How to Hire an Ecommerce SEO Consultant – 13 Key Questions to Ask
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SEO, short for Search Engine Optimisation, is the meticulous process of optimising your web store content so that search engines can find it easily.
Search engine visibility is a high-stakes game. It’s vital for bringing shoppers to your ecommerce store.
This could quickly result in increased brand awareness as well as higher business income. So hiring the right ecommerce SEO Consultant can easily be a make-or-break decision for your store.
If you make a hiring mistake, however, you’ll end up wasting a lot of money with hardly any positive results. In some cases, things can get even worse due to the lost opportunity cost.
Your business website could be penalised by the search engines because an unscrupulous SEO Consultant implemented shady/dubious practices on your online store. And your search rankings could drop drastically.
To start with, a successful SEO consultant should help your ecommerce store put the best foot forward.
Before you hire an SEO consultant, remember their potential is directly proportional to the quality of your ecommerce store.
We can break down the process of hiring an Ecommerce SEO Consultant into the following 5 steps:
Part 1: The Key Questions To Ask When Hiring an Ecommerce SEO Consultant
Listen to the Consultant’s descriptions of the SEO issues on your store that need to be improved in order to help with ranking higher. Also, listen carefully to the approach they prescribe to accomplish the tasks.
You can start by asking the following questions:
- Conduct a 2-way interview.
- Check whether the consultant is genuinely interested in your business.
- Find out if they have any prior experience working in the same or similar niches. Check their client references.
- Ask for (and be prepared to pay) for an initial technical SEO audit of your ecommerce store.
- Make your hiring decision based on what you’ve learned so far.
Q1. What is Your SEO Process? Can You Provide an Overview?
The devil is in the details. Someone may be a smooth talker but do they have the skills and expertise to do a good job for your business?
Make sure to understand how they onboard clients, perform site audits, keyword research and at what frequency you can expect them to communicate results/address any questions.
This will give you clarity on the SEO consultant’s work methodology and their quality of service. If that aligns with your expectations, happy days!
A reputable and trusted SEO consultant should be able to articulate their process and demonstrate how they can contribute to your business’s overall success.
Q2. How Long Will It Take For You To First Implement The SEO Improvements You Suggest For My ecommerce Store To See Potential Benefits?
On average, an initial round of SEO-related site changes (based on an SEO audit) can be implemented in a matter of weeks. For you to then start seeing positive traction in Google Search results can take from three to six months, at a minimum.
The time window for seeing results is variable due to multiple factors – the size of your site, competition in your niche, your SEO marketing budget and finally your team’s availability to approve & implement completed SEO tasks.
A few quick On-Page SEO improvements that can be implemented in a matter of days include:
Seeing the potential benefits of implementing these changes could take several weeks.
Warning: It’s a huge red flag if the SEO consultant promises to deliver unrealistic results (such as position 1 in Google SERPs) in a few days.
Some Fly-by-night or low-cost operators will be able to deliver tangible, short-term results on a few not-so-profitable long-tail keywords. But they won’t be able to deliver long-term, sustainable results.
Q3. Can You Validate Your SEO Recommendations With Documented Evidence From A Google Help Centre Article, Video, Or Even A Response In An Online Forum?
This question can easily prevent you from hiring an incompetent ecommerce SEO Consultant who might otherwise persuade you to do needless things.
These could typically be adding more words to your keyword meta tag, buying links, or suggesting something that violates Google guidelines.
There’s no tangible SEO benefit of adding keywords to your meta tags. And the consequences of buying low-quality links for getting ranked higher can be serious.
Make sure to clarify and even challenge a recommendation if it doesn’t make intuitive sense. Anything that’s good for SEO is also good for the shoppers on your ecommerce store.
Q4. Can You Provide Us With A Technical SEO Audit Of Our Ecommerce Website?
To determine if the SEO Consultant is truly competent, request them to take a look at your ecommerce store and tell you three onsite optimisation tactics you could implement to improve it. Ask them which keywords should you target and the reason for it.
Also, ask them for a sample Audit report as that’ll give you an idea of what a finished SEO Audit, completed by them, looks like.
Give the SEO consultant access to your store’s Google Analytics and Google Search Console data. Ask them to complete a Technical SEO Audit of your website. Be prepared to pay for a good SEO Audit.
Request a prioritised list of items that can be improved in the context of SEO. If you own a large ecommerce store, you can hire multiple SEO consultants to run website audits and prioritise improvements.
Scrutinise what each SEO consultant has to say. After careful consideration, determine who would be the best fit.
In the SEO Audit, the Consultant should prioritise improvements in a structured framework detailed as follows:
- The SEO issue
- The improvement suggested by the SEO Consultant
- Estimated costs and timeframe to resolve the Issues
- Anticipated positive business impact (They may be able to provide you with a rough analysis but it’s not possible to predict anything with 100% accuracy)
- A plan for implementing low-priority/ low-hanging changes.
Q5. Can You Help Me Understand The SEO Audit?
In the technical SEO audit, the consultant should be able to review your business website for issues such as internal linking, URL parameters, crawl-ability, server connectivity, response codes, etc.
If the consultant simply says that your website has duplicate content issues that need to be fixed, ask them to give you a list of specific URLs that are currently competing for the same query.
Plenty of duplicate content typically exists on most ecommerce stores. But fixing it isn’t a pressing problem as it’s made out to be.
However, the consultant might say your web store is suffering because some of your top product pages are too far from your homepage and shoppers would have difficulty in finding them.
This is a serious issue. They might come up with suggestions to improve internal linking.
The SEO Consultant might also suggest getting more user interaction and generating buzz through business relationships or social media. This is certainly a valid method of getting natural links to your website and attracting more shoppers.
