How to be a better SEO

by on 14th September 2012

Today I’m posting the summary notes from my session at this year’s BrightonSEO. I hope you enjoy them, the topic is certainly one dear to my heart and I can honestly say how refreshing it was to be asked to speak on a topic that wasn’t directly SEO itself.

Thanks to Kelvin and the conference team for putting on yet another stellar conference.

How to Be a Better SEO

Our industry is perhaps one of the fastest evolving, most exciting industries to belong to on the planet. I’ve travelled to 6 different countries in the past 2 months, and met with search marketers in all of them. Something that they all have in common is their drive, enthusiasm and love of their art.

SEO takes a long time to master. Its breadth and depth as a marketing discipline is, enormous. The requirement for us to learn and stay on top of new developments is no small ask, and it takes long hours to keep your knowledge fresh.

Before we continue, I want to tell you a little about me first. Builtvisible is the result of the incredibly hard work of the good people that belong to my team. We’ve grown from 1 member of staff in August 2010, to 33 today.

My purpose is to lead my company towards our goals. My mission is to build and maintain the fastest growing digital agency establishing ourselves with an international presence within 4 years. I’m proud of our achievements to date, but it couldn’t happen without a clear understanding of what we want to achieve as a team.

To make this possible, I’ve spent a lot of my time thinking about the attributes, the qualities of what makes for a successful SEO consultant. To me, it’s far from being just about the skills, learning keyword research, building links, making technical recommendations, understanding content marketing, using Excel, coding – these are things that the right people can learn if and when they choose to.

To me, better SEOs have something special about them. Today, I’m not going to show you more Excel queries, share link building tips or talk about log file analysis. If you want to learn more about those things you can Google them. I’d like to talk a little more honestly about some of the key attributes I’ve observed in my peers, and more specifically, what you should do if you want to be a better SEO.

  1. Decide what your goal is. If you can’t, set your first goal to decide on what your goals should be
  2. Get a mentor – or find someone your respect and copy them
  3. Don’t be happy with just “ok” – if you don’t love it, it isn’t ready
  4. Learn entrepreneurial spirit, develop new products and processes
  5. Learn how to pitch yourself, you owe this to your hard work to date
  6. Always seek the simplest, most elegant way to communicate – you are your own product
  7. Understand the perception people have of you. Is it the one you want?
  8. Be curious and always ask, why?
  9. Learn something new once a week. That’s how you stay relevant, permanently
  10. Decide you want to be successful in whatever you do
  11. Keep every positive piece of feedback you receive in a folder. Dwell on how you could improve in each of those situations instead of patting yourself on the back
  12. Don’t accept that how you’re doing something now is the norm, it’s already out of date
  13. Be totally responsible for yourself – don’t ever let your boss have to manage you. If you’re doing well, you’re slowly making them redundant
  14. Realise that the second you walk through the office door, you’re on stage. Act like the best person you can be even when you feel like crap
  15. Rehearse everything. It’s what makes the difference between ok and awesome
  16. Take yourself outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis
  17. Make yourself indispensable, learn a specialism
  18. Learn how to spot good people, their strengths and their weaknesses
  19. Realise when you’re distracted and learn to refocus yourself
  20. Build your own website. What SEO doesn’t have a decent website?
  21. Pitch for the job you want – if you’re nailing the job you have all you have to is demonstrate a solid understanding of the job you want
  22. Learn to sell anything and everything
  23. Care about what you do and show it – people will want to teach you everything else
  24. Always follow up even if you have to stay up all night to do it
  25. Know your figures all of them, and know them better than your team
  26. Communicate your successes regularly
  27. If you want to learn leadership, learn that leadership comes from certainty and confidence
  28. Understand what being a consultant really means – you’re an authority, and you’re independently able to learn everything you need to survive without asking your boss
  29. Work towards making things a little bit better, every day

I’d just like to thank you all for listening, and I wish you all the best of luck in becoming a better SEO.

