To Know Whether a Person is Really Good in SEO | Search Engine Optimization

The summary of discussion 2: To know whether a person is really good in SEO | Search Engine Optimization
What would you ask someone to know that he's a really good SEO?
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Radu ✍️
I am thinking of something like: Does Google AdWords help you with organic rankings? And if the answer is ”It depends”, with some elaboration – I like that.

If you run a good AdWords campaign that generates traffic with low bounce rates and long page visits, isn’t that in itself a great SEO ranking signal?
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Matthew
I'm guessing you'd probably like to know why though. 🙂 Where Google mainly use 'engagement data' is where they have the cleanest, most direct version of it – their own Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) – and there they use it a lot. But there is a long-standing and very strict 'Chinese wall' in place between all things organic, and all things Adwords. They don't allow either one to affect how the other works.
Outside of their own SERPs, user data is very much what is called 'a noisy signal'. It is entirely unreliable, because sometimes a bounce is because they wanted a piece of information, like your contact number and left satisfied, and sometimes it is because you misclicked on that result in the first place (especially true as mobile search becomes ever more prevalent).
Did I spend a long time on a page because I was reading it, or because I'd opened 8 different SERP results at once and it's the last tab in my queue? Or is it open for a long time because I just got a phone call, and I haven't even gotten to look properly at the page I opened? When we can't be absolutely certain of what it means, then we can't be certain it means anything at all.
Am I on a page longer because it is better and more engaging? Or because it isn't very well written, and I'm having to re-read it several times to understand it. Same signal, two entirely different meanings.
The same is true of many signals that SEO users think might be used only because they themselves have a lot of that signal. For example, likes and shares on social media. Am I liking it because it is good, because it was a joke, or simply because I'm really hoping the author will return the favor and like some of my posts back? Social signals are some of the noisiest of all, and effectively useless for anything except a signal that "A lot of people show an interest in this, but we don't know whether it is because they like it, hate it, or are using it as a joke – we should probably make sure we index it and any documents we believe cover the topic in depth, and have been recently updated, in case there is news about this".
Are you suggesting Google only tracks engagement and duration etc. from SERP links?
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Matthew
Google specifically state that they don't and can't use analytics because even though most small webmasters use it, that is still a horrendously skewed demographic. Unless everyone uses it, or at least a *random* cross section, meeting the requirements of random as laid out in the rules for market research and other scientific studies it would be yet another noisy signal, and would give more weight to SEO users than to others. I'm sure you can imagine how much Google would like to give more weight to SEO users in determining rankings. 🙂
Plus, the same sort of chinese wall applies. If Google go giving an advantage in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) to users of their data system, but not other peoples, that's a massive anti-trust lawsuit in the making.

Ammon Johns 🎓
Okay, here's a bunch of the questions I've used over the years when interviewing SEO users that are either joining an agency where I was, or were going to become part of a new in-house team for a client:
1. Can you describe for me a white-hat link-building technique?
This one is always one of the most insightful, because it is nuanced. If someone answers it very quickly, without stopping to think, then no matter what they say you can pretty much reject them. It is nuanced because from Google's perspective (which is, after all, the definition of whether something is actually white hat or not) there is no such thing as white-hat link building. Yes, you can do things that are *likely* to get you some links, but pretty much any link you are certain of is, to Google, black hat. Ideally they'll go into depth, talking about these factors, and telling me about how they'd seek to do link attraction, and gain citations. If they so much as mention forum links, blog comments, etc though, they are rejected.
2. From an overall SEO perspective, is it better to have a dynamic website, or a static one?
Again, its a nuanced answer you are after. There is no absolute in this, as while a static site will tend to have advantages in speed and pure technical aspects, a dynamic website has more advantages in terms of being able to tune conversions by dynamic context, and being able to react to different journeys through the site as another means to better understand user intent, and adapt the site to it in real time.
3. Should I use a keywords meta tag?
This one is powerful in its deceptive simplicity. The fact is that in SEO terms, the keywords meta tag has no value or use at all, while removing it is a few less bytes of code, which however slight, makes the page a fraction faster and leaner. BUT, you might sometimes use it because it is useful to a site's own internal search engine.

