SEO Consultants: The Good, The Rad and The Sexy

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Do you know your SEO consultants? Read this through for your guide to the good, the rad and the sexy of internet marketing’s most in demand professional – the SEO consultant. The Good, The Rad and The Sexy

(Image parodied from Kaptain Kobold‘s parody.) L – R: Mike Tekula of Tek Web Solutions, David Mihm of… David Mihm Web Design, and the sexiest man in SEO, Pat Sexton. Much kudos too, to Tamar Weinberg for her awesome photostream with the massively long tail.

The Good SEO Consultant: This guy/girl is optimizing his site for the keywords SEO consultant because he’s seen other consultants doing it and because Overture once said that this keyword had nice traffic. He’s an indie with a handful of his own clients and likely does subcontracting work for larger SEM firms/agencies. That is, when he’s not blogging up a storm and trying to figure out whether, at 1 am, he’s better off sleeping or publishing a few more tweets, stumbles and sphinns.

This good guy has bought and read the SEO Book, reads the major industry blogs and dreams of having automatic cash-earners that make money while he sleeps. He knows that these won’t come from reading Clickbank scam ebook, but still hopes/figures that there’s got to be some way to do it with affiliate marketing. Occasionally he’ll break a new story in search marketing but the majors will likely ignore it as they either a) don’t know him b) consider the discovery unworthy of sharing/linking or most likely c) didn’t hear about him breaking the story.

This guy is worth networking with and is definitely going to be a major force within 1 – 3 years. Play nice with the good SEO consultant now and you’ll find an invaluable ally later.

Demographically speaking, the good SEO consultant is most likely:

  • single,
  • from a middle-class background,
  • 20 – 25 years old,
  • to have 2 years or less SEO experience,
  • a Problogger, Copyblogger and SEO Book fan,
  • earning – $30K annually from SEO,
  • doing SEO part-time,
  • getting entry-level job offers from larger firms,
  • an SEOmoz commenter.

The Rad SEO Consultant:

This consultant has been blogging for a while and has built himself/herself a certain following and a solid network of friends. If his major site lost all its SERPs in Google tomorrow, Sphinn’s front page would have his explanation of why, and his friends would help him get a new site back up within a few months.

As far as experience goes, the Rad consultant has easily seen/worked on 20+ projects, either for clients or for himself. He’s done that amount of work within 2 – 5 years time and is seeing the financial rewards for it. In the same vein, the rad SEO consultant’s experience includes either attending or speaking at SMX, SES, Pubcon and other web industry conferences (think Affiliate Summit, Traffic, Ad:Tech etc.). By now he’s realized that there is no such thing as ‘passive income’ and especially not online, because it takes work to either create a marketing campaign, manage it or optimize it.

The rad SEO consultant is still approachable and has the time to do email, though on occasion he might be flooded by work and miss an email. A great contact to meet and become friends with while the going’s good rad.

This expert’s profile probably includes some or all of these points:

  • in a serious relationship and/or engaged,
  • 24 – 35 years old,
  • uses a feedreader to follow 20+ blogs, though not all of them on a daily basis,
  • earning $50 – $100 K annually,
  • doing SEO full-time or about to,
  • getting senior consultant/marketing director job offers,
  • Power Sphinn and social news/bookmarking user

The sexy SEO consultant:

This person is at the top of the game and could write a book on SEO that would satisfy everyone from beginner to pro. Their blog has 5000+ subscribers and likely several authors, most of whom are sexy consultants too or else are at the rad level. The things you’ll find there are consistently original, new and very often practical.

The sexy SEO consultant’s expertise, as was mentioned above, is extremely broad. When they’re not devoting time to client work, these elite SEOs are reading blogs, articles and the occasional whitepaper (occasional, because that’s about how often these things offer value and aren’t sales pitches *cough cough*), though their reading is skewed toward the establishment bloggers. (A little diversity would be great ;).) That said, count on them to consume a hundred + posts a week, even if they don’t link to them all (the sheer volume Sexy SEOs are faced with is another reason stories from good consultants with lesser relationships might not get linked to much).

