SEO Expert — it’s one of those job titles, like “Web Designer”, that’s cool to have and surrounded with just enough mystique to make it easy for opportunists to exploit. I’ll be completely honest here; I’ve been compelled to write this post as a result of The Rage.
I’m furious on behalf of far too many business owners who are suffering the consequences of paying hard-earned money to people who unjustifiably call themselves SEO experts.
What consequences? Well, in two recent cases, a total ban from the Google index — other cases have been less devastating, if you can call being buried by a penalty “less devastating”.
What is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimisation and it is the process of fine-tuning a web site to maximise visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs), with a combination of two things as its foundation:
- well written source code (the structure)
- well written content (the readable text on the pages)
What is a penalty? A penalty in SEO terms comes in the form of a dramatic drop down the SERPs, to a position that renders a web site pretty much invisible.
What can you be penalised or banned for? Implementing “black hat” techniques. Penalties can occur automatically after an algorithm refresh, or via manual application.
What are “black hat techniques”? Things like keyword stuffing and link spam — unbelievably these are still being used by the aforementioned “SEO experts”, as well as SEO DIYers, which is why I still get calls from desperate site owners asking if I can help them.
Why are people still using black hat techniques? I can only think of two reasons;
- their information about SEO is painfully out of date.
- their clients who don’t know any better and it’s “easy money”, so why not?
So, how do I hire a real SEO expert? I personally believe that if you hire a professional web developer to build a web site for you and you’ve written good quality page content for your site, you should be able to expect it to be search engine friendly, right out of the gate. If your developer doesn’t offer ongoing optimisation as a service and getting higher up in the SERPs is something you want to pursue, you’ll need to make the decision about who will take on that job.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) tackle the job yourself and you’re in a position where you need to find someone to handle your ongoing SEO, bear in mind that they cannot possibly be a hands-on “SEO expert” without at least some knowledge of the basics of HTML and web standards, because the myriad on-page factors require them. There are people in the SEO field today who’d argue with me about that — bring it on.
Ask for evidence of their successes, get referrals from other business owners and expect to pay a premium rate if you hire a professional. The value of this service is high and the expertise required to perform it involves constant research.
The important thing to remember is that it’s an involved and ongoing process and there are no shortcuts. There used to be and it’s always been naughty to take them, but there haven’t always been any consequences. Now, there are consequences and rightfully so. Think about it, when you use a search engine to find something you’re looking for, you want the results to be relevant and good quality ones, right? So does everyone else and that’s why it’s brilliant (and exciting!) that search engine algorithms are getting smart enough to correctly recognise and clean up the rubbish.
There. I’ve said it.