A lot of SEO companies seem to have a very clearly defined, five step marketing strategy.
1. Sign the client, even if it means over-promising
2. Get the client to sign a non-disclosure agreement
3. Keep the client in the dark
4. Show the client all his #1 rankings for non-competitive search terms
5. Call it a day
Not that this is bad, but I have a few suggestions nonetheles. They are fivefold.
1. Guarantee Something
Today my staff and I talked about SEO companies. One of our Ivy Leagers (we have two, and I’m very proud of the fact), Geoff, asked how SEO companies determine pricing and what they sell. I responded that they usually do not sell anything other than SEO consulting. They make some changes to the pages, they perhaps make some URL’s friendlier, and perhaps add some content. Geoff was shocked by the non-quantitative and intangibility of this business model. When he asked about guarantees, I had to inform him that most SEO’s do not guarantee anything, and they are proud of it.
Well, I don’t like to ruffle anybody’s feathers. After all these years in the field, I have never once offended an SEO and I wouldn’t want to start now. But I have to say, non-guarantee is crap. I recently read one so-called SEO’s site.
In our experience, it is simply not possible to guarantee results.
Huh? What the huh?
People, it is easy to guarantee results. You simply guarantee them. If you don’t deliver, you refund the client’s money. When a so-called SEO says “it is simply not possible to guarantee results“, what they really mean is “it is simply not possible for us to deliver results“. In which case you shouldn’t be doing SEO.
2. Be Honest
I’m not saying you should tell your wife that she needs to lose weight. I’m suggesting that SEO companies should be honest with their clients from the beginning. Anybody who has done SEO at all knows the dirty little secret of the SEO industry, that SEO companies are over-promising and under-delivering. Those big well known SEO companies have ex-clients, and those ex-clients, when shopping for a new SEO, tell their stories. They were promised, but not guaranteed, rankings. They paid $30,000 for SEO, and they got squat.
The SEO company should have been honest from the beginning and told the client, We cannot get you a top five position on Google for web hosting, for $30,000.
Of course that would mean that you don’t get the contract, but hey that’s life. You are better off focusing your resources on contracts that you can honor, and making happy clients. Just because you had your client sign a non-disclosure agreement doesn’t mean that your client isn’t telling his sob story to every other SEO on the Internet.
Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s just good business.
3. Get a large Retainer
Somewhat repeating what I just said, but I’ll say it anyway. Honesty requires that your client is honest with you and you are honest with your client. Some clients cannot afford $20,000 ~ $50,000 in SEO, but they will pretend that they can just to get the work done. Here’s where you should think like an attorney. Attorneys are smart, they get large retainers up front. So should SEO’s.
4. Explain the Timeframe
Most often when I hear complaints about SEO companies, the problem is not ineffective SEO, but the fact that the SEO did not explain the timeframe. I guess SEO’s aren’t explaining the timeframe because they don’t want to scare off customers. They would be wise to put it in H1 tags on every page of their sites: YOU WILL NOT SEE RESULTS IN UNDER A MONTH.
5. Maintain Resources
People seem to think that SEO is best done by one-man shops. I don’t know what possible benefit there could be, but the big SEO companies often get maligned.
I know small SEO companies and I know big ones. I know of no small SEO companies that own hundreds of established high traffic web sites. I do know of a few large SEO companies that own hundreds of established web sites. I know of one that has several thousand sites. Having hundreds of web sites at your disposal comes in handy when it’s time to build links.
A large staff also comes in handy. Think about it. My staff of 14 is small compared to some of the larger SEO firms, but even I can do the math and see the huge savings I’m realizing by having low cost staff – $10 per hour – doing simple tasks that were previously done by staff who earn $20 per hour. Simply stated, I get twice as many links for my money.
Perhaps someday in the near future we can stop bickering amongst ourselves long enough to establish a Better Business Bureau for SEO firms.