Wow, what a great question for 2014 and beyond. Should I hire an SEO? Should I pay some bloke with a beard and an iPhone that I’ve not even seen in the shops to do a load of stuff I don’t really understand to help push me up the search results?

Blimey, what a question.

I’m going to answer this question in two parts: yes and no. What it all comes down to is time. In particular: Do you have any?

Yes – I’ve got loads of time

If you’ve got loads and loads of time to work on your website and you are comfortable creating web pages then I suggest you do not hire an SEO. Instead I suggest you learn to do it yourself. Most of it isn’t that hard, actually. It’s just time consuming. I reckon most small, local businesses with the time and inclination can learn to do their own SEO and save some cash.

There are loads of useful resources online for those looking to optimise their website for search. I’m very much a fan of no-nonsense jargon-free guides. Are you? If so I would highly recommend starting with Do you Need an SEO by Google and the Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz. Those are both really good, useful resources.

No – I don’t have Much Time

For those who are pushed for time and want results sooner, then yes, you should definitely hire an SEO. But you should be very careful in who you choose to hire. Not all SEO’s have your best interests at heart unfortunately. Some are in it for the short-haul and the cash.

A short-haul SEO is not as easy to spot as you might think. They look and dress very much ordinary SEO’s. They often have beards and iphones you haven’t seen in the shops yet. They differ from high quality SEO’s only in the way that they behave. So you need to study your SEO a little before hiring.

A short-term SEO will usually give you no transparency as to what they are doing. They will probably give you guarantees for page one results in Google. They will generally create no new articles or pages. At best they might create some poor quality, unoriginal content. They will use strategies like automated link-building to push your website up the search engines.

Often these aggressive strategies do actually work on a timeframe of weeks and months. Good? No. Bad, bad, bad. Why? Because, one happy day, Google will notice what is happening and totally crush you. By that I mean you will get a ban.

What does a Google ban mean in reality? In plain and simple English it means you’re fucked. If you get a full on ban from big old Mr Google you can forget your website, domain name and server ever even existed. That’s not a joke. You might be able to recover the website’s reputation eventually but it would be a lot quicker, cheaper and easier to build a new one.

If you hire an SEO you need a long-term SEO for your website which is totally transparent. You need to know what you SEO is doing to optimise your website.

What is an effective long term SEO strategy?

Usually an effective long-term SEO strategy is very simple and will involve the creation of high quality content (pages and articles relevant to what you do). It will involve a social media strategy for sharing that content. And it will involve some high quality link building, on a steady, regular basis. For most small businesses that is a very good long-term SEO strategy in itself. An SEO might also suggest some changes to your website design to make it load faster and navigate in a way which makes life easy for people and search engines.

You should ask your SEO exactly what he or she will be doing to optimise your website for search engines before you hire them. If they do not answer you in plain and simple English then you should not get involved with them. If they do not mention high quality content then run. That’s the best advice I can give you.

Until next time…

Joe Dempsey

Joe Dempsey

Joe Dempsey is a Shopify Expert. With over 8 years of experience in eCommerce & Shopify he leads one of the most experienced Shopify Expert teams in the world. Founder of Liquify, he tends to work with large brands and Shopify Plus merchants who want to scale aggressively. He is a well known Shopify SEO expert & one of the most experienced Shopify developers in the world.