All too often, I have new clients share the "strategy" their previous SEO company/consultant had suggested (or worse – implemented) and it's some sort of a package deal. Often, these packages incorporate severely outdated tactics, many of which might have been at least marginally effective in the past, but are toxic today. But that's not the worst part of those packages.
It's sad to hear from the owner of a relatively small but successful site that was generating a few thousand dollars per month until recently, then suddenly, they're considering a couple hundred dollars their norm. Even sadder is having to explain to them that it happened because they made a poor choice – one that was totally avoidable.
I've had many of the emails shared with me by which they were prospected. My own junk folder even picks up one now and then. Here's one I recently received, that's fairly typical:
We are offering S.E.O. services for your website. which will help you to improve your Google, Yahoo, and Msn and other search engine rankings.
Monthly Task and responsibilities: -
- 150 Directory submissions
- 10 Social Bookmarking Submissions
- 10 Article Submissions (1 article x 10 article directories)
- 10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)
- 10 Blog Submissions
- 1 unique, 400 word article written
- 1 unique, 400 word press releases
- 15 One Way back links with mix PR
- Meta tags changes suggestions
- Keyword research
- Competitor Analysis
- Heading tag changes
- Alt tag changes
- Interlinking wherever required.
- Keyword density in site content.
- HTML Site Map
- XML site map and Submission in webmaster tool
Our Best rates for this are: - USD 150 per month per project at beginning of every month.
Please let us know in case you are interested.
Thanks & Regards,
[Name charitably withheld]
Business Development manager
Now, sometime during the last decade, parts of that package would have been effective for most sites. Parts of it are even still effective for most sites. But I think most of us know which of those are outdated, hence, toxic to nearly any site. (I say nearly any site, because there are a few niches which seem to be 100 percent filled with sites practicing such techniques, so it really has no bearing on the SERP placement of any site.)
So let me address these "SEO services" in a very general fashion:
Honestly, the first eight items are, for the most part, crap! For a website, they have the potential of being absolutely disastrous.
Would you assume this person has the ability and the motivation to single out site directories, article directories, blogs, PR sites, and social bookmarking sites that are both safe and effective? For any site? In any niche? (At $150/month, I doubt many would realistically expect a lot of specialized effort on your part.)
At $150, should you also expect that the keyword research and competitor analysis will be performed to a granular level? And that the quality of the press release and article will be of decent quality? Ideally, in comprehensible English?
This spam email demonstrates that he hasn't got a clue which old techniques are now high-risk, low-yield. I tend to judge a book by its cover in such situations. Anyone who markets themselves in such a sloppy and outdated fashion, is not on my short-list of marketing hires.
Why Cookie-Cutter Packages Don't Work
The real point: a cookie-cutter recipe isn't going to work for just any site.
In fact, an argument could be made that no such package is likely to work ideally for more than one or possibly two sites, and even then, only if they're identical in terms of niche, market, quality and a handful of other factors. Oh, and a huge amount of blind luck.
Any reputable SEO, in my opinion, will first look at a site to get at least a snapshot of what areas need attention or can be better developed, before proposing a strategy. If they're willing to quote a price, sight-unseen, I would say that one of three possibilities exist:
- They haven't got a clue what they're doing (which sadly, is often the case).
- They've priced themselves sufficiently high to allow for virtually any contingency.
- They're too stupid to be allowed to play with either a keyboard or sharp instruments.
Ideally, if a client's site seems to need extensive on-page work, I'll be able to talk them into a medium-level audit. That allows me to quantify the hours I expect to have to dedicate to each task. But even without that audit, I'll still do enough checking on my own, to be able to put forward a decent guestimate of what's required, before I begin a statement of work and pricing.
I can't imagine quoting the same fixed dollar amount for the addition of alt attributes to both an eight-page mommy-blog and to Amazon. But selling SEO packages is essentially doing just that. Different market demographics, niches, product type, marketing style, business model and a host of other criteria demand an individualized strategy for every site.
Unfortunately, many site owners look for help with their websites without knowing enough about the sort of help they need to enable them to make informed decisions. They either fall for a scam and take a beating, hopefully learning something valuable in the process, or they do their own due diligence in an effort to avoid a beating.
When they fall for bad SEO packages, the least that'll happen is that they'll waste their money. Often, they'll also suffer long-lasting losses, as they spend months trying to recover from a penalty – the only tangible result of their SEO investment. Another result, nearly as tangible, is the bad taste left in their mouth by what they consider to be SEO.
That, as we all know, reflects poorly on all SEO professionals, not just the asshats. It makes it more difficult for the rest of us to close a deal, gain the trust of our clients and deliver the results we know are possible.
As far as I'm concerned, silence is as bad as condoning. I don't condone idiots taking advantage of clients, so I have no intention of being silent on the topic.
I also don't hold site owners innocent of failing to inform themselves. This is the Internet Age, people! Virtually anything you want to know can be found with a few keystrokes.
If you're not willing to invest the time and thought necessary, you deserve a lot of the blame. You could find some good resources with a quick Google search for "SEO best practices organizations".
I doubt that most people would buy a used car without checking it out first. Or a house, a surgeon's services or a babysitter. Doesn't your livelihood deserve at least as much consideration?
You don't have to become a car mechanic to inform yourself about known service problems, poor performance, or lousy gas mileage. You just need to make the effort to investigate whether what your being offered is typically considered acceptable.
The same is true of selecting a reputable SEO. Do your homework and protect your investment.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!