This consultant works on his firm’s largest clients’ sites, if he does actual SEO at all. Most likely he’s directing a team of rad consultants or developing the SEO strategy to be implemented by project managers and lower-level consultants. He’s networking in the wider business community, sending his people to shows to extend the firm’s reach,

Bringing Sexy Back ... to Target!

When they’re not bringing sexy back (above, and not-safe-for-work bringing sexy back here), Sexy SEO consultants are likely being profiled as follows:

  • 30 – 50 years old (beyond that and you’re either the CMO/owner of the firm/unaware that SEO exists)
  • Married
  • Earning $80K + annually
  • A member of the local country club
  • A reader of the business pages
  • Making job offers
  • A regular speaker at SMX etc.
  • Have considerable discretionary spending
  • Spend much of that money online, especially on high-end travel and electronics

And now for the million dollar question: Which consultant fits where?

Actually, I think most of those criteria can be mixed and matched so that these personas are more general guidelines/ideas. Much of it is based on my own experience and observations. The same way I used to stay up till 1-2 am reading Problogger and Yaro Starak (whose growth seems to have plateaued), I now stay up reading a variety of posts from Sphinn, my feedreader and other blogs I like. Similarly, I’ve gotten a spot on a panel at SMX West, though it’ll be my first time there.

Edit: Some people thought I hadn’t posted since the Truth About Influence. If you subscribe, you know that I’ve actually written on link buying, n grams, UGC and more in my most recent scratchpad, as well as on 3 new metrics for social media.

David Mihm

Take a rad consultant like Dave (left; picture by Tamar). He’s been to several conferences and is moving up to Portland, where I understand he’ll be working with the SEMpdx folks and probably with her favourite sexy seo consultant. Yet considering how good Dave is, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he’s earning $80K + annually, and I could also see him reading the business pages waiting for his tee time at the local club.

Look at someone like Vinny. He comments regularly at SEOmoz and has recently made himself available for link building campaigns. From speaking to him privately, I know that he’s got a deep understanding of real estate SEO that would place him in the sexy SEO category. Yet he also is a huge SEOmoz commenter, is about 35 – 45, married (unless I’m thinking of someone else?) and would be a welcome senior consultant at most firms I know.

Ann doesn’t fit any of these molds neatly. The number one ranking for ‘posters’? That was her. She’s been blogging for a month. (And is one of the best contacts I’ve made through SEOmoz!)

My understanding is that Guillaume, 28 years old, is moving to hit 30 employees very soon. On the one hand he’s at the sexy SEO consultant level, yet on the other I think he reads less than I do and probably doesn’t have as deep a level of expertise as I do. But then again, he owns/runs a firm, and his core competence is on business building, which goes back to the country club networking thing. And he’s got a great social media guy like Nic to back him up anyways ;).

If you liked this, do subscribe to my rss feed – there’s much more where this came from ;). Plus I have a pretty button:

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Update: Guillaume and I are having an interesting discussion in the comments. Turns out that he’s 26, and already has 30 employees. And like I promised below, here’s a juice link to NVI. (BTW, if anyone can tell me how to fix the Stumbleupon button in IE6, that would be great; I just installed the plugin and am not sure about its finer points yet.)

Jean-Francois is in his early 30s and runs an agency roughly the same size as SEOmoz. He’ll be speaking at an Infopresse mini-conference on social media (Infopresse is Quebec’s Web Pro News, but with less depth of expertise and broader coverage) So some people do fit the mold.

Finally, and similarly to J-F, look at Lee Odden’s photostream and tell me he doesn’t fit neatly in the sexy category!

Update 2: Linda just got her ecommerce blog a link with her commenting, and Nic’s just nabbed a second one for his social media blog.

Update 3: A whole bunch of you have shared some great comments. Here’s the promised link love :). Mike’s Tek Web Consulting gets another link. This blog has also been graced by the likes of Allan Stewart, better known (and indeed, well known) as Firefly SEO. Likewise his high sexiness, David Saunders of I Do SEO. Francis Vallieres is an interesting fellow (and another competitor who my awesome blogging has apparently distracted from doing client work … how’s that for advanced SEO tactics?? 😉 ).

