How do you pick an SEO expert?

This is a common, frequently asked question that we see often on SEO forums. As there’s no standard, 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 dont know” couldn’t apply more to SEO. While its easy for someone with 10 or 20 years 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 dont know or that they know enough.

Talk to as many SEO’s 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, its 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 Metics and KPI’s

Over 22 years, these metrics and KPI’s have proven reliable measures of how well we’re doing on an SEO campaign, perhaps they could be useful to you:

  1. Accurate keyword research for high volume keywords
  2. Average Visibility and Position ranking (as measured by a tool like Google Search Console and SEMrush)
  3. Growing web traffic
  4. Growing web leads
  5. Ability to innovate in SEO
  6. Growth of keywords, topics, content ideation
  7. Breadth of Growth Hacking experience, for example
    1. PR
    2. Social Forums
    3. Referring sites/content
    4. YouTube and Video
    5. Satellite sites

Obviously not all of these are linear or always available but its a good start.

Our top picks to consider:

  • Experience
  • Customer Validation
  • Proof of ranking in highly competitive niches
    • SERPS
    • 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

Terms an SEO Expert should understand and what they really mean:

SERPSearch Engine Rank Position
Position 0The top organic spot above position 1 and any video, knowledge panel etc – typically an enlarged snippet with or without accompanying images
SEMSearch Engine Marketing – often conflated with just PPC – meaning both SEO, PPC, Content and Video Marketing
SnippetA title and excerpt of a web page with a URL to the page displayed in a Google search results page
Google DanceThe up-down oscillation for new content/domains/videos that drive webmasters crazy
Google PenaltyA manual penalty 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.
DisavowA list of URLs that a webmaster sends to Google to exclude from its link list that the user doens’t want to receive authority from as they are spammy or bought links. 
CTRClick-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.