When it comes to SEO consultants, there are plenty of fish in the sea. However, some SEO agencies are a better catch than others! Our 100% woman-owned SEO agency, Charm School, is one of those. Are you just starting your search for an SEO strategist? Here’s how you can find a small business SEO consultant to increase your organic website traffic, improve your ranking, get your website out of penalty, and increase your domain authority via link building.

How to Choose The Best Small Business SEO Consultant to Improve Your Ranking and Organic Website Traffic

1. Set an SEO Budget

Most established and start-up companies should allot $500–$3,000 annually for SEO optimizations. You need to determine your budget before you decide whether or not to hire an SEO agency or freelance SEO strategist. Your SEO budget will go toward:

  1. SEO audit
  2. Content creation
  3. Website design improvements
  4. Backend meta data optimizations

So how do you determine your SEO budget? Look to your current challenges and goals! For example, if your website has tons of functionality problems like slow page load speed and outdated web design that isn’t mobile responsive, you have to set budget aside for website development to fix the issues. This will be more expensive, but necessary and worth it for optimal SEO health. Website functionality is just as important—if not more important—than SEO keywords and content.

If you want to outrank your competition in a competitive industry, you will need to budget for link building and content creation. Link building will cost at least $100 per high quality link. Creating blog content also requires a consistent and longterm investment. Budget for 6–12 months of content, publishing at least one blog per month, to see results.

With an affordable SEO agency like Charm School, you’ll receive sustainable, long lasting SEO strategy that gets better with time and outlives algorithm trends. Plus, we have the website development, content strategy, and SEO teams to back you up. We’re a one-stop shop for all of your SEO and digital marketing needs.

2. Choose Between an SEO Agency or SEO Specialist Freelancer

Depending on your budget, you’ll know whether you can afford to hire an in-house SEO strategist or need to look externally for an SEO agency or freelancer. Fun fact: you’ll save up to 50% the cost of an employee by working with a marketing agency like Charm School! Here’s a guide to help you decide how to hire for your SEO needs.

3. Ask Questions

The best thing you can do when choosing an SEO consultant is ask questions! Here are some to help you vet your candidates:

  1. How long will it take to see results?
    Anyone who tells you you’ll get immediate results is a big fat fibber. It takes 6–12 months for organic content to take hold (based on numerous factors), so beware of anyone who sounds too salesy and overpromises a quick turnaround. It’s simply not the way organic SEO works!
  2. How much will it cost?
  3. Do I have to sign a contract?
    It’s normal to have 6–12 month contracts for SEO because SEO is a long game in itself.
  4. What access do you need to our website and analytics?
    You should always grant user permissions for SEO specialists—never admin! A reputable SEO agency will want access, not ownership, of your search console, Google Analytics, and website CMS.
  5. What questions do you have about our company?
    To perform SEO services, your SEO consultant has to understand your company, goals, history, etc.! If they don’t have any questions for you about your business, that’s a red flag.
  6. What do you think are our top priorities for SEO?
    A great SEO agency will organize and prioritize your SEO to do list. Asking about this will ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck and not getting oversold.
  7. What is your SEO strategy for our company?
    You need to be 100% onboard and aware of the SEO strategy your consultant uses! They should share every bit of it with you.

4. Look Out for Red Flags

Your SEO agency should never buy links from other sites, keyword stuff, write irrelevant content just for the sake of keywords (this will lead to unqualified traffic) or any other black hat SEO practices. Bad SEO agencies often get clients into penalty with Google which removes your website from rankings entirely.

5. Opt For Bi-Annual Versus Monthly SEO Services

Unless your business constantly adds new products to your website, you probably only need periodic SEO services. In fact, we’re often confused when clients tell us they pay an SEO consultant monthly to “do SEO.” At the end of the day, this is usually a load of horse poop and waste of money.

Charm School takes a less is more approach on SEO. An SEO audit, for instance, is something we recommend our clients do once or twice per year that diagnoses 100% of SEO issues and provides solutions for improvement. Our SEO audits include:

  • Keyword research
  • Backend meta data optimizations
  • A technical audit that details backlinks, 404 issues, and functionality problems
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Current top ranking keywords and competitor keywords
  • Data based content strategy for fresh content ideas that convert
  • Takeaways and advice on how to improve your website functionality and content
  • Plug-in suggestions for optimal website speed and performance

You probably found this article because of these very practices we’re talking about above! We’re content strategy focused and practice what we preach because our SEO strategy works.

6. Don’t Fall for Too-Good-To-Be-True Pricing

Beware the link building farms that take your money and make your SEO worse! If you find an SEO agency that offers hundreds of links per month for mere hundreds of dollars, RUN! You will receive spammy and low quality links that will hurt your domain authority and SEO ranking with Google. You’ll spend money and time reversing the damage, disavowing bad links, and climbing out of penalty.

Always look for an SEO agency like Charm School with Goldilocks pricing: not too expensive and not too-good-to-be-true cheap. Our boutique agency delivers affordable high quality SEO services by maximizing your budget and spending it efficiently.

7. The Best SEO Agency Will Have 5-Star Reviews

The best case studies are happy clients. Always do your homework when hiring an SEO agency or freelancer. They should have fantastic Google Reviews and client testimonials. Like so… You can also ask to see performance case studies from past clients. However, remember that SEO timelines vary from client to client based on budget, marketing tactics, and how long their website and content has been published.

8. Schedule a Consultation

When interviewing a small business SEO consultant, they should offer a free initial consultation. During this call, you should get complimentary pointers, too. Anyone who charges you to talk for the first time will be a nickel and dimer, and someone you won’t enjoy working with. We offer free consultations for all new clients!

9. See How They Communicate

Does it take hours or days to receive a response to an email? If you like open and constant communication with your SEO team, make sure this is something they’re capable of! At Charm School, we always tell clients to send out the search party if they haven’t heard from us in more than a few business hours. Open and responsive communication is key with any SEO agency you hire!

10. Ask Who Owns Plug-ins and SEO Management Accounts

Be wary of SEO agencies that gate keep your products and services through ownership. You should always own your own SEO tools and accounts that integrate with your website.

For instance, we LOVE NitroPack for WordPress websites and often suggest this tool to clients. However, we never own our clients’ accounts or plugins. We always insist our clients set up ownership with products and let us help with website integration. Owning your accounts is a good sign you’re working with an honest, reputable, and professional SEO consultant.

The best small business SEO consultant is only an email away! Get in touch to hear more about our SEO pricing, services, and strategy to help your website get more traffic and jump to the top of search results.