Disclaimer: Please don't misunderstand me. I'm OK with hipsters. In fact, some of my best friends are hipsters. But hipsters aren't known for getting things done.
We discuss getting things done quite a bit in the Distilled offices, as well as in our online exchanges. We talk about effecting change with our clients. But if I had to distill all of my thoughts on effective SEO consultancy I'd say, "Don't be an SEO hipster!" From there, SEO success is all downhill.
You're probably wondering just what I mean. Let me show you.
"Underground" SEO Techniques
There are those hip individuals who claim to have tools and techniques that unequivocally set them apart from there is competitors. There is no "secret sauce". Some of our clients have come to us with stories of how they've been promised the world by their previous SEO consultants. These agencies have claimed to possess proprietary techniques which would help launch website straight to the top of the SERPs. But legitimate SEO tactics are not hidden, they are publicly available. Learn from blogs like this one, or SEOmoz's. Strong results from honest SEO work will speak volumes about you, and you will be less likely to find yourself in a position where you need to defend your professional practices.
In fact, there is an inherent risk to any sort of under-the-radar activity when it comes to SEO. Google is better, faster, and stronger than you. And when they deign to use a human to review your work, they are smarter than you. If your link building tactics won't hold up under their scrutiny, you probably shouldn't be executing them in the first place.
The Tool For The Job
Hipsters are known to stick up for an obscure band for no discernible reason. Actually, to be fair, there is a reason: no one has even heard of the band. Don't be that SEO. The fact that everyone uses a tool doesn't mean that the tool is not valuable. In fact, their votes of confidence might mean something about the quality of the product.
But don't be complacent, either, when you find a tool that works for you. The point is, you should be regularly evaluating the effectiveness of your tools, comparing them with other solutions, and making sure that your methods are meritorious.
And ultimately, don't be too attached to any tool. You and your expertise are more valuable. It's not what you use, it's how you use it.
Keeping Up Appearances
Public image is a big part of the SEO industry. We talk on Twitter, on Facebook, we comment on blogs, we meet and speak at conferences.
And these sort of functions are great for business. There is an exchange of SEO knowledge based not only on technique, but on experience. For consulting agencies there are potential clients to be found interacting in this sphere. There are potential employees to be hired.
But all of this is no excuse to let your inner hipster take over. There is no excuse for letting your publicity exercises interfere with your client work. You've only got so many billable hours in a day, but more importantly you can't possibly be doing your best work if you're nursing a hangover. Once you get your work done, then you can go play. Moderately.
...being the opposite of transparency, in this case. You need to talk to your clients. Duh.
While I'm sure everyone reading this talks to their client, I mean really communicate with them. You need to see your suggestions from your client's point of view. Assume that they are capable of understanding what you do, but do what is necessary to give the information they need to do so. The way you communicate, even in your reports, has an effect on the way you work.
Your ideas are worth communicating. If you sell them short by not getting the buy-in you need from the client to get them implemented, you are doing yourself a disservice. I know you won't pull out the (emo) hipster line "you wouldn't understand" to your client, but don't even imply it.
I'm not trying to call anyone lazy here. I don't think that laziness or hardworkocity is the issue here. You can do a lot of work and not get any shit done. It's about being effective.
If you feel it inside, let your inner hipster shine. If you want to work in SEO, have at those SERPs. Hell, if you want to deliver your reports in Helvetica, you have my blessing. But when you're getting down to the brass tacks of SEO, don't let that inner hipster hold you back. No good can come of it.