I'll be sharing a stage with Rand next month at the SEMpdx conference in Portland, so I hope he won't snub me after my post here. I'm a great admirer of his, largely because of the type of SEO business he has been able to build. He's also got great instinct and insight when it comes to SEO.

Yesterday, though, I think Rand had a bit too much of the secret SEO sauce. His post "What separates Search Marketing Novices from Experts" is, well, just downright ignorant. I think of Rand as a true SEO business man but I think this post shows a lack of understanding of SEO as a business.

He starts off with five things that separate experts from novices:

  • Brand Level of Experience
  • Contacts and Relationships
  • Holistic Approach
  • Accepts the Right Projects
  • Sixth Sense for Rankings

First, Rand believes that if you have never worked for a fortune 500 (or 1000) company then you can't be qualified as an expert. That's a funny distinction. I suppose one isn't an "expert" lawyer until they have defended a well-known celebrity. Or perhaps one isn't an "expert" surgeon until they have operated on a head of state. Sure these distinctions put one in the upper-most elite but that is not what separates the experts from novices. Not by a long shot.

Second, Rand believes that one's contacts make one an expert. Certainly there is added benefit in the social relationships in SEO and those relationships help one get recognized as an expert, but being recognized as and actually being an expert are two very different things. Many who are recognized as experts among their own network of friends would not pass a true definition of expert.

Rand hits the nail on the head with "holistic approach". SEO is so much more than just top rankings and to be a successful online marketer, a holistic approach is absolutely necessary. Kudos here.

I don't totally disagree that an expert SEO knows how to accept the right projects, but I would qualify that a bit. I think an expert SEO knows how to provide accurate expectations to a potential client. If the client wants to move forward knowing any limitations that may be in place, I see no problem with an expert accepting those jobs, provided the SEO still believes success is attainable. I think that real SEOs won't shy away from taking on a difficult project or even ones that won't succeed in the near term, provided that they are confident in a level of success the client is also comfortable with.

Finally, Rand talks about a "Sixth Sense" for rankings. I think I agree with him but I wouldn't call it a sense. Its simply being able to research something quickly and analyze it against knowledge and information already gained. It may seem like a "sense" but its just good old fashioned knowledge put to use against new data.

Unfortunately, instead of providing us with a real list of what truly separates the men and women from the boys and girls of SEO, Rand only exposes himself as an SEO elite out of touch with the business of SEO. Speaking at too many conferences can do that, I guess. But not all is lost. Rand then lists a number of mistakes that SEO novices frequently make. This is a good list that should have been used instead of the five mentioned above. Any method of attempting to qualify SEO experts should be based on SEO knowledge, experience, implementation and results, not some silly qualifiers that really have nothing to do with SEO itself. An expert in SEO is an expert in the practice of SEO. Being able to make elite friends with supernatural powers in a fortune 500 company doesn't cut it.

February 21, 2007

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > When Good SEO's Go Elite