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SEO Expert vs SEO Specialist | What is The Difference?

I often get asked the difference between a SEO expert and a SEO specialist. As I am a self proclaimed SEO expert I thought I would explain the difference between the two.

SEO Expert

Also known as a SEO guru, a SEO expert is someone with a lot of working experience in the SEO industry, someone who keeps up with the trends and the movement in the search engine optimisation industry. The expert is the one presenting  a new trend for the SEO specialist to write about. The expert can answer every question presented in the industry and can see it, explain it and implement it.  The search expert usually does not just stick to what is in the box and follow instructions accordingly, rather he takes his box with him to see where best in fits with all the other boxes (this is done by following trends and being active in social media and new ventures).  The SEO expert spends every minute of the day studying the search industry, following key gurus and figures worldwide and most of all watching Google like a hawk for new changes and additions.

The SEO expert does not just talk the talk but can actively deliver the results implied. He tests his strategies until they work. He can lay down a marketing strategy and put the best practices into place.

Job of a SEO expert

  • make the rules
  • research the industry
  • make/follow the SEO trends
  • plan the optimisation strategy
  • stay ahead of the game
  • does a lot of trial and error testing
  • be an active voice in the industry
  • see it, explain it and implement it and show the results
  • analyse the data and turn it into conversions
  • Can plan, test, sell, discuss and implement a strategy.

SEO Specialist

This highly skilled specialist does all the grunt work and most of the time is taking orders from someone else.  Your average SEO specialist has been taught by the book (written by the SEO expert) and dutifully follows the instructions presented to him. The specialist is usually so bogged down with his duties that there is no time to research his industry. The SEO specialist usually does not call the shots on which direction to take but rather implements the strategy handed down by the expert. The search specialist does his job and does it well, in some cases better than the expert, but his scope of work is limited to what he has been taught as well as what field he is working in every day.

Job of a SEO specialist

  • be very good at the grunt work
  • setup and implement a good optimisation strategy (made by the expert)
  • follow instructions and do limited research
  • implement an SEO foundation and show the results
  • make sure the data is installed correctly, look for obvious abnormalities.
  • do all the maintenance and upkeep


Both the expert and the specialist are very valuable, most large search engine optimisation companies have many SEO specialists with only one SEO expert and some have many SEO specialists but need to consult an SEO expert to improve their overall strategy. The experts need the specialists to help with the time consuming work like link building and maintenance, and the specialists need the experts to help with the new trends and help them with direction on new hot ventures.


  1. Robert Bravery August 6, 2010 Reply

    mmm SO which are you then.

    Good post. Keen to know where you came up with these definitions. Looking at a thesaurus Expert, Specialist, Professional are all synonyms of each other.

    Having said that I do agree that there is one who sets the trends know all, and another who has the knowledge but just follows the pack.

  2. Bryan Casson August 6, 2010 Reply

    That's just the problem, there is no conclusive hierarchy in the SEO industry. We need to make one, some SEO individuals are more experienced than others. How do we possibly give our employees a title in the food chain?

  3. AntonRSA August 6, 2010 Reply

    Good article. It is basically the same in the SMM industry. Every person jumps on the band wagon and promote that they are social media experts…really? What is a social media expert?

  4. Robert Bravery August 6, 2010 Reply

    Correct Bryan,

    Is there an actual recognised title? Is there an actual validated certificate?

    Most SEO's optimize mainly for the giant Google. Is this the expert?

    So many questions. I don't think there is anything conclusive.

  5. Werner Wichmann August 12, 2010 Reply

    Hi Bryan

    Good topic here. Currently there are no hierachy, definately not in SA. There are so many guys who just take some random test on a website and then calls themselves an seo expert.

    Currently for us the only way to distinguish ourselves is by providing excellent results.

    Hopefully there will be a name for people who do the grunt work, I would not exactly call somebody who are able to do social bookmarking and article directory posts a seo specialist. Currently I just call them my production line(they basically enter the data I give them). Any ideas on what a Social bookmarker, article poster, page updater etc… would be called?

  6. Mike August 12, 2010 Reply

    Just because you specialize in something, doesn't make you an expert…..'Expert' is often used to title the persons who are proficient in a certain area like SEO industry Or Web Design etc…

    In many cases, the words can be used interchangeably. Normally, one who specializes in a certain field can be expected to have a great deal of expertise

    We often use “Our SEO expertise” or “specialization”, I have seen that SEO Expert and SEO specialist used interchangeably normally….

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