Disclaimer: SEO is a topic that my colleagues, my company, and I consult on regularly. This is about what our clients have shared from their past experiences with self-proclaimed pros and gurus, and in some cases, what we’ve done to clean up after a “pro” who crafted an all-too-nebulous, secretive, and oft-overpriced SEO engagement. Gurus are great, but don’t sprain your shoulder patting your own back. Let the praise come from someone else.
So here are the frustrations, presented in ascending order to provide some wonderful suspense…
3. Too many SEO pros still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up
You can trace this one back to a time before web design (it was a simpler time back then), but we’ll start there. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the free world was a web designer. In fact, this is still an issue in professional circles for those companies who compete for the “value-driven” consumer. Newsflash – a pirated copy of Adobe’s Creative Suite and some YouTube tutorials don’t make you a web designer any more than landing a fighter jet on the USS Nimitz in Microsoft Flight Simulator makes you a Naval Aviator. But I digress…
Eventually, the glut of army-of-one web designers created such an imbalanced supply, others looked for additional revenue streams. Enter SEO. Hey, he might be able to make your site look pretty, but I can trick Google into thinking you’re #1 (or #2, or even #10, but after #10, you’re pretty much shot).
Already, we’re seeing those ranks dwindle too in search of greener pastures – enter Social Media Consultants – or folks who tweet all freaking day when they should be doing work. Volume (not decibels) surely gives credence to my Guru status, right?
2. It’s all a big secret
Sometimes we don’t care how it works, just so long as it works, right? Well, when it directly impacts your business, that philosophy seems shortsighted, myopic, and altogether dumb. But, so many SEO evangelists want to keep their work shrouded in mystery. I have a client who recently ended an SEO engagement with another firm because they wouldn’t explain how they executed their strategies. Their response to his inquiry was to ask for $6,000 / month, up from $2,000 / month for the same work in two new keywords.
Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Or, pick your own metaphor. In this case, give the client a hammer and some nails and stop worrying that they’ll be a master carpenter. In our experience, two things happen when you empower clients with knowledge. First, they advocate for you, and second, they hire you again and again and again because we all have the same 24 hours in a day and most people just don’t have time.
1. Guaranteed Results
This simple concept is at the epicenter of debate over whether or not SEO magicians are really miracle workers or charlatans. You’ll see this topic bantered about all over social media sites liked LinkedIn, where practitioners spew page after page of client testimonials and results and “proof” that they can deliver results. Please, don’t be fooled. It’s not that excellent results are not possible, it’s that no one (except perhaps Google) is in a position to guarantee them. In baseball, the very best career batters have batting averages hovering around .300, which means they have a career failure rate of about 70%. Imagine even the best hitter guaranteeing a hit each time to the plate – it’s complete lunacy, but people fall for it with SEO. Take that a step further and imagine the same batter guaranteeing a home run each time – certifiably insane. But if you’re an SEO pro, throw caution to the wind and guarantee the #1 spot. Please. What happens when 11 clients come to you and all want to rank #1, or even first page for the same phrase? Social Media Expert anyone?
I believe in SEO. I believe that there are best practices that if followed, consistently, can yield excellent results. I believe that some SEO pros are better than others and consistently perform at a higher level because they work hard and stick to a plan that includes best practice white hat techniques. I believe they are experts at trying new techniques and measuring results. I believe they are experts at expectation management and they do not over-promise, but almost always over-deliver. I believe that anyone who makes the decision to read publicly-available information and then experiment with its concepts can execute successful SEO.
We typically don’t refer to SEO “projects” because “projects” implies a single event. SEO, in our practice, is like a lifestyle vs. diet. When people diet, many fail, and some succeed. After a successful diet, many reverse course. A lifestyle is a fundamental change in the strategy and execution of one’s life on a daily basis, based on an ever-changing world and personal circumstances. Is it not true that your business world changes regularly with new entrants, new products and services, new trends? One and done SEO projects will do to you just that – one and done. Be wary of SEO gurus who exhibit the above frustrations, and good luck. There are so very many good consultants out there too!