Just about any industry has an element within it that gives the others a bad name – doctors, auto mechanics, contractors, policemen… don’t even get me started about politicians and lawyers! The difference is usually just in the percentage of the total that fall shy of the mark.
I’m sorry to say that SEOs are no different – we have our bottom-feeders, too. I suppose that’s not surprising, since the barrier to entry is almost non-existent. All someone has to do is learn a few buzzwords and they can claim to be an SEO consultant.
Of course, claiming and surviving are two different things. Most of the people that pretend to be SEOs, without really having any understanding of what it means, don’t last long. That’s a good thing. The sad part is, that they often do severe, sometimes irreparable, damage to the unfortunate website owners who fall for their pitch.
Who’s to Blame?
I’ve participated in a lot of discussions with my colleagues about the question of who’s to blame when a so-called SEO tanks someone’s livelihood… the consultant or the pigeon that hired him. I think the consensus is that they’re both to blame.
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The really crappy consultant (even calling these craphats “consultants” makes me want to throw up a little) usually knows that he’s pitching a line of bull. He just wants the customer’s money. The fact that he doesn’t have a clue about how to do what’s necessary isn’t lost on him – he just doesn’t care.
Of course, there may be a few that honestly believe they’re knowledgeable enough to do the client some good, even though six months ago, they had never even heard the term SEO. I suspect there aren’t many in that category though. I mean, you have to be pretty dense to be around for six months and not realize how much there is to learn before you can consider yourself competent.
Most of our discussions focus on how to overcome the bad reputation that’s caused by the disasters caused by these errant SEOs. Opinions range between:
- “just do your job well”
- “educate the public”
- “out ‘em whenever you can”
- “hunt ‘em down and feed ‘em to the wolves”
(okay, that last one’s mine).
Realistically, though, I don’t think there’s much we can do about them directly. I think a little of each of the first three is probably the only way to combat it.
Let’s be honest, the craphats deserve anything that happens to them, but what about the site owners? Do they get a pass for entrusting their business to a stranger without checking them out first? Sorry, but I can’t buy that. They deserve some of the blame, too.
So how does a site owner that has little to no knowledge of what an SEO does go about choosing a provider that’s not going to do more harm than good? Granted, it’s a challenge, but it’s not as bad as you might think.
Finding a Reputable SEO Specialist
The best indication of any service provider’s worth will normally be the results they’ve delivered in the past, with the best source of that information being site owners for whom they’ve worked. SEOs usually work under an NDA, which prohibits them from disclosing any information about their client, but in my experience, the majority of satisfied clients are willing to respond to a query about their SEO’s results when asked to.
Personally, if a provider either can’t or won’t approach past clients to get clearance for you to speak with them, I’d keep looking. If they’re good at what they do, they’ll usually have a number of clients eager to sing their praises. I’d suggest speaking to at least three, and have some probing questions prepared before you contact them.
Take the time to select carefully. Inform yourself as much as you can, so that you have realistic expectations and can judge your SEO’s performance fairly. We’re not all charlatans, but we’re not all experts, either. Sadly, just like with any other profession, it’s a mix.
Don’t lock yourself into a year-long commitment until you’ve had an opportunity to see if your SEO can deliver what he or she promises. But understand, too, that you’re unlikely to see any results in less than three months, regardless of your niche. If you play in an especially competitive arena, it may take much longer to see any significant improvement.
Your business type will also have a bearing on how long it will take to see the needle move. Small business SEO services and enterprise SEO services, aside from demanding different skill-sets, can also have different timelines.
The Bottom Line
The responsibility for website owners to receive quality service doesn’t rest on just one set of shoulders.
- Site owners need to protect themselves by making intelligent, informed decisions;
- SEOs that don’t possess the necessary skills need to stop trying to fleece customers or learn at their expense;
- SEOs that see others acting in a way that gives the profession a bad name need to call them on it, while helping to both educate site owners and help new SEOs that want to learn how to do the job right.
Are you ready to do your part?
Doc Sheldon retired from his business management consultancy in 2008 and became a perpetual student of all things SEO. He began providing professional webcopy to a worldwide array of clients, and has been actively involved in SEO for nearly six years, and writing professionally for nearly forty.