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When page one on Google becomes a priority: How to choose an SEO or SEM consultant

Once you’ve learned the difference between SEO and SEM (in case you need a quick refresher, those are search engine optimization and search engine marketing, aka pay-per-click), you may be ready to take your Web presence to the next level. That’s where a professional comes in.

More local clients are realizing SEM and SEO are not separate initiatives. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin — complementary programs that, when managed correctly, can benefit each other to increase conversion rates and share of voice on top search engines.

For example, what you learn when buying pay-per-click keyword ads can positively impact SEO initiatives, and organic search queries and click data will influence how you bid on paid keywords.

If your goal is to rank high locally on Google, choosing a local digital expert who can marry your SEO and SEM programs is crucial. But, if you’ve ever tried to figure out who to work with in these specialties, you know it can be difficult to find someone who is both affordable and qualified.

Here are some things to look for when choosing an SEM/SEO consultant:

Review of your site content or structure. The consultant needs to have a thorough understanding of your existing website and your site priorities. If they don’t take time to ask questions and sift through your Google Analytics, that’s a red flag.

Technical advice on website development. For example, hosting, redirects, error pages, coming soon pages and use of JavaScript. Again, your chosen consultants should take time to really understand the back-end of your current site. SEO is more than just keywords, and the way your site functions can play a critical part in how high Google will display it in search engine results.

Content development. Get recommendations from your consultant on which content needs to be added to your website or social spaces in order to give search engines the fresh, keyword-rich content they love.

Management of online business development campaigns. Search isn’t about “set it and forget it.” It’s crucial to be actively involved in managing the campaigns to optimize them as you go.

Keyword research. Your gut can help you create a starting point for keyword research, but a real SEO/SEM expert will do extensive research using the Google Keyword Tool, Google Analytics and other third-party resources.

SEO training. Make sure you’re not kept in the dark about how your hard-earned money is being spent. Your consultant should be excited to help you understand SEO, not treat training like an inconvenience.

Expertise in specific markets and geographies. Although every item on this list is an area where Informed Owl shines, we really pride ourselves on this one. Your SEO/SEM consultant needs to understand your audience, and often that means understanding the nuances of searches in geography. They also need to be extremely well versed in how Google treats local search and content.

Page-ranking guarantee. If your consultant tells you that they guarantee you’ll get on the first page of Google, smile politely, thank him or her, and get out of there! There’s no way to guarantee page ranking, because everyone’s search results are different. More-reliable measurements of success include how much traffic (and the quality of the traffic) you receive from search engines.

Google AdWords Certification. Make sure the consultants you work with are Google-Certified. This means they’ve studied and passed a test that proves their aptitude with Google’s search practices.

Use of Google Analytics to track effectiveness. Don’t measure success by merely typing your business into Google and seeing where it shows. Hold your consultant accountable for the success of your program.

Monthly reports for SEO rankings and SEM campaigns. A true expert will be proud to be liable for his or her work in helping your website perform better.

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Informed Owl says, “Yes, we offer that!” to each item on this list.

To find a local Informed Owl consultant, please contact us. We’d love to help your business improve its website performance in search.