Radu ✍️
to 1) I would add that if someone tells me that he doesn't care about Google and persuades links that bring traffic – I will also like that.
to 3) I would add that there are rumors that meta keywords may be used as a negative signal, at least I've seen something that Bing declared and if I hear something about the statement, or about the idea – I also like that.
But also – you may forgive a hard ”No” for the 3rd question, no? Because other questions may cover how solution-oriented a person is. What I am trying to say is that ”googling” is another ability that needs to be tested. And if someone doesn't know about the 50k sitemap pages – I forgive that. 🤭
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Radu
certainly answering that third one with a No would not be an instant disqualification, but you've probably noticed by now that I place a high value on critical thinking. If a client had competitors who were always copying them, sometimes it is actually worth putting some of the keywords you tried and found to be a complete waste of time (took effort and got traffic, but that traffic never converted) in your keywords meta, just so they waste their time on those words too. While they are wasting that time, you're getting ahead of them focusing on the things that actually help. 😉
Radu ✍️
Oh, that is really pro-stuff right there. Yes – I also think everything has both advantages and disadvantages and the correct answer is always ”it depends.” This is what I teach at SEO courses, first lesson.
Only thing I'd add to Ammon's above statement is that I'd still say some niche forums links and relevant blog comments still hold some weight. And yeah all links are black hat unless someone you have never had any contact with decide to link to something you have posted.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Fleming
of course links in some forums and comments still work – but they are not white hat. Those are both things specifically mentioned by Google in their webmaster guidelines as 'manipulative' links, and thus black hat.
If they didn't sometimes work, Google wouldn't need to penalise them and warn against them. You don't need to make laws or rules over things people don't do, or that don't matter. 🙂
Since the question I proposed was very clearly and specifically about 'white hat' link building, any practice listed by Google as manipulative is a firm wrong answer, and a reason to dismiss the 'expertise' (or even basic knowledge) of the person who said it
Link schemes – Search Console Help
Fleming » Ammon Johns
yeah that's why I said some niche relevant ones otherwise yeah stay away from them. And agreed building any links of any sort at all is gaming the system and against Google guidelines.
I also think I should stop giving out advice! LOL
I disagree that all built links in forums or comments are general black-hat. It's said, that if these links are there to manipulate rankings instead of helping readers or contributing to the content, it's black otherwise it's not.
So whenever you put a link in a comment or board that REALLY helps the readers to understand your answer or further adds to the content, it's what the internet is about and not black-hat.
So, if like I've got a page on my gardening blog that covers a specific issue and I come along a board and my page is the solution to a question asked there, having a more general answer with a link to deep dive further is not considered black. The purpose is to help and educate further…
But that's just my 2 cents…

Ammon Johns 🎓
Here's a few of the things you definitely should NOT use to judge an SEO (and the reasons why):
1. Where their own site ranks.
I work with and for a lot of other SEO users. Mostly that is simply consulting, giving them ideas and advice, but sometimes that has included optimising their sites for them. Many of you have clients that rank well, I assume – should you judge the owner of those companies knowledge of SEO by where their website ranks? 🙂 I am far from the only SEO who at any moment in time has about 20-30% of their clients be other SEO companies.
2. Showing you some of their high ranking sites.
Met a guy one time applying for a job in a new team I was building out for an agency who brought in a couple of examples. Yup, these two sites were doing really well. So I looked up his domain registration info and in a few minutes found the 50 times as many failures. Anyone can get lucky if they swing the bat enough times. You don't want the guy who can hit the ball out of the park one time. You want the guy who has never missed one swing.
Ammon Johns 🎓
To a very real extent, I think a really good SEO is obvious in how they answer the amazingly simple questions. The places where most would just give the obvious answers, and someone going deeper, going the extra mile, or even having a well thought out non-obvious answer.
I answer some of the most ridiculous questions sometimes on Quora … but I think even then, the way I answer them would let you know quite a bit about how deeply I thought about the answers.
For example:…/answer/Ammon-Johns……/answ er/Ammon-Johns……/answer/Ammon-Johns…
How many websites are added per second to Google?

I would provide them access to a WordPress site with no plugins and just provide them the text for the pages and a few images.
Then i would ask them to optimize the site and do the on-page optimization and find 2-3 inbound links.
I would give them 60 minutes to complete the task and then i would audit what they accomplished in that hour.

