Posted August 14, 2007 10:08 am by with 96 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Yesterday, I sat in a meeting with an SEO consultant for about six hours listening to him discuss his philosophy of search engine optimization. Since we started in 1999, we have relied heavily on SEO, but in the last few years, really have struggled. Here are some random things I have learned over this time.

1. The SEO industry is full of consultants that are either incompetent or crooked. How many? I would guess well over 90%. As a result, there is an unbelievable amount of noise in the industry that makes it almost impossible to actually get to the truth. If you want to hire an SEO consultant or contract out your SEO, I feel for you. We as a rule do not do that, so I really cannot make any good recommendations. We have hired for short periods of time some of the top names in the industry, but have in general, been disappointed.

2. It goes without saying that some of the most visible people in the SEO industry are not visible because they really understand SEO but because they are good at marketing themselves. Be wary of any information you read.

3. There ARE real SEO experts out there. However, as a rule, they are not sharing their secrets because they are applying them to their own sites and making enormous amounts of money doing it.

4. An SEO expert in 2001 is not necessarily an expert in 2007. In the early years, there were very simple formulas that would practically guarantee top rankings. Many SEO “experts” came out of that era and have no clue how to generate rankings in today’s world. When interviewing SEO consultants, make sure and ask for their current success stories.

5. When you talk to an SEO consultant and he/she seems focused on specific little things on your site such as keyword density, meta tags, etc., move on. If he/she seems overly focused on inbound links, move on. If he/she is focused on implementing a strategy that makes people want to come to your site and stay there, you may have found one of the few SEO experts that know what they are talking about.

6. A good SEO strategy predicts where the search engines are going and moves a web site in that direction. It is obvious that search engines are getting smarter and will continue to do so. At some point, search results are going to be very relevant. That means that you need to make your site as relevant as possible if you want consistent rankings in the future.

7. Gimmicks, shady manipulation, and tricks may work in the short term but are not a legitimate strategy for sites that you really care about. Also, be careful of over-optimization. Analyzing your top ranked competitors and trying to imitate their keyword density, weighting, etc. is a waste of time.

8. SEO is going to continue to require more and more resources to do well. Small SEO budgets are just not going to cut it in competititive industries in the near future. In spite of that fact, for the present at least, SEO is still a far better investment than CPC for most industries.

  • Great advice Greg!

    As for #3, I agree that there are many SEOs that don’t take on clients – they don’t need to. However, I walk away from any SEO consultant that is not willing to share specifics with you. A good SEO consultant is not afraid to teach you what he knows. I want my clients to know exactly what I’m doing for them.

  • Gregg, some great advice in there. SEO is not about “gaming” search engines, but a cohesive marketing strategy that aligns with industry trends and resonates with the target audience for a website. Thanks for sharing your learnings.

  • Good points on 6 and 7.

    SEO’s have to be able to adapt to anything. No matter how search engines or marketing strategies change, you have to be able to roll with the punches. I think a lot of people fear change because it takes time and energy to learn new things…hence Mr. SEO practicing the same strategies since 2002.

  • Add to the list:

    Do not accept any SEO consulting services that cold calls you, asking for their help.

  • This is a great list! Thank you for publishing it.

    Brian: That sounds harsh. Getting a cold call doesn’t make my day, but saying that any SEO who tries to drum up business isn’t to be trusted would be like saying that you shouldn’t buy any product you see in advertising.

  • On a larger note, in the end good SEO isn’t about chasing algorithms. Good SEO is about ethically and honestly beating your competition. The algorithm isn’t the competition, your normal business competitor is.

    Do a better job at SEO than they are doing…even if both of you are terrible at SEO, and you’ll still come up first no matter what the algorithm is.

    (This assumes that no one is better than the two of you…so if all are terrible, as long as you are the least terrible, you still “win” so to speak. So the algorithm isn’t what we are competing with…it is our business competition. Yes, knowing how SE’s work is helpful…no getting around that, but you get the point I am sure.)

  • To clarify a bit on #3, I mean that the very best SEO experts are often not consultants at all. They are site owners that are making far more money applying what they know than selling the knowledge to other people.

    These people have a low profile and they want it that way. They have no intention of revealing secrets to anyone that can compete with them.

    On the other hand, there are exceptions to this rule and I am not implying that all SEO experts are not consultants.

    However, I can say without any doubt that if you are an expert in SEO, you can make far more money applying your knowledge to a business than consulting.