Update 4: Mat Guiver (thanks for the link!) and my fellow SEOmoz-er Joe Rozsa from SEO Columbus have earned a couple of links. Shout outs to as well.

Some of you shared decent comments below, but you’ll have to work harder for a link. Let me share your domains at least: for Dev Carmichael, for Sexy SEO, for SEO Catfish and for Internet Marketing Joy.

What do you guys think? Are these personas about right? Which do you most identify with? What kind of SEO consultant are you? Let me hear it in the comments :D! Any quality answer gets a free dofollow link in updates to this post :)! Like this post? Get the rss feed.

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  1. Hey Gab. A few things to support your thinking about my company: 1. I'm 26, not 28... I know I have some pretty bad grey hair, but I'm still 4 years away from 30 years old :) 2. We passed the 30 employees a few months ago and will hit 35 within the next 2 months. I expect to have 50 employees by the end of this year, making NVI the biggest Internet Marketing company in Canada. Then, the World awaits :) 3. I'm happy to see that I give the impression I don't have a great understanding of the SEO field (or, should I say, as deep as yours!). The funny thing that you should take note of is that most of the valuable knowledge about SEO will never be... let's say... public... or even private... it's not on the web... it's barely discussed at all the SMX / SES / Infopresse conferences I went to (cauz most of it is just corporate garbage), or privately on a msn messenger / aim chat with good friends you made during those conferences. 4. I published 30 articles in 2006 on SEOmoz main page and was their only Canadian journalist (had to stop due to time issues). I'd say I used to be pretty active in the blogosphere, but realized most of the new knowledge I got now over the past 2 years is not from SEO blogs, but mostly from experimentation on large scale white hat (clients) and black hat (personal) projects. 5. You would be surprised to see what 15 people devoted to SEO can bring in terms of knowledge to me... I'm not saying you are not guru, I think you are one of the top guys in Montreal, but since I was sitting in your chair a few years ago, I can tell you the following: SEO is not about what you can read on the web... it's about who you know in the field, which clients you "exercise" on, and also how you can succeed in attracting people to share your common interests and discuss them, which are in the case the Google algo. 6. I can tell you that the reason I created NVI was to get the biggest / boldest group of SEO gurus so we would be dozens of us looking at it because a day only has 24hours... I could be working at 500$/hr on my own but that's not the point... the whole point is building the smartest team on the planet. 7. It's funny to see how you could say Nick is my guru, but I'll let him explain to you more about it. He's been one of my best friend in real life, and I'm honestly awesomely impressed by his work so far. Well, all of this to say that you shouldn't judge the knowledge of people by the business feeling they gave u ;) Good luck with your SMX presentation... I'll be talking in Long Beach in April as well :)

    Comment by Guillaume - February 4, 2008 @ 11:24pm
  2. You're moving like lightning man! I had the 30 person figure from some email exchange we had, I think. I'm sure if you keep it up that you guys will be the biggest search marketing firm in Canada. As to internet marketing, you'd have to get into email, affiliate etc. before earning that title. Also, you have to compete with Kevin Ham's outfit in BC. FYI: He has 300,000 domains and is building a team to match... As to experimenting, I agree that You learn A LOT that way. You learn WHAT works. What's great about the blogosphere though is that you "meet" people and often learn from them "WHY" something works. And when you know why something works, then you can expand it to related spheres as well. It gives you knowledge that is more broadly applicable. So ... greater hands-on experience and larger scale work v serious reading knowledge and some significant personal work... Well, I overstated it a bit above (though I did say probably more knowledgeable), but I think one-on-one with the same budget would be a fair matchup :D. Finally, I'm copy-pasting what I wrote in the email: I just saw the response - I think you've got an excellent point about the best knowledge being private and you've definitely humbled me there. That being said, a lot of the best info on social media is quite public. I guess it's just that when a guy doesn't write often, it's hard to gauge his level of skills. As to your writing back in 2006, I'm aware of those articles and have read a couple. But you know as well as I do that since 2006, a lot of things have changed.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - February 5, 2008 @ 12:04am
  3. In fact, Guillaume is 34 years old and doesn't read much since he left school when he was only 8 ;) One day I'll write his bio to let the world know the whole story !

