Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the name of the game in the digital realms today and it is imperative to know as much as you can about it.

SEO isn't a one-off activity where you can call it a day once all the things are marked off your list. Instead, SEO is part of your broader acquisition strategy and should be embraced as an ongoing, recurring process.

Given how important this topic is, I shed some light on fundamental questions related to hiring developers for SEO projects, the process involved, and how to measure the results of their work.

WordPress SEO: Collecting data and information through an SEO Audit

If you want to improve something, you should always start from knowing where you're at. And when it comes to optimizing WordPress for Search Engines that means auditing your website.

Much like a financial audit, an SEO audit's purpose is to gather all information, URLs, published assets, categorization, content structure, analytics, data on performance, and much anything you could possibly think that has to do with your website and how both your users and search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) engage with it.

As WordPress developer and Codeable expert Josh Morley explains:

Basically speaking, when performing an SEO audit a developer and SEO expert will look at your site through the eyes of Google, Bing and Yahoo, trying to find out what your website's missing.

Once all this information is collected, it's time to start analyzing it to highlight areas that could be improved or, if something is missing, even fixed.

One thing important to understand when it comes to SEO is its duality: on-page SEO and off-page SEO are two very different areas which SEO resolves into.

Here's how they differ:

On-page SEO vs Off-page SEO

on-page SEO vs off-page SEO

On-page SEO covers all the activities strictly related to and happening on a single page, which can be a blog post, a product page, your homepage, and so on. Speed optimization and having SSL certificate correctly enabled are part of on-page SEO.

Off-page SEO accounts for all activities happening off the page, which means link building via content creation, social promotion, domain authority, and many others.

The optimization process SEO experts execute on

If you're considering to go out looking for a developer to optimize your SEO, it is important to be aware of the process that is commonly used to perform the operation.

On-page SEO: What should you expect?

As we saw, SEO is performed by taking care of two parts or more appropriately there are two halves in which developers break it. Josh elaborates:

SEO is broken up into two halves. The first one is on-page SEO. So we'll look at the speed of the site to further improve it, tweaking all kinds of speed issues, image size, cache, and everything related to speed. Then we'll be looking more closely at the pages, title tags, meta descriptions, and how to improve click-through rates. Moving forward, we'll be looking at keywords: we'll dig deeper into understanding:'Are you trying to rank for the correct keywords?' and 'Are you giving the right signs to rank for the keywords you want to rank for?'

When SEO experts talk about keywords they refer to what is usually called keyword strategy, which is an important area in any SEO project. A keyword strategy, roughly speaking, covers a list of keywords and combination of them for which your website should rank for and a strategy to reach those results.

This short definition is just to give a quick idea on what a keyword strategy is and, I know, it's incomplete. For further information, please check out Brian Dean's guide.

The Off-page SEO optimization: What should you expect?

Next is the other half of the SEO process, the part that deals with anything "off" your pages, like building authority, checking and improving social signals, and so on. Josh highlights the things that are part of this side of the coin:

So you've created your amazing content, you've now tweaked up the site, you've told Google what you want to rank for. Now you've got to show Google that you're popular in the eyes of the community and that your website is one to trust. That means you'd want to start getting links and shares from other websites, and anywhere you can find that people would reference your work and point back to you. That's part of the system of getting relevant eyeballs of the community that you're part of, and also potential clients onto your content through other people's sites and pointing them back to you.

Can you rely on plugins to perform SEO for you?

I want to give you the answer right away, as there's so much confusion around this: no, you can't.

Plugins can help you take care of some SEO aspects in a smoother, quicker way, yet they don't "do" SEO on your behalf.

WordPress is particularly famous for its SEO plugins like Yoast SEO, AIOSEO, The SEO Framework and many think that, once activated, these plugins can boost your SEO (almost) immediately. Josh further comments:

I have a lot of clients who come to me and say: 'I want my site SEO-d.' Unfortunately, that's not how it works. You just can't click on an SEO plugin and expect your site to start ranking. WordPress SEO plugins can do so many things, like sorting out the horrible automatic tags, create a good sitemap, and even connect to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Plugins will really help you improve things, but it's not a one-step click or matter of configuring their 'Settings'. It's a deeper process.

How could you measure the results of hiring an SEO expert?

If you’ve hired an SEO expert to help you improve your SEO and perform such crucial tasks, it is important for you - as the website manager - to be able to analyze the results and see what your investments are buying for you.

To do so, you should be looking at a few main areas of your website: traffic, incoming links, rankings and conversions (bottom line sales or leads). Josh provides actual questions that should guide you through this evaluating phase:

I'd check for three main areas. The first one is traffic. Do you have more people on your website from the time you had started the optimization process? Are you increasing your search engine ranking positions for your preferred keywords? The second one would be incoming links. Are people engaging and linking to your content? And the third one, I think the most important one is about the type of traffic you're building. Is it relevant? Is it producing the sales that you want?

Wrapping up

As many incorrectly think, SEO is a process that operates within your Marketing strategy, not a single, one-off task. Optimizing your website for SEO is a thorough and intense process that bundles together more tactical operations with higher-level and more strategic tasks.

That's why it never stopped providing its core value: SEO is one of the strongest channels to acquire new leads and clients for it actually affects your bottom line, even when you're not aware of it.

This blog post features Josh Morley who is the founder of MarketingTheChange, a small digital agency that use its profits to support charities, non-profits and unfunded startups. He’s been designing & marketing websites for the past 4 years, with a focus on WordPress webdesign, online marketing and SEO, PPC, keyword research, link-building and lead acquisition for local business.