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What I look for with entry level people is first a full no-questions understanding of the major search engines and how they work. As much experience with SEO as possible and back-of-the-hand understanding of their own computer and usage.
To get to the next level (the ones I really look for), takes a unique set of skills. First, I look for someone who has run their own website for atleast two years. If they've not run their own site, they can't have a very deep understanding of promotion issues. If they have run their own site for that long and are successful at it, that is the biggest qualification and recomendation they could have. If not - don't wait by the phone for a call from us.
The next big hurdle is understanding cgi, how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it effectively. This one really sorts out the amatures from the pro's. Topics include: cloaking, tracking, link checking, rank checking, report generation, script installation and trouble shooting, configuration. I think all those are very important to top end promotion. That is not a barrier to entry, but it is what separates the long termers from the short termers.
On one hand, I have seen countless web designers' sites claim to do search engine promotion when neither their own sites or any of their client sites follow even the most basic principles presented in the simplest of tutorials. The service consists of nothing more than mechanized submissions, occasionally hand submission, and the feature emphasized is doing clients' meta tags for them. The most interesting I've seen is one web designer who recently raised her prices from $90 to $450 for a small 5 page site, now including search engine services - and now using splash pages with nothing but hidden text and multiple meta tags in a frame as the technique.
On the other hand, I have seen sites done by individuals, not web designers at all, just their own sites which are beautifully done and ranking well - they have paid their dues and done some research and applied it for themselves. and reaping the rewards of their efforts.
I've seen software sold claiming that if people bought the software they could start making money offering search engine services using it. I've also seen this week a course offered, with certification provided when the course is completed - not cheap, either.
I understand that there are some optimization companies that charge in the multiple thousands, while others may charge $125 a month for a long term promotion program, while others charge a minimal amount - in one case, $300 setup for 10 pages/keywords and around $60 per month maintenance. Several others I've seen charge $100 to $125 for work done over several months, including setup and several months' worth of revision and resubmission.
Naturally, it's assumed in the comparison that there's a huge difference in the level of expertise and range and type of services offered. But the question is, at what point in time and at what level can someone - either the individual businessperson or small company - LEGITIMATELY say that they do search engine optimization and offer it as a service.
What is the most basic, elementary skill-set necessary to HONESTLY offer the service, without fooling clients or themselves? What is the very minimum sort of track record they should have? I do suspect that the track record might be a significant point.
It would be interesting not only to hear answers to this, but also to hear some feedback on when people actually took the first steps.
>What is the most basic, elementary skill-set necessary to HONESTLY offer the service, without fooling clients or themselves? What is the very minimum sort of track record they should have? I do suspect that the track record might be a significant point.
>It would be interesting not only to hear answers to this, but also to hear some feedback on when people actually took the first steps.
Darn it Marcia - responding to your posts is gonna force me to learn to type with ten fingers instead of just two... ;)
Basic skill set (includes implications for minimum track record):
1.) Be able to create a page that ranks top 10 on ANY major engine and remains there prominently for six months on a competitive key word.
2.) The FIRST submission to a major directory is invariably accepted.
More on track record:
1.) A portfolio of sites that currently enjoy high rankings on the major engines
About first steps:
This spring, I began marketing a cloaking script I created. As a result, a few potential customers approached me about doing promotion for them. Since I feel that I now have both a reasonable level of knowledge and have had reasonable success promoting several of my own sites, I agreed to take on a client. I'm taking my first steps now, tentatively, with a client I am comfortable working with. When I can comfortably add this client to my portfolio and have proven my skills to my own satisfaction, I'll become a bit more agressive. I'm presently working on a site to begin marketing my SEO consulting skills and have a few potential clients in discussions... and I'm reasonably candid about my experience, it helps manage client expectations, but precludes asking for top dollar. "Walk before you run"...
A fundamental understanding of the language in which you are optimizing, - grammar, and the ability to search like a user rathter than a techie, or experienced SEO.
The ability to roll with the punches" with clients that want the results, but do not want to do any of the necessary changes.
A critical eye for detailed nuances that may "appear" insignificant.
A burning desire to work late, and sleep less when hot on the trail of an insight.
>>1.) Be able to create a page that ranks top 10 on ANY major engine and remains there prominently for six months on a competitive key word.
Q.: How prominent? #1, #2, anywhere at all in top ten?
Q.: How competitive? Is it a prominent ranking out of a certain number of pages found in the search for the particular keyword or phrase? What's the criteria for being considered competitive?
Q.: Are we talking single keyword, or two, three or four word phrases?
>> More on track record:
>> 1.) A portfolio of sites that currently enjoy high rankings on the major engines
Q.: How much of a portfolio? 2 or 3 sites? 6? 10?