  • Hi Greg,
    Thanks for pointing out some good advise for finding a reputable SEO, or at least for spotting not so reputable ones.

    I did want to touch on one of your points in #5 where you said “If he/she seems overly focused on inbound links, move on.”

    I’m not sure that would be a good point to give to people searching for an SEO company or consultant. If the client’s web site lacks backlinks as opposed to their competitors, who may be swimming in sufficient and well placed backlinks, then I would imagine that inbound links would be a very valid and majority focus point on improving the client’s visibility.

    Let’s face it – without solid backlinks the rest of your #5 you mention that is important (“implementing a strategy that makes people want to come to your site and stay there”) will be a mute point if the traffic is barely counted on one hand because link building was never the focus. 😉

    Perhaps a better focal point for the SEO would be to put effort into strategic link building relationships with verticals and other areas to promote targeted traffic for the client rather than just building standard links.

  • Very resourceful post, yeilding a lot of helpful information. Personally, I don’t think I would ever hire a SEO consultant. However, stilla good few tips to keep in mind when in doubt.

    I especially like number three:

    There ARE real SEO experts out there. However, as a rule, they are not sharing their secrets because they are applying them to their own sites and making enormous amounts of money doing it.

  • Greg, while much of the information in your list is accurate, the post overall rubbed me the wrong way. It seems like you’re blasting most of the SEO industry and then hedging your bets with your last point.

  • “However, I can say without any doubt that if you are an expert in SEO, you can make far more money applying your knowledge to a business than consulting.”

    That’s not necessarily true either. If I recall, Danny Sullivan covered this topic a while back as well. Basically though, some consultants just don’t have the skills or the drive to work a business. Although, really, consulting is a business, it requires a different skill set than starting a business selling x, y, and z.

    Sure there are some SEO’s that are making other people rich when they could be making a fortune for themselves, but I also think there are others that prefer to stick to what they know best, and that just happens to be consulting.

  • Nice post overall. But I think it may have gone a but too far in a couple points. 5 & 7, I have seen some sites that have it all ok but the little things like duplicate titles, so all I would focus on is title tag espically at first, later we would move to other things. Like the post just wanted to add that, as you know all “rules” are meant to be broken, I think all post have excepations too.

  • Tony

    I think #3 hit the nail on the head. As far as I can see why would you build up a million dollar site for $xxxx when you can have the money for yourself.

  • @SEO Refugee
    I tend to agree with you that some consultants are just not cut out to run websites, and it makes sense for them to be consultants. That is why I said that MANY (not all) SEO experts were working on their own sites rather than consulting.

    Many times, I have seen a site that does incredibly well in search engines but generates on a fraction of the revenue it should. Often, simple changes would make an enormous difference. In this case, the SEO expert behind the site needs to either do SEO consulting or find a partner that will monetize the size.

    Perhaps, more SEO experts should consider the partnership idea rather than going into consulting. For example, our strength is monetizing traffic, and we would love to find SEO experts who have e-tail sites with lots of traffic that we can partner with.

  • Pretty easy to see who knows SEO. Just do a few searches fro their name or forum handle and see what they have posted in the last few years.

  • @SEO Refugee,

    Also, I am sorry if you thought I was blasting the SEO industry. I am only blasting the incompetent or dishonest SEO experts that prey on the naive.

  • Greg: thank you for your list. In my opinion, even when you have a list of points like this one, you may still end up with a crappy SEO consultant.

    Regarding your point #3, I believe that SEO nowadays is 99% steady, humble work and 1% “secrets” and really they are more experience than anything else.

    I recommend using SEOs that are moving towards integral internet marketing and away from optimization.

  • Pingback: Search Engine Optimization Journal » SEO Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be, Or Is It?()

  • No need any SEO master, you can search infos and try and apply

  • Good points. I especially enjoyed number 4. It’s not 2001 anymore.

  • Greg, I definitely think there are SEOs who should seek partnerships etc.

    Personally, I’ve gotten out of consultancy to work on my own projects but one thing that I miss is the variety that consultancy offers. It’s not always easy to focus on one project.

    BTW, the dishonest, milk em for all their worth and then dump em, provide no real value, type SEO’s are worthless and deserve to be outed. I just don’t think broad generalizations about the entire industry help things much.

  • Pingback: 8 Tips for Avoiding an SEO Fraudster - WebProWorld()

  • Then surely you are saying the only long term strategy is to produce consistent unique quality content.

