Being found by your target audience on Google and other search engines is a fantastic, and ultimately high-value, way to ensure the financial health of your business and help it grow. In a best case scenario, your company ranks for keyword terms that convert.

What are “terms that convert”?

Let me give you an example.

If you are running a brick and mortar print shop in San Francisco’s Mission District, you might rank for the following terms:

  • Print shop
  • San Francisco print shop
  • Best San Francisco print shop
  • Best print shop Mission District
  • Best print shop near me

The first term, “print shop,” is very general. It also happens to be the name of a software package by Broderbund. Not only are general terms harder to rank for, but they are often mixed with results that have nothing to do with the products and services your business offers.

“San Francisco print shop” is better because it indicates the searcher is looking for a place, and, since you are running a bricks and mortar print shop, that would be you. Adding in the term “best” indicates the person is looking for a print shop because they want to use the service.

The very best terms, though, narrow down the location — what SEO experts call “hyper local” SEO. If a person is looking for best print shop in the Mission District, and that is where your shop is, “best print shop mission district” is a term you will want to rank for. The good news? The longer the keyword search term, the easier it usually is to rank for it. The best news? The longer the keyword search term, the more often it means that the searcher is looking for it because they are ready to buy — and that is what I mean by “terms that convert.” These are the types of words that will help you grow your business.

In other words, not all keywords are created equal. It’s not enough to rank. In order to get the highest return on investment for the time and money you spend on search engine optimization (SEO) you need to rank for terms that will grow your business.

It may seem obvious, but hiring an expert who understands and values SEO fundamentals will make all the difference.

Things to Consider When Hiring an SEO Expert

Here are some important things to consider when hiring an SEO expert:

Pricing. All promises of number one rankings for $99/month aside, high quality SEO is not cheap. Because page one rankings work 24 hours per day for you, and sometimes for months or years, the return on investment is high. People trust organic search results more than advertising, which means they are more likely to click an organic search result than an advertisement. Expect to pay a retainer of at least $750/month for best results and understand that, depending on the results you are looking for and your industry, your investment could be $5,000/month or more.

Long-term investment. SEO can require months of effort to truly pay off. Your SEO team will take care of your website and make sure that it stays healthy, along with studying your progress and adjusting tactics each month.

Local language and culture. Selecting keywords is part art, and part science. It is best to hire an SEO expert that is familiar with the language and the culture of your business environment. Phrases that sound normal to an English speaker from San Francisco are not the same as phrases that sound normal to someone who speaks English but has never left Finland.

Promises. Reputable SEO firms will not guarantee number one rankings. There is too much that is out of our hands to control that. Not only that, but number one rankings don’t mean much if they are for terms that don’t convert. I could probably get your website a number one ranking for “green peaches taste great with mangos” without much trouble or expense — but what would that do for your profitability?

Grey hat link building. Back linking, or links from other websites to your website, are a critical part of SEO. However, proper link-building requires finding quality websites and publishing quality content on them. In a best case scenario, if you publish on another site, the webmaster or marketer will become your partner, and you will also get the SEO benefits of social media mentions and, if appropriate, vice versa.

Poor quality writing published in your brand’s name, while it may be cheap, runs the risk of affecting your brand reputation by making you look spammy.

So, how will you determine the best SEO company for you? After all, there are thousands of options.

How to Hire an SEO Expert: Five Questions You Should Be Asking

Along with how much the service will cost and what will be provided, here are some important questions to ask:

1. How would you describe your customer service? It’s best to hire an SEO team that understands the value of customer service. SEO is complex, but you want to feel confident that your questions will be answered in a friendly and efficient manner.

2. How will I know whether my SEO is getting results? Ask what your SEO expert will be reporting to you and how often. You’ll at least want to get regular information about which of your keywords are ranking and whether your traffic is increasing. Ultimately, you’ll want to hire an SEO firm that can report on which of your keywords have the best conversion rates.

3. How do you stay up-to-date on the industry? The field of SEO constantly changes — sometimes Google changes their algorithm more than once per day — so you need to make sure that your SEO expert is staying on top of the latest industry trends and best practices.

4. May I see some case studies? Ask the SEO salesperson to provide you with case studies. This will give you an idea of what their reporting looks like and reassure you that the company knows how to get results.

5. May I have references? If you were hiring an employee, you would ask for references. SEO is an important investment. Feel free to ask for references.

As with any contractor or subcontractor you hire, interview at least three SEO teams. Ask each one the same questions, and compare the results. Go with the team that is the best fit for your personality and business needs. If all goes well, you will have a long relationship with your SEO expert as he or she helps you build your business and get the online exposure your company deserves.


Hiring an SEO expert is an important decision and long-term investment in your business. Take the process seriously and then enjoy the results as you get more targeted traffic to your website.


Schedule a complimentary digital strategy session with Anna Colibri, founder, Colibri Digital Marketing.

We’ll evaluate your existing digital marketing, teach you something new, and provide you with some actionable tips you can get started on right away.

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