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Some of the SEO “experts” we encounter exhibit less than tasteful attributes. Having been inspired by The Oatmeal, I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating some of the bad SEO professionals.

I understand that I might be slightly hypocritical in this post. I’ve found myself displaying some of the characteristics below.

Revisiting the Idiots/Experts: It’s been nearly four years since this post first went live and yet so much of it still holds true. However, we’re four years older and wiser now, and the search engines have changed a lot in that time. So we decided to take this opportunity to reexamine these “experts” from our new perspective.

Big Words/Acronyms SEO

You may have caught yourself using jargon that might be over your clients’ heads. These SEO Experts may know the trade, they just lack the ability to communicate effectively with clients. If you notice that your client has a blank look, you may want to ask if they don’t understand something you’re saying.

The 2014 Version: Jargon isn’t just about acronyms or sounding too technical. These days, you’re just as likely to start talking about cute and cuddly animals, yet find yourself facing some blank stares. If you tell your clients that pandas, penguins, and hummingbirds ruined their rankings, you’re still falling into this trap. Not everyone is fluent in Google-speak.

Sparkling, White Hat SEO

Don’t get me wrong, white hat is the way to go in SEO. However, some incompetent SEOs may claim that their lack of linkbuilding is due to high moral principles. They put on a facade of “White Hat.” These SEOs either don’t get linkbuilding or they don’t want to put forth the effort to do it. Of course there are plenty of gray/black hat ways of building links. But other linkbuilding methods such as submitting a press release, creating quality linkbait, etc. are legitimate and great for SEO.

Just give me a few years and I'll get your website to the top. I'm completely white, sparkly hat. My SEO campaigns are based on moral principles. Link building is just not for me and my possy. If you have to work for links, then you're crossing the integrity line. Most of what I do is on-page... actually all I do is on-page optimization. But hey, I'm really gooood at it.

What Does White Hat Mean Now: Yesterday’s white hat practices may not be black hat today, but a lot of these old practices that everyone KNEW were solid and wholesome are now ineffective and potentially a waste of time. Think of guest blogging. Sure, it still has its place, but this sure-fire, reliable, and white hat tactic must now be done with extreme care or not at all. They’re not wrong. They’re just overused.

Conversion Expert Turned SEO

The Conversion Expert SEO is more uncommon. These SEOs somehow mistakenly believe that user experience is intricately connected with SEO. They carry the label of “Internet Marketer” but they only talk about conversion and design. The idea of increasing traffic rarely crosses their minds

Search marketing is a lot about user experience. So you've got 10 visitors a month? With my SEO experience, I'll boost your conversion rate by 10%. I'm sure we can convert at least one of them.

2014 Considerations: This is an interesting case. With many of the most recent Google updates, user experience is, in fact, growing in importance for SEO. This includes elements like load speed and site metrics that indicate whether or not your page is answering searchers’ expectations. Conversion optimization is closely tied to user experience, so while it’s not the end-all and be-all of SEO, it has certainly become an important component.

Self-Proclaimed Social Media Expert

The Social Media Expert may have been an SEO who was drawn into the hype of Social Media. He tells the world that he is a Social Media Expert because he knows how to use Facebook and Twitter. He frequently talks about “going viral,” although he has no idea how to go viral. And sadly, he measures his effectiveness based on the number of followers and friends he acquires.

We HAVE to get an account with every social network... I've already signed you up for SocialBunny, Diggggg.com, and Wuphf.com. If you get lots of accounts you'll get lots of links. Oh yeah, you're going to want a lot of followers and friends... it will definitely help your SEO.

The Social World is Different: A “viral” Facebook post in 2014 has come to mean “paying a lot of money.” Facebook has changed its algorithm so much that a basic post is unlikely to reach more than a tiny portion of your followers – unless you’re willing to pay for it. On top of that, if your SEO refers to Google+ as a ghost town, they’ve missed the point completely. If Google is important to your business, Google+ has to be as well.

IT Guy

SEO is an IT thing right? Wrong. Unfortunately, the in-house IT guy thinks that SEO belongs to the IT department since it involves algorithms and coding. While SEO may require someone with a bit of HTML skills, it should belong to the marketing department and more specifically a “Search Team.”

Well, I just googled SEO and I found out that keyword density is REALLY important. I’m just going to be adding our keyword, 'Organic Kitty Chow,' all over our website and in the keywords meta tag. We don’t need an SEO firm -- SEO is an IT thing. I’ll take care of it.

Everyone Has an Opinion: SEO has changed so much in the last four years that it isn’t just the IT guy who has an opinion. It’s been around long enough that now everyone has “heard that SEO is all about [fill in your favorite trending strategy].” Unfortunately, if these people have the ear of your client, they may be making it harder for you to explain what it really is.

Bad Grammar Offshore SEO

We get plenty of emails and comments filled with poor translation grammar. Do you really want someone who’s using a translation tool to do your keyword research? These SEOs may be cheap but not very effective.

I has like blogging, and I always comment on other blogs to get links. I says things like 'Your write good posts, I am bookmarking this blog for return.' These kinds comments always get approval. SEO is really a lot as surgery. I has got thousands of comment links with my softwares. Please make business with me.

Bad Grammar ONSHORE SEO: There was a time when, in the pursuit of positioning a keyword just right, an SEO would go to extreme grammatical lengths. The things a person had to do to fit in those nasty geo-targeted keywords doesn’t bear thinking about. Modern SEO isn’t about fitting in keywords. It’s about using your content to address topic and answer a question. (You don’t have to go to an offshore company to find SEOs who still think exact keyword repetition will help your pages rank.)

Black Hat SEO

The Black Hat SEO should be avoided like the plague. He may get you fast results, but those results will quickly decline after Google notices the spammy tactics around your website. Black Hat SEOs will always take the easy way out and often do more damage than good.

Give me your business and I'll get you to the top tomorrow. I've got plenty of doorway pages and I spin just about every article out there. Who needs to actually write unique content anymore? Don't worry about my techniques, they always work. I've only had a few hundred websites banned.

A 2014 Perspective: In the world of swift and painful manual penalties, avoiding Black Hat SEOs is more important than ever. Once Google brings out the ban hammer, it’s extremely difficult to get back out of the penalty box. You don’t just lose your rankings when this happens. You’re excluded from the entire index. Beware the promises that are too good to be true and especially be cautious of automated processes that claim it only takes weeks to dominate the search results.

Update: I used your comments and posted 12 More SEO Idiots. Check it out.

Any more ideas?

Do you agree? What other SEO “Experts” should you avoid? What else has changed in the last four years? Share your ideas in a comment.


(Final note: we do, of course, offer plenty of suggestions to help you choose an SEO company that you can feel good about.)