    The only thing I have not seen change for sites that rank well are links and content. If you get those right you succeed.

  • Hello, can somebody tell my where i can find a seo tool which can show me the positions from a website (5, 10, 20 Keywords)? Please give feedback to me. bye

  • Exactly #3 is perfect. I would not share with anyone the way I make money if I knew that it could bring competition to my own business. You can do that if you know that the time is comming anyway so you just have some additional income.

  • I generally agree with the thrust of the article but not all points. I agree that a large number of SEOs clearly are not at the cutting edge and don’t know it. Perhaps they only work in noncompetitive niches and have had a good run with the old tactics.

    I don’t perform SEO anymore but teach the subject professionally and SEO my own sites, having worked on nearly 2000 sites belonging to others. Cold-calling is sometimes necessary and real businesses are not surprised to get a sales call – many of them also do it from time to time. Luckily, my last employer had a large subscriber base, so we didn’t need to cold call often.

    My salespeople were careful not to “teach SEO” to prospects who kept asking detailed questions. e.g. It is fine to ask about links, but asking how many links and from which specific sites is asking too much before the sale.

    There is a small niche that wants to learn and they like calling every SEO they can find to see if there is a pattern they can discern. While there is little risk of them really learning everything, they waste time if they don’t want to pay for SEO.

  • Point 5 made me think… I guess it’s time to make some changes to my websites. Thanks for the link to the article.

  • I totally agree that the best SEO experts are not consulting others. It takes time and hard work to find at least some aspects of great SEO and it’s far more profitable for any given SEO expert to simply continue making money on their own website than sharing this information with thousands of others.

  • I agree with a few other posters – an integrated approach is what will work now and in the future – changing the mix as the market requires. And, I’d also think that even the so-called SEO experts who are making money for themselves would use an integrated approach of online marketing techniques to get the most out of their sites. One size doesn’t fit all – never has and never will.

  • Hmm .. been thinking about #3 and I’m not sure I agree. If I were a whizz mechanic; it doesn’t necessarily imply that I would start up a car hire business, on the basis that I can fix my own cars. In the same way, an “SEO expert” can make a better career by managing websites from clients, rather than building websites he can earn residual income from. Does that make sense?

  • @ Owen:

    It could make sense. It all depends on how much time the SEO expert is willing to work on said site.

  • Z

    I agree with all the above points. However, i feel the reason there are so many shady agencies out there is that the general public just doesn’t understand the ins and outs of SEO or any of online marketing for that matter. We as an industry have done a crappy job of educating businesses on why SEO/Online Marketing can benefit their business. As a business owner/sales person/client strategist, i spend a great deal of my time educating prospects on how this entire online marketing thing works. I try and push them in the direction that is going to make the most sense based on their overall goals and objectives. Sometimes SEO is the right thing to do and sometimes it’s not.

    I also put blame on the general public for treating online marketing as something they just have to do but don’t know why or how they should do it. I get calls all the time, “can you just optimize my site?” Sure! but what are you trying to achieve. Of course everyone says rankings. but we all know that ranking don’t mean sh*t if the website sucks and doesn’t convert anyone. We try and provide a comprehensive strategy to accomplish their goals but at the end of the day what do most businesses look for….CHEAPEST PRICE! They don’t understand the value of the investment they are making. They think it’s like being back in the late 90’s and just buying a website because their competitor had one. They don’t take the time to understand the investment they are making. So of course the shady companies that have the cheap pricing are going to be all over those businesses. They are going to give them crappy service and ultimately make them leave. Which makes it 10 times harder for a legitimate agency to pick them up as a client because now they are skeptical.

    In my opinion, you just have to educate the prospects as much as you can with out giving away to much. Do what you think is in their best interest and hope they can see that. At the end of the day you will probably lose more clients then you gain by doing this but the clients you do bring on will probably stick with you for the long haul.

    One last thing, us as marketers who do this everyday take for granted that the ones we are talking to understand all the terminology we use. THEY DON’T! When talking with prospects you have to break this stuff down to a 3rd grade level. You have to really put yourself in their position. It’s almost like when you had to explain to your parents or grand parents what you do for a living. 🙂


  • As talked about many times before, I think that you might be taking the term ‘SEO’ farther than what I would define it as. Maybe saying ‘SEM’ or ‘Internet Marketing’ might fit better in this article because I think some of the things you touch on are beyond optimizing for search engines and goes into user conversions and basic site marketing.

