Marketing SEO Services to Human vs Machine

Apr 24th

I don't really sell SEO services because they are time consuming and I am bad at pricing them.

Today I chatted with one of my friends about marketing their SEO firm. Many SEO firms spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars renting links each month, but otherwise remain somewhat anonymous.

Small Sale Steps:
With advertising they may rank great and get in front of a target audience, but after the audience finds the site it might make sense if there is an added step between finding a site and buy services. If you sell quality services they are usually going to cost a good sum of money. It is a huge leap of faith for a person to sign on from finding you in the search results.
Research Notorious Salesmen:
This added step could further sell the client on you and prequalify them to meet what you are looking for in a client. I pretended I was interested in signing up for Cory Rudl's mentorship program because I wanted to see how they sold it.

There are lots of issues that make the mentorship program not appealing to me, but do you know how they did the sales calls?

Prequalify:
They were not sold to me as sales pitches. They were sold as interviews to see if I was qualified for the program.

The whole time they were reminding me that they only wanted success stories. They were not willing to take me on unless I was serious. My first interview was to prequalify me for a second interview. The second interviewer normally is not available for a week or two, but surprise surprise they just happened to be available 15 minutes after my first interview was over. Why? They wanted to convert what they thought was a hot lead.

Remove Doubt:
They reminded me the for common things that held people back:

  • time - a reminder that it takes time to see results and people should not be willing to give up quickly. Also a reminder that I would need to invest many hours of time into the program to see successful results. I would need to have time set aside.

  • money - they reminded me that I could take out loans, but that usually credit cards made it easier to get started right away. As a new unproven business is easier to get credit from credit card company than to apply for a loan.
  • knowledge - That is what the mentorship was supposed to provide me.
  • fear - It is an uncertain world. Some people fear success. Some people fear failure. By making the mentorship program seem overtly logical by addressing the above concerns they wanted to reinforce that I was making a good choice and there was no reason for fear.

Of course when I backed off when it came time to enter my credit card details they became even more aggressive in the hard sales pitch techniques. I said I had to talk to a friend and they said that I should respect my own thoughts and opinions. They said that I should put my own future and my business in my own hands. I agreed with them and that is why I told them to let me think about it for a while.

People buying SEO services likely share some of the concerns as people buying a marketing mentorship program. There are also a few others, but some of the most common questions might be easily packagable as downloadable PDF. To prospects sometimes the format of information can matter as much or more than the actual contents of the container.

Things that are under $100 (and especially things that are under $50) can be an impulse buy. The right kind of SEO client is typically not the kind who is doing impulse buying.

Anonymity Problems:
The web makes it easy to research about a person or business, but most of the time the people turn up as anonymous. Most websites have some degree of fraud to them.

Competitive Research:
Most internet marketing techniques are fairly transparent.

  • Look at competing sites. How do they market on their sites.

  • Look at competign backlinks. How do they market via links.
  • Use Alexa. If you can afford it collect more data via HitWise.
  • Create seed sites in various industries. Have an auto insurance site that you market on AdWords or Overture.
  • Ask questions to friendly competitors.
  • Call or have a friend call other competitors as a prospective lead.
  • Ask for proposal documents.

Doing some of those might help show you where others are doing well, and then again the might do well in spite of, not because some of the action. Then maybe there are additional things you could do that most firms are not.

Being Human:
Some things firms could do to bridge the credibility gap beyond what algorithms say:

  • Write a bunch of articles and publish them on various sites.

  • Get interviewed by others.
  • Give away something.
  • Act your size. A large corporate account might bring in a ton of money, but they may suck up most your resources and have a ton of red tape.
  • Do not be afraid to put a personality into what you do.
  • Look for clients with common interests. Maybe there is some pent up demand in the local area?
  • Lots of other ideas. My friend came up with a great one, but I don't want to share it because its his idea. Hopefully he gives it a shot. :)

[disclaimer: I might be out to lunch here, but the intent of the post is to help...]

Cheap Hosting Ads?

Not sure if many host companies are advertising for common errors at other hosts which their hosting packages support, but I would be willing to bet DOMXML hosting and DOM XML hosting and other similar derivative keywords are cheap ads - at least they looked it a few minutes ago.

Probably not a ton of traffic, but well targeted leads.

Just an idea for those stuck in that hyper competitive market. Not saying that I think people should sell hosting on the cheap, just that there might be some unsold inventory.

BTW, I have not got much feedback about Hub Finder yet. Apparently the host where it was hosted stopped supporting it.

Fatal error: Call to undefined function: domxml_open_mem

There is another copy here and here, and you can place the source code on your site if you want (change index.txt to index.php). Do you like it, or think it sucks, or...?

Assorted Links...

Why did Adobe Buy MacroMedia?
all the reasons. no spin.

Algorithms & Patents & Spam, oh My:
Yahoo!'s Concept Network & SuperUnits

Is NickW for Blog Spam?
certainly not, when its done sloppily to one of his blogs ;)

The Wrong Tail:
people are starting to use The Long Tail without purpose. better get that book printed quick.

