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As someone working in an agency setting for the last 5 years, I’ve heard this question at least a hundred times. Why do we get this question so often?  It goes back to the principle that people who have good service with someone will tell a few people but if you have bad service you will tell far more. When it comes to online marketing, there are far more ‘fly by night’ companies trying to make a quick buck than there are quality service providers. Plan Left is a full service ad agency, our website shows that info with relative ease, yet we still get calls from these same groups that are calling thousands of other companies across the country and they are promising to make us rank #1 for a few hundred dollars….

There are so many things wrong with that proposition, as I know what is feasible with certain budgets and understand that the terms that we would want to target are not attainable in a few weeks by simply throwing money at them. That said, not everyone is in the know when it comes to online marketing and SEO. People are generally pretty trusting, especially in areas that they are not experts.  This leads to many people signing on with these companies and ultimately being unsatisfied and feeling scammed. These people then tell their network that SEO or online marketing is a scam/snake oil/BS/etc and the circle of life continues.

A quality marketer can easily turn the scenario around if the company that was burnt in the past is willing to listen, but a lot of times these conversations will never occur due to that company not wanting to take that risk again. Explaining to the company the finer points of how the process works, showing examples of work, highlighting potential gains that could be made and giving an idea of what a timeline would look like and the work that would be done is the best way (in my experience) to ease their troubled mind.

So is that it? Not exactly. Finding someone who has burnt by these “SEO gurus” (one of my most hated terms to describe someone) is relatively easy, getting them to consider using these services again is another struggle. Once a company is willing to discuss their options, there is one more hurdle to overcome; pricing.

One of the remnants of the fallout from the company originally being scammed is the price. Hopefully the potential client feels comfortable in your level of competency to meet their needs. They now realize that what you are providing to them is a completely different service than the black hat scammer that wanted $250 to make their company rank #1 on “coca cola.”

In many cases though, the price point is still radioactive from the original fallout and has to be addressed heavily.  Why? Well, even though the scam was $250 it was nowhere near the price of continuously adding/expanding content, onsite optimization, marketing the content, etc,etc. The company needs to realize that the level of service is far different than that of the scammer and this process is something that is ongoing, not a one off.

At this same time it is also important to deal with the other negative seed planted by the spam company, “ranking #1 on _________.”  Is it possible to help someone move up rankings? Absolutely. Is it possible to know certain terms that would drive traffic that a top position is attainable in? Of course. Is it possible to meet every keyword the client wants to rank for? Probably not.  The key to confronting this issue is to appropriately throttle the clients expectations.  SEO is not magic, it is not a panacea to a company’s poor rankings. In SEO based meetings, I give realistic expectations and timelines but ultimately explain that they will be moving up rank on various terms and overall driving much more quality traffic but that this is not a “100% guarantee” business.

The last remaining relic from being burnt in the past is the idea that #1 rankings are the most important and thus the only measure of success in online marketing efforts directed at SEO. That is certainly a goal of mine, I love #1 positions as much as the next online marketer, but my overall goal is to the better my clients overall.  #1 positions help boost traffic and are great to have but a “rising tide raises all boats.”  I want the website to do well overall and realize that efforts may be best spent on other areas than attempting to usurp a yelp or wikipedia listing to get that #1 spot.

Be honest and open about your goals for the client. Giving realistic goals and throttling expectations is the best way to ensure that all the hard work and gains made are appreciated by the client and that they are getting value in the service.

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