The Mystery of SEO; What Are You Really Paying For?

Dec 5, 2011   //   by Anthony Kirlew   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  8 Comments

Recently I spoke with a partner in an insurance agency about his needs for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services. It was a referral, which is how I prefer to do business, because I never want anyone to think I am just trying to sell them something. We had a brief chat and he shared that he was paying $500 every month for SEO and that he wasn’t happy with the results. I asked him what exactly the SEO company was doing for the $500 per month, knowing that for an insurance agency in his city that really wasn’t a reasonable budget to see success.  He said “they do SEO stuff” at which point, I realized we had another victim. A victim of the smoke and mirrors often associated with SEO, where the company doesn’t really tell you what they do for you.

I told him flat out, “if you don’t know what the company is doing for you AND it’s not working, you would be foolish to keep paying.” He asked me what I would charge and I told him I couldn’t tell him until I did an analysis and took a look at everything. The funny part was that he seemed to have a problem paying for something tangible (an analysis which would be followed by a road map) yet he seemed ok to pay someone and not get any results.

Let me take the mystery out of SEO; there are a handful of factors that make up good SEO, but for the most part it’s about good site architecture with good content that has good links to it. The architecture part is fairly straightforward; use static pages with WordPress CMS being a preferred platform.  Good content means that it is unique (not stolen), reads well (not stuffed with keywords), optimized (it has a theme and does target specific keywords), and the pages are of reasonable length. That leave us with the link building aspect which is where you find out who really knows there stuff. Links can come from a variety of sources including web directories, social media sites, blogs, trusted industry websites, press sites, and the list goes on.

Now that you know what is involved, the real question is “what do you need to move your website from where it is to where you want it?” And I assume that it is ranking in the top 3 positions of Google for your keywords. The only way to know what you specifically need is to do some checking, otherwise known as an SEO Analysis.  Some items will be glaringly obvious, but others should involve some analysis to see what types of links the site has, what kind of rankings the sites has, where the site is already listed, and the list goes on.

I met a local web designer who impressed me because he said he would not do any work for a company unless they allowed him to do an SEO analysis. I’d say that’s pretty impressive coming from a web designer; it says they have a holistic understanding of their craft and don’t just see it as “making a pretty digital brochure” which no one is likely to find.

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Anthony Kirlew

Anthony Kirlew is a veteran of the Internet Marketing field and the Founder of AKA Internet Marketing, a full service Digital Media Agency that offers a generous SEO Partner Program. Additionally, Anthony is a noted blogger, author, speaker and trainer on topics relating to Internet Marketing & Social Media Marketing.

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  • David

    Anthony, on the whole I agree with your approach. However, I will take issue with the web designer who rejects any client not interested in an SEO analysis. The vast majority of websites will never rank well for any search phrase worth speaking of. There are simply too many more websites than their are available search phrases, and too many websites that are already very strong in most of those search markets. And as much as it might seem contrarian for an SEO specialist to be saying this, there are so many moire awesome ways to find a website than through search engine rankings. Radio ads. Print ads. Sponsoring YouTube or offline video, pay-per-click ads , guest blogging…and so many more. Many B2B websites have a very small niche clientele that can be best reached through trade shows and trade publications. Thinking the world revolves around SEO is the myopic miscalculation fostered usually by SEO specialists; how unfortunate that a web designer has also been infected.

  • I too agree with Anthony’s overall approach and as a “serial” victim of companies who’ve identified what they think is needed then simply not delivered, I can personally attest to the amazing number of charletans you can come across. You need to not only have someone tell you up front that: (1) it will require some analysis/review of your site to determine what is and isn’t working; (2) that there is a matrix of related factors which must be addressed in concert to make things better; and (3) that there is no instantaneous solution. SEO is just like all the other important aspects of your business. You need to give it enough focused attention to know when you need help and then make sure that “help” is addressing the problem you hire them for in ways that are identifiable and, most importantly, measurable.

  • Daniel

    Charging people for a job that you don’t perform is right out scamming them. It’s only normal to do your job well and satisfy your customer.
    However I do think David is making a valid point. Informing your client of other problems with his product, even though you weren’t assigned for this, is good etiquette but turning them down for not wanting to take those advices is just plain bad business.
    Some people simply don’t want SEO analysis and just want a nice design. Refusing to work with them will only drive them to your competition.
    The only major advantage I see here is that those clients that do accept him will be very satisfied and will most likely recommend him to others as a guy that “knows his stuff”.

  • @ David – I should have pointed out that in this case, it just means he wants them to have a road map for the site. He just doesn’t want to build a site for someone and leave them with the false hope that left alone it will all of a sudden get traffic. I had this conversation with a prospect recently, who said “I really need a new site…I’ve got one that no one can find.” In the end, he learned that the new site would have the same problem unless he actually did something to drive traffic to it and he is on board for an SEM campaign now.

    @ Oelando – Thanks for sharing and I am sorry about your past experiences. I am bit on education, and as you mentioned business owners need to figure out what is within their ability (for example most people can blog) and what is not and then make steps towards progress. Having a roadmap is key so they know what they should be considering along the way.

    @ Daniel – In this world we live in, documentation is everything. I had this discussion with another colleague yesterday at to whether or not we should have clients that “just want a web created” sign a disclaimer saying they understood that they were responsible for marketing their own website. We were kidding, but there is some truth to it. We live in a blame society where so many want to point a finger instead of taking ownership and finding solutions. As far as losing business to competitors because of how someone wants to do business, one would have to be in a place where they know their ideal client and don’t want or need anything outside of that model client. If that model works for someone, I won’t knock it.

  • I totally agree with everything you said in this article, especially “I’d say that’s pretty impressive coming from a web designer; it says they have a holistic understanding of their craft and don’t just see it as “making a pretty digital brochure” which no one is likely to find.” You’re right having a good looking website is not enough to succeed. SEO is one of the key to success.

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  • Matt Clarke

    If only all web designers had that attitude! I agree that all sites should be built with SEO in mind as there are so many things that can go wrong if this is not done correctly. Many small business owners trust designers to create a site that is perfect in every way, but the unfortunate truth is that many designers make the front end site look good and cut corners on making it SEO ready. This is why WordPress is a great tool for small business websites, as the owners can easily use plugins and simple changes to improve their SEO.

  • Jamy Hoster

    SEO is not about the link building its all about the presentation that you present to a search engine according to the algorithm and the legal way quality of a site in every matter like design and content with the keywords as you have mentioned in your blog as there are are many people who must know that before starting an optimization of a site you must paper your site like search engine wants.