How Can You Show Potential SEO Clients That You’re Trustworthy?

Concept image of building trustSearch engine optimization (SEO) is not unlike a lot of businesses. When it’s “hot”, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.

How many people wanted to build the next Google, Facebook, or [insert company name here]?

Same for SEO.

One of the chief reasons why I have written so many columns on SEO, and involved myself with speaking/moderating at conferences and even teaching SEO is to try and show some “thought leadership”, and differentiate my company from those that send out cringe-worthy emails boasting their prowess and guaranteeing “top 10 Google rankings, overnight!”

Still, though, it seems like a good percentage of people laying claim to “doing SEO” really don’t. And, because their rates are typically very favorable (read: “cheap”), a lot of business owners are inclined to give them a shot. Then, months later, they realize that not much is happening/changing and they walk away – thinking to themselves, SEO doesn’t work…I tried it.

That’s a damn shame.

Ex-Googler Andre Weyher, who worked on Google’s webspam team with Matt Cutts, was recently interviewed by Jayson DeMers and asked about the “biggest misconceptions or myths that he had seen about ‘bad links’ and link profile penalties in the SEO community." His response:

I think I could write a book about this topic! SEO is an unprotected title and anyone can call him or herself one. The result of this is that there are almost as many opinions as there are SEOs. Some of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen out there include; “directories are altogether bad” or “anything that is below a certain PR is considered spammy by Google”, I see a lot of people panicking and cutting off the head to cure the headache due to lack of knowledge.

Damn skippy. That’s the truth.

Whether it’s the IT guy who says “I can handle the SEO”, or the web design firm who claims to “build in” SEO with their websites or the marketing person who says “I can write a title tag”, the vast majority of “SEO advice” that people are getting is coming from folks who don’t – in my opinion – “really” do this.

OK, yes, sometimes all a website needs is some decent title tags and clean/good URL structure to make things better. However, to truly “optimize” (meaning “make it as good as it can be”), I firmly believe that the smart move is to engage someone who really does this for a living.

Would the web designer really know what good link building is, in today’s environment (or how to do it)? Would the IT guy know how to conduct meaningful keyword research or a competitive analysis, much less understand how to properly construct an information architecture or best utilize social channels towards SEO goals? Or website quality?

Still, though, the industry still has a bit of a reputation management issue. And, to be fair and completely honest, my company had a bad review on Yelp (happy to share this story with anyone who wants to discuss) and this one bad review cost me – at least – one prospective opportunity.

All it takes is one bad review for folks to say “NEXT!”, because they are completely gun shy about selecting a firm that won’t work out. We have many other (positive) reviews, but they were filtered (Yelp first time reviewers’ reviews can be filtered).

Typically, I don’t spend a lot of time on our own company’s SEO efforts, but after knowing that I had lost an opportunity, I felt compelled to do something about it.

The same person who had told me that they weren’t going to consider us because of our Yelp Review also told me “you’re not an accredited business with the BBB”. That sealed our fate, apparently. So we took the following steps:

  1. Became accredited with the BBB.
  2. Found a Yelp power user who was a client and asked if they’d mind writing an honest review. (We have two reviews as of this writing.) 
  3. Posted a video interview with a long-time client on YouTube and optimized the title to include our company name plus the word "review". (If you do this, consider including it on an optimized testimonials page on your website.)

Now, I can’t say that any of the above has proven any attributable ROI to date (we just uploaded the video to YouTube in late October), but I have taken some additional steps to try and provide some additional peace of mind to those who may be considering our company and showing that we are worthy of trust.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.