    Comment by nicolas - February 5, 2008 @ 8:42am
  4. Not actually #1 but #3 for posters :) Just being humble (smile). Thanks for the mention - and what great SEO personas! Naturally sphunn and stumbled!

    Comment by Ann Smarty - February 5, 2008 @ 12:02pm
  5. You're right, I meant the largest Search Marketing company in Canada, my mistake here... :D

    Comment by Guillaume - February 5, 2008 @ 12:03pm
  6. Because I'm sure that #3 was a walk-in-the-park to achieve, huh, Annie? lol You deserve every bit of recognition you get. Thanks for the social media love btw. Guillaume, I think at your rate of growth biggest internet marketing might take a whole extra ... year! Forever, I know 8-) ;).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - February 5, 2008 @ 1:02pm
  7. just "$80K + annually"? LOL

    Comment by SexySEO - February 5, 2008 @ 2:49pm
  8. Nic, I knew you were bluffing. SexySEO, are you really a Sexy SEO consultant? And if you're laughing at 80K+, what do you make?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - February 6, 2008 @ 1:17am
  9. Nice post and memorable (MEMORABLE!!) image. SEO is the sexiest profession around. Ecommerce blogging a close second ;-) Great post, I was thinking while reading the SEO profile descriptions (what about Ann?) and then I noticed you mentioned her. Ya she's in a league of her own. Keep the entertaining and creative posts coming Gab!!

    Comment by Linda Bustos - February 6, 2008 @ 3:31pm
  10. Hey Linda, Glad to hear you liked the post. SEO definitely is a sexy profession, particularly so with practitioners like you and Ann around! And ecommerce blogging is right up there, like you said :).

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - February 6, 2008 @ 5:39pm
  11. I think you might be missing a 1 or a 2 before the 8 in the sexy salary. Not that I would know of course. :)

    Comment by Dev - February 7, 2008 @ 8:21pm
  12. Gab, I always wanted to be immortalized as a Lego man...I have a tear in my eye tonight. Also, your summary of the "good" SEO consultant applies to me with uncanny I'll have to ask you to please stop stalking me. All kidding aside, I really like this post and found it to be very accurate (and I was a little sad to recognize the fact that I am only a "good" SEO consultant). However, I have high hopes that I can make my way into the "rad" category in the not-too-distant future. Can I get a badge for that when I do? -Mike

    Comment by Mike Tekula - February 7, 2008 @ 10:48pm
  13. Hi, Nice post mate. I think I am probably a rad SEO. Infact your post description was in some parts really quite scary. Thing is I have actually been involved for SEO for A lot longer than 3-5 years, only just that I never really bothered to participate in the whole social side of SEO much untill recently, mainly because I have always been so busy actually working on client projects. I run an agency you see, but am also employed full time. So guess I am just about to take the big leap and go to Full time self emplyed at which time I am hoping I can get my income up from $80,000 to more like $200,000. Sphun and Stumbled.

    Comment by Allan Stewart - February 8, 2008 @ 4:28am
  14. Where does that put me? LOL I am 56, married, one 23 year old daughter, a single op SEO since 1997 and make about $80,000 which is more than I need... Did I mention I am extremely handsome, look about 46 and am a bunch of fun with a way cool British accent (Torquay chaps) Best David

    Comment by David Saunders - February 8, 2008 @ 9:43am
  15. Hey, don't forget that Guillaume have also good employees that are not necessary public about their SEO work. Like I’m doing SEO for 5+ years, doing great on my own as an affiliate on a lot of different niches, and publishing very little about what I’m doing. I’m not an active Sphinn user, nether I comments stuff on SEOmoz (even if i’m reading it) but I think I can learn a couple tricks to some very well known SEO. And I’m not the only one at NVI that have a good experience on his own as an affiliates or in SEO in general. I do not fit anywhere in your chart, my blog haven’t a lot of subscriber, I'm not writing much and honestly I'm not a very good writer, some people at NVi are way better copyrighter than me, not married but not single and I’m not over 25. Also, i would be a very bad public speaker (Guillaume is way better than me) and my engrish sounds like it, engrish :P I guess i need another category made for me. By the way I’m reading your blog from time to time, some interesting stuff in it.

