"SEO Expert" is a Relative Term

Sep 10, 2013SEO


What is an SEO expert, anyway?

Here’s Google Searches’ definition:

SEO Expert Definition

Here’s my definition:

SEO Expert


  1. A top-tier practitioner of search engine optimization best practices and techniques, research pioneer and staunch content advocate.
  2. Every website development company on the planet. Even if they’ve never actually performed any SEO work. See also: “self-professed”.

So-called SEO “experts” are a dime a dozen. In an increasingly specialized global economy, we all seek those that are experts in their area of practice. What makes someone an expert at something, exactly? Certainly a PhD on the wall from an established higher learning institution would give some indication of being an expert at something (even that can be faked), but it’s not that simple when it comes to search engine optimization expertise.

There’s no established SEO expert certification.

The problem with SEO experts is that anyone can call themselves one and there’s really no way of knowing who are the experts and who are the posers. What makes someone an expert when there’s no universally-accepted certification?

Unfortunately, in SEO, just because you hold the domain name, doesn’t make you the defacto certification body. A piece of paper is only as good as the knowledge and experience behind it.

Some SEO firms offer their own certification courses. I’m not questioning the value of courses such as this – although, the ROI may be a bit suspect when you’re talking a 5-figure price tag for such training. Training from an SEO firm likely has value and may be perfect for larger firms looking to train an entire digital marketing department, but is a bit cost-probhibitive for a lone wolf SEO. I would avoid SEO certifications from any agency or firm, however. You may as well get your certification from a box of Cracker Jacks.

I doubt there will be an industry-standard certification coming any time soon. There would need to be industry standards before there could ever be a certification. Sure, there are agreed-upon white hat SEO tactics and black hat SEO tactics, but there’s still a lot of grey area, too.

The SEO game changes often.

What’s good today for SEO may not necessarily be good tomorrow. The SEO game changes nearly constantly, even if we don’t “see” it. Google infrequently announce algorithm updates (only a few times a year), but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than most are aware of.

Want proof?

Just look at the same search results for a keyword from one day to the next. What’s on page one today won’t necessarily be on page one tomorrow. It’s not all due to changes in the algorithm, of course. As new content gets published and indexed, so do search results. The web evolves constantly and so do search engine results.

Research and experimentation set SEO’s apart.

You can read but I’d rather do.

The only real way to find out how search engines work is to experiment. Search providers give us some of the details of the inner-workings of their platforms, but they’re never going to give us everything. Sometimes we have to figure it out on our own.

Sure, I still like keeping up on the latest from experts in the field: Matt Cutts is a good source – straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Matt doesn’t give specifics on SEO, but their Webmaster Help series of YouTube videos always offer a good baseline amount of information to get you started. The bottom line is that if Google is telling you to do (or not do) something, I’d generally listen.

Outspoken Media did a great piece on avoiding the use of “Top SEO” lists to choose your provider. You can read the piece here.

Oh, and for the record, I don’t consider myself to be an SEO expert…yet.

Google’s Matt Cutts Explains SEO Certifications (Webmaster Help Series, 2010)

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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