  • Pingback: aaron dalrymple dot com » Search Engine Marketing, SEO, Online Travel Marketing » Blog Archive » “90% of SEO Consultants Incompetent or Crooked” - Greg Howlett()

  • I agree with the fact that tenure has NOTHING (ok it has a little to do with) expertise in SEO. Just cause you could use Meta keywords and comment stuffing 9 years ago doesn’t mean you know doodly squat about what is going on today with the impact of personalized, universal, ask 3d, etc. SEOMOZ had a good post about questions to ask an SEO to see if they are any good:

  • Pingback: SiteMost’s Weekly Blog Recap 20/08/07 at Brisbane SEO Blog()

  • Solid SEO strategy is really important for long-term success for the site. Don’t change tools of optimisation and move all possible ways in youк optimisation.

  • neo

    Perfect article! Right in every single way.

    I’m one of the #3 guys, and yes if you structure your deals correctly with the right accounts, and you deliver, there’s no looking back….what’s that crap about “cheapest price”…you’re going for the wrong accounts dude…of course if you suck, that’s what you’re stuck with.

    I might add one more perfect indicator that the SEO doesn’t know what he’s doing. Google Analytics. Anyone that works their butt off optimizing a site and then puts spyware on the backend to deliver all the effective keywords to the Google keyword suggestion tool needs their friggin head examined.

  • Hi Greg and Andy; My, oh my. I totally agree on all 8 points. You did extremely well with this and I’m happy that people “outside” of my own community are actually stating the same thoughts as I have had for along time. VERY good.

    I found this article via the Bob Massa blog, so kudos to Bob for bringing this to my attention. Needless to say, there wasn’t much I agreed with in Bob’s article, but of course, he knows that totally. I DO agree with 99% of your article however. .. 100% is always impossible. Unless or until this industry wises up to what is really going on, it will continue it’s downward spiral. The truly funny stuff is when conference panels are always asking the question about “why the bad rap” when the “why” is as clear as the Google webmaster guidelines. 🙂

    Great stuff guys!

  • geez, sorry Greg. where did I get “andy” from? Good article.

  • LOL I’m losing it. Andy is Andy Beal. Greg is the article writer. Duh? … turning the big 50 in a few weeks so maybe I’m too damn old for this stuff and starting to lose my mind? 🙂

  • I on the other hand totally agree with SEO GURU as posted here and think that you are doing waaaaaay more harm to the seo biz on a whole then good.

  • Teeceo, I am not trying to help the SEO industry. I write on MarketingPilgrim from a internet retailing prospective. I am interested in helping retailers avoid being scammed by so-called SEO gurus. Frankly, I have no interest in whitewashing an industry (SEO) that has big problems.

  • Hi teeceo, Is that the same person who got caught spamming Google and then sued Google because he got caught? 🙂

    There is tooo much wrong information out there. The general public has no clue as to what is a good thing…. techniques and SEO’s.

    hmm. What is very revealing is the fact that so many people on also think that article is good. This certainly makes one of the points of Greg’s article in that only 10% of SEO’s are whitehat. The rest are either blackhat OR cater to blackhats. There is one more group however; the group who is being led astray without the proper knowledge. Many web designers fall into this group because of all the bad articles and bad information out there.

  • Wow… six hours listening to an SEO consultant on his philosophy of SEO? That’s the first red flag. Sorry to hear of your predicament, but seriously. When did you last give 6 hours of attention to a database guy, or a graphic designer, your physician, or your BMW mechanic?

    The readers are not sophisticated enough to recognize this as a rant, and I suspect that’s why some criticize this appearing on MP.

  • Hey John; the next time you mention me at, I’d appreciate it if you would spell my name right; “Doug Heil”, and not “Doug Hail”. Thanks a bunch. I love it that I’m mentioned so don’t worry about that, but just spell it right next time. Thanks.

    A rant? I didn’t see it that way at all. It’s the state of this industry. I see it as more “fact” than anything else. It’s not just the bad SEO’s, but it’s the people in the industry who “cater” to those same bad SEO’s, and tout them, and praise them. That’s the beef among many “in my circle”.

    Also; it’s very revealing that Massa’s bashing article of “this” article gets “sphinned” by many members of sphinn with NO comments as to why. This tells the entire industry what types of members are the majority at sphinn, right?

