Sure, there has been a lot said on optimizing websites. But what if you don't want to spend your time on learning website optimization, but want to hire a specialist to do the job? How do you find, choose and work with the professional?
When do I need the services?
One of the most important things to do is to decide, whether you need outside assistance or not. Sometimes, this may be the core factor of (dis)satisfaction, when working with a site optimization person.
There are a couple of things to have in mind:
- see, if you really don't want to learn website optimization
- if you do want to study how to improve websites, check if you can spare the time (which you can spend on something you are more efficient with)
- check, whether your site has content to optimize, otherwise you'll only need a consultant, not a developer, to advise what and how to create
- consult your budget: see if you have the money to spend on improving your website. Though such investment may provide a great ROI, you may not afford the initial payment. Take your time.
- define the goals of website optimization: do you want more traffic, conversions (sales) or both?
- do you also want to make your site usable?
- what about site accessibility?
The above list should be good enough to consider before you start looking for someone to improve your website. Having answers to the above questions will ensure that you will get what you want from the website optimization expert you are about to find.
How do I find the right person?
That is perhaps one of the trickiest parts here. You need to find someone you don't know, that someone has to have superb skills to work on your site and you have to trust him/her. Tough call.
How to get the right referral?
That's why the best thing to do is to know the site optimization developer beforehand. A referral is the best way to find a good one. This way, you will know more about your future partner, you'll know he/she has the right skills, you'll get a vote for proven results and you'll trust this person more (because your friend/referree knows him).
Let's see how you can get a referral:
- ask your family/friends (preferrably the ones with the websites)
- talk to your co-workers. If you are a one-man operation, use other options :)
- if you noticed that some site has been optimized, talk to the site owner (your competitor probably won't give away this trade secret, though)
- participate in forums: ask your fellow forum members (take heed, though, that some may be looking for the job you want to offer, or they are friends to some website optimization consultant. You'll need to know the forum members well before doing this.)
- read some blogs on improving websites (ask the blog owner who he/she would recommend for the job.)
- the one, who designed your site, may refer you to someone they know, too
However, there may be cases that getting a referral is pretty impossible for a number of reasons (you are just starting and you don't know anyone who'd recommend someone to you). Then you'll have to use other venues.
- use your favorite search engines to find 'website optimization services', 'website usability services/consulting' or any related phrases. It may be wise to use more focused phrases to find people, specializing in what you are seeking. Another issue is that quality professionals may not be at the top of the search engines. And those at the top may be either low quality or expensive.
- use a freelance site, such as ELance.com, to find a freelancer (a single man to do the job). This may be lower quality work than from someone with established business, but good sites offer ways to see reputation, clients' reviews, etc to gauge the quality of the freelancer's work. Step with caution here. An advantage here is lower prices (with a risk at receiving low quality work, though)
- find some site improvement (SEO, usability) blogs. Usually blog experts offer site optimization services. It may be the best bet, too: the best quality with moderate price. Though some blogs may be focused just on SEO or usability, you can work with any of them one by one, too.
- if you had someone else build your site, talk to them. Maybe they can optimize it, too
- use some consultants directories (either search for 'seo consultant directory' or start from this DMOZ category)
The tricky part here is that you'll need to estimate the quality of the skills/work in the area you are about to use the services in. You'd better know how to do that, or you'll be risking hiring someone less knowledgeable. Of course, you can check the testimonials and find client projects on the site optimizer's website, but that requires some industry knowledge as well.
There is another possibility here. Suppose, you know someone who knows his way about websites, but won't do the job for you (your web designer, for instance). You can ask the person to find the right person to optimize the site. Of course, it'll depend on the web designer now, but if you know your web designer is quality and trusted enough, you should be fine.
That all being said, finding the right website optimization developer/consultant is not the end. You'll need to describe what you want to achieve with your website and discuss other interesting things as well.
Read more in the "Best way to seek a SEO person" thread at Cre8asite Forums.
How to work with the site optimization expert?
Here what you have done before seeking for the specialist comes into play. You should be pretty determined to use the services and you need to know what you expect to get. Step no further, if this isn't so. Research the topic, study your website, do anything to make up your mind, if you need.