>A critical eye for detailed nuances that may "appear" insignificant.
Now, this I love. The subtle nuances are what make this whole field of endeavor so fascinating! And if this is fun, then Google is a playground, figuring how they've come up with their results. Subtle - like when rankings shift, and all of a sudden they've repeated the page title in the description, ignored the whole first paragraph, disregarded the <H> on top, and picked up the keyword phrase from the text links at the very bottom of the page. Who can sleep after finding that?
Thing is, what's hard to tell is how much that *feels* like it's intuitional (or accidental) is actually from reading, studying and absorbing, and then doing what you've picked up.
>Q.: How competitive? Is it a prominent ranking out of a certain number of pages found in the search for the particular keyword or
phrase? What's the criteria for being considered competitive?
On AV, a search for MP3 returns 2.7 million results. I didn't try a sex related term. I tend to think of competitvie on a 1-10 scale. 2.7 million results is a 10, highly competitive. "cloaking script" returns 158 pages tonight. It's a 1 on the scale, not at all competitive.
>Q.: Are we talking single keyword, or two, three or four word phrases?
That's up to you. At some point you need to quit focusing on trying to measure skill levels and focus on traffic and the resulting sales which is what the SEO efforts are all about. Can you consistently provide your clients a significant traffic increase and the resulting income to justify your charges to them is the bigger question.
>Q.: How much of a portfolio? 2 or 3 sites? 6? 10?
Yes. The bigger the better. And as each is added your rate increases because your demonstrated skill has increased...
when you say,
>> ... a full no-questions understanding of the major search engines and how they work.
what do you mean?
do you mean an understanding of how to write a search engine program? and/or basic submission guidelines for the engines? and/or a general understanding of how engines index sites? ...etc?
I would say the meaning here is an SEO "expert" should understand how they index sites,
what their crawlers are called,
what network they run off of,
indexing times, as in lag between spidering, and traffic generation, (as long as it is stable, sometimes it fluctuates),
what the spiders look for in a page to rank it well,
and an understanding of if your page is there, how do you move it to the top...
Some of the qualifications in this thread I don't have, but agree they are necessary. How to set up, install, and configure a system for cloaking is critical...so is the skill necessary to monitor spiders, and figure out, more or less, where they are from, what they are doing on your system, etc.
What I truly think is funny, are the number of companies claiming to sell seo services. "Meta tag optimizers" and they seem to actually believe they are selling seo...:)
When these companies stop spewing their misleading sales jargon over the seo landscape, it will be a much better business environment for all.
Actually, the one SEO qualification that sums it up, in my mind at least:
If you've read all of that, and know what it's all about, then you're qualified.
>What I truly think is funny, are the number of companies claiming to sell seo services. "Meta tag optimizers" and they seem to actually believe they are selling seo.
<soapbox>I think its worse than "funny", I think that's criminal, and don't think that even THEY believe they are selling SEO. I believe for the most part, they KNOW they are selling snake oil to people who know even less than they do.
Nearly ALL of our clients have had experiences with them, and the old style stuff-a-doorway-with-keywords optimization.
There is a line between professional SEOs that deliver their best effort, value, and traffic, and those that deliver processes that no longer work based on a public that knows less than they do - that just "know" that meta tags are what they need. </soapbox>
How do I get my feet wet? I'm considering going to business because I know the demand for these services is very high, but I'm not quite sure where to start. I've played around with my own site, but I don't know if I'm ready to begin working for money. And I don't want to get into a situation where I can't deliver what the customer wants.
The thing is, everyone has to start from somewhere. You can't really become a professional unless you start taking work at some point. At the same time, you don't want to become (or be labeled as) another hack 'meta tag optimizer'. Any solutions or ideas on how to handle this situation?
OTOH, if you have design clients (assuming you're a webdesigner) with any kind of long term maintenance agreements on their sites, you could just start trying to promote their sites without charging them. Pick two or three clients in relatively competitive fields, and see what you can do for them. Then you can use your guinea pig clients as examples to show prospective SEO clients...
-Why not offer your services for free to a local business? Maybe the local antique store would just love to get onto the web? Or, you might have a friend with a business .. never hurts to do a favor for a friend. You might even be able to work out a profit-sharing agreement (which should motivate you and your 'client' even more). There will obviously be some expenses but you could let your friend know and try to keep these down to a minimum.
And to really rile you guys up :) I must say that I place "cloaking" in the "...nothing but hidden text and multiple meta tags in a frame..." category. I know I will endure some heat on this and I understand the honest reasoning behind it, but still don't believe it's an excuse. There are other alternatives. FWIW, I use my own spider to search competitor sites for cloaking. Would I report them? H*ll yes, I would step over my own mother to do so! Less competitors for me to deal with.