5 Things you should know before hiring a freelancer to market your website.

Getting on that page 1 of Google for your targeted keywords is the holy grail of marketing in 2016. Just hire an SEO expert from a freelancing platform to do some magic to your website, get other websites to point at yours, and in a week or two you’ll start to get some free visitors who you will convert to customers.


Not really.

Most businesses owners know at least a little about internet marketing, enough to know that they need to be doing it if they want to drive any traffic to their site. A study by Bright Local said only 29% of business owners understand internet marketing enough to do it themselves. This leaves a lot of businesses looking to the abundance of freelancer internet marketers, especially if they are not large enough to bring on someone full time.

Before you begin looking to bring on a freelance internet marketer, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. Search Engine Optimization is not easy any more

In its most simple form, you will rank higher for keywords if you have both of the following:

  • Great content that users enjoy
  • Respected sites in a similar niche link to your site

The changes to the Google algorithm have changed how internet marketing should work, but it seems that many of the freelancers I’ve hired over the past 3 years simply have not caught up to the changes and are still using these same tactics. They do this because its the easy, short cut way to do SEO.

There are still pros out there, but finding who’s who can be tough, and the they often look the same. So how do you know who’s doing SEO the hard way versus who’s doing it the short cut way (that doesn’t work anymore)

2. Hiring decisions should be based on data (Case Study)

Whether you’re on a freelance platform like Upwork or you’re hiring from an agency, you will want to dive into their client portfolio. Some of the things you will want to look for are:

  • What are the keyword search rankings they were able to improve?
  • How difficult was that keyword to rank for, or how many monthly searches does the keyword have?
  • What backlinks did they generate, and are they good or bad quality?

You can plug websites and keywords from the freelancers portfolio into tools like SEMrush to get a sense of their accomplishments and how their strategy. SEMrush’s free version should get you what you need.

To go through a case study example, I typed “SEO” into Upwork and found a US based SEO freelancer charging $60/hour. I looked into his portfolio of work, and he displays his personal business website where he got it to rank 1 in Google for the search query “Northern Virginia SEO.” WOW!

Lets dig into this by plugging some stuff into SEMrush (Free version gives you what you’ll need for this) and use data to make decisions. Lets see how many people are searching for “Northern Virginia SEO” If it is a lot, ranking for the keyword it could be an impressive feat.

Well, there isn’t even enough data for SEMrush to determine the monthly searches of the term “Northern Virginia SEO, so lets look at some similar keywords.

If “Virginia SEO” is only getting 390 searches, then this monthly volume tells me that ranking for “Northern Virginia SEO” is basically worthless. How did he achieve this impressive feat? Lets look at the backlink profile. Type in the URL of the freelancer you’re looking up and SEMrush will give you the top backlinks pointing to the domain. First you may need to understand the different types of backlinks.

This link will take you to what I’m seeing for our case study.


Note: The “Page Score” is an SEMrush metric for each site they determined based on a lot of factors including the quality of the sites linking. The more authoritative (or higher Page Score) the site giving the backlink, the better generally. Sites that are specific to your niche may give you more benefit, though.

Clicking through the website on each of the backlinks, we see (in order from the top) a low quality directory where anyone can post their business, a No-follow blog comment, a guest post on a blog about the Islam religion, a business expo which I assume costs money to attend and get the backlink, and then a community blog. The community blog is probably the best backlink of all of these, although it must be a very small blog to get a page score of 1.

This is what you want to avoid hiring.

He’s charging $60/hour for what you can get for $5 on Fiverr.com

Look for freelancers who have increased the rank for keywords with high monthly searches and who generates those good quality backlinks from the article I mentioned earlier.

3. Without great content you won’t get very far

Building a website with just a few pages and going off to hire an SEO expert just isn’t going to work. In fact if you hire an SEO expert, you have no content, and they don’t tell you “Hey you need to create some content that people want to read” then you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. However, a good marketer should be the one to guide you through what content needs to be created, based on a marketing strategy based on keyword research.

I’m not here to talk about a content strategy, but I would not recommend outsourcing the content creation except for turning the information you create into different formats like infographics, slides, ebooks ect. Creating the content yourself will force you to explore all facets of your business and industry to come up with what to talk about. Further, no one should know more about your business than you.

If you do decide to outsource content creation, I would use a platform that pre-screens and vets their freelancers for quality like iWriter or Textbroker. You could have the same person doing your SEO as the content creation, but its really a different skillset and less likely that they would be great at both.

4. It can take a while for results to take effect

The Google search algorithm is an interesting creature (I guess it’s a spider?) because it will scan your new links potentially daily, but it can take a long time for it to “digest” the information and for results to start showing for your marketing

According to a study done by a contributor to Moz, it can take 10 weeks before there is a movement in rankings, and the ranking generally increase over time after that point.

Keep in mind your budget when you’re looking at outsourcing a marketing campaign. You don’t necessarily need to hire someone for months at a time, but SEO is something you should keep at over a long period of time. If you can only afford to hire someone for a few hours a week for a month or two, maybe you should consider learning to do it yourself?

Don’t necessarily fire your marketer if he isn’t generating the results you want in just a few weeks. Instead you should be focusing on generating great content and managing the freelancer’s work.

5. Don’t fall for gimmicks

  • Don’t trust a guarantee
  • Answers to “tests” can be easily be found, so take them with a grain of salt
  • Hourly rates of previous jobs can be manipulated

The previous job rates can be inflated — I’ve had freelancers ask me to double the hourly rate and they will do twice the work than they reported. So if you wanted to hire them for 20 hours at $20/hour, they would ask to increase the rate to $40/hour for 10 hours, but they would really just do 20 hours. You pay the same but it looks like they earned more per hour.

Hiring a marketing freelancer can be just as important as hiring a director of marketing, so you need to make sure you do your due diligence. Not all marketers are created equal, and a great one can generate tons of evergreen traffic to your site. But like most things, you often get what you pay for.

About the Author

Charlie is the founder of xStaffer — A marketplace where businesses can hire the best internet marketers in the world at an hourly rate. We screen the freelancers based on the results they have generated for previous clients using a similar strategy as seen in #2 from above.

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