Generally, the services price of a single man developer/consultant should be affordable. The best thing, however, is that you'll get excellent return on investment on your money, as you'll be getting more traffic, conversions and sales after the website optimization professional finishes his work. So it is not advised to bicker about the cost. If you do, someone with enough requests will drop you for someone more interesting. Why risk it?
Anyway, suppose you have agreed to work. Now you'll need to explain where you want your site to go. Here's what the specialist will need to know:
- the goals of your website
- who your target audience is
- mention a couple of competitors you'd like to pass (who they are, how they are different, what you are planning to do, etc)
- tell the man/woman about your most converting products/pages (most likely, the person will have them in mind and, possibly, work on them, too)
- what you want from the services: traffic, links, conversions, sign-ups, other
- say, if you need a consultation on how to expand the site (which content to create, how to structure it, etc)
- ask, if you need to provide any content (site text): if you do, you'll need either to write it yourself or hire a copywriter
- define the deadlines. It is a good idea not to rush the work, though it is as good to know when it'll end, so you'll feel more comfortable about waiting
Of course, the list is not complete. Each expert will has his own requirements. Discuss everything you both need to know beforehand.
And another thing. Once you start working with a person, trust him/her. If you don't trust the person, don't expect good results and don't argue. You'll ruin your both time, experience and work quality.
If you do trust, after you are done negotiating the project, rely on his experience and skills. Don't tell him how precisely to do his job. It is his/her job, not yours.
It'd help, if you paid at least 50% up-front. This will ease the developer/consultant and allow him/her to work efficiently. If you know the person or have full confidence in him/her, feel free to pay 100%. You won't be disappointed.
If you need to tell the site improvement person something important, don't hesitate to do so, though. It may very well save time or make the work more efficient.
How to receive work?
Alright, the work was done, you have paid and are browsing your newly optimized website. How to see that the work was good for your website, your customers and you?
Checking the statistics
Of course, the first kind of information you'll need is your traffic, conversions and sales statistics. If you don't have them (poor you), you'll at least need to estimate the total profits from the website in the month or two after the work has been completed.
If the numbers have gone up, you are in good shape. You can write how much you liked working with the professional, tell him/her about your increased profits. Be are precise as possible and allow him to publish your testimonial on his website. Though not obligatory, it is a nice touch and another way to say 'Thank you' for his/her work.
If the numbers don't change, there may be a couple of reasons. One may be that you don't have enough traffic to notice any difference (you just launched your site, don't have enough links, etc). Another may be that you didn't have enough. You need to wait long enough to see what at least several thousand unique visitors have done on your website after the work has been finished.
If the numbers have gone down, talk to your website optimization consultant. See what he responds. If anything, you can ask another expert to review your site. If you are not convinced on the quality of the work done, you can post your website for review on forums, such as Cre8asite or SEORefugee.
But be advised that not trusting the quality of the person you worked with will noticeably deterioate his desire to work with you. Only ask outside help when you can't get your doubt disappear. Explain that you simply need more proof, that you are in two minds, but you don't doubt the work quality. Show your respect to the person, who has done his/her best to help you and your website.
It'd be great, if you knew the real basics on site optimization to be able to judge the quality of work. You may know which keywords to use, how to place them, how to make your text readable to be able to see whether and how these parts of your site were affected. However, talk to your developer about your doubts, if you have them, before asking someone else. Knowing something doesn't make you someone to tell the expert how to do things.
In any case, be thankful for the expertise, knowledge, skill and effort the website optimization specialist has put into your work.
It is no doubt that you'll want to improve your site further, after you have seen the ROI. It doesn't mean that the work you received was low quality. It means that you didn't invest enough to ensure complete website optimization, as there are hundreds of aspects that affect your site effectiveness.
Suppose you started with SEO. Then you'll want to improve site usability. Then it may be accessibility. Then you may want to improve your converting pages one by one to ensure maximum conversion. All this will require one or two consultants and several projects you'll be asking them to complete on your website.
Whatever you decide to do with your website, be sure to know where you are going. With confidence, you'll be more likely enjoying your way.