    People are afraid to look in the mirror and fear that “this” article is talking about them….. notice how Greg stated that he has tried outsourcing SEO to some firms in this industry who are good at “promoting” themselves, but he wasn’t happy with the results. What does that tell everyone? I know what it tells me. I’m thinking that many don’t like this article because it hits home a bit…. either that or they are very insecure.

  • Sorry about the name, Doug. I get called JohnJohn over at Sphinn, too. Not sure what’s up with that.

    I am not as quick to infer intent as you (you say “fact”, “people are afraid”, “types of members are the majority”, “it’s very revealing” etc). I’ve been unhappy with results from many service companies over the years, but that doesn’t mean they are fraudulent scammers. It’s a bit more complicated than that (I am a perfectionist my self, with low tolerance for poor customer service. Even IBM disappoints me sometimes).

    I hope you don’t now characterize me as defending a legion of scammers. In my SEO work I see about a 10:1 ratio of clients who don’t know their own business to SEOs who don’t know theirs. Are the clients all scammers and frauds?

    But seriously, who spends 6 hours listening to a professional service provider pitch, and then rants about there not being enough good ones and most being frauds? I will infer that there’s way more going on in that office than “there are no good seo consultants”.

  • No I don’t John. I do see you as always standing behind “whoever” is against me though. LOL I’m not a follower at all…never will be.

    Anyway; I really and truly believe the 10% figure is very correct. I really do. It’s not getting better over the last ten years either…but getting worse. If you think about it, it only makes sense as SEO is something that littlejoeandsally can get into by throwing up a little blog now and claiming “SEO consultation” expertise. It’s just too easy.

    As far as the title of Greg’s article and “fraudster’s”?…. yeah, over the top a bit. It could be worded differently.

    You have to admit John that this industry if truly only looking after each member in this industry…. good or bad. WHO the heck knows who is actually good? We don’t know so how does the public know? How do they find out? They only find out when they hire a firm. There are too many people in our industry who just don’t care who they take money from for advertising, and who they promote on their blogs and sites, and who they tout as experts, etc,…. when they really have NO CLUE if these people are good or not. The industry is in such a bad state of affairs. It’s really bad.

    I read an article you wrote John on your blog a few weeks back. I remember it about the Google guidelines or something. I LOVED what you wrote totally and agreed with it totally. I think the biggest problem with people in this industry is that they want to be seen rubbing shoulders with the elites, etc, even if those people have VERY different self-interests, etc. Many people only wish to gain monies from other firms in this industry through advertising, and in many cases do NOT do any SEO work or consulting whatsoever. Those are the types that our industry seems to want to be seen with…. something that is truly incredible to many of us.

    Anyway; Greg’s experiences are not uncommon at all and are very much the norm. The industry wonders why it has the bad reputation, but it’s very, very clear as to why.

  • Wow, it seems this article gained new life again. 🙂

    Greg is entitled to share his opinion on the subject, as are our readers.

    I’d suggest that Greg could be right that 90% are either crooks or incompetent. There must be thousands of “SEO experts” – how many of them are actually getting repeat business?

    In the end, the great SEOs will look at the list and likely shrug their shoulders and wonder what the fuss is about. I suspect those that attack it likely either didn’t read it fully or it touched a nerve about their own practices.

  • Thanks for clarifying your position, Andy.

    Doug, I disagree with you on most counts. Every industry has meetings about “reputation management” because it’s smart to manage that as a group, and there are always detractors. Those who bad mouth an industry as a whole are problems for everyone, especially if they are not held accountable for their claims. Consumers are easily misled (look how well QuackWatch ranks in Google for just about everything that’s not AMA-sanctioned and Pharma-supported). It’s SOOOO easy to highlight negative aspects and lead from the back. Skeptics are easy prey. It’s hard to lead from the front. Education is expensive, but ignorance is more expensive.

    SEO is largely good webmastering, almost comletely accountable to metrics, and highly specialized. I find it very easy to test the caliber of an SEO, just as I can evaluate a designer or coder or database admin (or alarm installer or landscaper or crew candidate for a regatta).

    If you really care about the clients, educate them about picking an SEO (checklists, questions to ask, signs to watch for) instead of saying that 90% of them are frauds. That approach hurts everyone. Educating the world about SEO helps everyone. So what’s the problem?

  • John, thanks for writing. However, you are misrepresenting me. First, it is wrong to imply that all I did was point out the problems without providing education. I challenge you to look not only at my writing on MP but across the web as a whole and see if you can still make that assertion.

