Ask for a technical and search audit for your site to learn what they think needs to be done, why, and what the expected outcome should be. You'll probably have to pay for this. You will probably have to give them read-only access to your site on Search Console. (At this stage, don't grant them write access.) Your prospective SEO should be able to give you realistic estimates of improvement, and an estimate of the work involved. If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.
QUOTE: “Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on your site if it weren’t for your actions…When it comes to guest blogging it’s a situation where you are placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a link building point of view. It can make sense to guest blog on other people’s sites to drive some traffic to your site… but you should use a nofollow.” John Mueller, Google 2013
Engagement – Google is increasingly weighting engagement and user experience metrics more heavily. You can impact this by making sure your content answers the questions searchers are asking so that they’re likely to stay on your page and engage with your content. Make sure your pages load quickly and don’t have design elements (such as overly aggressive ads above the content) that would be likely to turn searchers off and send them away.
Google recommends that all websites use https:// when possible. The hostname is where your website is hosted, commonly using the same domain name that you'd use for email. Google differentiates between the "www" and "non-www" version (for example, "www.example.com" or just "example.com"). When adding your website to Search Console, we recommend adding both http:// and https:// versions, as well as the "www" and "non-www" versions.
Webmasters and content providers began optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. Initially, all webmasters only needed to submit the address of a page, or URL, to the various engines which would send a "spider" to "crawl" that page, extract links to other pages from it, and return information found on the page to be indexed. The process involves a search engine spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine's own server. A second program, known as an indexer, extracts information about the page, such as the words it contains, where they are located, and any weight for specific words, as well as all links the page contains. All of this information is then placed into a scheduler for crawling at a later date.
QUOTE: “The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.” Amit Singhal, Google 2012
Another example when the “nofollow" attribute can come handy are widget links. If you are using a third party's widget to enrich the experience of your site and engage users, check if it contains any links that you did not intend to place on your site along with the widget. Some widgets may add links to your site which are not your editorial choice and contain anchor text that you as a webmaster may not control. If removing such unwanted links from the widget is not possible, you can always disable them with “nofollow" attribute. If you create a widget for functionality or content that you provide, make sure to include the nofollow on links in the default code snippet.
For instance, in a recent test (2019), if you have a page title longer than 12 words, all the keywords beyond 12 words evaporated from the page copy. This is a change from the way Google used to work, when the extra words were included as part of the page copy, not just part of the title. So, if you have a 15 word title, the last 3 words will not count towards ranking, if that test result was to be replicated.
If you are using Responsive Web Design, use meta name="viewport" tag to tell the browser how to adjust the content. If you use Dynamic Serving, use the Vary HTTP header to signal your changes depending on the user-agent. If you are using separate URLs, signal the relationship between two URLs by tag with rel="canonical" and rel="alternate" elements.
The last time I looked Google displayed as many characters as it can fit into a block element that’s about 600px wide and doesn’t exceed 1 line of text (on desktop). So – THERE IS NO BEST PRACTICE AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS any SEO could lay down as exact best practice to GUARANTEE a title will display, in full in Google, at least, as the search snippet title, on every device. Ultimately – only the characters and words you use will determine if your entire page title will be seen in a Google search snippet.
QUOTE: “Starting April 21 (2015), we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices”. GOOGLE
Baseline ranking assessment. You need to understand where you are now in order to accurately assess your future rankings. Keep a simple Excel sheet to start the process. Check weekly to begin. As you get more comfortable, check every 30 to 45 days. You should see improvements in website traffic, a key indicator of progress for your keywords. Some optimizers will say that rankings are dead. Yes, traffic and conversions are more important, but we use rankings as an indicator.
Another illicit practice is to place "doorway" pages loaded with keywords on the client's site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO's other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.
Think about how Google can algorithmically and manually determine the commercial intent of your website – think about the signals that differentiate a real small business website from a website created JUST to send visitors to another website with affiliate links, on every page, for instance; or adverts on your site, above the fold, etc, can be a clear indicator of a webmaster’s particular commercial intent – hence why Google has a Top Heavy Algorithm.
QUOTE: “The purpose of a page is the reason or reasons why the page was created. Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for multiple purposes. Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose. Some pages are created merely to make money, with little or no effort to help users. Some pages are even created to cause harm to users. The first step in understanding a page is figuring out its purpose.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019
Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or "throwaway" domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google's index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it's best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to "help" you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
The reality in 2020 is that if Google classifies your duplicate content as THIN content, or MANIPULATIVE BOILER-PLATE or NEAR DUPLICATE ‘SPUN’ content, then you probably DO have a severe problem that violates Google’s website performance recommendations and this ‘violation’ will need ‘cleaned’ up – if – of course – you intend to rank high in Google.
Another excellent guide is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” This is a free PDF download that covers basic tips that Google provides to its own employees on how to get listed. You’ll find it here. Also well worth checking out is Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide To SEO,” which you’ll find here, and the SEO Success Pyramid from Small Business Search Marketing.