Yahoo! Buys TeRespondo.com:
a good post from Nacho.

New Blog:
O'Reilly Radar

New Browser:
Opera 8 Launched

Media Futures:
Media Futures, Part 1/5: AUTOMATA

Internet Advertising:
A decade in Online Advertising (PDF) - report by DoubleClick, who may get bought out soon. found on Lee's blog

Wanna Park?
viral marketing at its best: I Park Like an Idiot

Paul Graham on PR, Compares it to SEO

Apr 22nd

Paul Graham on PR

PR is the news equivalent of search engine optimization: instead of buying ads, which readers ignore, you get yourself inserted directly into the stories.

many ThreadWatch comments on SEO & PR. Most people do not like to feel deceived, but most do not realize how much the world is ran on deception.

I am a bit naive much of the time. I view it as a blessing to manipulate information systems for a living. It helps you take things with a grain of salt.

Seth & the Real Cost of Sleeze Marketing

Apr 22nd

I have read Seth Godin's blog consistantly for the past year. I also believe I have read every book that he has wrote in the 5 years. I even went to his office one day to hang out. In the past he has made some comments about SEO which were a bit off mark, but in the end I agree that for most people SEO is not going to be a long term business model. If you really know your stuff well you might be able to get by just doing SEO, but for some people that will eventually get old. Technology will continue to advance. SEO can enhance distribution but if SEO and selling stuff cheap are your longterm brand strategy you could be making more money creating legitimate value for a growing social network which may eventually market your products for you.

Seth is a smart marketer and knows that on the web it is virtually impossible to give away too many good ideas. Stuntdubl just spent a day in Seth's office, and from his post and an IM chat he said it was great.

A few things you really learn when you visit hyper successful people who are still down to Earth:

  • You don't need a suit to do well.

  • Hard work does pay off.
  • More than you realized you probably share a lot in common with that successful person.
  • Being successful does not have to change who you are.
  • Many of the people who are successful in your field may be more successful primarily based on past experience or time in the field.
  • It is more lucrative being yourself then acting a part.

How does this relate to SEO?

1.) SEO Software:

I recently read a book which recommended a decent SEO tool and appoligized for mentioning it due to sleeze sales copy.

I recently tried another SEO tool, which has recurring monthly fees. The tips newsletter immediately offered me a special deal not promoted on the site - some Cory Rudl affiliate links. I even replied to the person to tell them that I thought it was sleeze.

If you are charging me a healthy recurring subscription on a low cost system do you need to sleeze upsell me? Is an extra $4 a month worth me not wanting to recommend your software? Worse yet, the how to manual for the SEO tool had three pages reminding readers how they can become rich reselling the software. Gross.

[disclaimer: within my sites I market my ebook heavily, but as time passes my sales letter will probably become more and more soft sell. My end goal is to be able to have no need to have a sales letter, but that might still be a bit down the road. ]

2.) Consulting & Services:

As a consultant or person working in a related field the best position to be in is to have more leads than you can possibly use. That way you get to chose what hours you work, set your prices, pick your clients, etc.

By not being a hard seller you miss out on some sales, but it also helps to build trust if you don't immediately go for a hard sell. Taking time to review things and build a relationship you are less likely to waste effort trying to sell to a person who is not interested in buying.

I think Jill Whalen has worked rather hard at developing a soft sell system which lets her pick and chose who she wants to work with.

3.) business meetings:

When I go to SES or related conferences many people are like "do you have a business card?", and I never do.

In that situation I look stupid, confident, or both. If you want to remember me that is great, if not I don't want to be another card in the stack.

Sure you want to build relationships over time, but if you give a few hundred people your card you might get a couple leads out of it. I have a huge stack of business cards and know few of the people.

As long as you appoligize for any mistakes you make or any inconvenience you cause someone they will probably think better of you than if everything just went smoothly off the start.

The added effort to get or give someones data without convenient little cards makes it more personal. If you want to remember me I probably do not need a card.

If you don't have cards and chose to meet a few people really well you might be better off as you will likely stick out a bit more than the average card in the stack.

[disclaimer 2: I might be full of crap, but these are my opinions, and I am sharing them. Please let me know what you think of them in the comments below]

What is SEO Worth? How do You Price SEO Services?

Apr 18th

NFFC asks. should be a thread worth watching if you are a new SEO firm or are looking to hire an SEO.

Self Publishing, Writing Articles, When is it worth Optimizing?

Transparent Business Model:
About.com overlapping ads. Ads actually cover the words in the articles. How annoying. And worthless.

The average surfer is not going to be able to read that article. The average webmaster is not going to link to that content. Who the hell is that article for?

Self Publishing:

Gmail Feeds?
Evehead noticed a feed in his Gmail.

Google Hype:
Google founders only take $1 in pay this year.

No Mamma NO!!!
Copernick says no to being purchased by Mamma.com due to government probes. Mamma.com has become a day trading favorite and is currently out of season on prettymuch all ends.

Ranking a New Site in Google?
can suck.