Radu ✍️
Oh, that is good!
Ammon Johns 🎓
So, you think someone *might* be an experienced and knowledgeable SEO (which surely is the point of working out how to tell if they are or not), and you think they are gonna do an hours work for you for free?
Oh, I get it. If they don't laugh in your face they are a fake! 😃
Ammon if I was going to hire you for a $100,000 job in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and your not willing or able to sit down and do this test then I will not hire you and move on to someone else. Its a test, not an actual SEO job.
Ammon Johns 🎓
Doesn't matter. You want work done you pay for work. I've had far too many of the charlatans in the past with the old "Oh we just want you to start on this one site, but if it goes well we have 500 other domains and some flying pigs for you"
Ammon its a test don't you get it.
Ammon Johns 🎓
Yup. Read the opening post. Consider it a test. It says "What would you ask someone".
I'm a professional SEO. I don't need to take tests. If you do, then I honestly feel sorry for you. You will get ripped off sooner or later.
Incidentally, if you are in the EU, don't try this with potential employees. Not without paying them at least minimum wage. Its a law.
On a closely related note, I also don't do detailed proposals for clients. Not since 2003. Back then, I was working with (what was then) a brand new agency called Propellernet. The 2 directors kept spending days and days putting together proposals for prospective clients, hoping to impress them. To the extent that I'd estimate that on average, they were devoting 2 weeks of work time of the company directors into creating a document that may or may not pay off in any way. That was close to the entire profit margin of some of the proposals, and a terrible way to spend their time.
So, I told Jack Hubbard, the MD, not to make a proposal to the next client. Either they knew what they wanted and they'd send us a detailed proposal to which we could give a price, or they didn't know, and in which case they were asking for a consultation, and valuable intellectual resource. In which case, we'd happily spend 2 days going through their business, market position, resources and competitors to create a strategy for them, which effectively gave them a detailed RFP they could take to any agency, or we'd quote for it.
He looked at me like I was crazy, but he was a great salesman, and liked the challenge. Plus, I wasn't giving him a choice.
Everytime he pitched that "Initial Consultancy" the client immediately bought it. We were effectively charging them for making them a sales proposal, but we were also quite legitimately putting a price (and a very reasonable one) on one of the most valuable creative aspects of the entire SEO process – the plan.
Not only did we sell them, we sold more of them, because what impresses a client of that size isn't the size of paperwork you deliver for free – its the sensible and brilliant idea that we need to have a detailed understanding of their business, that that understanding gives its own deliverables (an immediately useful RFP), and that WE valued our time.
Radu ✍️
Actually the challenge was to invent methods of isolating really great SEO users from average ones. I didn't necessarily mean for a job interview. So I think – creating a sandbox website and seeing what a person can do – might be an extremely useful method for the purpose. And it doesn't have to be unethical. In an optimized scenario – you'd place a few traps and see how it goes; You might observe a few useful skills.
I totally agree about everything else. Un-consensual SEO work is not OK.
Sounds good, i know i could do that in an hour… getting quality outsourcers that's a challenge.

Ammon Johns 🎓
I think the answers are starting to veer far from anything practical, and more into the modern day version of The Trials of Hercules. Seriously, you've met someone, maybe me, and you want to know if they know their stuff or not. Ask me a question and I might well deign to answer it. But set me a task and I'm going to invoice you 150GBP per hour before I even think about setting up a website for you, delivering a presentation, or ranking your websites for you.

My favorite answer here😁😁

It’s simple a great SEO will ‘be the king’ in the room. I very seldom have to explain my worth to customers or prospects I have a waiting list of businesses who want to work with me because I am trusted and get great results in line with their business growth plans and quite frankly any competing SEO who ‘throws in a Grenade in the mix usually gets blown out of the water and looks silly I
guess what I am saying is if you need to prove you are an expert you seldom are. ( god that sounded less cocky in my head)
Ammon Johns 🎓
This entire thread is awesome because it really illustrates the truth. Not *in* the answers given as much as in the reasoning, and what those answers say about the writer that they didn't even realise they were saying.
Does their answer show their ability to think and research? Have they the capabilities to think on a higher level of abstraction? Or are they posting "Their rankings" 2 days after someone extensively explained why that is absolutely a signal you could not trust in isolation?
To those that are still just saying 'their rankings', guys, think about it. You posted to a thread without reading the comments above. If you can't even manage to research basic comments already given on a thread you are about to post to and be judged on your knowledge by that comment, how much faith do you think people will have in your ability to have read any papers, patents, etc? 😃

