How to hire freelance SEOs 101

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I’ve been working in SEO for the past four years. During that time, I’ve built content and SEO strategies for dozens of clients, including B2B, B2C, and SaaS businesses.

Over the years, I’ve dived into a variety of projects, from helping multinational companies expand their reach with international SEO to helping small businesses tap into local markets.

After several years of hands-on experience and many conversations with businesses that use SEO in their marketing strategy, I’ve developed a good sense of what companies look for when they hire freelance SEOs, common disappointments with unsuccessful candidates, and the markers of a successful SEO marketing partnership.

So to help businesses select the right freelance SEOs (whether you’re hiring a freelance SEO writer, consultant, strategist, or all of the above) I’ll share the most useful insights I’ve learnt in my journey.

I’ll outline the key factors you should consider when evaluating different freelance SEOs.

And just to add a little cherry on top, I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of hiring freelance SEOs versus opting for an SEO agency or building an in-house team.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics:

Table of Contents

P.S. I run Aggee Writes, a one-man SEO business. If you’re interested in hiring me to do freelance SEO for your business, visit my work with me page.

Factors to consider when evaluating freelance SEOs

Let’s look at the key factors you should consider when hiring a freelance SEO.

How do they measure the success of their campaigns?

You and your SEO should be on the same page about what the main goals of the campaign are.

Then you can both measure how well the campaign is performing based on those goals.

So if you hired a freelance SEO strategist to run a top of funnel campaign to increase brand awareness and reach, you’d mainly be tracking website traffic and not conversions.

If you hired a freelance SEO consultant to run a link-building campaign, your focus would be on the number of quality, relevant links they build for you. That would be the main measure of success in that instance.

So while the parameters we use to track progress may vary, we SEOs typically rely on these key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of our SEO campaigns:

Keyword rankings

You don’t get conversions or build more traffic without first ranking for the right keywords.

A good freelance SEO will provide regular reporting of targeted keyword ranking positions, showing you how those keywords translate to traffic.

Although keyword rankings will give you insight into the progress of an SEO campaign, they won’t give you the full picture.

Organic traffic

If your freelance SEO uses website traffic to measure success, they should focus on organic traffic over other traffic sources like paid search traffic, direct traffic, and social media traffic.

Organic traffic is traffic from search engines that’s not paid for (as opposed to paid search results like Google Ads) – in other words, organic traffic is traffic from SEO.

The rise in organic traffic over time can also give a quick overview of a campaign’s performance.

But again organic traffic doesn’t paint the full picture.

Organic conversion rate

Organic conversions are the best way to measure the performance of an SEO campaign.

And I’ll explain why.

Converting clients is the end goal your SEO should be working towards.

You don’t want better rankings on Google or more traffic; you want more clients knocking at your door, more closed deals, and higher revenue.

Increasing your conversions gets you across that bridge.

But organic conversion rate is a metric a lot of freelance SEOs (and agencies) overlook in their reporting.

Now, notice that I mentioned that you should focus specifically on organic conversion rate – conversions from unpaid search results.

That’s because organic conversions give you a clearer picture as to whether or not your freelance SEO is directly building you leads from their SEO strategy.

Organic conversions are an easy way to gauge the impact of their SEO. If you see a rise in leads from organic traffic throughout their campaign, you can probably attribute it to their efforts, rather than other areas of your business.

Most SEOs focus on vanity metrics like posts per month, word count, and traffic.

Find a freelance SEO that’s willing to hold themselves accountable for leads and signups generated from content they write.

Look for one that prioritise conversions and tangible business results over vanity metrics – for example, tangible results like enquiries, purchases, sign-ups, and demo requests.

How thorough is their SEO process?

You don’t get to the top of search results through pure luck.

Successful SEO campaigns are the result of a great strategist and a greater plan.

Examine your freelance SEO’s process. The more comprehensive, and organised their process is, the more likely you’re in good hands.

Should you hire a freelance SEO, an SEO agency or build an in-house SEO team?

Deciding between hiring an SEO agency and building an in-house team depends on factors like budget, timeline, and the level of control you desire. 

Consider your business goals, resources, and the complexity of your SEO needs when making this decision.

Freelance SEOs

Freelancers have caught a bad rap lately.

The rise of content mills and platforms like Fiverr and Problogger has flooded the market with low-level writers offering cheap, poor quality content.

So you can’t blame folks for assuming that most freelance writers are unprofessional.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are many freelance SEO writers out on the market providing more flexibility, cost-efficiency and specialised expertise than in-house and agency writers.

And as an added bonus, they often come at more affordable rates due to lower overhead costs.

TLDR summary:

  • Perfect for flexible project-based work or occasional content needs.
  • Cost-effective for specific tasks like keyword research or occasional blog posts.
  • Provides access to a more diverse talent pool with varied expertise.
  • Ideal for companies looking to scale up or down based on project demands.

SEO agency

Your typical SEO agency will have a team of experts that can cover all bases in SEO and content marketing.

So you’d be able to tap into a collective pool of knowledge and experience,

Be it keyword research, content creation, or technical SEO, agencies have the firepower to handle it all.

This option works well if you have a very big budget and are looking for a one-stop shop for SEO.

For example, if you want a complete SEO team that can handle link building, technical SEO, copywriting and everything in between, consider hiring an agency.

However, agencies also have their cons.

While you get a team of experts, direct access to the individuals on your project might be limited.

Communication with agencies often requires navigating through an account manager or project coordinator, and your project might not always be the top priority in a busy agency roster.

TLDR summary:

  • Ideal for companies searching for an all-in-one solution.
  • Can be costlier but offers a wide range of services under one roof.

In-house SEO team

On the flip side, you could hire an in-house writer as a new addition to your team.

Hiring an in-house writer gives you more control and immediate availability.

With a dedicated writer at your helm, you can collaborate closely, provide real-time feedback, and steer the content creation ship.

In-house writers excel at quick responses to urgent requests or changes.

Yet, the in-house route has its drawbacks too.

Expenses stack up quickly, stretching beyond the writer’s salary to cover benefits, equipment, and training.

Running an in-house writer operation demands a lot of time and effort as you guide, set expectations, and ensure they stay in the loop with the latest SEO practices.

TLDR summary:

  • Ideal when you require constant and immediate availability.
  • Best for long-term projects and consistent content needs.
  • Suited for companies with a robust budget and a steady flow of work.

Each option has its advantages and considerations.

Choose the one that suits your budget, business goals, and resources.

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