Not too long ago I had a client that said to me, “John, if things don’t pick up quick, then I’m afraid I’ll have to consider shutting down my business”
I wish I was kidding, but that’s exactly what got said.
Needless to say, I was pretty dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. I mean, here is this client, that has been in business for 35 years, telling me – someone that he has only known for 4 weeks – that it’s my responsibility to save his business.
I’m not even kidding.
You might think that hearing something like this is pretty rare, but I swear, I’ve heard them all.
- “My site has been penalised by Google, if you can’t help me fix it, I’m going to lose everything, please help”
- “I may have to sell my house, because I’m not getting any traffic from Google”
- “My wife is threatening to leave me because my business isn’t making any money. I need this SEO stuff to work, and FAST!”
As you can see, this is where the dynamics of the relationship change completely. No longer is this about SEO. Instead, it’s about me saving their marriage, their home, their business and sanity.
Now there’s something I want to point out here, and that is – almost every time I hear either a client or a prospect make a comment like this – it makes me feel completely and utterly horrible. In one sense, I really feel for them, because let’s face it – nobody wants to be in that position, but on the other hand it makes me feel totally responsible for their financial well being – and that really isn’t fair.
It’s also not my responsibility as an SEO consultant to be held completely accountable for the success or failure of their business.
Why I decided to write this post
This post might seem a little negative, but that’s not my intention here, or why I chose to publish it. My objective here is to provide some help and guidance for business owners considering SEO, as a quick “way out” in order to save their businesses, because that is really dangerous, and it puts an enormous amount of pressure on everyone involved.
Ensuring a good fit
Whenever I get a call here from a potential client at Works Media, I always ask a number of set questions, such as …
- How long have you been in business?
- How many staff do you have?
- Do you have an allocated marketing budget?
- What’s a lead worth to you?
- What is the site generating now, per month?
…and so on.
These are all questions we ask in order to determine as to whether or not the client is a “good fit”.
It makes no sense to be taking clients onboard at $2,000 per month, if they’re already struggling financially, or they’re wanting to sell $5 pens (that means you really gotta sell a lot of pens, or have a huge back end offer in place) That simply creates too much stress on the campaign and doesn’t help anybody.
Instead, we’re looking for –
- Businesses that are stable
- Businesses that are established
- Businesses that have allocated marketing budgets,
- …and most importantly of all, businesses that we know we can help generate positive returns for.
Ensuring a good fit helps both parties and reduces the likelihood of a client getting stressed or having to “bail out” mid way through a campaign.
SEO consultants don’t wear capes
Here’s something that I hear all the time over the phone…“Do you think you can get us to first page for all of our keywords within 3 months?”
The answer is always the same….”it depends”.
- It depends on the level of competition in your market
- It depends on the chosen keywords
- It depends on your intended investment
- It depends on the performance of your website
It depends, it depends, it depends!
I do not know Google’s algorithm, nor am I in the business of telling business owners what they’d like to hear in order to sell them with bullshit promises.
I know straight away when business owners ask this that they’re either –
- Scared to lose money
- Afraid to make the wrong decision, or
- They have limited funds or time
Or worse, all of these things combined.
As unfortunate as it might seem, a great deal of business owners go about hiring SEO consultants because they are looking to be saved. Regardless of how good any SEO consultant or agency might claim to be, if your business is already struggling, or you’re looking for overnight success, then chances are it’s going to end in tears.
No-one is going to burst through your door wearing a cape and be able to turn it around in a matter of weeks. Online marketing and SEO just doesn’t work that way.
Get your head straight
As a business owner, before you start throwing money at SEO and hoping that it might save your business overnight, it’s super important that your approach and mindset is right.
Below are a few considerations that should help you better prepare yourself and prevent stress levels from getting too high.
Have realistic expectations
I published an article some time ago, where I spoke about the dreaded SEO expectations gap. This is essentially when a prospect signs up, and expects everything to simply “fall into place” without any issues or delays, within a matter of two to three months. This can be really frustrating, especially when you know the client intends to pull out, or cancel after just 3 months. It just makes running the campaign very difficult, because there’s usually a lot of tasks that can take a number of weeks to organise – such as outreach etc.
Take the time to get a better understanding of exactly what’s involved and what you’re trying to achieve, before getting started, and map out a realistic and attainable strategy. I would also recommend chatting with an agency or a consultant to get a bit of an insight into how much competition you might be faced with, or what type of investment might be required in advance. Essentially, you’ll want to position yourself for a long term approach, where your efforts can be measured.
Avoid the whole “If this ain’t working after 6 weeks, we’ll cancel”, because you’ll just end up going in circles, month after month, running between different agencies, and over time becoming more and more frustrated, losing a lot of money in the process.
Have supplemental marketing strategies
If you’ve read any of my articles here on SEO Point, then you’ll know how important it is to diversify your traffic sources, so that you’re not entirely dependent upon just Google. This is where having supplemental marketing strategies to that of SEO is a smart move.
