Posted by on Aug 22, 2011 in SEO, SEO Industry | 9 comments

Disclaimer – I’m writing this post mostly about myself, realizing the gaps in my own knowledge when comparing myself to true industry experts.

One major problem with SEOs, and even SMOs, right now is they think they are better than they actually are. This goes for freelancers, in-house and agency SEOs. Everyone thinks they are a superstar, and the truth is they are not that good. I mean, they are ok. They just don’t know what ”really good!” looks like.

A lack of standards within the industry:
Part of the problem here is that you can’t get a degree in SEO, the certifications are mostly a joke and the only universal standard of measurement , Google’s ranking algorithm, is in a constant state of change. Anyone who spends enough time on SEO forums and news sites can fake their way through an interview. Results, or lack thereof, can always been explained away and most managers still think of SEO as more of a black art than a science. It’s a perfect storm of mediocrity and complacency.

There are a few ways to remedy complacency.

Start evaluating SEOs against some sort of standard.
The industry needs to recognize some sort of certification or test that scores SEOs on their knowledge and experience.  Knowledge and experience alone don’t make a good SEO, but they are building blocks.

Expose SEOs to what best in class really is.
Have an outside expert, preferable a well known one, come in and run an advanced workshop. If you can’t afford a trainer to come on site, send your team to some advanced conferences. I’m not talking about SES, I’m talking SMX Advanced, MOZcon and SearchLove (Note: SES is a fine conference in many respects. It just isn’t geared towards the advanced crowd.  I’ve got nothing but respect for the speakers and organizers).

Encourage friendly competition. Hold an SEO contest. Especially effective for larger teams, choose a non-sense phase with low competition and see which SEO can rank a brand new site for that phase by a certain date. Make sure the prize is something everyone will want. Maybe an ipad, macbook or conference pass.

Encourage industry interaction.
SEOs should be constantly blogging about the industry. They should have their own blogs. They should be writing for your company blog. They should be guest posting for other industry blogs and publications. If your SEOs aren’t doing that yet, it’s because they don’t know enough about a topic to write about it in depth, or they haven’t built up their network/reputation. In either case, there is work that needs to be done.

Update your teams KPIs.
KPIs are almost always about campaign performance. However, client performance doesn’t necessarily reflect how well the SEO is at their job. There are dozens of outside factors that can affect rankings, from changes to the site to offline marketing campaigns.

Good KPIs should look at campaign performance, but they also need to measure professional growth. They need to answer the question, “Is [name] becoming better at what they do” apart from campaign performance, which we just said wasn’t the best measurement. These new KPIs should measure things like efficiency, effectiveness, depth of knowledge, confidence, thought leadership, etc.

What do you think?
Do the SEOs you know think they are best in class?