What Your Mama Didn’t Tell You About Becoming an SEO Consultant

Miles Price from Search Engine Journal wrote a great article listing 10 tips for making it in the SEO community. It’s humorous, full of good SEO resources and pulls together tips and ideas for making a name for yourself in the SEO world. While aspiring to become an SEO guru, making the big money and getting your links on Search Engine Land regularly has to be on the mind of every SEO at some point, there is a lot more to the business than most people let on.

So before you ditch your day job for that great gig surfing the web and connecting with SEO bloggers, perhaps you should consider some of these things:

It’s a Data Driven Business
As reporting tools have improved and evolved so has the need for more detailed data and information. You can spend hours reviewing months of website traffic reports, researching and evaluating hundreds of aggregated link opportunities and deriving patterns from keyword search results. Spreadsheets, SQL queries and database forms will become your friend.

It’s a Detail Oriented Business
When you become an SEO guru, it’s easy to make high level statements about what clients should do with their websites and web strategies. The problem is that someone has to take that strategic recommendation and turn it into a working (and successful) project. Telling someone to create compelling website copy and solid internal linking structure is one thing; getting the client to implement this, or creating and mapping this strategy for them is another.

Something Just Changed 5 Minutes Ago
A Fortune 500 client explained that we are on “the bleeding edge” of innovation. Well that’s great. It also means we’re faced with competition from not only the traditional market, but competition for keywords, brand reputation and whatever else is in the unknown and upcoming.

In a sense, you become glued to your RSS reader, taking note of new trends, developing web applications and technologies. Not only are core SEO competencies required, but it becomes a race to see who can get information and successfully “do things” faster, more effectively and (all importantly) in budget.

Are You Well Versed In Multiple Proficiencies?
Picking a niche and creating a dynamic SEO team are certainly excellent ideas for the aspiring SEO business owner. However your skills as an SEO consultant require more than just the delegation of respected authority. Because search engine marketing has evolved into more of an integrated marketing communication strategy, SEO consultants should know more than just web development and keyword research; consider how copywriting, public relations, project management and marketing strategy (among other skills) play a role in this game.

You’re Creative & Analytical, But Are You Client-Sensitive As Well?
I actually ended up yelling at a client the other day, since it was became the only way I could get them to understand the importance of how something had to be implemented (based on my experience and in paying attention to detail). While I don’t advocate yelling at your clients regularly, half of client management is about understanding your client’s business needs, formulating a strategy that best matches those needs, and presenting and delivering this information in a way that fosters buy-in.

You’re Clients Pay You To Get The SEO Dirt
It’s not the norm to find the client that get as involved in all of your social media activities, blogging strategies and SEO recommendations, that you find valuable. Most clients really don’t care that much; they just want you to focus on getting them traffic, leads and keyword rankings, because they’re out selling their product and dealing with everyday business issues.

You Have To Enjoy What You’re Doing
Above all else, you have to enjoy this industry. Perhaps I am just a “noob” in the business (4 years?), but I still enjoy dinner conversations around SEO tactics and attending events and meetups. I’ll subscribe to anyone’s RSS feed if it looks like they’re providing good information and hate the fact that I am not involved in the forum communities as much as I should be.

I have to believe that there is also a competitive element to the SEO industry, regardless of all the social networking benefits. I still get a rush when one of my clients hits the first page of Google for their keywords, when a link request is successful and when it looks like my submission will be voted to the front page of a social community websites.

DON’T Let My Rant Deter You
I’ve had the good fortune of working and collaborating with many talented and intelligent individuals as an SEO consultant, on both sides of the business. It’s a great industry and you can easily get absorbed in all of the new innovation, creative discussions and opportunities available for self-motivated individuals.

Just don’t fall under the misconception that those that are successful in the industry came about it by dumb luck. A lot of time, hard work and creative planning/thinking goes into being successful, and that is pretty much the unfortunate truth, whether we’re talking about the SEO community or business in general.

Thanks to John Andrews for writing his post on SEO, The Press and Pandering, which made me sit back and reflect more on how our industry is evolving and being perceived.


9 Responses to “What Your Mama Didn’t Tell You About Becoming an SEO Consultant”

  1. Igor The Troll on November 14th, 2007 2:08 pm

    Excelent points, as a business man, I totally agree with all of them.

  2. Peter on November 15th, 2007 12:03 am

    There’s less value in being “known” as an SEO guru than there is in actually applying that knowledge to rank sites in competitive industries.

  3. Igor The Troll on November 15th, 2007 1:45 am

    Yeah quite true, beiung a guru and selling your knowledge are to different things, so I just apply the knowledge to my business.

    Yes it can be sold, but I am not going to go out of the way, to shake my ass.

    You want it, let me know.

  4. Derek on November 15th, 2007 9:40 am

    Appreciate the comments and discussion, it’s definitely valuable.

    I don’t have issue with anyone who wants to be involved or be “known” in the SEO industry. It’s not a bad thing and there’s different reasons why people may or may not want to be seen in the limelight.

    That being said, anyone successful (SEO, SEO guru or otherwise) busted their butt to get there, so it can be a rude awakening for folks new in the industry whom aren’t getting the immediate, positive impact that they read about publicly.

    Everything sounds easy, but that changes wheb you actually start rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.

  5. Igor The Troll on November 15th, 2007 9:57 am

    Yes let’s give a big round of applause to all the SEOs, their courage and their heart in the industry. Also, let’s wish good luck and perseverance to any newbies coming into the industry, for what ever reason they may have.

  6. Manish Pandey on November 15th, 2007 5:03 pm

    Great points…If you’re not updated in this industry then you must be kidding around.

  7. Ben on July 17th, 2008 5:45 pm

    Why the long sentiments? Is there something seriously negative happening to SEOs that I should know about? In my opinion it’s a growth area with tons of business for everyone.. Sure, there’s competition, but that’s true in any growth industry… Help me out here?

  8. SEO Aware on September 25th, 2008 10:46 pm

    This is a great post and is as true as anything I have ever read.

  9. Rebecca Haden on October 8th, 2008 9:10 am

    It seems to me that the thrill of getting that client to #1 on Google is more like the thrill of getting a great word in Scrabble or completing a quest in WoW than it is like grinding your opponent’s face into the dust.
    That is, SEO is a wonderfully cooperative field, and there’s nothing personal about our competition, even if our clients are in bitterly competitive industries.
    If a client feels like my job is to keep the other dogs from getting his bones,then I can join in on that cheerfully enough, but I’m thankful that the SEO industry currently has plenty of room, so we can enjoy ourselves and play together nicely.
    Have I included enough metaphors here, do you think?