Ah rankings the be all and end all eh! you rank 1st for purple dog socks but no one searches for it and it don't convert! lol.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Fleming
Aw, mate, you were so close. The keyword research tool must have mislead you. The money term is *luminous* yellow cat *claw* nail varnish! 😉
Fleming » Ammon Johns
very true lol

Top tier SEO users do not have to answer “test questions” bc their work is proof of their skill level.
Beginners and people that aren’t really that great at SEO are forced to answer questions in order to get business.

Ammon Johns 🎓 » Mike
That's a good observation. But that is the *default* situation, and our task is to think like a marketer, and see the opportunities in situations that exist.
First, think about what is really in play in why 'top SEO users' don't need to pass tests, while newer or less established ones do. In fact, think about what makes an SEO 'established'.
There's the fact that the established SEO users often have a public 'body of work' that you've either heard of, or can look up. It's a lot like a portfolio, but instead of just seeing it on their site, you've seen it talked about by third-parties, and peer reviewed, etc.
Peer review brings us to the fact that their testimonials are not just on their site. People cite them in many places, and in fact you may well have first heard of them from someone else you already knew and trusted.
So, in a very real way, this is simply the same things we think of with any marketing campaign – Brand, Citations, and Reviews.
Building up a list of better questions and answers might work, but it is very reactive, and has to be repeated for each and every future proposal. The smarter, marketers way, is to simply start working on building up that brand, earning the citations, and creating the visibility and reputation that gets you known and trusted.
» Radu ✍️
While you make valid points – I still have to add something. Question was never about getting business or about job interviews. And I actually specifically posted this so we can all think of some questions and answers that would avoid giving established SEO users advantages over beginners. To be more abrupt – no – I don't trust SERP results or peer karma. SERP results are easy to those who started early, and most of them did some black-hat, I am most sure, and who knows if they learned their lesson or not. And same thing with peer recommendations. So at this point – I feel that with one exception (Ammon's reply above) – everybody misunderstood my real challenge, which is my fault, I guess.
And now, here comes a complete disclosure – I posted this because I am preparing an "SEO top of the top quiz" that should pose some problems even for experts. I want something that can really isolate the best both in knowledge and white-hat talent. 🙂


The summary of discussion 1: To know whether a person is good in SEO | Search Engine Optimization
Hi guys, I've been trying to find an SEO expert for months to help me with my business's website, but the ones I have used so far have produced minimum results, and in general, they did not seem to really know what they were doing.
So my question is: how do you actually go about evaluating if a particular person's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills are good? I know – very generic question, but there is an overload of info out there, and most of it seems like junk.
Also if you would like to help me with my services (of course I could pay within my budget), please feel free to PM.
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Hi bud, I've been down that road to with different SEO "experts". But 90% of them are unreliable. Don't show up to meetings or work. Or zoom calls. Probably up all night on different fixes! Anyways, what are aiming to accomplish with your website?

Filip ✍️ » Garcia
while of course I'd like to increase overall new traffic, I want to actually increase conversions on my website itself. The problem is that with previous Pay Per Lead (PPL) I've hired in the past, they give u a bunch of buzzwords and claim they did all these things – only to lead to no results.
So would like to know how to weed this 90% out 😄
What's is your business about? Are converting people from Facebook/LinkedIn/Youtube, etc. To your site? Are working with a blog on your website? And if you so, how many's pages
You probably need a full audit. To see what's wrong with your website. Fine someone who can show you key details about why you're not getting conversions. Exactly the way Chase does it. SEO jobs like this should be on monthly retainer.