    Comment by Francis Vallieres - February 8, 2008 @ 10:21am
  16. That's a really funny article dude. It's nice to know I'm somewhere between sexy and Now if I can just get my wife to believe that ;)

    Comment by SEO Catfish - February 8, 2008 @ 12:19pm
  17. @ Mike - I should definitely have launched this article with "Good SEO" "Rad SEO" and "Sexy SEO" badges. The fact that you thought of that and I didn't suggests that perhaps our positions should be inverted - would obviously have been some nice linkbait. @ Allan - I've seen your company name around the sphere a few times, so I'm not surprised to hear of your success. You also make a good point in highlighting how my ranking system is skewed towards those who participate in the scene, as highlighted by Guillaume. Obviously many experts are too busy with clients to be blogging! @ Dave - Sounds like where my Dad would be at if he'd gotten into SEO a few years back. He's 60 and I'm 20 years old :). In any event you make a pretty good case for the Sexy SEO qualifier :). @ Francis - Didn't mean to ignore you folks, hehe. I'm well aware the NVI's growth is more than one-man's story. I'd love to chat with you about affiliate stuff, anyways. And you make some good points about presence in the sphere being skewed as a metric. That said, unless you go public with your affiliate success (based on SEO, I suppose?) it's hard to judge where you might be - i.e. there aren't that many better metrics.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - February 8, 2008 @ 1:24pm
  18. I guess for me being an SEO consultant is really a great job. You;re earning a lot and at the same time you are also learning..^^

    Comment by Internet Marketing Joy - February 8, 2008 @ 5:10pm
  19. Gab, I enjoyed the entry, but I still don't think marital status has anything to do with being a sexy SEO. I'm not in a serious relationship but I def qualify as a rad consultant.

    Comment by Mathew Guiver - February 10, 2008 @ 1:56pm
  20. Hey Gab, I enjoyed reading this bit, although I'm not sure I fit into any of the categories. I think there should also be a category for people that got into SEO because they've been building sites for 10+ years and learned SEO to help those sites thrive. They also make more money working on their own sites than clients would typically be willing to pay, although will take on clients for the right opportunity (ie. equity in high potential site or crazy high bill rate). This person has moved on from full time hands-on to sometimes outsource development to trusted consultants. This is also possibly someone that speaks at conferences on the topic of SEO, and for my own profile, is about 33 years old and married with two daughters. :)

    Comment by SEO Columbus - February 11, 2008 @ 1:39pm
  21. Wow... I just came across this post. I think it's great! Entertaining, for sure. I wouldn't label myself with just one of your titles. I think I possess certain traits from all three levels. Though, I do think the salary range is a the low end for all three.

    Comment by WEBOSIS - February 11, 2008 @ 2:19pm
  22. Well Gee thanks, thats probably the third time Ive been called sexy in my life. But really... Funny post

    Comment by Phoenix - September 23, 2008 @ 6:08am
  23. Hi Gab, I know Guillaume very well and i know that he is maybe not a SEO superstar but surely a great diplomate and a strong entrepreneur with top communication skills. Surely you could beat him on a 1vs1 SEO challenge but, as he said, he focusses on his team + connections, so this gives NVI IMHO a better leverage in the long run than a one man show SEO Consultant.

    Comment by Remi - November 6, 2008 @ 10:25pm
  24. I've outperformed Fortune 500 chains with 10 times the budget doing business with 'leveraged' firms. Expertise and hard work will outdo 'leverage' of average employees any day. You're welcome to your opinion, but I speak from experience.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - November 7, 2008 @ 12:21am

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