Let’s be honest: SEO can feel pretty scary and technical to creative folks. Alt text and meta descriptions and backlinking?! Can someone play some zen music, please?
With everything there is to learn, it can be really tempting to just say “I give up!” and look for an SEO expert to hire.
But here’s the catch: in order to get the best results for your money, you need to do a few things first. If you don’t put in the effort to get a few website basics right and set an SEO foundation, you’ll never be able to make it to page one—no matter how much SEO help they pay for.
Are you ready for SEO?
At a basic level, the goal of all of the search engines is to find the most helpful, relevant websites to show in their search results. Search engine optimization is what you do to make sure your website looks the most relevant and helpful.
But in order for your website to look helpful to Google, it needs to be more than basic. It is very, very rare that a website with only a few pages and a couple blog posts can rank for competitive keywords.
You need content. And you need some authority with Google.
Without a few basics, you just won’t have enough on your website to rank for your top keywords. Even if you hired the best SEO consultant on the planet, they can’t magically make a shallow website with very little traffic instantly rank on page one.
So, let’s talk about what makes a website ready for professional SEO services.
5 Things You Need to Have Before You Consider Hiring an SEO Consultant:
1. At least one year of domain history
Brand new websites are really hard to rank. Google isn’t sure if new websites are quick sites just created for spam links or actual, long-standing, honest businesses.
That’s why Google gives some weight and preference to websites with an established history online.
For this reason, I suggest that your website should be online for at least a year before you invest in SEO help.
2. At least 10 helpful blog posts
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Google loves content. Without it, your SEO consultant will have nothing to tweak and rank in search engines.
To set your website up for SEO success, get down to business and start writing.
Think about questions your prospects or clients often ask you, and write out the answers with as much depth as you can muster. Don’t worry too much about “optimizing” them. Just write in-depth answers that would really help an ideal client who has that question.
I suggest you write and post at least 10 blog posts before you start diving into optimization. You or your SEO consultant can update your posts in the future to better target important keywords.
3. A quality website without technical issues
Technical issues can make or break a website’s ability to rank. If a website has a lot of technical problems, search engines may struggle to crawl the content.
It’s important that your website platform offers the ability to edit meta titles, meta descriptions, and other search engine settings. Choose one like WordPress, Squarespace, or Showit, and start with a template from a quality design company. Then, follow the platform’s basic SEO tips when you set it up. Here are some helpful articles:
4. Past work displayed on your website
If you haven’t actually provided your service before and written about it on your website, you are going to struggle to rank as a “wedding planner” or “calligrapher” or “travel agent”. Google (and your website visitors) want to see examples of your authority around a topic.
If you want to improve your website’s SEO, make sure you have at least 5 examples of your work posted on your website.
You also want to write about each project—don’t just show photos! Go in-depth on topics like:
- How the client found you
- What you loved about this particular project
- What was unique about this project
- Your process for creating or doing the work
- The details about exactly what you delivered
Include a client testimonial if at all possible to bring in even more content and keywords.
5. Active social media accounts for your business
In 2018 and beyond, social media is a major ranking factor for search engines. Search engines are increasingly looking to rank web pages that have been shared multiple times on social media and received interaction. Social shares indicate that the pages are useful, helpful resources that readers like.
If you want your website to rank in search results, it’s important that you:
- Have social media accounts set up for your business (especially Facebook—yes, even though the organic reach is low)
- Share links to your pages and posts (not just your home page) on social media
- Have your full, correct website URL listed in the bio or “website URL” section of your social media accounts
- Have at least 100 followers on those accounts
- Regularly post and encourage likes, comments, and shares
Extra credit: press and links
The items below are some “nice to haves” that can improve your chances of ranking in Google and help make an SEO consultant’s work quicker and more effective.
- Some publication history on other blogs or industry magazines
- A few links to your website from complementary businesses that you’ve worked with
- Profiles and reviews on prominent industry directories
Your SEO consultant will likely have strategies to help you get more links, press, and reviews in your work together. However, your success will be quicker if you have some quality links already coming into your website.
The bottom line is that SEO just doesn’t work without some work. Taking the time to make sure your website is helpful and trustworthy and has the basics for success means that you’ll actually see results if you hire SEO help.