Filip, it's a difficult situation. The reason I got into SEO full time is because I was running a couple of business and paying for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and was getting the same stuff you were getting. So I decided to do it myself. I realized that I didn't have time to do SEO well and run my business. I figured out that I liked doing SEO Better than what I was doing so I dropped my other businesses. Unless you know SEO well it's really hard to ask the right questions to know if they know what they are doing. One issue is that when people get into SEO they are all told to fake it till you make it. Get the client to pay you and then learn how to do it. That's great for them, not so much for the client. What can I do to help?

Filip ✍️ » Brian
hi Brian, thanks for the response. Mind if I send u a pm to discuss more?
Go ahead. I'll look for it

See if there own websites rank in SEO?

Phil » Steven
this is normally a poor strategy for determining the skill of an SEO because many of the best don’t even focus on this; they’re focused on clients.
Steven » Phil
okay how do they get found many of the better companies rank and get leads from there own website doesn't make sense if they can’t rank for them selves how can they possibly rank for you
Phil » Steven
who said they *couldn’t*? I didn’t say that. Just that they don’t.
They can get business in many other ways.
Steven » Phil
I’ve had this problem before I run a few business I went thru at least five companies that couldn’t get results and talked it up with great sales guys on the other side of the phone
I ask now for evidence of there own work and current clients and I check to see if they rank for highly competitive key words for the site
Phil » Steven
I agree, right up to the point of “do they rank”.
It may be more about how long that business has existed than whether they are any good .. or even worse, what tricks they use.
Of course you’re welcome to use anything you want, but it’s not a reliable way to determine skills.
For example, they may have a Private Blog Network (PBN) which they connected the week before you searched and which pushed them way up, but it gets discovered and closed down the week after.
Therefore they didn’t know anything about creating long term business growth. They just bought a bunch of sites, and they may ruin your site too.
I know .. I’ve seen something very like this happen.
Steven » Phil
yeah makes sense but if your also checking the current clients as well could really give u information you need
Phil » Steven
I would personally just check clients.
There’s a scene in “good will hunting” where the professor says to will, the genius, only a handful of people can tell the difference between you and me.
It’s similar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but on a less elite scale 😉
I can tell if someone is using dodgy tactics .. but non SEO users just couldn’t.
I saw someone the other day who was using some Indian SEO users. They’d really cranked up the exact match anchor text – not even trying to use different phrases.
She’d stopped paying them and they’d either stopped throwing PBN links at her, withdrawn the links she did have or had a penalty of some kind .. because her rankings tanked.
I felt sorry for her 😞

Imo .. Start by finding someone who cares about your *business*
Too many are focused purely on rankings, rather than delivered business growth, and the strategies that come from it.
Business growth is the goal. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the tool.
As for how to determine if someone knows their stuff … that’s really hard. But in today’s world of machine learning, SEO will become more difficult without at least an appreciation of this area and what it means to SEO. The tools of SEO are changing rapidly.
It's not easy to judge anyone's SEO results since Google’s algorithms change almost weekly and lately, even for the most "expert" is hard to keep ahead of those changes. We are all learners here, optimizing here and there to get better results in the long term for our clients.
The most important thing business owners need to look for when hiring a SEO consultant is to make sure he or she understands their business' industry and its consumers, the business owner's goals, the road they have already gone doing optimization, what the analysis tools show that needs to be done on their web properties and if the working styles of both parts are a match.
BTW, I sent you a PM, Filip, just in case you want to take the conversation further.
I agree with Phil. My clients appreciate me because I think about their business. Every SEO expert should do that. You can't know what people search for in Google unless you get to know every aspect of the product or service that you're promoting.
At times I told people to move away from SEO for a while since they were selling a lot more with social ads. In order to feed your long term goals, you sometimes need short term boosts to remove that stress of really having to sell as much as possible in as little time as possible.
In my opinion: my clients know that I know my stuff because I share clear results by simply showing rankings I made on valuable keywords and Analytics data of those ranked pages. If an SEO expert can't show you the money, don't hire him.

Phil » Davy
totally. And I had a client recently who sent me her “I want to rank for these phrases” lists and they were just all wrong for her. The volume was elsewhere.
So I did the analysis, clustered the phrases to produce pages and gave her a plan.
She has more than enough domain strength to rank for these higher volume phrases and I expect to quadruple her business based just on this exercise.
It’s so important to know their businesses 👍


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