Q6. Can You Spot The Weaknesses Of Our Top SEO Competitors? (Or Would You Be Able To Replicate The Success Of Our Top Competitors?)
A thorough SEO competitor analysis is simply indispensable. But many ecommerce SEO consultants fall short in this area. They don’t consider how competitive your prime keywords are.
The SEO Consultant you hire should be able to find the keywords that are giving your competitors the highest ROI. And they should be confident enough to go after highly competitive keywords and win.
Finally, the ecommerce SEO consultant you hire should possess an innate ability to learn from your top competitors. They should quickly understand what your competitors are doing well.
They should be able to suggest business improvements that involve minimal investment but deliver long-term growth.
Q7. What are the Costs For Your SEO Services, And What Payment Methods are Available?
When selecting an ecommerce SEO consultant, it’s crucial to understand their pricing. You can ask about the cost of their services and the available payment methods. They may offer different monthly retainer SEO packages, tailored to the needs of your Business.
Understanding the pricing structure allows you to plan your budget effectively. You can also avoid any potential hidden costs that might not be initially mentioned.
Another thing you can discuss is the payment terms. Some consultants may require upfront payments, while others may offer flexible payment schedules.
By asking these questions, you can make the right decision to hire an SEO consultant.
Q8. How Will the Site Change After the Partnership Ends?
This is an important thing to communicate before you sign any contract with an SEO Consultant.
If you need to make a decision to terminate their service at any point, ensure that all the changes, especially to the content and design stay functional.
Clarify the terms of the contract so that you know what happens if you face a financial setback or have to terminate the contract for any reason.
Q9. How Do You Measure the Progress of the SEO Campaign? How Often Do You Report & Share Campaign Updates?
This question helps you understand whether relevant metrics get tracked and measured and if they go hand-in-hand with your business goals.
Typically, for eCommerce SEO Campaigns, the KPIs (Key performance indicators) the SEO Consultant should be measuring include Revenue,Conversions, and SERP rankings.
A detailed report on the SEO activities can help you better understand traction in Google Search results.Usually, SEO consultants send out monthly or quarterly update reports.
Discuss your requirements with the SEO Consultant during the hiring process. Aim to maintain positive and open communication.
Q10. Do You Have Any Client References? Can I Get In Touch With Them?
This is yet another crucial question that will help you make your hiring decision.
If your potential SEO consultant provides a list of prior clients, make certain you check their references.
In particular, check if the consultant was able to provide meaningful guidance and work effectively with the client teams. The SEO consultant you hire should be friendly yet professional.
They should be someone you are comfortable working with and learning from. Importantly, as mentioned above, the ecommerce SEO consultant should care about your business.
Part 2: Key Questions To Consider From a Business Perspective
Q11. Is The SEO Consultant Keen On Helping Your Business From A Holistic Standpoint?
You might be wondering what helping your Business from a holistic standpoint even means.
In the interview, the SEO Consultant should be asking questions too.
A good ecommerce SEO consultant doesn’t focus on search engine rankings alone. They should be in a position to guide your business’s marketing in other ways, as well.
Ideally, they should ask you questions as outlined below:
- What makes your ecommerce store unique and therefore valuable to shoppers? (The ecommerce SEO Expert wants this piece of information so that they can ensure it’s emphasised on your business website for your present and future new audience.)
- What does your average customer persona look like? How do they find your store?
- Are you using other channels such as social networks and offline advertising?
- Who are your top competitors? What do they do best online and perhaps offline?
- What are your Business Goals from SEO?
Q12. Should You Sign An Upfront Contract With An Experienced ecommerce SEO Consultant?
Good SEO takes time, effort, and expertise.
SEO Experts are experienced and learned. They have gained valuable insights from their successes – and failures – after years of implementing the strategies they’ve learned. Most often, they have also reviewed studies and gained insights from industry experts.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with signing an upfront contract.
For you, it is a way to offload an important area of your Digital Marketing while achieving some peace of mind.
For the SEO Consultant, it is a way to secure their financial position while ensuring they have sufficient time to make changes that impact your Search visibility.
It’s a WIN-WIN for the right partners!
A good option is to opt for shorter contracts of 3 to 6 months, allowing sufficient time for some tangible results while also allowing both parties to establish trust.
Q13. Is SEO Right For Your eCommerce Business?
The answer is – it depends.
If you are an established SME eCommerce business with anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand products and growing, then definitely yes. Your Business stands to gain a lot by investing in SEO.
If you are a family-operated ecommerce business that has as a brick and mortar store, and are now looking to sell online, an emphatic Yes!
Usually such businesses need to start out by building a professional site first. Ideally, they should consider SEO along side a new site built, instead of thinking of it as an after-thought.
If you are a drop-shipping/small hobby business, you’re better off selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy and through other Social Media platforms.
This will allow you to get exposure to millions of users, already on these platforms.Bear in mind that some level of SEO optimisation is crucial for product discovery in each of the mentioned platforms as well.
If their focus is mainly on getting your website the highest rank with certain keywords through black hat seo methods, it will not work long term. Even if the technique does work, it will rarely last long.
A good SEO consultant will want to educate you as well as your staff on how search engines work. They’ll ensure that SEO gets ingrained in your day-to-day business operations.
Are you looking for an ecommerce seo consultant?
I’m a Senior eCommerce SEO Consultant with 16 years of professional experience. I have worked with hundreds of small and mid-sized D2C eCommerce Businesses over the years.
Please get in touch with me for a FREE 20-minute Initial SEO Consultation.
If you need a quick assessment of your site SEO, claim your (no-strings attached) 15-Point SEO Audit.
Finally, if you find the article useful, consider sharing it with your team so they may be able to make an informed decision when hiring an SEO Consultant.