    Part of education is telling the truth. The truth is that your industry is full of incompetence and worse. As others have pointed out, that is true for almost any industry, and I agree. But retailers in particular need to understand the damage that SEO consultants can do to them on a long term basis.

    One other thing… The conclusions you are drawing from my 6 hour meeting with an SEO consultant are about as far off base as possible.

  • Okay, so “your industry is full of incompetence and worse. As others have pointed out, that is true for almost any industry, and I agree.”

    I get it. Everyone is incompetent, not just SEOs. Okay. Nothing further to discuss.

  • hmm John, If I knew that it could not possibly be what you meant to say, I’d think you just wrote that I do not educate the public? Surely you jest? lol

    No one said that “all” SEO’s are bad…. just 90% of them are bad John. Andy Beal said it real well above.

  • Its little stupidass hating like that on others in the game that give the whole seo game a bad name. Tell you what “Andy Beal” and “Greg Howlett” if “90% of SEOs are either crooked OR incompetent” then either of you point out even one of these people who you believe is either “crooked OR incompetent” from the list I will create of what I think is a list of the finest bunch of seo’s on the planet. Ready……

    seo guru
    “Aaron Wall” A.K.A. seobook
    danny sullivan
    “Roger Montti” A.K.A. martinibuster
    “MICHAEL GRAY” A.K.A. Graywolf
    “Kristopher Jones” CEO of pepperjamsearch

    For my money those are some of the top seo’s in the game and I personally have gotten some great tips from most of the people on that list so you guys “Andy Beal” and “Greg Howlett” if %90 of seo’s are “crooked OR incompetent” then by all means point out any and all from “THAT LIST” that you think fit the bill of “crooked OR incompetent” Go ahead, we are all wait:)………….

    P.S. “who am I you ask, I am a online business man that has made over 1 million dollors for myself and business partner over the last few years with NO client money to back us and very little PC skill’s to start with (myself I am speaking about) so yea, lets see who you pick:).

    Barry Tubwell.
    COO, OM Solutions.

  • Hi Barry, Your list includes names who do “not” do SEO at all and some who only do “linking stuff”. I guess if you feel that SEO is all about links, so be it. Your list doesn’t disprove the 90% figure though… sorry. Anyone out there can write some good tips.

  • I was not asking you Doug. “Andy Beal” and “Greg Howlett” go ahead and pick from that list all that apply to your %90 “crooked OR incompetent” statement plase and don’t get anyone else here to post FOR YOU as you are the one(s) saying those comments so pick some names:).

  • teeceo – You put up a list of what would be considered the top 10%, so the 90% estimate would not apply to the people you listed as they are the one that this article is not referring to.

    Also, I don’t think that they mean 90% is a fact – I think the point was that there are a lot of people claiming to be experts and there are also a lot of snake oil salesmen out there. Neither Greg nor Andy would have anything negative to say about the good people that you have mentioned.

    And to quote Andy “I suspect those that attack (this post) likely either didn’t read it fully or it touched a nerve about their own practices.”

    Relax and let your experience do the talking and you shouldn’t have to worry about any bad rap that SEOs may get. I know it has never been a problem for me when meeting with a potential client.

  • “We have hired for short periods of time some of the top names in the industry, but have in general, been disappointed.” I just listed a list of “some of the top names in the industry” but I see your not going to touch that list are you:). Well lets end this blog post on a good note then since you won’t back up your words about the %90, will you atleast throw your support around any of the people on my list this way other clients out that are in need of good seo’s but don’t want your services can have a good recommendation of some great seo’s in the biz?

  • Please understand teeceo that “your” list of top names, as you put it, just might not be Andy’s or Greg’s list of top names at all. They may not be “many” people’s top list of names at all. They may be “your” top list for sure. They may simply be people who are good at promoting themselves as well, but does that mean they are “top”? Readers can be the judge.

    I can tell you that some names on there do “not” do SEO at all. I can tell you that others do “link building”, which some of us in THIS industry don’t consider as SEO and the be all end all of SEO. You are assuming the names you mention are the “tits” of SEO. You are mistaken. Are they in the 90 that Greg mentions?… that’s not fair and you know it. As Mark stated above, the names may not be in the 90 at all, but listing some names and asking other’s to prove or disprove is just crazy stuff. The article is speaking about the industry as a whole. How many blogs have sprung up in the last year claiming SEO expertise? A bunch. Do these people really understand SEO? Nope. Many not even close. Just read the stuff from them. The large numbers of people claiming SEO stuff goes up daily. The numbers of actually good SEO’s does not go up daily. The percentages and common sense will tell you that Greg’s article is correct by default.

