This article was published on July 16, 2017

Six questions startups should ask before hiring an SEO specialist

Six questions startups should ask before hiring an SEO specialist
Robyn D. Shulman
Story by

Robyn D. Shulman

Executive Editor, Influencer Inc

Forever a teacher turned education journalist. Named LinkedIn Thought-Leader with Influencers in education. Executive Editor at Influencer I Forever a teacher turned education journalist. Named LinkedIn Thought-Leader with Influencers in education. Executive Editor at Influencer Inc. I teach adults how to write as well as run various online courses.

I spoke with SEMrush specialist, Anna Lebedeva, to get her advice regarding startups and SEO. In this interview, she talks about the critical questions startups need to ask to ensure they hire qualified SEO consultants.

According to

  • Small businesses are investing more in SEO. 52% percent invested in SEO in 2016, a number that will grow to 74% in 2017.
  • Small businesses are also increasing investment in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. A total of 65% will carry out a PPC campaign in 2017, up from 40% in 2016.
  • Small businesses prioritize local search and on-site optimization as their primary SEO activities (52% each).
  • Website traffic from search engines is the metric used by most small businesses to measure SEO effectiveness (56%).
  • A majority (60%) of small businesses depend on internal resources for SEO over external resources, like an agency or SEO software.

These findings indicate that while more small businesses are interested in using SEO strategies, they still do not have a detailed understanding of the space, nor do they invest enough resources in SEO. As a result, quite often, small businesses typically lose money in the long run and don’t have a balanced SEO plan.


Questions startups should ask potential SEO hires

Q: How will you launch our SEO effort?

Anna: That’s the number one question to ask any potential SEO specialist. This inquiry will immediately demonstrate if the expert is competent in SEO. Start-ups should check whether this person takes into consideration many factors when they hire.

During an interview with a small business or startup, a potential SEO consultant should ask about the following:

  • How the startup plans to scale the business
  • The company’s previous SEO efforts and budget
  • The site’s architecture
  • The absence or presence of meta tags
  • Content relevance

Not only should a specialist be familiar with SEO techniques, he/she should also make sure the proposed strategy aligns with the company’s needs and goals.

Q: How will you share data, updates, and changes, so we understand quickly?

Anna: It matters whether an SEO specialist can explain his or her work. He/she must be able to explain changes to the management team. The main reason the SEO specialist should provide an explanation is that the startup will not have experts in the IT space. Startups should hire an SEO consultant who can provide logical answers, and systematically explain procedures in layman’s terms. The SEO specialist must share work and updates to ensure everyone is regularly informed of changes.

Q: How will you combine your SEO efforts with our social media initiatives?

Anna: SEO and SMM practices are becoming more interrelated as social media engagement is an excellent source of website traffic. Also, social media pages rank in search results, especially if they are keyword-optimized. Engaging clients in social media activities, such as liking and sharing posts is a perfect way to build customer loyalty. Before hiring an SEO specialist, startups should make sure the consultant realizes how SEO benefits greatly from social media engagement.

Q: Can you guarantee we will land on the first page of Google? Why or why not?

Anna: That’s an important question and quite a tricky one to ask. Landing on the first page of Google is a real possibility. However, it depends on a great number of factors.

If the site is new, and the market is highly competitive, most likely, the site won’t have back-links. Also, it’s not likely for a new startup to make it to the first page right away.

seo and startups

Remember, SEO is more of a long-term effort

On the other hand, if the startup is in a low competition niche, and has worked closely with thought-leaders before the launch, new companies have a greater chance to build up a link base. Also, if the business is doing well, odds are higher that the company will land among top search results. Feel free to ask this question and expect your potential hire to take into consideration all of the factors mentioned above.

Q: What SEO tools do you use?

Anna: It’s a must for an SEO consultant to take advantage of tools and features to optimize the working process, and make sure everything works to move up a site’s ranking position.

Depending on what kind of tools a potential employee uses, startups should figure out if this person can identify and use the right software to boost the website’s ranking positions. A good SEO specialist should be aware of technical SEO and tools that facilitate keyword research, optimize back-links, have high-quality links, and also help professionals keep track of ranking dynamics and SERP features.

Q: Is launching SEO for a startup different than for any other company? Please elaborate.

Anna: Startups should expect a new hire to distinguish between SEO techniques for large enterprises that have spent time and effort on SEO, and those that work best for smaller firms, especially startups. The new hire should realize that a startup is an entirely different story, and the process of getting traffic from a newly created website has its peculiarities.

For instance, a site’s architecture and on-page optimization should be thought through in advance, even before launching the site. It’s also important to ensure that the content the startup provides is relevant and unique. Also, an active social media presence is crucial for startups.

Has your new hire mentioned any of these techniques? If so, this person will turn out to be a helpful SEO specialist for any new company.


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