Most business owners know they need SEO.

Top of Google often results in top of your market.

Figuring who to trust though, gets murky.

There is SO much information on the web about SEO.  It’s arguably the most complex Internet marketing medium and topic.

After all, it touches so many others.

That is part of what makes it so powerful.  It’s also why SEO problems are so intimidating for the average business to tackle.  Unfortunately, this contributes to procrastination, or worse—money wasted on simpler, less effective campaigns.

When applicable, SEO is usually the most effective marketing strategy available today.

Escape is futile.  Search engine optimization is your best chance for a recession-proof business, in 2019, 2020, and beyond.

It’s only fair that there’s a lot that goes into becoming a professional SEO expert.

So What Is “Professional SEO,” Really?

Technically:

Anyone who gets paid to “do SEO” could call themselves a professional SEO.

(In this industry, we have a funny habit of calling other SEO professionals by shorthand—”an SEO or multiple SEOs.”)

However, you might have been burned by an SEO company before.

We see it happen a number of ways:

  • Some SEOs use short-sighted tactics that incur Google penalties.
  • Many cheap SEOs acquire monthly contracts and perform almost no work.
  • Some SEOs take clients that should spend their money elsewhere first.
  • Other SEOs build systems to remove optimizations if retainers are ended.
  • A few SEOs use bait and switch tactics to manipulate decision makers.
  • A surprising number of SEOs simply aren’t very good at SEO.

It really is unfortunate.

Early on, “SEO doesn’t work” was such a difficult objection for me to overcome.

I’d get argumentative and defensive.

That was born partly out of nervousness.  This was my first foray into the professional world and it showed.

But it was also born out of incredulity.  Many of those who told me “SEO woudn’t work” were in an industry that received thousands of local searches per month.  Getting on the first page of Google had the potential to transform their businesses.

To make things more frustrating, they often expressed envy for the area’s top brands.  Without fail, those brands had made a clear investment into SEO.

I don’t blame them though.

I blame my own sales inexperience.

I didn’t understand how easy it is to call yourself a professional, expert, or consultant.  That’s funny, considering how I turned myself into an “SEO expert” overnight.

Many others have done the same.  The difference, few others cared about principles as much as I did.

Now, I’m wiser and understand my industry much better.

Spectrum of Internet Marketing Business Models

Marketing will always have a huge market.

Every business needs new customers.

In today’s business environment:

There are a variety of marketing professionals companies can hire.  This includes individuals, networks, agencies, software, and more.  Furthermore, different structures exist within these options.

This is just one more thing that leads to business owners hesitating to begin an SEO campaign, despite an obvious need.

Others make a decision, but make the wrong one for their business.

Freelance

At the end of the day, most SEO comes down to labor.

That’s where the gig economy comes in.  Freelancing as an internet marketer is one of the easiest ways to get started working from home.

You can find work:

  • writing various content
  • developing websites
  • managing social media profiles
  • performing online outreach
  • and much more

Each of these individual tasks can play a role in most professional SEO campaign.  There are also a variety of SEO-specific freelancing projects available.

Many agencies use freelancers to outsource much of their campaign labor.  Some freelancers use other freelancers or software to further outsource their own offerings.  Sometimes, this chain can go four or five levels deep.

I have operated at different levels along different chains.  So has Greensboro SEO Pro.

Some freelancers specialize in a specific service and drive their value (and hourly rates) upward.  Many of these make the equivalent of six or seven-figure salaries working per-project.  Thus, “full-time freelancer” can be a lucrative contradiction.

Others move up the ladder with consulting or by building an agency.

Consulting

Consultants can be a great choice for many businesses.

And yet again, they can be a complete waste of money.

With a consultant, you essentially pay for high-level talk.

Your ROI is determined by two main factors:

  • How good the consultant’s recommendations are.
  • How well you can implement their recommendations.

In this Information Age, virtually anyone can buy an online course and sound like an expert.  Business owners have a hard time telling the difference, especially if the other person also has sales skills.  This was more common in SEO a few years ago.  Today, you see it’s more frequent with Facebook ads.

Ya know those hungry 20-somethings selling you Facebook ads?

That’s where they came from:

The dark reaches of Internet Opportunity Land.

Beware or you might get burned.

If they’re good, they could help you cash in on under-priced marketing opportunities.  If not, your money will go to waste.  Oftentimes, the decisions you make after getting burned are worse than the burn itself.  In today’s business environment, you can’t afford to become passive.

This makes consulting an attractive intermediate step.

Before choosing any marketing consultant, we have two recommendations.

  1. Make sure you have the man-hours available – Remember, SEO is about hours.  You, a secretary, a teenager off the street?  Any or all.  But someone has to do the work.  Consider the freelance roles listed above.  Each task has to get done.
  2. Choose a consultant that also offers fulfillment – Internet marketing moves fast.  Your consultant needs to be in the trenches everyday.  Choose one that also freelances or runs an agency.  Otherwise, you can’t trust that their strategies work.

Still though, owning an agency isn’t an instant guarantee.

Agency

The marketing agency model is a difficult one.

The main reason:

You need good marketing professionals to run effective marketing campaigns.  Good marketing professionals are expensive.

When I first got into SEO…

One of my mentors explained it like this:

An agency could never compete with a one-man show in SEO.  The overhead was simply too great.  For agencies beholden to private owners and investors, the effect was magnified.  He detailed his time spent in an SEO agency.

He made quite the compelling case.

I still believe his assessment is probably true for 90% of the SEO industry.  A single SEO technician can yield a solid ROI; the majority of cheap SEO companies are a waste of money.

However, I’ve studied many a marketing company since.  A surprising number have earned my respect.  As I learn more about traditional media (radio, TV, print, etc.), that respect only grows.  Even an average SEO company offers a better value than marketing firms across other verticals.  Larger SEO companies also have the distinct advantage of access to more data.

For me, this is exciting.

And I don’t plan to build an average SEO company either.  There are still holes in the agency model.  It sounds rewarding to find ways to fill those.  In fact, I think I’m already onto something with the way I set up my squad.

I’m looking forward exploring both the consulting and agency models over the course of 2019.

We will be able to help many more businesses.

What About “SEO Experts”?

The label “SEO expert” is a slightly audacious one.

The digital marketing landscape is huge.  SEO touches every bit of it.

We show up on the first page of Google across North Carolina.

We compete for search terms like:

(Plus any variation you can think of.)

For us…

“SEO expert” is a long-tail keyword that helps us build our business.  Some of my peers recognize me as an expert in various areas.

However, there are many bigger, badder, and more well-respected names in SEO.  Whether it be a particular person—an expert, if you will—or a leading digital marketing company, Greensboro SEO Pro is determined to learn what we can.

Even our manifesto states it:

We learn everyday.

Putting humility over pride means we continue to get better.  Eventually, we hope to be recognized among the best digital marketers on the planet.

Becoming more complete SEO experts is where that starts.

Considerations for Your Business

So what does this discussion mean for the average business?

From an aspiring SEO expert:

Start vetting SEOs!

The right one could help you explode your business.

“Even an average SEO company offers a better value than marketing firms across other verticals.”

Your best option may be to find a top-tier SEO expert and hire them full time.  This an amazing plan, granted you can find and afford one.

For others, the right freelancer, consultant, or agency may be the best choice.

It comes down to your business, your budget, and your goals.  Start an open dialogue with an SEO expert.  Better yet, start several dialogues with SEO experts.  Choose the one that cares about those three things.  Steer clear of those more interested in their own business, its revenue, and its goals.

The best SEO campaigns are bespoke solutions.

Begin the process of finding the right SEO.

Begin the process of taking your business to the next level.

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