• Minchala

    I’ve used the company growth chart and Departures list to get a gauge of the health of companies i’ve interviewed with before. I think its just as useful in this application as well. Particularly with departures, when i see blocks of people moving laterally thats more of a bad sign than folks moving up in title and on to bigger corporations where it seems to speak more to ambition than commentary on the company they left behind. Know what i mean?

    As usual, great stuff!

  • Adrian Drysdale

    It’s a valid point. If I was a customer I would want the person doing my site to be an active member of the SEO community.

  • Mark C

    Isn’t Jing the best screenshot capture tool :)

    Anyways, yeah nice post, interesting info. There is of course a correlation between followers and the information you provide, just make sure you target your niche target!

  • Tim Croteau

    As much as I appreciate the idea of doing quality homework before choosing an SEO firm, I’m going to have to disagree with the first step here (which unfortunately knocks out a few of the others). I know plenty of great search folks who don’t tweet, if only for the fact that they’re busy BEING great search folks. Their time is spent researching, analyzing keywords, following up with clients, preparing reports, reviewing google analytics….

    Too many “SEO” firms are happy to print a screenshot from google, email it to their clients once a month and collect a check. I’d be happier to know my search guys and girls don’t have time to Tweet because they’re busy giving their clients top-shelf service, and dispelling the myth of “set it and forget it” SEO.

  • Tim Croteau

    …reviewing the post again, I guess I should say that I agree completely with your initial “people who are passionate about search” bullets – I just don’t agree with your means of seeing them fulfilled! :)

    I want my SEO pro doing all that stuff too; I just don’t think there’s a necessary relationship between those bullets and whether or not he/she’s a pro-tweeter.

  • Wil Reynolds

    Thanks everyone for the comments, Tim – if you were looking for an SEO firm, how could you tell that the company you are hiring has passion for SEO? I’d love to get some more ideas to add..

  • R.B.

    Great post, but I think it’s a bit wrong telling that there is no other way of getting news from the industry except Twitter. It’s the fastest way, that’s certain, but if you have subscription on all major SEO websites, eventually all news will get to you.
    All in all, extremely useful article, I think I will add another feed to my reader :))

  • Tim Croteau

    Hi Wil,
    There are so many less time-intense channels than Twitter (which again, is my only real sticking point here). I’d look to blog posts and how the agency talks about their services on their website. I’d want to learn about their approach through whitepapers and eBooks, etc. Cranking out a solid whitepaper or blog post once a week or month is a lot easier to fit in the schedule of a committed, busy SEO team than the constant presence required to be relevant on Twitter.

    My bottom line: Passion certainly needs to be there, but Twitter is just one of so many channels we can harness to promote our passion for what we do. To rule out someone for not using that single channel seems short-sighted.

  • Wil Reynolds

    RB – Totally agree buddy, I think with RSS and newsletters you can totally keep up, the hard part is that if you use RSS its hard to know whats popular vs. what is not, and sometimes you can’t read everything in your reader. That is the “follower” part of what I was saying…you don’t need to be on twitter tweeting all the time, but you should be following the new sources.

    Thanks for the kind words bro.

    Tim – Blog posts, 100% agree with you, its another great way to see passion…If someone is writing regularly that is a good sign. Twitter is an interesting sticking point though…I think twitter really helps you segment and speed up whats getting hot in your industry, better than anything else out there.

    I think that being on twitter is still key though for someone evaluating your team…if my team was working all day on client stuff and not being on twitter there is a good chance that they might be so busy working on my method of doing SEO that they miss out on new ways being tweeted about. I hated Twitter for that same reason you meantiond though buddy:

    There has to be a balance indeed!

  • Dana Lookadoo

    Oh, the love-hate relationship of Twitter. It’s often hard to find the get-work-done/need-to-stay-current balance.

    However, SEO’s must understand the power of Twitter and its influence in SEO as well. We have to be on Twitter in order to know best practices for how to use Twitter. Our clients benefit.

    Followerwonk? How do you find these tools? Love it! Let me guess, on Twitter!

  • Joanna Butler

    Great blog post Wil! Actually I think this highlights how skills as an SEO are synonymous with skills as a stalker/detective! Haha! We’re very good at looking up the footprints online of anyone/thing, not just brands…

    I totally agree with your way of finding passionate SEOs on Twitter, but as the commenters above have said, it’s not always as simple as “if they’re not on Twitter talking SEO they’re not a good choice”. Actually I know a lot of people who shy away from any kind of online profile, or if they’re on Twitter, choose not to tweet about anything related to SEO because they simply don’t want to be in the limelight at all. Noone would know they’re the legends they really are – shame for the rest of us, but not for them since they’re busy getting stuck in and just getting on with it :)

    I’d also argue that SEOs who have more of a physical (IRL!) presence, especially with their clients, are even better than those who rely on purely digital means to communicate important matters. BUT, if they are on Twitter, I do agree with the signs you can look for IF the SEO chooses to talk SEO publicly – someone who’s dedicated to the work will often tweet about it or related ventures outside work hours and be constantly problem solving and have a natural thirst for knowledge and understanding of all things related to their pasttime – qualities you’d look for in any career.