Not Worth Optimizing:
another article talking about why it is not worth performing SEO services for many people.
also covered here here and here

As a person who gets many inqueries I see many many many prospective clients want $100,000 of results on a $300 spend. If that opportunity was worth doing it would be just as easy to become an affiliate of a competing site, spend $1,000 to throw up your own site, and make $5,000 a month on the same work without needing to deal with clients.

Marketing SEO Services:
Many SEOs who sell SEO services remain somewhat faceless on the web, which is a huge mistake IMHO. I have yet to find a single type of marketing which worked as fast at driving SEO sales as writing and syndicating an article can.

The trick to doing well is to simply be a good salesmen on the phone and ensure your audience is more ignorant than you are. While Stuntdubl thinks it is a solid article, he also points out that DG shows the other side of the coin.

The main portion of my current business model banks on the fact that the misleading confusion of various outdated or incorrect articles, blog post, and / or forum posts will lead some people to want to buy an up to date linear guide about SEO and related topics.

If you do sell SEO services I can't stress enough how well writing articles works. The more you learn about SEO the more you see that many of the branded experts are only experts because they have a strong brand. Articles are a cheap way to building brand. Many businesses outside of SEO could use this technique far more often as well.

Automated Content:
becomes academic. hehehe

Audio:
The Architecture of Participation

Google AdWords Launches Budget Optimizer

What's the Google Budget Optimizer(TM) tool?

The Google Budget Optimizerâ„¢ campaign management tool automatically adjusts your keyword Max CPCs on your behalf. All you need to do is set a target budget, and the Budget Optimizer will actively seek out the most clicks possible within that budget.

The Budget Optimizer helps you reach your target spend every month without requiring a lot of work on your part. You can save time, eliminate the guesswork related to setting your CPCs, and enhance your return on investment.

(Please note that the goal of the Budget Optimizer is simply to help you receive the highest number of clicks possible within your budget. The Budget Optimizer will not help you achieve a specific ad position.)

They certainly are going out of their way to make the ads as "self serve" as they possibly can. I do not manage many AdWords campaigns so I probably am not the best person to test this out, but it would be interesting to hear what effect this tool actually has on ROI.

With how far off Google is with day to day search volume / ad clickthrough suggestions it is interesting that they think people will trust a system which automatically adjusts bids for them based on a metric other than ROI. Of course some marketers do not want to share ROI data with Google.

I also believe that if a campaign is self funding there is no reason to put an arbitrary budget cap on it. Buy as many ads as you profitably can.

I am guessing that if you enable this feature you will want to enable it in ad groups where the keyword max CPCs and lead values are similar.

Mikkel spoke out against the use of budgeting tools recently (as older ones overspent on CPC), so it will be interesting to see if this one actually delivers on its claims.

A while back Danny Sullivan said search engines want to sell traffic on a per lead basis more than a per term basis, and clearly this is a step in that direction.

Blog & SEO Business Models: Hosting Content Spam

SEOs Are Scum:
For a long time many bloggers have stated that SEOs are scum, as said best by Anil Dash.

I've always had a pretty low opinion of the Search Engine Optimization industry. Though there are of course legitimate experts in the field, it seems chock full of people who are barely above spammers, and they taint the image of the whole group.

Content Spam:
Blog comment spam is one common type that bloggers know all too well, but creating tons of rubbish content is another type of spam.

HotNacho hires writers to write low quality articles for $3 each. The articles, being of low quality, have little value by themselves. However, if you can get an authoritative site to host the articles you can make a ton of money from advertising.

Affordable Quality Hosting:
WordPress - an open sourced blog software make which is part of the anti spam brigade - hosted over 100,000 HotNacho spam pages, linking to them from the home page using a negative div.

Hmm... manipulating search results for personal gain by posting complete crap to a hidden section on your site.

What makes that action more ethical / better than actions of the average SEO?

Is this the type of openness we should expect from open source software? Where is the transparency? hehehe.

Google Funds Web Pollution, Again:
Google is funding that web pollution with their AdSense program.

If the stuff is bad enough that it needs kicked out of Google's index then how were they displaying ads on over 100,000 pages on that site without noticing the problem. Why are the ads still there?

I think this is the real story that everyone is missing. Google's AdSense quality control is a complete joke.

Advertisers and content publishers should be disappointed in Google's lousy policing of their AdSense program. Much web pollution would not exist if Google did not lucratively fund it.

The WordPress moto has never been more true:
Code is poetry!!!

Happy Easter, Ads, & Gluttony

Happy Easter all.

I just got back from eating way too much food :(

While digesting it...

I thought about looking up how to spell gluttony and noticed that Google only shows two ads for the proper spelling and no ads for glutony.

Overture only appears to have one ad.

Does this term have any value to various dieting products or services? Maybe. Maybe not.

Kinda weird to see the fact that almost nobody is currently testing the market though, eh?

The No S Diet is advertising on Google AdWords and looks cool.

Its kinda funny that the site does not have much of a business model since thier advice is free and

Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain "the solicitation of funds and do not display tax-exempt status".

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