For people that don't yet know much about SEO, it must be a challenge to differentiate between all the different types of SEO service providers out there.
SEO is an industry with no standard professional regulations. It's an industry that anybody can get started in, but that is extremely difficult to master.
I hope to help the would-be SEO client answer this question: "What does it really mean when somebody says they can provide me SEO services?"
It's common to see web designers or design companies add "SEO friendly" to the list of benefits of their design service. When you see that, what they're really saying is:
"My strength is website design, but I'm also able to optimize the website code so that it is friendly for search engines. I understand how to create a proper internal link structure. I know to avoid certain things that will trip up search engines.
I won't be able to help you plan out your content, link building or social media strategy though. For that, you'll need additional help."
Similar to web designers, it is possible for writers to have a good understanding of SEO as it pertains to their profession. When a writer says they can write for SEO, what they mean is something like this:
"I'm a great writer. Of course, I focus on writing great content for people, but I'm also able to use keywords targeted for search engines in the articles I write. I do so in a manner that reads naturally.
Please provide me with the keywords to use and I'll use them."
Writing is another profession that can make use of SEO knowledge, and it's great to have a writer that has this ability. However, a writer isn't the one that should be setting the SEO strategy.
There are plenty of freelance platforms out there, but the one I have the most experience with is ODesk. From my experience hiring SEO people there, you would be lucky to find one good freelancer out of 100 applications. This is not an exageration. What the ODesk freelancer means when they say that they are an "SEO expert" is something like this:
"I spend very little time on learning, but I'm willing to work 60 hours per week on link building or writing articles in broken English.
If you hold my hand through the entire process, you might get good work. If you aren't an SEO expert yourself, and let me do the SEO work for you unsupervised, I'll probably just create a massive number of spammy links and get your site punished by Google.
Oh ya, and I'm extremely cheap."
"I've been working on search engine optimizaton for years. I work on several different projects and run many tests to constantly learn new things. I supplement my learning by reading lots of blogs and attending industry conferences. I have a strong understanding of the various aspects of creating extremely competitive SEO campaigns. When I come across a unique situation (and I often do), I'll put in the proper research, come up with a plan, then test results.
I understand how to create great content - either by writing it myself or by working with others to get it accomplished.
I am expensive. And I'm worth it."
"I keep up-to-date with the latest methods to trick Google or Baidu. My sites often get punished by search engines, but I make hundreds of them so it doesn't matter to me if some of them get axed."
In my opinion, this is the last person a business should want as an SEO vendor. However, I have known enough people to make money off of these methods that I can't say it's always the wrong decision to use blackhat tactics - at least, from a business point of view. I've always been able to beat competitors that use blackhat SEO strategies in the long run, but they can be annoying competitors in the short-term.
Link building is one of the more common aspects of SEO work to be outsourced. For this, I asked for a quote from link building specialist Melanie Nathan of CanadianSEO.com. She says:
"I do have a strong background in overall SEO... What I can ALSO do though, is go out and get links from relevant websites and create content marketing plans that will attract links from relevant websites. I can also identify the difference between high-quality and low-quality websites and I know which type of links to steer clear of and which type of links Google will love. I’ve consciously chosen to make link building a main part of my services because I know from experience exactly what links can do when it comes to Google rankings and conversion opportunities for my clients."
The above are the most common types of people I come across that say they know SEO. What other types do you know of?