What makes an SEO Expert?

Too many people are calling themselves an “SEO Expert” with very little to qualify their expertise. In my opinion the criteria for calling oneself an SEO expert are as follows:

1. Exposure

First and foremost, an SEO expert needs to have exposure to vast and varied SEO campaigns, from small SEO campaigns on a single keyword, to large SEO campaigns on hundreds of thousands of keywords. An SEO Expert also needs to have exposure to all manner of industries, from high competition industries such as automotive and financial markets, to highly specialised niche markets such as cattle dips, hair dressers scissors or hydraulic lifting apparatus.

The exposure to all manner of industries, in all manner of sizes and levels of competition gives an SEO expert clarity through a wealth of information and direct feedback from the search engines.

2. Years

Some so called “SEO experts” claim that it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing SEO, because things are constantly changing. I’ll dispute that statement directly.

While it’s true that search engines are constantly evolving, they aren’t always moving forward. In the early days, Internet Marketers would have vast success simply by stuffing their websites with keywords. It was all about on-page SEO, and less about off-page SEO. Around 2006-2008 back links became extremely powerful and on-page SEO fell a bit by the wayside, but more recently on-page has again become more powerful.

Without the experience of each “era” of SEO, an SEO practitioner won’t be able to recognise these patterns, and respond appropriately, thus not earning the title of “SEO Expert”

3. Testing

Too many practitioners blindly follow what they read on sites such as SEOMoz and SEOBook. They also regurgitate everything Google’s Matt Cutts says, blindly, without exposure and without experience. This does not an seo expert make.

Testing is absolutely key – even testing on a smaller scale, simply testing pages against one another, testing different backlink profiles, testing the effect of social media on seo, etc.

Personally I’ve come to flat out reject statements by the aforementioned SEOMoz, SEOBook and also Matt Cutts, because what they are saying is incongruent with the tests I’m running.

4. Hours

If you haven’t done 10,000 hours working on SEO, you are not an SEO expert. 10,000 hours is the commonly accepted number for somebody to master a particular discipline, be that playing piano, or making hats.

5. Coding

A true SEO expert needs to have a good working knowledge of programming, and various web programming languages.

Excellent HTML knowledge is required to diagnose issues within a web page, and to correctly implement optimisation.

Server side programming language knowledge (for languages such as ASP and PHP) is required to diagnose issues in page load times, to dynamically optimise pages, to efficiently make large changes to large sites, etc.

Knowledge of Javascript is also important because not everything that is displayed on a page is displayed as text in the first instance. If you don’t understand javascript and technologies such as ajax and cufon, you can’t really call yourself an SEO expert because you can’t read the code which generates the pages.

6. Efficiency

A lot about SEO is quite basic, and which it comes to things such as link building, efficiency in implementation is absolutely key.

I know of companies spending £300 on a single PR0 link, and other companies with budgets of over £50,000/month, who go and buy the quickest easiest links they can find. An SEO can literally spend £10,000 per day, an absurd waste of money.

So the efficiency in spending budgets is absolutely critical to the success of an SEO campaign in returning profitability.

Efficiency in achieving results is also absolutely critical, and without being able to deliver efficiency in both budget spend and achieving results, a person cannot call themselves an SEO expert.

7. Results

The proof is in the pudding and consistent results in many varied markets is a great way to identify who is, and who isn’t an SEO Expert. Results alone to not make somebody an SEO expert, there are too many companies with great SEO rankings, but they just don’t know how they got their… not SEO experts.

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