Why Selling SEO Services is Typically a Bad Business Model

22 comments

John Andrews recently wrote an article about how consumer ignorance and carnival barkers lead to a market that is a self fulfilling prophecy:

There is so much so-called SEO out there, mostly outdated, baseless, or downright wrong, that the accessible information is more wrong than right. A Google or Yahoo! search on SEO topics is ridiculous, for many reasons. Often accurate SEO information is considered trade secret by knowledge consultants, and thus is not very accessible. What appears in front of the inquisitive SEO consumer is mostly junk. This puts the prospective SEO client at a distinct disadvantage, and provides an opportunity for the contract-seeking “snake oil SEO salesman” to close a deal at a good profit, often without realistic accountability or other consumer safeguards in place. But, as the 2001 Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof showed in his famous paper “A Market for Lemons”, asymmetrical information does much more than that. It actual can destroy the market for true, quality SEO.

Add to the above the following

  • introduction to SEO via spam emails or cold calls from providers who know nothing about the concept of search
  • spammy link exchange emails
  • low quality sites ranking because they are old and links flowed easier in the past
  • a rapidly changing marketplace
  • hosts that scam their customers for an extra $30 a year selling fake submission services
  • search engines that sell ads to the scam services and talk down the value of the high end services

Their is no reason to be surprised at how bad the service selling market is for many SEOs.

Comments

Am I the only one that

Am I the only one that thinks it's about time to distance ourselves from the SEO albatross around our necks? Maybe it's time to consider traffic generation, conversions optimization, usability expert, marketing dude, etc and let THOSE guys have SEO.

think CarFax.

think CarFax.

Seems like an opportunity

With so much snake oil and scamming there's lots of mistrust. A recurring theme on the phone with people is "such and such ripped me off for $x amount and did nothing.." etc. Websites need SEO, there's tons of demand and that's why it's saturated with low quality suppliers. The market niche (or a niche) is to position your SEO services as trustworthy, accountable, with open communication, integrity and a proven track record. It's more important than ever to have stellar word of mouth in your favor.

Because SEO means

different things to different people, it's easy for people to sell to the perception as opposed to the reality.

Adam Audette said "It's more

Adam Audette said
"It's more important than ever to have stellar word of mouth in your favor."

I could not agree with you more. It amazes me how many SEO companies spend a small fortune on text links and advertising. If you conduct business in an ethical manner and produce great results there is more business out there than one knows what to do with. The best clients are by referrals and word-of-mouth.

I actually warn people that if an SEO is giving you a hard sell, then that is a very serious warning sign.

Just my opinion...

Well

SEO sounds better than Search Engine Spammer.

That's what I think most successful/good SEOs are....

...except perhaps those who work for a blue chip company who have such a nice domain to work with they don't need to spam.

>>they don't need to spam

They usually don't need much skill either with thousands of quality back links and more coming every day. All you would need to worry about was managing content and not shooting yourself in the foot.

I've done a rebrand

I work in a big company as the 'seo guy' but now its clear that SEO is only a small part of the picture and importantly I'm lobbying everyone that messing with meta tags is not the way forward.

So now I'm the 'natural search guy' - its more ambigious and gives me more scope for talking up online PR and dealing with the likes of digg and so on.

Ref the pond life spamming to get traditional seo business... you often get this kind of thing as the market gets tighter.

But saying that - im amazed how many sites whicih are created for promotional purposes, dont factor in search engines - a core element in the promotional mix.

Black Hat SEO's have convinced the market

It is important to note that most black hat spammers are typically in this industry for a very short period of time. The most effective optimization we have seen these days are based completely around white hat SEO, and of course a few techniques that have not been examined that may be considered less than quality.

Along with this note you may notice that most long term SEO's (5+ years) are gone, and only a handful remain. This is a key indication of being able to move forward.

