Search engine marketers are a unique bunch. While there are a set of standard best practices that can help your site get ranked, not every SEO applies the same techniques or the same philosophy to account management. Some favor a more conservative, long-term approach, while others strive for fast results. Some rely entirely on the power of content marketing, while others aim for a balanced blend of different approaches.
When you’re in the market for an in-house SEO expert or an outside consultant to help you build momentum for your site’s organic visibility, this can be frustrating. SEO is a complicated, multifaceted strategy, and the fact that so many SEOs have different methods makes your decision even more complicated.
When you get down to it, there are three main types of SEOs out there, each with advantages and disadvantages. Knowing these types can help you better understand your options and ultimately make the right decision:
The strategic evangelist is an SEO with a penchant for one particular strategy in the SEO world. It might be a specialty in link building, a focus in content marketing, a knack for building up massive followings on social media, or something else entirely. This SEO usually has expertise in multiple areas, but there’s one core specialty he likes to use for his clients, and he doesn’t spend as much time on other approaches.
The usefulness of a strategic evangelist depends on your situation and your goals, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages in any scenario. If you’re piecing together a team of multiple SEOs, either by outsourcing various elements of your campaign to different contractors or building a full in-house team, strategic evangelists are perfect. Each one will have a unique and powerful area of expertise they can deliver on, and you can find complementary partners to maximize your overall potential (assuming you can afford them).
The big drawback here is flexibility. If you’re only working with one evangelist, let’s say a content marketing specialist, you might have a hard time adjusting when you need help in another area, such as the technical performance of your site.
The number worshiper has a laser focus like the strategic evangelist, but rather than being focused on one strategy, she’s focused on the numbers of your campaign. She’s made it her sworn duty to get you results by any means necessary, and that means meticulously crunching numbers and creating reports to show you all the good news.
The number worshiper might incorporate a number of different strategies in her approach, but at the end of the day, all she cares about is looking good on paper. If you’re focused on a specific goal, like getting more traffic or earning more conversions, she could be a perfect fit. If she isn’t seeing results, she’ll take it upon herself to change strategies or do more until she is.
There are two weaknesses of a number worshiper. First, she’s so obsessed with numbers that she can lose sight of other important aspects of your campaign, such as your brand reputation. She might publish a piece quickly to get more content online, but neglect to consider how it affects your readers. Second, she may choose to engage in risky strategies, such as excessive manual link building, in order to get you results. This might look good in the short term, but could have long-term consequences.
The relationship manager’s focus is on keeping you happy, no matter what. Usually, this SEO is more of an account manager than he is an actual practitioner, but he still takes responsibility for whatever decisions are made throughout the campaign.
The relationship manager might use many different strategies to help you get results, but he’ll always check in with you before making any decisions. Typically, he’s focused on making changes that benefit you in the long term, but if you have a specific request, such as getting a short-term boost in traffic, he’ll probably try to accommodate it. This gives you more control over the process, more flexibility, and generally, an easier time managing the campaign overall.
The drawback of the relationship manager is that he’s not as focused on the work as he is the relationship. He might agree with your suggestions to save face and keep you happy, rather than running with a strategy you’re uncomfortable with that he knows will get better results.
Which of these is going to get you the best results? That depends on your definition of results, and your current needs. For example, if your only interest is seeing tangible, measurable returns on your investment, the number worshiper is the most likely candidate to get them for you. If you know a lot about SEO and can handle everything yourself except for one key area, a strategic evangelist can help you plug that gap. If you’re interested in a balanced, long-term approach, a relationship manager might be right for you.
The only wrong choice in an SEO partner is a black hat practitioner—someone who uses link schemes, spammy content, or other questionable tactics to propel a site upward in rank. Do your background research and ask for references if necessary—black hat tactics are rare these days, but they still exist. Otherwise, choose the partner who can help you most.