Guest blog by Zoe Hughes from Zebra Business Solutions

Have you ever been in a networking group when someone asks for an expert in a certain field, and you just know the person being recommended is anything but an expert?

Yeah, it happens a lot in the SEO industry.

Many people seem to think it’s a quick way to make money and easy to get started (all you need is to install Yoast and tweak a few things, right?) but these are the kind of people that’ll damage your website rather than improve it for SEO.

I know it’s difficult to trust someone with SEO, it’s such a jargon-filled industry and if you knew what to look for, you’d do it yourself, right?

So, if you’re looking for an SEO consultant but aren’t sure how to check if they’re any good or not, here are some of the things to be looking out for.

1 – Check their website for image alt tags

Huh? I don’t know what to look for!

This is a quick check I do to see if an SEO consultant is up to scratch and if I would feel recommending them or not.

Go to their website and right-click on your mouse anywhere on the screen, hit that “View page source” option.

What you’ll see is a page full of code, don’t panic!

Hit ctrl + f on your keyboard to enter the search function and enter “alt”

What you are looking for is filled in alt text tags throughout the page, they’ll look like this:

alt=”Logo for Zebra Business Solutions SEO for Female Entrepreneurs”

If you spot a lot of alt=”” then that’s a red flag

The alt function means alternative text, and it’s what is shown when a picture can’t be loaded or if a screen reader is being used to read the website out loud to a disabled visitor.

Image optimisation is an important part of SEO. Not only does filling in the alt text give additional clues to search engines about the image and the context it’s being used in but it’s also a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010.

Google is placing more importance on image optimisation and alt tags than ever before as accessibility is becoming a bigger issue; so, it’s a sign of a good SEO consultant if they’re got this covered on their own website.

I recently checked a competitor’s website out of curiosity and found 148 missing alt tags (I was using a tool, I didn’t manually check every page!). That’s 148 missed opportunities to improve SEO on their own website (and funnily enough, they weren’t ranking highly for any keywords either).

The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

2 – Delve into their blog

Some SEO consultants and agencies argue that technical and on-page SEO is better than content, and so many don’t have a blog.Picture of a laptop with a sign saying blog next to it

A blog post can rank #1 for a keyword and bring valuable traffic to your website so I strongly disagree with that argument!

I work with female entrepreneurs all of whom have been blogging regularly before hiring me for their SEO, and if you’re reading this blog then I guess content matters to you too.

With that in mind, just have a quick look through their blog and the kind of information they’re sharing with you.

  • Are they transparent and helpful, providing advice you can use to improve your own SEO?
  • Are their blogs easy to read and well-formatted (header tags, images, etc)?
  • Do you feel that they are open and forthcoming about their work?

I believe that transparency is important when I work with my clients – it is their website after all! The first thing I look for when outsourcing to any professional for my own business is to see if they share similar values to myself and I find the blog is often the best place to find that out.

3 – Look for testimonials and case studies

One of the best things about SEO for me is that it is data-driven.

You start with x amount of traffic and by the end of the SEO process, there should be Y amount of traffic. Or you start with a keyword ranking number 12 and get it to number 2, etc.

You can measure how well SEO is working, and so your SEO consultant should be able to share with you with some statistics from past clients (you can check out one of my SEO case studies here)

Sure, a lot of business owners don’t want to make this information public so lookout for what’s being said in their testimonials too, do they talk about increased traffic, higher rankings, more sales?

The other thing to look for is the business owners in these case studies and testimonials; are they like you?

If all the testimonials are for e-commerce and you’re a service business, are they going to be a good match for you? Do they have experience with your industry and website type?

Use the information you find in their case studies as a starting point for asking these kinds of questions, it’ll help you to determine if that SEO consultant is a good fit for you during the hiring process.

I know that outsourcing your SEO can be difficult and it’s tricky to know who to trust, so I hope this blog has given you some ideas on the types of things to be looking out for. Sarah’s blog on how to find the right freelancer for your business is a fantastic read with some additional advice on what to consider so make sure you read that if you haven’t already.

I’ll end with this final piece of advice – take your time when hiring someone to take care of your SEO. Rushing into things can lead to costly mistakes. Do scope out several SEO consultants and agencies, check their websites, ask them lots of questions and then make your decision.

About Zoe

Picture of Zoe Hughes from Zebra Business SolutionsZoe is an SEO consultant who specialises in helping female entrepreneurs to shine online with front-page Google results. You can discover more about Zoe on her about page over at Zebra Business Solutions