Richard Baxter


  1. Nice, Richard. This is inspiring – your agency and the class and excellence you project from it is a gold standard in the SEO world. I hope to live up to something 50% like it one day.

  2. I can’t agree more with staying positive. Just be a good person and you’ll get reciprocity. I’ve found that SEO’s can be a bit curmudgeonly from time to time and that has an affect on the quality of their work and their overall happiness.

    If you can feel good about what you do you’re going to do much much better and other people will like it too.

    Good post, Ross. Thanks for the tips, Richard.

  3. Golden advices, and many of them that apply to more than being an SEO.
    Learn entrepreneurial spirit: maybe this is my preferred one. This is an industry in which one day arrives and you start fancing of walking on your own legs, but not everyone is able to make it come true. Learn from your clients too, don’t forget learning business along with tech stuff.
    Really loved this post, thanks, Richard.

  4. That’s one set of SEO tools that will never be outdated, awesome post!

  5. Well done Richard. Thanks for the powerful and inspiring post.

  6. Great presentation earlier today Richard. I really like point 9, learn something new every week and point 29, work towards making things a little better every day.

  7. 29 points to inspire. The work of SEO is to always be looking for the right way to reach the goal enjoying the road. Good Post!

  8. Awesome post Richard.
    I’m really proud of working in the SEO community which shares everything!
    I can’t imagine my self working in any other field than SEO.
    Thanks a lot.

  9. Hi Richard,

    No. 14 is my favourite. Keep up the awesome work!



  10. Great info/ guidance! Thanks

  11. Very inspiring post, I consider No.1 to be most important, and all other ones revolve around being able to set goals and measure them.


  12. Very inspiring post for me

  13. Thanks very much, everyone! It occurred to me that there’s another one missing from the list: do what you said you would do. I’ve had so many experiences with people who say they’ll do something, but it never materialises. It’s an important quality, IMO.

  14. I made a promise to stop printing out articles to read later on. Richard you have made me brake that promise and I couldn’t be happy. Defiantly one of the best articles I have read this year. I will be reading this over and over again.

  15. Probably this post made me realize where I have been wrong… Thanks for these inputs. It wasn’t just for SEO people, it was for any damn people who stuck in their life somewhere…

  16. Richard,

    Thanks so much for sharing these insights. I think these tips can be extended outside of just SEOs, they are words of wisdom marketers (and people in general) should follow.

  17. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for such a nice post. You have covered many points in one post. This is a nice short exact summary. These points are going to be on my pin board.

  18. Great inspirational post. The n. 10 – my favourite – is an evergreen rule.

    • Definitely! As I said at the conference – I work with someone who I know decided to take that leap. The difference in his work was outstanding. Hes driven motivated, and has purpose. Love it!

  19. One word – This is AWESOME

    #9 and #16 is really great (#16 is especially hard for me to do)

  20. Richard, truly inspiring man. Sticking it up right in my face for every day viewing :)

  21. Great post! I’ve never thought about having a mentor. I was apparently raised by machines. ;-) I definitely need to work on #19.

  22. Since this post is very inpiring you should take this as a topic too:

    30) be an inspiration for your team

    Thanks Richard

  23. In my opinion #26 is really important. Most oft the guys I work with don´t understand what I do the whole day. Show them some graphs an numbers and they will respect you.

  24. 31. Keep it simple. That works best.

    Nice design, by the way.

  25. I put in my inspiring favorites links.

  26. Excellent tips, for SEO’s and anyone who wants to excel in life. I actually printed this list off for my team and I NEVER print anything. Great post!

  27. Patience

    I would say one of the things I have learned in my 17 years as an SEO expert involves using patience.
    You have to trust that you have done the SEO correctly. If there is a major algorithm change wait it out for a while before you make changes.

