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Here are my rantings on internet marketing. I've given some good advice in some articles, and others, well. Take a look for yourself.

The Guide On Hiring A Google SEO Specialist

Looking for a consultant that's a Google SEO expert, but don’t know really the industry or the the jargon? Do you want to be prepared for the BS sales pitch most will give you? This article explains some key points and can be used as your guide for hiring an SEO specialist.

Search Engine Optimisation it is currently in demand across multiple industries, and it does work when executed correctly. A few years ago I was having some beers with another SEO consultant based on the north side of Sydney. Stewart said to me “Nick, to me hiring an SEO consultant is like going to a doctor, but for your business. You don’t want to visit the wrong doctor, do you?” Stewart wasn’t far from the truth, and you will see why throughout this article.

Before I continue, this industry has some common acronyms that should be explained. Here are the four basic ones you must be familiar with.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, it’s a practice where a specialist can compliment your existing work, to help optimise your brand with intention to help your business gain a higher authority, and rank, in your industry.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing, which is generally tied in with Adwords. Essentially they are internet marketing strategies which aim to increase your search visibility through paid search platforms.

PPC & CPC: Pay Per Click and Cost Per Click. These have nothing to do with SEO, they’re advertising terms. Some consultants and agencies use advertising costs to measure the competition of a keyword. My opinion is advertising is advertising, organic is organic. They’re two separate platforms, owned by the same company, with different intentions for each.

What I’ve Learned Over The Years About SEO

What I’ve learned about SEO over the years is that SEO is not a silver bullet, consultants don’t have magic buttons they push when you give them money, and there are no shortcuts when going for a long term result.

There are two schools of thought with SEO, and a good consultant will practice both. Why? It’s hard to criticise something you don’t understand. How are you to know what is the correct way if you haven’t tested the incorrect way? How do you find new methods?

Google will not tell you anything specific if it can be manipulated, especially how their algorithms work. It's up to SEOs to run their own testing environments, collaborate with other consultants and share information publicly.

What is Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO is all about testing the algorithm outside the boundaries, not following the rules and going against the grain. Black Hat SEO is extremely important to understand and practice on testing websites, affiliate websites and information sites. Nobody in the professional world would, or should, practice this on a client.

Think of Black Hat SEO as the method that define the boundaries White Hat SEO follows. Let’s face it, without poking holes at Googles almighty algorithm, how will they come up with filters like Penguin and Panda? These filters are stepping stones to creating a filtered semantic web, which is essentially leading to sentence learning and AI.

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO is really following the rules and guidelines, feeding them machine. However, a good White Hat SEO will refine that process and open up more time to extend and test what hasn’t been done before. This is where a lot of SEOs will try and move you into optimising the experience of your website, the design, mobile functionality, content marketing, site architecture, user navigation and semantic relevance to search bots.

Think of White Hat SEO as a process to assist search engines and deliver the best possible result, with the intention for it last long term. This is the ethical side of SEO.

When hiring an SEO consultant it’s good to find out if they’re fluent in both worlds, but only practice white hat strategies on clients.

If a consultant admits they practice black hat on affiliate sites, you’re on a good path. If they admit to using “grey hat” methods, question that because it generally means they’re using a combination of both worlds, which can be a gamble in the long term.

If a consultant will blatantly tell you that Black Hat SEO doesn’t work, then they’re not very good. Black Hat SEO does work, just not for very long. You can rank a website with a very competitive term using black hat methods, but don’t expect it to last more than 3 months. Google algorithmic penalties are getting smarter and picking up spam a lot faster than a few years back.

The strongest advice I can give is you is request some kind of certification from your consultant that isn’t Adwords related. This can either be a Google Certificate, Business / Marketing Courses or to show you and explain how they work with Google, or Bing, to bring a client a positive result.

How long does it really take for SEO?

This really does depend on your industry, and anyone that gives you a vanilla flavoured package in the form of a sales pitch during the first 10 mins should be ignored. A solid SEO consultant will need anywhere between 4 months to 12 months for you to start seeing traction with your website.

If you are someone that is inpatient with SEO, you’re most likely going to hop around all the agencies and consultant, never get anywhere and wonder why you can’t rank. Also keep in mind that professionals will generally collaborate with each other, and work together at some stage. So hopping around only creates a reputation for yourself, not the agency or consultant.

I’m very open with all my clients and explain that “although I won’t lock you into a contract, you should stay with me for at least 6 months before making any decision to move forward.” A very small percentage move on, they end up investing in me, not my skill set.

Friendly Advice about Adwords Pitches

If an agency automatically want to start selling you Adwords, then you need to make an important decision, but here is why they’re pitching it to you.

Google encourages Adwords signup (duh), and offers Google Partners incentives for reaching targets with Adwords spend (top agency ranks etc). The more turnover in the agencies MCC account, the higher the incentives: like personalised account managers at Google, invites to events and faster support.

This can be a benefit if your SEO is already on point, and you want to grow further with the terms you will never rank #1 for anytime soon. Most consultants won’t bother dealing with Adwords, or they’ll outsource it for a commission.

General process for You and the SEO consultant

When you’re looking for an SEO consultant, the worst question you could ask is “are you any good?” or “How much does SEO cost?”. This goes vice versa for the consultant, if they’re asking you “what is your budget?” or don’t seem interested in your business, then maybe continue your search.

You should contact the SEO consultant you wish to speak to and ask them what they can offer you. If they start a sales pitch that sounds like they’re reading from a pitch deck, move on. If they’re asking you questions about you, your process, your business, what you want to achieve and how you guys can work together to achieve it, then you’ve most likely found your consultant.

A good SEO consultant will come across as more of a business consultant for the online world. It’s very hard to do SEO without knowing the scope and intentions of a business.

