Price Points, Customer Quality, Content and the Buying Cycle

Now I know people say you should always be nice, but I sometimes screw that up. Most potential business relationship offers are garbage and the guy who accepts every offer he gets is lucky, born rich, and/or likely eventually homeless.

It takes a dumb business person to try to help everyone who contacts them because if you develop any real brand value many more people will want you to help them than you possible can help. Couple that with the easy of communication and the anonymity of the web and it gets easy to feel a bit shitty if you don't do things to filter out the noise and scamsters (and yet I still get astrology websites claiming to be legitimate charities).

Recently I had one person contact me about 5 times a day asking questions like where is the Overture suggest tool. Stuff that would easily pop on the first page in Google if they used the exact same queries as they instant messaged me with. I explained to them that search is there for a reason and my time was limited, but my explanation was to no avail.

Had I not progressively ignored them and gave continuously shorter answers to encourage reading or searching I would have probably got about 50 questions a day from them. Eventually things were not going to do well.

They asked me questions which to me seemed to show they did not even attempt to read my book. In essence they said they bought my ebook, but I think what they wanted was a full time SEO tutor for a one time $79 fee. Sure I answered a bunch of questions but then after a while I told them I couldn't answer any more because it was not an honest or functional business model for me to continue to do so.

$79 is a bunch to pay for an ebook that you don't read, but $79 is not enough for a real time long term ongoing one on one internet business strategy consultation. People create autoresponder lists and write books and build software to leverage their time because individuals only scale so far.

I think the person who contacted me is probably a good person, but I think that even attempting to make myself widely available on IM is probably not a great idea as it makes it too easy to chat away instead of spending time learning.

I have spent a bunch building free tools to help people leverage their time. Some people are not going to appreciate you do no matter what you do or how hard you try though. Likely their expectations are unreasonable, selfish, or (most likely) they do not place much value on their own time and project their valuations on your time.

You still can learn something from clients who frustrate you and site visitors who seem like they don't have a clue. I am not sure if I will launch it anytime soon, but I think there is a good business model to be made by running an SEO Q&A service for a fee. If I did that it would solve multiple problems:

  1. If I placed a tangible value on each answer people would value my time more.

  2. I still could answer free questions if I wanted to, but would not have to worry about people viewing me as arrogant if I chose not to.
  3. Much of the content on this site is not geared toward picking up newbie targeted traffic from search engines because I can't keep hitting the same questions and ideas over and over as I learn more and the industry changes. Most potential customers are early on in the learning cycle, and this blog started after I had already learned for about a year, and that was a couple years ago. By having a feed of nothing but high quality answers to common newbie questions that content would rank great for many queries and likely convert at around 2 to 5% depending on search query and page layout.
Published: December 21, 2005 by Aaron Wall in marketing


December 22, 2005 - 4:09pm


Your proposed SEO Q&A service would be a problematic business model. 3 reasons I can see off the bat:

1. People would ask quite complicated questions that would require a ton of work for you to answer.

2. Yet, despite #1, people would think that their questions were really simple and think that you are overcharging them.

3. People at that stage of learning may not ask the right question or may give you incorrect information upon which you base your answers. So, your answers may not actually be helpful even though you've done a good job.

Also, I think you'd be opening up yourself to multiple liability concerns - "I followed Aaron's advice and my site didn't rank well - he should have to compensate me for the millions of dollars of sales I lost."

Just my 2 cents.

December 27, 2005 - 5:55pm

I think there is merit to the fee-per-question business model, but I do agree with Mike, I know I could come up with some nice questions for you. ;) Maybe you can outsource the answers to India, lol.

I also gotta agree with you about your comment about being available on IM. I had to remove my IM contact info from a number of places, my Sitepoint profile for example, because I continually was getting the strangest questions.

December 28, 2005 - 6:58pm

Hi Aaron,
I too agree with Mike and Peter - while the SEO Q & A is a reasonable idea, people do have jaded perceptions of value. Some will understand just how complicated something is to do (mainly because they attempted to do it first), but a majority will view it as "really simple for someone with your skill and knowledge" (I actually stopped counting the # of times I've heard that line).

Yes, the questions do add up, and the ones you decide to answer should be chosen wisely.

As for IM - I only sign on at specific times for a set amount of time. While I understand your desire to be accessible, I'd recommend using the ghost function (i.e. invisible to everyone except friends and trusted contacts) and allow people to get in touch with you via email or your contact form. That way, you can answer at your leisure.

Just my opinion anyway :)

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