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oldschoolI’ve been in the industry for a long time.  I’m talking the days of Inktomi and the Google Dance and back when Yahoo mattered (love Marissa Mayer, not taking a shot at her).  I’ve seen cloaked pages come and go (good riddance), I’ve watched sites taken down by Traffic Equalizer and seen article syndication explode with popularity and then implode once Google put a target on it’s back.  I watched the Content is King versus Links Rule battle.  Did you know that Panda was the Farmer update before it became Panda? For over 15 years I’ve watched the industry change and evolve.  I’ve celebrated and cursed along the way. I remember the first time we sold and created a Facebook page that was gated and the uproar when Facebook changed the sizing and everyone had to scramble to redo their pages.  I’ve pretty much seen it all.  And I wasn’t just watching from the sidelines, I was in there getting my hands dirty.  I’ve seen “experts” and “gurus” come and go.  I’ve watched friends leave the industry and new friends come in (Big shout out to Heather Lloyd Martin and Disa – both of whom were early mentors and friends).  I’ve seen SEO declared dead countless times.  Yet somehow it’s still alive and well.

I guess my point is, having experienced it all from the very beginning, I know SEO intimately.  SEO and I have been friends and enemies over the years.

Through it all I’ve taken the experience and knowledge and continued to create and drive SEO strategy for my clients.  Changing my service offerings and creating custom packages was necessary to ensure that my clients were always getting the best value for their buck and always using current best practices.

Recently I was asked to consult with a potential client about the best SEO package for their needs.  The potential client had been doing his research and talked to many SEO firms and was able to parrot a lot of what he had been told.

confused“Don’t worry about links” from one company, and “Links still matter” from another.  Then “forget organic SEO, your only chance at the first page is paid ads”  Next he heard “don’t forget about social media, you need to be on all the social platforms” followed by “Only Facebook matters”.  His head was spinning and he wanted to know what to believe.

Honestly, it’s tough for business owners to wade through the muddy waters of SEO.  With no regulating body for the industry and countless strategies in play, it’s hard to know who is right and who to trust.

I say down with this particular potential client and we went through his goals and questions and we went over each statement he had been told and I was able to point him to my personal results and experience to back up my answers, strategies and tactics.

See, there are so many different approaches.  And in many cases, there isn’t even one “right” way to do things.  But if a person/company can show documented results for their strategy and it is not blatantly against Google’s guidelines, then I think it’s reasonable for the client to trust in that company.  It’s all about backing up your claims and being able to talk intelligently on a level the potential client can understand.  That’s how you earn the trust and business of a potential client.

He felt reassured and like he had a better grasp of where he wanted to go.  So we continued talking.  Once I understood the structure of his site, his current positioning and how traffic/leads and revenue goals, I was able to get a feel for what I felt he needed for SEO and Social Media.  It was then that he thanked me and asked when I would be able to write up the proposal and get it to him. I realize that is where most people stop but that is one of my biggest complaints about the industry.   Collectively, most companies stop there – a few steps short of where they should.  I asked him to hang in there with me a bit longer while I explained…

art_scienceI’ve always maintained that SEO is both an art and a science.  When SEO first became a thing, it was more of a science – it was a techie job.  There was no care or concern for the user experience and the traffic actually converting.  It was all about getting the rankings.  As things evolved, the content improved as the engines cracked down on keyword stuffing.  Now that marketing matters and Google tracks metrics that show user satisfaction, people are more aware of the need for the artsy creative side of things, that innovative marketing touch that is needed to keep visitors on the site and converting.

But in all honesty, I am not seeing what I feel is enough attention paid to the bottom line.  Not enough testing and conversion optimization.

Firms, for the most part, are stopping short of really helping clients if they aren’t reviewing and optimizing and learning from the data that is available.

start-to-finishSo my rant today, aside from being a little self indulgent, is also a call to my colleagues. Let’s step up our game and start focusing on the bottom line for our clients.  Let’s see the process through from traffic generation to lead acquisition through the funnel and to the sale.  Hell, let’s even talk to our clients about email marketing and social media to create customer loyalty and get referrals and repeat business.  Let’s review their brand and make sure there is a strong and compelling brand to promote before we sell an SEO package.  Let’s start at the beginning and take each step with our client, effecting real and lasting change on their business.  Who is with me?!