    I hope you understand this.

  • Auntie Kay

    I was irritated when I read point #1 but as I read on, it balanced out and overall I agree with it.

    But website owners themselves propagate ‘Bad SEO’ just as they propagate bad service providers in any industry with their constant search for cheap cheap cheap.

    A website my company designed won awards and I started off some SEO for them. Next minute they had ‘shopped around’ and found an SEO Company that charges £28 a month for a full ongoing service.

    This company made a mess of the homepage, totally abused the title tag using phrases that arent used in the UK and ‘submit to search engines on an ongoing basis’.

    Enough said!

    Anyone can throw stones. Stop bitching about what others do badly and concentrate on providing an ethical service yourself. If you truly do a good job, your results will speak for themselves, your clients will return and you will get word of mouth recommendations. Who cares what the guy up the road is doing? As for the businesses out there that get suckered in, that’s not your fault either! They either have more money than sense or just no business sense at all!

  • Pingback: Are Famous SEOs also Experts? - WebProWorld()

  • It’s not exactly fair to say that all SEO people do not share information. In fact that is very far from the truth. You only have to enter the forum world and see the many highly talented guys and gals that give their advice freely. Some will say that being a ‘forum guru’ does not exactly make you an seo expert. Well as a moderator at WebProWorld I can assure you of one thing – the true experts stay the course!

  • I have to agree with ctabuk that there are lots of forums where the expert SEOs do share their methods. WPW (where I am also a moderator) is one example; Webmasterworld also has some very knowledgeable experts who share openly – and there are others such as Jill Whelan and Andy Beal who are open with their methods. Perhaps they do keep *some* secrets — I know I do ;).

    I would have thought it’s the Black Hats who are least likely to share.

    And where’s the warning to steer clear of SEOs who offer money back guarantees …

  • Most seo experts are underground, the best info is not shared and unless you have met the ‘experts’ you really wouldn’t know. Good seo’s are too busy and make money for themselves, or select clients and certainly don’t need to ‘cold call’, lol. Teecho’s list isn’t a bad start either.

  • LOL Ben. Have to disagree with you almost “totally”. Teecho’s list isn’t even in the ballpark, and it is a bad start. 🙂

  • I agree, in part, with Ben’s comment and #3 in Greg’s original article above. A good majority (probably not “most”) of SEO experts tend to stay on the side of managing their own network of sites and inside projects or partner with a select few “outsiders” that run other non-SEO businesses where they structure some type of high-end commission-based payouts, etc.

    Most of the more well known SEO experts do not share the larger fraction of what they actually know in SEO that works very well for them. That would be dumb. But there is a heaping ton of SEO information that is freely open to anyone who wants to learn it online.

    With that said, I agree firmly that, if you stick to one small niche like PPC, you’ll not even scratch the surface of “knowing” SEO until you have lots of years of practice or lots of successes and failures under your belt across a wide range of SEO projects – on-page, off-page, landing page optimization, structural and programming SEO (technical), viral/social, and so forth.

    From a statistics perspective, I do agree that Teecho’s list is skewed very heavily to the left. I think it would be more valid to create a list of all of the companies I’ve seen lately that offer design, hosting, or similar that all of a sudden offer SEO as a core service. Yeah, right – LOL. Or for a real analysis, let’s look at Dmoz’s A to Z list of SEO companies and do a real across the board analysis and not choose only the most popular SEO profiles like Teecho did above.

    On Greg’s #1 in the original post:
    “The SEO industry is full of consultants that are either incompetent or crooked. How many? I would guess well over 90%. As a result, there is an unbelievable amount of noise in the industry that makes it almost impossible to actually get to the truth.”

    I take this statement with a grain of salt. It’s one person’s perspective, and from my knowledge, the SEO consultant’s name has not been given within this post (or did I overlook it). Therefore, the 90% statement is a “guess” from an unknown SEO consultant. That doesn’t hold much weight in my book. And guesses are only that – guesses. Maybe a better statement would’ve been “too many to count” because it is truly an obscure number that cannot be summed by anyone.

    Yes, “there is an unbelievable amount of noise in the industry” but that doesn’t “make it almost impossible to actually get to the truth.” For a well seasoned researcher and asking the right questions, that impossibility gets lessened by a large margin to perhaps “makes it a tough job” to get the truth.