Look at their about page, testimonials, linkedin profiles, google reviews, web directory reviews and even go as far as asking for a case study. If a consultant seems like they’re hidden to the web, that’s an alarm bell right there. A good consultant will be transparent, with their work and themselves. Not to mention that if they’re saying they’re “good at SEO”, then their website should rank. Right?

An SEO should be someone you feel comfortable with, someone on the same wavelength as you and cares about your business.

What does a website audit provide? Something tangible that outlines the scope of your SEO campaign. Without a full website audit checking on page signals, off page signals, history and competition you’re basically going in blind. You will have to pay for a website audit, a good consultant will provide an extensive report that outlines your issue, the solution and how it’s going to benefit your website.

I’m not going to lie, you're going to get what you pay for here, and if a website audit sounds dodgy then it’s probably a “generated” report you can get for free online. Your website audit should not be generated at all, it should be written by the consultant themselves, and each error should be manually checked where they show you the error in the report and explain why it needs fixing.

The website audit structure

Your technical audit should have a proposal attached, as the audit itself has allowed the SEO to understand and prioritise what is needed to fix your onpage signals. This includes outlining the following:

  • The Onpage Issue, with some explanation on why it’s an issue
  • The suggested improvement to fix the issue
  • What you, users and search are expected to see from the change.

The overall proposal should also include the time and investment needed to fix any issues, and to see the improvement.

A technical audit – outlining onpage errors – should review your site for a lot of errors that the general user can’t see. These issues can be related to:

  • Indexing and Crawlability
  • URL Parameters, Response Codes, Internal Linking
  • Server Connection, Page Speed, Functionality
  • UX, Mobile Tap Locations, Content Delivery

What about duplicate content issues?

This is a common go to for agencies and consultant to win a client, and I’m not lying here when some of the reports are not legitimate. So many websites function and rank quite well across the web, and this content can also be known as common content.

If a consultant says “you have too much duplicate content on your website” then ask them to show you which URLs contain duplicate content, the percentage of the content that is duplicate and how they can optimise the page to reduce the percentage.

If an SEO explains that common content should be cleaned up for long term health, that’s a legitimate request. Common content won’t hurt your site, but optimising common content will definitely improve your website.

Duplicate content refers to the content within the main container of the page, like an article or landing page. The issues are suffering a potential algorithmic penalty from the Panda filter, or something called cannibalization where multiple URLs compete for the same search query.

Extend Your Knowledge about Google vs Bing

Keyword Research Explained

If someone offers a new keyword research strategy, you should ask to see their work. It used to be common practice for SEOs to use the keyword planner in adwords for keyword research, but over time the data did not correlate and other methods were created.

A good keyword research pitch will also mention keyword mapping where all terms are broken into categories based on what results are displayed in the search engine result page. What a mouthful huh, I’ll break it down.

  • Branded Search Query – “Outlook”
  • Unbranded Search Query – “Email”
  • Commercial Query – “Email Client Software”
  • Research Query – “Setting up email account in outlook”

Notice these keywords are all relevant to one product, Microsoft Outlook. The same goes with your services and products.

The Semantic Web

An advanced SEO will go above and beyond extensive keyword research, mapping and web architecture and move into the semantic web. This is a specialist field so don’t be hard on your SEO if they have no idea what this means, but maybe don’t rely on them to give you the most outstanding result.

If an SEO starts talking about structured data, schema, RDF, or the semantic web with content analysis. Then you should pay attention and ask them to explain what they mean. This is your learning opportunity to understand our industry, and how we think to bring you a good result.

To explain myself further, I’m referring back to the outlook keywords.

Branded Search Query – “Outlook”
Using structured data, you can tell search bots that the term outlook is your brand, or part of your brand. By using structured data, you’re inviting signals from wikimedia platform to verify the data and display it in the knowledge graph.

Unbranded Search Query – “Email”
Unbranded search queries that are broad, like “email” can give you an idea of the overall online competition landscape. Don’t expect to rank for these words.

Commercial Query – “Email Client Software”
These are the words you should be looking to map to a single URL. These keywords should have some relevant words attached in order to gain a higher semantic relevancy score.

Research Query – “Setting up email account in outlook”
Same goes with research keywords, there should be phrases attached to give the content writer a guide on how to phrase helpful sentences and what key issues are commonly searched.

By grouping keywords together, you're ensuring that no URLs are competing for the same keyword. One URL can rank for a number of keywords, but they're going to be very similar or synonyms. For example, a “specialist” can rank for similar keywords as an “expert”.

Do I pick a consultant or an agency for SEO?

This really does depend on you and what you require from your SEO.

If you prefer to work with a hierarchy, where work is more focused on quality control and reporting, an agency is your path to walk down. Some agencies will create a partnership with consultants for “white label” services, where the consultant does the work and report without their branding. The agency will then brand the report and deliver it as their own.

The pro’s for going with an agency is they can help you with Adwords and growth. You’ll be working with a team of people across the digital web industry that each play a different role. One of the con's of going with an agency, is they're often not transparent, you're working with a salesman / account manager and often special tasks take time.

If you prefer to work with an independent you can speak to, meet with and be comfortable that just one person is looking after your SEO, then a consultant is the way to go.

An SEO consultant will generally specialise in SEO, and different aspects of SEO. They generally won’t venture deep into advertising strategies like Adwords or Social Network Advertising. Having said that, a good SEO consultant will have a general understanding of all digital marketing roles, and play a small part in all of them (wear many hats).

The pro’s of using a consultant is you speed up all processes, deal with one person and you can guarantee the consultant will nurture your account and stay with you as an online business consultant. The biggest con with using a consultant is growth. Often a consultant is your ground work, and if you wish to move into an Enterprise level, a consultant may struggle with the work load.

How To Hire An SEO - Direct From Google

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