    More often than not your position will be fine. Don’t panic and start making wholesale changes the day after an up date. Just my 2 cents

  28. Like the tips. :)

  29. Bookmarked. Very good post sir. Thanks!

  30. Good point about “Don’t be happy with just “ok” – if you don’t love it, it isn’t ready”.

    I just created a new consulting business and the first 2 names and website designs I went with were just ‘ok’.. I didn’t love them, until my 3rd try.

  31. Great post Richard. As I was reading it, I heard the Baz Luhrmann song, “Everyone’s Free (to wear sunscreen)” in my head. Your post, like the song, is very positive and motivational for all of us. Keep it up!

  32. Nice one Richard, heard good things about you from SMX Melbourne recently, but yes nice list some good motivation for SEO’s out in the market, what websites are you currently running apart from this one hehe =)

  33. It’s really proud to be SEO reading this: “Our industry is perhaps one of the fastest evolving, most exciting industries to belong to on the planet.” No way to disagree with that.

    My favourite tip is: “Learn something new once a week… “. I think that’s necessary (or requirement) if you don’t want to be beaten by your competition.

    Really inspiring and motivating post.
    Thanks Richard, Greetings

  34. it was nice meeting you @BrightonSEO. Great list for anyone who really think seriously about SEO. i love the point 16. Thanks for sharing.

  35. Search engines prior this list and that is for sure ! ! !

  36. Hi Richard,

    I generally do not comment on posts but this post was compelling enough to “force” me to comment. I liked #29: “Work towards making things a little bit better, every day.” Many of us think that we have to take a big leap to make a real difference but it works otherwise i.e. “a little bit better, every day”. Thanks.

  37. Hey Rich,

    Great article, we live with a constant battle of good SEO and bad SEO. It’s obvious that those who are bad are really only scammers and spammers, trying to jump on the SEO ship, at the expense of paying customers. We deal with this all the time, and I love the list you put up, something like a good code of Ethics that will come from thinking about these things.

  38. Thats a whole awesome piece of advice… great words i must say ! loved your point: “If you want to learn leadership, learn that leadership comes from certainty and confidence”.

  39. Very fine. Thanks for your post. I’m on the right way, I think :]

  40. Hi Richard, I really enjoy and learn a lot from this post. I like the way you have mentioned all the imp SEO points here….just follow u on twitter :)

  41. thanks richard, i am glad to read this whole . . !

  42. I can really relate to point 15:
    “Rehearse everything. It’s what makes the difference between ok and awesome”

    I learned the hard way by not preparing for a presentation a few years ago. I still today cringe when I look back at it and vowed to always rehearse by presentations in full. It’s a great feeling to deliver a well executed presentation. It’s a horrible feeling to fall flat…

    Excellent article Richard!

  43. Great blog. All of the 29 tips are helpful. It’s a must read for it will really help aspiring bloggers. :)

  44. Simple yet very effective tips for SEO experts. I really like the way entire post was written and discussed.

  45. Especially after the Penguin Update these SEO abilities became much important!

  46. Great post of what it takes to be successful business and in life.

  47. Great post, utterly inspiring!! Goal no.1…… read it all again!!

  48. Great list for any SEO or Entrepreneur. #16 is a golden rule to live by! Thanks for sharing.

  49. not a technical tips but more important than seo technical tips. Right attitude & motivation is the need of hour. Without proper education you can’t climb the ladder of success.

    Great to read your thoughts.

  50. Truly inspiring. From my point of view SEO’s need to like the one who love universe and all leaving being.

    And always in front to make others life easier to live.

  51. Always a treat reading your stuff. Consulting is kind of new for me, I have a lot of things to learn on that area. Pricing is also another hard problem. I look forward to you talking about it, maybe in the future :) Thanks Richard

  52. Inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

  53. This post is the kick in the arse I’ve been needing for quite some time! Thank you for sharing.

  54. Awesome post, inspiring and a lot of information that is very important to new people in this thread.

  55. Thanks God, I’m on the right track. Thanks for posting this article.

  56. I think those points are must for one to be a real SEO. Its just not about using tools, making reports, etc.. its how you use the data to innovate something from it.

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