The Bad SEO Rep Thing
SEO as an industry has for a long time now suffered with a terrible rep. The web is littered with case after case of burnt individuals recounting stories of being mislead at best and defrauded at worst – An examination of a lot of these tales will often reveal a well trodden path of company promised one thing whilst delivering another, usually in the form of not very much at all, or in extreme cases a nice page 6 ranking penalty from the Google monster.
Top 10 is it then Len?
I think it’s interesting that this happens, despite the wealth of info out there. Google even publishes a guide to SEO, which for the DIY brigade, is a good little reference point. Yet the reality is that whatever way you dice it, there’s only ever really 10 organic spots to be had and unless you’re above the fold, you might as well not be there.
Sure, there’s Local, Universal and Social and all that blah blah blah but let’s face it, if you aren’t ranking at positions 1 to 5 in a clean non obfuscated SERP then…need I state the obvious?
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Now of course, there are many reputable SEO practitioners and agencies out there – damn good ones in fact, who when asked to deliver come up with the goods or are honest enough to be clear and transparent setting realistic expectations and deliverables. The flipside is, that there are also a good number who are at best mediocre and at worst chuffing rubbish. No, I’m not going to name names, that would be silly and harmful to my bank balance, and to be completely truthful I don’t really know any SEO Cocks other than the few who occassionly follow me on Twitter promising wealth beyond my wildest dreams.
I do think it’s worth touching upon how such people get to proliferate ( low barriers to entry, lots of disinformation, lack of a recognised point of Industry authority, uninformed buyers, greed, unrealistic expectations of product etc ).
Everybody Wants to Rule the World, especially Business People
People with businesses in a particular niche quite often want to rule their little worlds. The mindset of most business people is one of make money, be profitable, grow, expand. The internet of course, is one such vehicle that offers an apparenteasy road to riches; who amongst you never heard of someone making money online? How many blogs out there are full of accounts that showed company X increasing its bottom line by a 1000% or more!?
So the ground is ripe for virtually every business person out there, be they large Corp or SME to naturally want to grab a slice of that pie. We marketers are not short of an idea or two and will happily provide them with the rationale to succeed – we’ll put together fancy presentations with projections and volumes and trends and numbers and pound note signs, yet how many of us are completely and utterly frank?
Sure, you’ll all say, not me guv, we offer utter transparency in all of our dealings and would never ever lead anyone up the garden path. Well, ok , so sure, no one in their right mind is going to publicly come out and say ” Yep, we delude prospects, it’s a good way of getting sales” because…well, that would be very silly indeed.
I do get around though, and I do talk to people, and I do hear stories that make me think hmmn, yep, I get that and I understand why it happens.
People Need Their Jobs and Often Do As They Are Told
Example: sales person in company X needs to hit targets. Get’s assigned a vertical, let’s just say it’s the finance vertical. He or she has a long list of prospects, leads etc sourced from email lists, or conference events attended by marketing bods or directors looking to get a hook in this SEO thing and make their company money.
Sales guy calls a lead up, its in the ‘Loans’ vertical let’s call it “Freds Exorbitant Loan Company’, the dialogue might go a little like this.
Sales guy: Hi I hear you are interested in our SEO services
Loans guy: Yes, very much so, we want to rank for loans in Google
Sales guy: You do huh, I think we can help you with that, it is very competitive though and might take some time and a considerable investment
Loans guy: Sure, we understand that, but can you get us to page one for loans
Sales guy: Sales patter, sales patter, anything to get the sale…
And on it goes.
Buyer Beware Do Your Homework
The reality is, that to compete or rank in the loans vertical for a run of the mill small time loan broker/money lender is just not realistic. It’s an industry full of big time players running into the 100’s of thousands who throw millions daily at PPC and organic, employing teams of people working on their rankings day in day out. ‘Freds Exorbitant Loan Company’ is very unlikely to have a USP, he won’t be a money supermarket, or a big bank, or radical new way of lending or anything else other than a tuppence ha’penny lead selling robbing bastard, yet greedy sales guy will often tell him what he wants to hear.
Does sales guy say:
‘look mate, don’t bother with SEO, you aren’t going to rank for loans in month of happy Sundays, go spend your money on PPC unless that is, you want to invest a million quid in a radical idea that will create buzz in the marketplace and with TV and newspaper ads will help put you on the map’
If he does PPC he might, but that isn’t what Loans guy wants to hear. He wants to believe he can get there and in some cases he’ll be helped to solidify that idea in his mind. he isn’t told that there are only a max of maybe 6 positions worth having and that in the game of catchup he is very very far behind. No, he is told what he wants to hear because the guy wants to make the sale.
The Tip Of an Iceberg?
Ok, so I picked an extreme – but the principle holds true – the sales guy wants to convert, the marketing guy wants to believe that the SEO can deliver.
They both have a job to do. They all have someone somewhere who they need to bullshit. Marketing guy can’t really say to uninformed CEO of shitty offline company bringing nothing new to the party:
“Boss, our product is shit we need to do it better, we aren’t Barclays Bank or Moneysupermarket“
He should, but he’s often caught up in a wealth of other company politics that prevents him from doing so.
Sales guy conversely, might not really get what he does and won’t have the balls to say to his marketing director or CEO :
“Boss, why the effers are we even attempting to service these SME’s who don’t have a hats hoot in hells chance of ranking for their desired keywords, we are just taking their money and deluding them”
I’d imagine that there are 1000’s of examples like this, where companies/individuals have been lead to believe in one thing, whilst getting another. Net effect is disgruntlement, suspicion and another poke in the eye for the SEO industry.
Get realistic, get Transparent
Transparency is the answer. Yet in reality, it is clearly a difficult path for some to tread in a global marketplace of others who will say anything to get the sale . Buyers need to get savvy and ask the probing questions. If the company says it can get them there, then get it to put its money where its mouth is. Offer revenue shares, allow the promoting company to share in what it delivers. If the company believes in what it is saying, then it shouldn’t really baulk at the idea, if it does then…time to look at a different pricing model or just wake up to the fact that it might take a whole lot longer than any 12 month contract suggests.
Maybe the Industry needs to agree to a benchmark of standards that say – if you want to rank for X whilst being the size of Y and only established for Z then you haven’t got a chance in hell.
Yet to say so, would be to consign to defeat the very notion that is clearly alive and well on the web, the view that anyone with a good idea, who is fleet of foot, adaptive, entrepreneurial, adds value etc can succeed and win against the odds, and there’ll always be someone who believes in that.