Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

When an SEO Expert is Not an SEO Expert

The search engine optimization industry is known to rally around a fallen comrade one moment and in the next instant, eat one of its own. It’s considered a mercy killing needed to save SEO reputations.

It’s never a good idea for an SEO to try and fool another SEO – or a few hundred thousand of them.

We’ve seen the dramatic rise, fall and crash of several SEO companies and individuals. Some have managed to return from the dead but they’re a mere sliver of their previous rock and roll self. Fame is brutal. Some SEO professionals, in an effort to keep the industry viable and reputable, will not hesitate to shove misguided souls out into the arena for inspection or beheading. The latest stake driven into the heart of an SEO occurred when Edward Lewis took on Charles Preston.

It would appear as though Mr. Preston, a rather handsome looking dude, feels as though everyone in the SEO industry knows who he is. As a businessman, with several accomplishments noted in his bio, he wants to tackle a known business need. He has identified that many companies have hired SEO companies and been disappointed by the results. Mr. Preston feels he has the expertise to be able to tell a company considering hiring an SEO whether or not the service is viable. For a monthly fee of $99, an SEO firm can submit their company to a series of questions and tests to be sure they’re qualified for being hired. Mr. Preston even offers a “Verified SEO” badge as an official trustmark.

Edward Lewis carved out such a niche for himself with his free SEO Consultants site back in 2002. Did he feel threatened?

When Preston attempted to defend his website to Lewis, he was unsuccessful. No one was going to defend someone claiming to be an industry leader and yet nobody at Sphinn had ever heard of him. It didn’t take long for the angry reaction to stop Mr. Preston’s plans. He removed the web site. Of course, if you read the comments, it was suggested that this a case of “linkbait” or a very well executed April Fool’s joke.

It didn’t matter if you were the better known person in this situation. Readers were all over the place with opinions and responses. It was like watching somebody pop a balloon and the thing flies hysterically around the room.

One of the mistakes I see SEO’s do is they make claims about their expertise but provide no third-party, objective resources to back it up. I can submit articles by the thousands to article sites but that act alone does not make me an SEO expert. That makes me an article writer. There are thousands of them. Weak claims are part of the marketing process. Certain statements appear to sound good, when they really have no meat. To try and pull off any fake “I’m an expert” tactics to a bunch of marketers is…well, writing your own reputation death sentence.

Preston claimed to have the SEO expertise required to judge the practices of others. In the SEO industry, several organizations exist that had hoped to do this very thing. There are colleges and certification courses. A badge offered by an unknown company doesn’t cut it. What does work with this industry are referrals. The more partnerships and relationships you build, the more likely you are to have proven your skills. I don’t refer anyone that I haven’t worked with. This means much more to the client.

To put a badge on someone’s work illustrated just how much Preston doesn’t know about this industry. It’s not a matter of checking to see if someone got page rank for a web site. Preston claims to have gotten 3000 sites to rank high. So what? The real trick is to keep the pages up there, despite all the new competition. And of course, do they convert? Do the sites do anything productive? Do people return to them? You just can’t slap a badge on that kind of stuff.

It was interesting to watch Preston march into the brick wall and keep playing his drums.

When Charles Preston said he was a well known SEO and yet nobody had ever heard of him, it was time for the cats to play with this little toy mouse. Even Danny Sullivan was surprised at the high number of comments. It was his tweet remarking on it that led me to see what the buzz was about.

Was this a case of the affluent reacting to a newbie encroaching on their turf? It could appear that way. The SEO industry has a reputation for eating its young. It’s as if there is a silent code. If you muck up your entry into the field, you’re left with nothing but a bruised ego and a worthless domain. It may seem cruel, but to truly survive in the search engine marketing industry means that you don’t open your mouth unless you know precisely what you’re talking about. The mere second you show any sign of not knowing your stuff, while at the same time presenting yourself as an expert, you’ll be called on it. Charles Preston made some strong claims and tried to take money by offering a service that plays on “the fear of hiring SEO’s”.

Edward Lewis did what someone who expects excellence from the industry would do. He presented the impostor to the masses. He made his case. The response was reader outrage and then dialog with Charles Preston when he arrived to defend himself. In his mind, I think he was trying to put into place some kind of accountability system for SEO.

However, he didn’t pass his own test.

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