    Love the LinkedIn research though – I personally think LinkedIn is undervalued and (ignoring their subdomain and canonical clashes as the moment) they’re doing some great stuff to the platform.

    Keep it up Wil – love your blogs :)

  • Kristian

    It will be interesting to see how SEO companies react to the news that Twitter is looking likely to implement Facebook-styled brand pages in the future.

    Hopefully it will allow for multiple Twitter accounts to be linked to a page; allowing employees to opt-in tweets to their companies feed.

    Also Follower Wonk must be the strangest tool name I’ve seen in a while.

  • Wil Reynolds

    @Dana, that tool was all will critchlow, I got it from him :)

    @joanna – thank you! And I definitely know that the twitter thing is not all encompassing, I did try to stress senior staffers, you know the people who drive strategy. But I definitely know that there are other ways, its just that you can’t measure how many newsletters / blogs the senior strategists read on a day to day basis, you know?

    Its also not even about how many people they follow or how many tweets they post (IMHO) even if they are on there listening, thats a good sign, b/c you can at least see who they listen. to. As for linkedin…I couldn’t agree more…lets keep that between us :)

  • Adrian Drysdale

    Here is the way I look at it. Do you want the mechanic with the garage, greasy hands, on the front line. Or the guy in a suit that sits back and watches everyone? Who would you rather fix your car?

  • Wil Reynolds

    @adrian, you just summed up my entire post in 2 sentences. Its funny – use that example and we all know who we’d pick.

  • Eppie Vojt

    Wil – I love the use of LinkedIn to get a more accurate picture of the makeup of small businesses, especially in tech-related fields. Very smart way to gain some additional insight.

    I’m also glad to see the clarification on the importance of a Twitter profile in your reply to Joanna. I’m beyond passionate about search and web development but I consider myself to be pretty bad at Twitter. I use it more like a feed reader — on good days, I check it in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day. Some days, I’m too busy to get to it. The way I use Twitter, it’s hard to be super interactive… I’m just not on it enough. That doesn’t invalidate my passion, however.

    Beyond that, many people prefer their social experience to be *real* social. I’d rather interact with people at a meetup than on Twitter, since that type of interaction allows much greater depth. I’m just not built for 140 characters.

    Along those lines, I think is a great “passion detector.” If you go to Google and type: ‘ “eppie vojt”‘ you’d see a bunch of industry-related meetup groups I’ve attended. If it’s a company looking to hire an SEO firm, they can identify the company’s principals and employees and perform this query on them. If I were hiring a firm to do SEO work, I’d feel a lot better about a group of people who were spending their free time improving their craft than a group who just punch the time-clock. Topical meetup = passion.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post and the really good bits about LinkedIn.

  • Vincent Ammirato

    I see your blog itself as a “meta-example” with regards to thought leadership/education. Top SEOs share their knowledge. Take a look at what Danny Dover just did with his latest book (SEO Secrets). He spilled his beans…all of them.

    A great marketer once opened up and showed me virtually everything he was doing to market his business. I brusquely asked him why he would so willingly show me his secrets. He told me that knowledge isn’t even half his formula for success, it was passion and effort that carried the day.

    SEOs that play subterfuge and hide their secret sauce from the world are a dying breed. Knowledge of our field is spreading. Passionate SEOs are always testing and pushing the envelope. One great way to identify these thought leaders is to see what you can learn from them without a formal relationship in place.

    As always, thanks for sharing.

  • Justin Freid

    Wil, I agree with your point about looking for someone who is passionate about search. I’d even go a little bit farther and research how active those top level managers are on LinkedIn. Are they just out there promoting their business through groups or are they answering questions and providing knowledge? Heck, you could even check out Quora.

    One item that I believe helps your and Seer’s reputation that you didn’t mention is your plethora of SEO videos on Youtube. Doing some research on potential SEO companies on Youtube/Google Video search can give you an idea if the company is respected as a thought leader.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Great tips. I manage and it is a great way to find trusted SEO’s.

  • LC

    I wouldn’t be so quick to knock the interns. I know what you meant and where you were going with it, but I have to say I know a lot of people fresh out of college who are more intelligent and quick to learn and strategic than people I’ve worked for who have years of ‘experience’. It comes down to the individual you’re paired with, not their title.

  • Wil Reynolds

    Glad you got the gist! We hire a ton of interns here, I just think its weird when someone has a company where a substantial portion of the “staff” are temporary workers. Actually after hiring some outside experienced help, I decided to hire a bunch of interns, test em out and if they are awesome elevate them into full time, I am actually seeing much better success raising people up the “SEER way” then trying to re-train new ways of thinking.

  • Sandra Hennessy

    Great article, not sure Irish businesses will use twitter as a method of identifying their SEO company but if so I am covered.