10 questions to ask when hiring a SEO consultant

10 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Getting your business to be visible online all starts with a search engine query. Your site’s chances of getting visited increases as your webpage URL ascends the list of fetched matches for every online search conducted. SEO consultants can play a large role in achieving greater online visibility.

To improve your site’s chances of reaching higher ranks in the search engine results, you will need to employ search engine optimisation (SEO). And while you may have the basic SEO knowledge (i.e. you know what is SEO and its benefits), eventually, you will need to turn to experts in the field and bank on their expertise.

Whether you plan on hiring an independent SEO consultant or one that belongs to an established SEO company, you will most likely conduct an interview process to gauge which candidate matches your business’ needs. To help you in this decision-making phase, Consultancy.uk’s editorial team has drafted some important questions you might consider asking potential SEO consultants.

Can you tell me about your experience and your clients?

Ask the consultant head-on about how much SEO experience they have. While the number of years in the field may not necessarily determine overall expertise, more exposure to SEO often adds more credibility to an aspiring SEO consultant.

Also, asking about the applicant’s background can pave the way to client testimonials and reviews. Either they will voluntarily name drop their top clients to let you know their best work, or you can direct the Q&A to this route. Whichever the case, do not forget to politely ask for the clients’ contact details so you can personally hear their feedback about the end results of their SEO campaign.

10 questions to ask when hiring a SEO consultant

Will you be conducting a website audit?

Optimising your website starts with examining it so your SEO consultant can offer plausible SEO solutions. Logically, the consultant should answer yes to this question. If they say you need guest blogging services without even taking a peek, then it may be a red flag, as SEO consultants use technical site audits to give their campaign direction.

What SEO methods will you most likely use?

SEO is all about strategy. Hearing about both on-page and off-page SEO techniqueswill most likely give you a clue to which tactic is the consultant's strongest suit. For example, if they hint at working closely with any link-building company, then they probably take pride in their off-page SEO strategy.

How long will the optimisation process take?

You will also have to ask about the timeline of the planned SEO campaign. Generally, white hat SEO practitioners will quote several months for the results to kick in. Conversely, steer clear of those who boast of overnight success, as they most likely employ black hat SEO. 

Can you share some best practices that you observe?

Whether it is a link-building agency or an SEO company, most SEO experts observe similar best practices. Look for those that abide by webmaster guidelines and keep track of algorithm updates. Those that play by the rules will most likely lead your website to SEO success. 

How strong is your local SEO game?

Local SEO is also a vital question to ask, especially if you have a small business with a physical address and/or a brick and mortar store. A valuable SEO consultant will not hesitate to give out sample tips on improving local SEO for your business. 

How will we keep track of our progress?

You can set expectations on communication and updates with this query. Clarify the preferred means of communication, frequency, and the content of reports you will be receiving. From here, you can weed out which ones fit your standards and preferences. 

Have you done previous work with others in my niche?

Although SEO transcends several industries, it is also worth knowing if your prospective SEO consultant has enough knowledge in relation to your niche. Such knowledge can better assist in coming up with and executing suitable SEO strategies, especially for highly specialised areas. 

What are your payment terms and policies?

Given that you are hiring a professional, this one clarifies the financial transaction that will take place in exchange for the SEO services that will be provided. Remember to also ask about policies in relation to contract termination and other similar important fine prints.

Can you make my website rank on the number one spot?

Everyone wants their website to rank first on the SERPs, but not all SEO consultants will answer yes to this question. The good news is, you should hire the one that says no. Because no matter how great their SEO tactics and guest blogging service plans are, no one can predict and control the ranking factors. Aside from being honest, answering no to this question shows that the SEO consultant understands the complexity and uncertainty of the SEO industry.

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Private equity firms ramp up sustainability focus

19 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In line with business leaders across the industrial gamut, private equity firms are increasingly on board with sustainability projects. According to a new study, the investment arms for major funds are implementing a number of strategies aimed at supporting sustainable economic development in line with global goals.

While the business world has finally begun to acknowledge the danger of climate change, effective action plans remain difficult to achieve. The Paris Agreement has stipulated a clear target for the decades leading up to 2100, although massively reducing emissions while not crashing the economy could be a tall order.

Businesses that are able to acquire capital can use it to boost productivity and output, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of development. However, some businesses are better able to utilise resources than others, both in terms of their relative productivity, as well as the value of the respective outcomes relative to costs (including environmental harms). Financing can therefore provide an avenue to select businesses that are aligned with various global sustainability goals, while shunning those that drive little or unsustainable social value creation.

Top moves made by investment arms towards responsible investment

Profit has for the longest time been the central criterion for investment decisions. Yet profit at any cost is increasingly seen as creating considerable social harms, while often delivering only marginal value. As a result, the private equity sector, which was initially sluggish to change its ways with regards to sustainability, has started to see the topic as an opportunity as much as a challenge.

A new study from PwC has explored how far sustainability goals have become part of the wider investment strategy for private equity (PE) firms. The report is based on analysis of a survey of 162 firms and includes responses from 145 general partners and 38 limited partners.

Maturing sustainability

Top-line results show that responsible investment has become an issue for 91% of respondents. For 81% of respondents, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) was a board matter at least once a year, while 60% said that they already have implemented measures to address human rights issues. Two-thirds have identified and prioritised Sustainable Development goals that are relevant to their investment segments.

Change in concern and action on climate-related topics over time

While there is increasing concern around key issues, from human rights protections to environmental and biodiversity protection, the study finds there are mismatches between concern and action. For instance, concern among investment vehicles around climate change has increased since 2016.

In terms of risks to the PE firm itself, concern has increased from 46% of respondents in 2016 to 58% in the latest survey. However, the number who have taken action remains far below those concerned, at 9% in 2016 and 20% in 2019. Given the relatively broader scope of investment opportunities, portfolio companies face higher risks – and more concern – from PE professionals, at 83% in the latest survey. However, action is less than half of those concerned, at 31%.

Changing climate

In terms of the climate footprint of the portfolio companies, 77% of respondents state concern in the latest survey. 28% of respondents are taking action through the implementation of measures to mitigate their concerns.

Concern and action taken on ESG issues

In terms of the more pressing issues for emerging responsible investment or ESG issues, governance concern of portfolio companies comes in at number one (92% of respondents), while 60% have taken action on it. Firms have focused on improving awareness – setting up policies and a range of training modules for their professionals around responsible investment decision making. Cybersecurity takes the number two spot, with 89% concerned and 41% implementing strategies to mitigate risks.

Climate risks take the number three spot in terms of concern for portfolio companies (83%), but falls behind in terms of action (31%). Health and safety track records are a key concern at 80% of businesses, with 49% implementing action. Gender imbalance within PE firms themselves ranks at 78%, which is being dealt with by 31%. A recent survey from Oliver Wyman showed that there is gender balance at 13% of GP teams in developed countries.

Biodiversity is also an increasingly pertinent topic, with risks from pollution and chemical use increasingly driving wider systematic risks around environmental outcomes. It featured at number eight on the ranking of most likely global risks for the coming decade, with its impact at number six. As it stands, biodiversity is noted as an issue at 57% of firms, with 15% implementing action.