Cheers

Aaron Shear

Most long term SEOs...

most long term SEO's (5+ years) are gone

They're not gone, they've just realized its more fun to blog about SEO than to actually do it. ;)

black hat spammers have gone...oh come on

The good black hat spammers are far from gone, they just adapted. The model they used worked then, now they are working a different model.

I think you will find that the many of the long term seo people are very much alive, they just don't appear so much in public any more. There are private forums with only seo's who have been around for 5 years.

DougS

I think you will find that

I think you will find that the many of the long term seo people are very much alive

Yep a fair old few in TW alone. Also many of the agency/company SEO's tend to prefer a more low key public profile. Considering how many have moved into that area in recent years, that could be another reason you don't see so many about.

ROFL

>>It is important to note that most black hat spammers are typically in this industry for a very short period of time.

Had a good laugh at that one.

Quote: It is important to

Quote:
It is important to note that most black hat spammers are typically in this industry for a very short period of time. The most effective optimization we have seen these days are based completely around white hat SEO, and of course a few techniques that have not been examined that may be considered less than quality....Along with this note you may notice that most long term SEO's (5+ years) are gone, and only a handful remain. This is a key indication of being able to move forward.

Surely you are joking. Right?

It could have been a typo

and he meant ass hat instead of black hat, seeing as how he started at SEO Inc.

SEO this, SEO that, where is SEO going..? Blah Blah Blah

I agree with you seobook it is pretty scary was doing some searches a couple days ago looking at some strong SEO supposedly companies in Google, I mean wow the services they are offering it almost still looks like the services I was seeing on SEO web sites in 2003.
Yeah the basics to SEO are needed, titles, description etc etc etc... But personally I dont think these so called SEO firms are covering about 70% of really what is needed in doing proper SEO on a site. People that know the basics to SEO are like dime a dozen and I mean basics. Keep your heads up, this is the beginning to the so called SEO industry.

Quote: It is important to

Quote:
It is important to note that most black hat spammers are typically in this industry for a very short period of time. The most effective optimization we have seen these days are based completely around white hat SEO,

You're buying beer for the wrong people.

By short do you mean...

...less than 8-9 years? If so I need to beep some people and let them know their time is up and that they need to move along.

;)

Granted many blackhatters I know have expanded their operations to include white hat & other online marketing techniques...if that's what you were getting at - you betcha.

Not Gone

Just working smarter.

Crap....

What’s all this blackhat/whitehat crap?
Most of the top flight SEO's that I know of do a bit of both dependent on what you actually want. They’re skilled operatives and adapt to the market and to the individual needs of their clients and they are still most definitely around after years of playing the field and switching horses many times. Needs must when the devil drives.

The future of SEO

I see the future of SEO as incredibly bright.

The key is in John's opening paragraph..
"I seek to understand my markets. If I can understand what the market is doing, I can position myself and my clients profitably. "

This is what SEO is morphing into..marketing.., and the clients won't stop banging your door down if you're doing it right.

And here's why. Google is accelerating it, chuckle.

First I was amazed when I read in the OMMA mag a while back (www.mediapost.com) that they estimated the total number of adwords advertisers to be only 200K. That's an astoundingly small number. Heck there's an estimated 47.5 million Internet users in the US alone.

If you look at the number you have to think to yourself wow that means that there are just a few big whales on board that are keeping the whole Google empire alive. So what are the rest of the website owners doing? Can anyone say cost effective and high converting SEO?

Now let's add another ripple into the pond. Scoble says in his blog Google is going to curtail the number of adwords listings to generate more clicks (probably for their whales) http://tinyurl.com/2whwdc

OK so now Google has completely given up on high conversion longtail keyword phrases in PPC because it eats up too much space and only delivers 1 click a year. Fabulous!

My market just grew astronomically!

And you know what the real kicker is? Those one or two adwords listings left to the whales are all going to be low converting generic terms that will only pay out when a conversion occurs (CPA)...which ain't going to happen (if you believe past history)..ROFLMAO. Google is shooting themselves in the foot and pushing all the business over to the SEOs.

Ahh...these are glorious times we live in.

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