Why Most SEO Professionals Suck

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Since the dawn of the profession, most SEO “professionals” have been looked down on by programming peers. They’re seen as people who do “magic,” but are unable to quantify the value they bring to a company. People gain this opinion for various reasons, and sadly, a lot of them are true. I recall a conversation I had with one of the developers here at SitePoint when I started, which went a little like this:

Andy: Hi, how are you?
Kristen: Yeah, good thanks mate. I’m the new SEO guy, so I’m sure I’ll be dealing with you a bit in the near future.
Andy: SEO guy? What’s that? I didn’t think SEO was a real job. You just fiddle with some title tags and do some other black magic, right?
Kristen: Ha-ha, I don’t blame you for thinking that; however, there’s a lot more to it than you think!

Horror Stories

Now that conversation isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea. This is very common to how programmers look at SEO providers, and there’s a very good reason for this a lot of the time. I’m unable to think of another profession in the online world where I’ve heard as many horror stories about customers being burned. Providers quite often take money without delivering any real work whatsoever. My favorite of late is the SEO providers that offer “unlimited traffic” for a set fee, say $1,000.

I guess the point of this blog post is to admit that there is a problem. So, I’d like to officially consider this post a confession on behalf of the SEO industry. Yes, there is a problem and we need to fix it!

SEO = scam?

Every industry has their scams associated with it, and generally I think that if an individual is silly enough to believe wholly unbelievable claims, then there’s little you can really do to help them. SEO, however, lends itself to these kinds of scams due to the nature of the secret sauce used to make up the search algorithms. Gullible business owners desperate to beat out their competition are easy targets for unscrupulous service providers. Mind you, these companies may still benefit their clients; it’s just that they generally tend to claim inflated numbers in their advertising material. For instance:

  • 10,000 Backlinks for only $99
  • 50 Social Bookmarking Backlinks in Our Plus Package
  • Unlimited Traffic for Just $1,000 per Month

I’m sure that these kinds of claims are familiar to almost anybody who’s engaged an SEO company, or has been around the Web for long enough. But let’s go back to the topic at hand: most SEO professionals suck. Sadly, I truly believe this, having interviewed hundreds of people when hiring for jobs, as well as gone to industry events, and read forums and blog posts. I’d say that roughly 80% of people I’ve spoken to have no idea what they’re doing beyond the fundamentals of SEO. I liken their level of education to what I know about gardening: I’ve done it, and know that I could do most things with little or no help; however, I sure as hell would stop short at calling myself a landscape gardener. And yet, these charlatans boldly claim to be SEO experts. More often than not, these providers do more harm than good for their clients, giving little to no value beyond the basic meta restructuring and site architecture issues (that’s if they’re even able to understand this!).

Get REAL Results

My gripe is aimed at those providers (you know who you are!) who constantly try and cut corners. Automating every aspect of their work. Using automated directory submission software to build those “10,000 links” with a value of less than one good link. If these providers just took the time to research their clients, investigate real linking opportunities for them, and integrate SEO with the clients’ overall business strategies, they would achieve REAL RESULTS. That means not submitting re-inclusion requests via the Google Webmaster tools interface.

Please note that this is not an attack on everybody in the SEO industry. Far from it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of great and reputable SEO providers online who deliver amazing results for their clients. Tools exist that can take your SEO practices to the next level quite easily, such as SEOmoz’s new PRO tool. Then there’s Raven Tools and various others that can guide you through most of the processes you should be carrying out. Pull your finger out, SEO profs—it’s time to start delivering real value to clients. It may cost you double or triple the amount of effort for each client you service, and you may be unable to claim big numbers like before. But you can take a big step forward and start to really make a difference.

I’ve done black hat, gray hat, rainbow hat, and even invisible hat SEO over the course of the last ten years. I officially renounce my evil ways (technically I’ve been white hat for four to five years now), and would like to see the industry as a whole move forward and stop trying to milk as much money as possible from clients.

Kristen HoldenKristen Holden
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Kristen and his team at Marketing Partners manage the digital businesses and marketing for a select group of innovative and disruptive startups with a focus on long-term domination of their markets, not quick and nasty wins

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