There seem to be a ton of SEO experts these days. My inbox is loaded with people trying to sell me SEO services and products. I’m not talking about the spammers who say how they’ll SEO your site for $100. I’m talking about the people known in the industry. There are a bunch of ‘SEO superstars’ these days appearing at almost every web publisher and marketing conference in the country.

Most of these folks only have a marketing degree and little to no real SEO experience. Others have the experience but have completely sold out. In either case, they are using their skills to get you to buy into whatever they are pushing. They pull you in with the facade of what looks like a helpful presentation or blog when it’s really just a ploy to gain your trust and eventually get you to spend your hard earned dollars. What’s even more detrimental to publishers who are seeking SEO advice is that this ‘SEO superstar’ community has formed their own little clique where they constantly push each others goods. Goods that are often useless in helping you optimize your site.

So how can you tell somebody who’s honestly trying to help you out from somebody just trying to push you a product? Here are some tips for web publishers for finding quality SEO advice I live by that have worked for me.

Check experience

An SEO expert should have sites they own that have proven search engine traffic. Don’t bother with testimonials or examples of sites owned by other people they’ve supposedly helped out. That can be easily faked. A real SEO has in some way built a site and made traffic with it on their own. SEO bloggers often don’t provide this information because they don’t own any. Anybody telling you they are an expert should be able to provide clear examples.

If they are trying to sell something, step away

In over 10 years, I’ve never had to spend a penny on SEO. That’s because there are often no SEO products out there that I can’t find an alternative to for free. We live in an open-source world now where there is a large community making great things with the idea that they just want to help people out. An expert who wants to truly help you should be referring you to free options like a friend would instead of trying to sell you what you don’t need. Of course, if there is free software with a ‘donate’ option, I do encourage you to maybe throw a few dollars the developer’s way.

Visit forums

Forums may seem like a relic from 1998 to some people, but they are really the only place you can get honest and free advice from people not trying to sell something. Forum admins remove spammy trash from their sites. WebmasterWorld is a great site to get a start.

Network with publishers who will email or tweet you back

I’ve found that the people who are too busy to write others back are usually the same people who are in the game only to make a buck. Most of the self-proclaimed SEO experts are like this. They really hold no true interest in helping you out as a friend. Why would you want to give them your attention? Luckily, I’ve networked with a few publishers who genuinely want to help others for the sake of helping out. Often times all it took was me sending a tweet or email to reach out. You’d be surprised how some much folks will just help you if you just ask. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what scale of the person’s SEO success is. If somebody has reached a thousand visits per day on a certain keyword, they probably know just as much as the person with a million visits per day.

Generally, if somebody is telling you to try a method that will magically work overnight, forget about it. There are no shortcuts. It takes months and years of hard work and learning to understand what works in SEO. The best way to learn is trial and error, not with one bullet. You may want to believe you can accomplish a lot more faster by buying into a hyped product, but the value you’ll get from learning and working on your own will pay off way better in the long run.

Questions? Leave a comment or tweet me.