I spoke to a client recently and they asked, “Why would we bother doing a podcast John, no one cares about that stuff”. I replied, “Because a podcast will help you build an audience, it will help you get traffic, it will help you get links, it will help your site rank better, it will get sales, leads and conversions“.
They waved their hands in the air, dismissing it completely.
Do other stuff!
I work with a number of clients that tie in a lot of other forms of marketing as well as SEO, such as –
- Newspaper advertising
- Radio advertising
All things that I encourage business owners to do.
Know your limitations
It’s not my responsibility to tell business owners what they can or can’t do as part of their marketing efforts, but I have to say, it can get pretty worrying when things start spiraling out of control. This might be a business owner that’s managing their own Adwords account that blows out way over budget, or paying for super expensive video marketing, or throwing money hand over fist at SEO. Sure, if it’s working, and they’re getting a positive return on investment, then do it – but in a few cases that I’ve seen, some business owners become completely lost in it all, and get carried away with everything, and the whole thing becomes one massive (and stressful) expense.
Know your limitations. Know exactly what you’re willing to do, but more importantly what might not be possible just yet. Work within those limitations, work hard to improve, ensure a positive approach, listen to the experts, continually test and measure. Most importantly of all, don’t let things get out of control.
Most definitely one of the most important considerations – patience!
I just recently sat with a client who would go about calling me almost 3 or 4 times a day, asking “John, we’re are we up to?”, or “How much longer will this take?”, or “A friend said that we could speed things up if we did XYZ”. Whenever I work with clients like this, I do whatever I can in order to sit with them and explain the whole process. Often times, the client just needs reassurance that they’re in good hands – that they’re confident they’ve made the right decision in hiring us, and the continual worry and urgency really has nothing to do with patience but moreso it’s about uncertainty.
Whenever we take on new clients, we provide them with both an expectations document and a monthly action plan. These documents help the client get a better understanding of our processes and it also helps them better frame the overall scope of the campaign. Once business owners feel comfortable that they’re in good hands (and they know what’s going on) we’ve found they’re much more relaxed and less likely to feel “rushed”.
For business owners, be patient and think long term, but don’t let things drag on without seeing results.
Avoid hopping around between numerous agencies
Every now and then I get a client that has worked with several other agencies before coming to me. This makes helping the client extremely difficult, especially if the site has been slammed with low quality links and other nonsense. It also makes it hard to track exactly what has been done, by whom, when and why. There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out why a site tanked in the search results, when a client tells you that 12 different people have been working on it over the last 2 months.
Spend the time to ask around for good, solid referrals BEFORE you hire an agency. You’re much better off spending 3 months trying to find the right agency, then wasting 3 months pulling your hair out with the wrong ones. What business owners need to realise is that it can make the process more expensive for them if they hire knuckle heads at $99 a month to ruin their site with garbage – because the reputable firms then need to spend time fixing up the mess. Take your time during the hiring process and hire based upon solid referrals.
Think long term
I said these exact words to a client recently, and she looked at me and screwed her face up…I said, “SEO is only ever going to be short term. Building an audience is long term”.
This is the harsh reality of SEO. Sure getting to the first page in Google is nice, but what is that going to mean in a year? In 2 years? 5 years? Chances are, as more business owners come into the same space, that competition is going to increase, they’ll be more people throwing money at SEO, and everyone will be scrambling to fight over the top of each other to get first page rankings. And guess what’s going to happen if you’ve done nothing during that time? That’s right, you’ll be back on page 25 of Google, sitting there at your desk saying …”Man, all that money we spent 5 years ago was a complete waste of time”.
DIVERSIFY YOUR TRAFFIC SOURCES. Start a podcast, start shooting videos, start publishing content, generate an email list – DO SOMETHING, but most importantly of all – build an audience and think long term.
Don’t do SEO
That’s right, don’t do SEO. Forget about it. Do something else.
I had a discussion recently on Flying Solo with a business owner that said, “We can only afford $300 a month for SEO, will this be enough?” and my reply was simply …”Put your money back in your pocket or invest it elsewhere”. I always say, cheap SEO is always more expensive – and at $300 per month, God knows what they’re likely to get, but it won’t be pretty.
If you’re a small business owner, and you don’t have the funds to do SEO, then don’t do it. Invest yourself into other forms of either online marketing or offline. Even if your site isn’t perfectly optimised, for the time being, it’s not the end of the world. Work hard in other areas, until you can invest towards hiring a reputable online marketing firm that will propel your business forward.
Remember, search engine traffic is only one way to get traffic.
I guess if I could summarize my point, it would be that business owners shouldn’t be rushing into SEO hoping that it will save their business from disaster in one weekend. Chances are, if your business is struggling online, then SEO may only be a small part of the problem. Have a long term strategy in place, follow the instructions and advice of your marketing agency, consider any costs an investment, and be proactive – not reactive.