    Just my $0.02.

  • @teeceo – you presented a list of well known SEOs. I’m familiar with the work of many on the list but not all, so cannot comment. How many SEO’s would you estimate exist today? I’d say that a very conservative number would be 1000. That’s 1000 individuals or firms that sell SEO services. Last time I checked, 10% of that number would result in a list of 100 fine SEOs.

    Any list would be subjective anyway. Who you think is a good SEO is limited to your knowledge of their work. There are many SEOs that you’ve likely never heard of that would make a top 10.

    I love SEO, I know we all hate to see our industry tarnished by the many bad apples. But anyone that doesn’t accept there are scammers, spammers, and snake oil salesman in SEO, is deluded.

    Still, the 900+ crappy SEOs make the rest of us look good. 😉

  • Thanks for this information, it`s very useful

  • it’s a pity that i just came across this article right now!nowadays SEO selection is quite hard, but not harder than picking any other consultant.

  • Thanks from me too…

  • Pingback: 8 Tips for Avoiding an SEO Fraudster - Page 2 - SEO Workers Forums()

  • Thanks for this nice information….

  • thanks

  • thanks, great article.

  • nice information, thanks for the great article

  • Even the position of a SEO in the search engines must not be a criterium. Many have very good rankings because they made investitions in buyed links.

  • i dont agree that seo is for most industries the better investment. i think you ve to do both parts as best as possible.. 1+3=3, you remember?

  • I think over all it is a good summary on “howto find out about seo skills”.

    I think SEO is more then just on- and off-page optimization. Everyone has to make it’s own master-plan regarding to his business: which products are sold?, keyword analysis (single and long-tail) and longtime trusted link-building. With every Algo-Update Searchengines are a bit better on how to find links that cannot be trusted. Be a good guy and don’t practise black-seo 😉

  • That´s correct. Black-hat methods are just for shorts periods. If you want to have success longer, you should only work with trusted links. By doing this, you will have satisfied customers

  • I can only admit with Seo Smart. Working with clean methods and trus links is the much better and longer lasting way than blackhat.

    PsychicSeoberatung’s last blog post..Der Glückspfennig – heute waren es 2 Cent

  • I totally agree that the best SEO experts are not consulting others. It takes time and hard work to find at least some aspects of great SEO and it’s far more profitable for any given SEO expert to simply continue making money on their own website than sharing this information with thousands of others.

  • #8 “SEO is still a far better investment than CPC for most industries.”
    It’s true, at least for me. CPC are to expensive for me, doing some basic SEO could help my site

    Busby SEO’s last blog post..By: chodirin

  • Some SEO agencys are using illegal methods getting their rankings. I dont like them

  • Unfortunately its not new that some seos are using black hat methods.

  • A good seo won´t promise anything for too small budget. (I was there unfortunately)

  • I see that many “seo” specialists only use spam to dominate the serps…

  • I can only admit with Seo Smart. Working with clean methods and trus links is the much better and longer lasting way than blackhat. SeoSmart

  • A good seo won´t promise anything for too small budget. (I was there unfortunately)

  • SEO Fraudster are those who have spammed here! 😉

  • SEO Fraudster = Grey and black Hat!

  • Pingback: Things to avoid when hiring an SEO - WebProWorld()

  • I just did fall for a sh**head SEO. We went from Rank 8 to 90 (for “videokonferenz” on in no time… I wonder how we will manage to get back on Top

  • Pingback: Seo Techniques And Methods All Websites Should Utilize | Coffee & Grilled Cheese()

  • Pingback: SEO 15/08/2007 - Kaizenlog()

  • Pingback: How to Choose the Right SEO Company - Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.()

  • “The SEO industry is full of consultants that are either incompetent or crooked. How many? I would guess well over 90%.”

    I’m in the industry and I can verify that. I see people get sucked in to scams all the time – and as Mark Twain said, “it’s easier to fool someone that to convince them they’ve been fooled”.

    There are craftsmen and businessmen in this world. The craftsman can turn lead into gold but will never make much money, and there’s businessmen who can put chocolate icing on a turd and sell it as an eclair – AND GET AWAY WITH IT!

    It’s not just SEO, it’s WordPress, etc “web design” and search marketing schemes too.

    ANSWER: incompetent AND crooked. They don’t know the game, but charge people money anyway!