In this tough economy, a maturing SEO Industry is charging ahead by shedding unfavorable labels, pursuing legitimate strategies and most importantly achieving results for their clients.
Presently, the Search Engine Optimization Industry is experiencing a challenging trend: clients have tighter budgets, demand better results, and are increasingly more knowledgeable about the once mystifying practice of SEO. Their expectations are rapidly on the rise.
We, as practitioners and patrons, can look to these old stereotypes and myths to teach us what not to promise, and to keep our Industry on the path to longevity and legitimacy. Following are some examples of how the SEO Industry is moving away from empty promises, and promoting a more realistic expectation to the world.
This one is rather insidious if you stop and think about it. In the pursuit of market share, most SEOs have at one time or another guaranteed their results to clients, like a car manufacturer guarantees the quality of their craftsmanship. But there is one major difference – a car manufacturer actually owns the manufacturing process, and has complete control over the end result, when that car rolls off the line. SEO companies, on the other hand, have absolutely no connection to the Search Engines and their Result Pages (SERPs) and therefore cannot control any specific result for their client. This type of guarantee is a short-term way of thinking – not only does the SEO salesman lose the client eventually when expectations are not met, but he loses his reputation along with them. One only has to look at Toyota or British Petroleum to understand why losing the client’s faith in your product is a destructive PR nightmare.
One of the major obstacles in selling SEO Services has been the inability to accurately show the client what they are paying for. Rather, SEO companies have resorted to the SERPs as the measuring stick for their work – often using the easier to predict and achievable “long-tail” results as their go-to “proof”. This is very similar to the problem just discussed: since SEOs do not control Search Engines themselves, they have absolutely no idea where or when the results of their hard work will specifically show up for the client to “see”. This leads clients down the path of fear and suspicion – a world of “gray” where all they are left to ask is: “Was My SEO Company responsible for that?”
Black Hat SEO Wizardry
A NEW BEGINNING
Our Industry is slowly maturing into a more reputable one, repairing the old perceptions that are even now still more than stereotypes. One of the most important aspects to building long-term client relationships is trust. Trust is earned – through accountability, results, and the perception of risk.
So how do we get there? Let’s take a look:
1. Perception of Risk – this is the easiest one. The SEO Industry, by its own account, has developed a large perception of risk. Many who hire SEO firms already doubt the Industry as a whole, and are merely hoping that “this company” will be different than the rest. With a high perception of risk, the equation is already setup for success. Even the smallest goals will be seen as a “miracle” and rewarded with the client’s trust.
2. Results – all of the techies out there think they already know this one. But delivering results goes far beyond avoiding “Black Hat” and finding the “perfect equation”. Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that results in and of themselves do not guarantee “success” to the client. Part of this mistrust is rooted in the “grayness” of the Industry. Because our sales-minded Industry has often chained success together with the results on the SERPs, often times success on the SERPs lead to more mistrust by the clients. Let me be clearer: if your client cannot connect revenue with higher rankings in the SERPs, you are in trouble. All you have done now is created more doubt in the client’s mind about the validity of your service.
Results must be oriented around profit, not rankings. Goals must be clearly defined for the client, and these goals must be established and agreed upon at the outset of the relationship.
3. Accountability – the hardest of them all. This is the “Achilles Heel” of the SEO Industry. Because in the end, SEO companies simply have no control over Search Engines. And, similar to the problem mentioned before, because these (uncontrollable) Search Engines are used as the benchmark for success, this measure of accountability is downright silly.
What other Industry asks its clients to wait 3-6 months before they see if they got what they paid for? I’m sure you can name a few, and I’d also bet you that they all suffer from the same issues we are discussing here right now.
In order to provide accountability, the Industry must turn to tools that actually measure success in a transparent way. Fortunately, there are many tools out there that are beginning to provide this service. By providing a baseline score before AND after SEO work, the client can clearly see what they paid for.
Focusing in on these key concepts – accountability, results, and the perception of risk – is helping turn the tide of misperception and creating a genuine results-oriented service that just about everyone needs, especially in this economy.
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