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Separating the Chaff from the Wheat: SEO Experts Versus Charlatans

The world is full of charlatans. I don’t like writing that, but it’s true. As the old saying goes, fake it until you make it. Thing is, some people never make it. That’s certainly something I’ve seen over the course of my career in SEO and other fields. And it’s something every person looking to work with an SEO expert should watch out for. Make sure that SEO expert is truly an expert.

Oftentimes, I’ll jump on a project and learn that my clients were previously working with another “SEO Expert.” Sounds great, right? I’ll be able to slide in, continue so-and-so’s work, and then add my own nuances and touches. Sometimes a fresh view yields improved results.

Sometimes, however, I start digging through the content, looking at the keywords, analyzing Google Analytics, etc. and it becomes clear that there was no strategy or method to the previous specialist’s approach. They were simply throwing up content, hoping that it’d stick. That rarely works and always delivers sub-optimal results.

This is a serious problem. Every SEO expert will approach their work thoughtfully. When you’re talking to SEO experts, ask some questions, like:

  • How do they build keywords? What tools/methods do they use?
  • Broadly speaking, how do search engines work, and how does SEO work?
  • What Analytics tools do they use? What can they learn from these tools?
  • What’s the difference between black hat SEO and white hat? How about on-page and off-page?
  • What five factors do they believe are the most important for determining SEO juice?

The quality of their responses will indicate the level of their skill.

Sometimes, “SEO Specialists” Don’t Even Get the Basic Content Right

It’s not just strategy and approach where SEO experts fall short. I often find that even the content produced is failing to match industry standards. The “SEO Specialist” – who really was more of a writer – wasn’t even producing content the right way. This has nothing to do with their skill or voice, but instead their unwillingness to study and/or follow rules.

Every field, every job, every everything has its own unique nuances and rules. The same is true of content, and most importantly, each type of content. A blog post is very different from web copy, and a tweet is not the same thing as a Facebook post. Each piece of content will have its own rules.

The most obvious mistake I encounter on a regular basis is forgetting to use “alt-tags“. These tags are used to explain the content of images to search engines. They take five seconds to write and help demonstrate that your article is media rich. Yet often “SEO specialists” fail to use them.

Other common mistakes are massive paragraphs, a lack of headers, obsessive keyword stuffing, or conversely, no coherent keyword strategy at all. Each mistake is a proverbial paper cut, and as they pile up, they could bleed you dry.

I make mistakes. Every once in a while, I take shortcuts, not squeezing every once of SEO juice out of content. I also believe it’s fine to produce content that isn’t heavily SEO-optimized. I only put the lightest of touches into optimizing this article, for example. Regardless, if you’re going to hire a professional, make sure they’re actually professional.

About Michael Boguslavskiy

Michael Boguslavskiy is a full-stack developer & online presence consultant based out of New York City. He's been offering freelance marketing & development services for over a decade. He currently manages Rapid Purple - and online webmaster resources center; and Media Explode - a full service marketing agency.

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