankings and Factors study the use of targeted keywords is less and less relevant as a ranking factor at all, never mind working in additional keywords that make sentences read like they were written by a 900 year old Jedi. Talking about the quantity of links, rather than the quality of links is another big warning sign.
Promising submissions to hundreds of search engines
Something a lot of people promise is the submission of your site to a lot of search engines. This is great, in theory, in practice, no one uses the vast majority of these search engines. Google? Sure. Bing? You betcha. Yahoo? Sort of. After that, it's pointless, anyone else could do it for you, but you're wasting time and money that is better spent on someone who knows what they're doing.
A sudden surge in the number of your backlinks
So maybe you're already working with someone who you suspect is not carrying out best practice SEO techniques. A simple way to check is to use a tool like Ahrefs to check if there has been an upsurge in your total number of referring pages, particularly if the number of referring domains hasn't increased all that much. If there has been a significant surge check the quality of those domains. If these sites feature a huge volume of links or have content that has nothing to do with your site then you might want to have a word with your “specialist”.
So there you go. In summary getting an SEO specialist is the same as getting any other form of consultant in. There are good and bad ones, so make sure you spend your money wisely.