This is a common and frequently asked question that we see often on SEO forums. As there’s no standard, SEO license, or official requirement, anyone can claim to be an SEO expert (or SEO guru). Quite frequently, this is compounded by the issue that many would-be SEO experts actually think they are SEO experts. The old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” couldn’t apply more to SEO. While it’s easy for someone with 10 or 20 years of experience to see the glaring knowledge gaps in someone with 12 months, it’s almost impossible for someone starting out to see them – mainly because they haven’t yet discovered what it is they don’t know or that they know enough.
Utilize your Network
Talk to as many Colleagues and their SEOs as possible. A good SEO should be able to show proof of an ability to rank. The easiest will be if they have a similar project (industry, style, niche, etc) in their portfolio. While not having a well-ranked site (be it their own or a client’s) doesn’t mean they’re not good at SEO, it’s also a flag of sorts. If an SEO cannot prove that they can rank sites in the top 0-3 positions for highly competitive terms, then is that what your business needs?
Word of Mouth
One great way to find an expert SEO is to talk to colleagues in other companies who’ve worked with different SEO agencies. Ask about how they measured them and how they performed.
Key Performance Metrics and KPIs
Over 22 years, these metrics and KPIs have proven reliable measures of how well we’re doing on an SEO campaign, perhaps they could be useful to you:
- Accurate keyword research for high-volume keywords
- Average Visibility and Position ranking (as measured by a tool like Google Search Console and SEMrush)
- Growing web traffic
- Growing web leads
- Ability to innovate in SEO
- Growth of keywords, topics, content ideation
- The breadth of Growth Hacking experience, for example
- Social Forums
- Referring sites/content
- YouTube and Video
- Satellite sites
Obviously, not all of these are linear or always available but it’s a good start.
Things to look for in an SEO Expert
- Customer Validation
- Validation on 3rd part specialist review sites
- Proof of ranking in highly competitive niches
- Traffic Growth
- Niche experience if necessary (e.g. Cybersecurity)
- Ability to articulate and demonstrate strategic SEO
- Ability to track, measure, and demonstrate at a tactical level
Red flags typically include:
- Claims a relationship with Google/inside track (common among PPC/SEM+SEO agencies)
- Provides Technical/on-site SEO only
- Provides a machine (software) generated report that flags hundreds of errors
Terms every SEO Expert should understand and what they really mean:
|SERP||Search Engine Rank Position|
|Position 0||The top organic spot above position 1 and any video, knowledge panel etc – typically an enlarged snippet with or without accompanying images|
|SEM||Search Engine Marketing – often conflated with just PPC – meaning both SEO, PPC, Content and Video Marketing|
|Snippet||A title and excerpt of a web page with a URL to the page displayed in a Google search results page|
|Google Sandbox||The up-down oscillation for new content/domains/videos that drive webmasters crazy|
|Google Penalty||A manual penalty is applied to a site for violating the Google Terms of Service (TOS) and/or Webmaster Guidelines – almost always for egregious spammy links or buying links. Almost always requires a Disavow request and reconsideration request.|
|Disavow||A list of URLs that a webmaster sends to Google to exclude from its link list that the user doesn’t want to receive authority from as they are spammy or bought links.|
|CTR||Click-Through-Rate – the ratio of clicks to impressions. CTR applies to organic search, PPC, and most other organic and paid platforms like YouTube, Facebook, etc.|
- How does PPC differ from SEO?
- How Does SEO Work?
- What is SEO Marketing?
- Thoughts on hiring the best SEO expert or SEO company