What is an SEO Specialist and do you need a Qualification to be one?

This article is in part a response to a comment made on a previous article on SEO entitled “Work At Home as an SEO Specialist”. Andrew Peel’s comment pointed out some very important issues that need to be addressed if you want to become an SEO specialist. As I said in my reply to Andrew the original post was only a general snapshot about becoming an SEO specialist. So let’s explore and hopefully answer Andrew’s questions and open up a new discussion on becoming an SEO specialist.

1st point about the relevant pit falls of calling yourself an SEO specialist without any background or experience; you certainly won’t get any work without experience. Make no mistake learning SEO takes a long time and you will need to constantly keep up with changing practices. It’s a huge industry with many different techniques and tactics that cover coding, building backlinks, article submission, site submission to name just a few.

2nd point: Recognised qualifications for this industry in the UK are as far as I can see nonexistent, and I bet there are similar results for the US. What you will find are numerous marketing courses that deal with SEO. These courses will vary in qualification certificates but certainly won’t be official, and then there are college IT courses that will cover aspects of web design amongst others which are needed for SEO, this type of qualification would hold more weight.

Proven work experience and an impressive portfolio of clients that give glowing recommendations is a must. There is a need for recognised SEO qualifications and only the big agencies can provide this if they get together. With a council or an accredited organisation this would give webmasters a benchmark to judge for themselves.

If you look at PPC (paid per click) marketing which is related to SEO, they have the likes of Google AdWords certified advertisers which has more authority, but for the most part though SEO is unregulated so any individual can call themselves an SEO specialist. I can’t speak for every country so no doubt there will be exceptions. Freelancer’s are everywhere on the web handling all kinds of online work, most of them will use sites like Elance which scores individuals work records, so you can make a more informed decision on hiring them. This is probably as close as you get to recognised qualifications for SEO although not official.

3rd point Black Hat or so called white hat techniques; this is where the lines can get a bit blurred. The main regulators for SEO best practices are the search engines themselves and it’s these sites that you have to research to keep on the right side of the rules.

Black Hat methods are used to get higher search rankings in an unethical manner, there was a time when these techniques were legit but are now mostly unethical. There are some obvious black hat techniques that webmasters use like keyword stuffing or interstitial links where the visitor gets redirected to a splash page full of ads. Others can include Invisible text where the keywords in white text are placed on a white background in the hope of attracting the search engines. You will find many more of these techniques on the search engines.

White hat techniques are basically best practices to adhere to when optimizing your website. These are ethical search engine optimization techniques that are encouraged by the search engines. Websites that are SEO optimized, and focus on relevancy and organic ranking are considered to be optimized using White Hat SEO practices. Some examples include using keywords and keyword analysis, back linking, link building to improve link popularity, and writing content for human readers White Hat SEO is more frequently used by those who intend to make a long-term commitment to their Web site.

4th point: Is paying for links unethical? Personally I don’t use this method; I build my links by other means. It does give some webmasters an unfair advantage over others but it’s a free web. I do think it’s unethical but I would be foolish to believe that it can be stopped because it can’t, so whether it’s unethical or not is irrelevant. Link exchange schemes are a method used by many webmasters and I use them myself, I don’t disagree with them but they need to be used sparingly, it’s no good linking to sites that have no page rank. Exchanges have to be relevant and with similar sites.

As for the last statement in Andrews comment

“If you are going to call yourself an SEO specialist and they fail to rank you could be sued – do you have the required insurance?”

If you mean can you be sued by the webmaster that you have obtained work from to do SEO, then there are just too many variables to take into account. I could only imagine this scenario taking place on a large corporate project where contracts have been drawn and non completion penalties breached, for smaller projects you can only rely on freelance sites that will hold the fees and only pay out on successful completion of the job. As for insurance I don’t know of any, do you? There will be specialised SEO companies that do have guarantees, but for peace of mind I would only hire a company that has a good client record and works with you.

In finishing…

I sincerely hope I did not mislead any of my readers that was not my intention, on the contrary I expect the majority of my readers to understand the difference between what’s possible and what’s not possible when seeking out work on the Internet. The Internet is full of people who call themselves experts, so people have to know the difference and do their research before committing.

What you need and what people are looking for when hiring an (SEO specialist)

Knowledge in Design/programming

Marketing skills

An ability to find LOTS of highly qualified traffic

Dealing with link building on a massive scale

Fundamental understanding of Best SEO practices

If you would like to discuss this topic further then leave a comment

Thanks’ for reading

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