Framing Your SEO Firm

Jul 27th
posted in

Framing is when you use language to set the agenda.

Framing is short for "frame of reference", meaning "a set of ideas, conditions, or assumptions that determine how something will be approached, perceived, or understood".

This is a very important concept in marketing, and business in general. By using an appropriate frame of reference, you can manage how people perceive you.

Seo Is Spam?

For example, "SEO Is Spam" is a frame. It defines the terms of the debate ie. SEO is either spam or not spam. Would we frame the couriers this way? Couriers are spammers? Why do the terms "SEO" and "spam" necessarily go together?

They don't. That's a deliberate construct.

SEO is spam/not spam is an attempt to frame SEO as undesirable by associating SEO with a pre-existing pejorative term. That frame came from the search engines, and it has stuck with the industry since the days of Infoseek.

Who is ranked as the #1 ethical SEO company in the world?

Some SEOs have contributed, too, of course, but it has served the search engines well. No matter what side of that debate SEOs take, they have already lost. They've been forced to argue within a negative framework.

Getting The Frame Wrong

My personal view if that if you start by framing your SEO service solely in terms of ethics, you're probably losing business.

It's a red-flag.

Potential clients would undoubtedly see such a frame in terms of "where there is smoke, there is fire". Would you trust a car dealer who, upon meeting you, launched into a long explanation of why car dealers have a bad reputation, but he's not like the other dealers, no sir? Why even bring it up? I'd think that he was trying too hard, and really all I'm interested in is buying a car.

Sell me on that instead.

It's the same with potential SEO customers. What are they really looking for? Once you've answered this question, then you can begin to work on your frame.

How To Construct Beneficial Frames

Politicians use frames all the time.

For example, Al Gore framed the environmental issue as “man made global warming.” Bush re-framed it as “climate change.” Those different frames imply different things. One implies "we can do something about an impending disaster by changing our habits", the other frames man in a passive role, because climate change is a natural occurrence.

Both those frames supported the underlying political message.

Same goes with business.

Marketers know that the way a statement is framed influences how customers respond to it. Tell a group of base jumpers that 1% of all base jumpers die horrible deaths, and you'll get few people signing up. However, tell them that 99% live, and it sounds a whole lot more appealing.

A friend of mine told about how he handled an irate customer by carefully framing his response in terms of options. The customer hadn't received his goods - although they had been sent out - and was quite angry about it. My friend listened to the problem, and rather than debate about shipping delays, the offensive language of the customer, and other factors, he replied "I hear you. You'll get one of two things - a complete refund, or a replacement package sent overnight delivery. I just need to find out which option you want".

The customer, given a limited frame, calmed down, opted for the replacement package, and later published an article in, using this story as a great example of customer service. He also became a repeat customer. Using options can be a great way to frame, although care must be taken to present options that are meaningful. Trying to force people to take options they don't actually want, won't work.

SEOBook isn't framed in terms of individuality, ethics, or morality. It is framed as a community-based SEO training site that will help you learn, rank and dominate. There are also mentions of exclusivity, and frequent explanations of value. This is what customers want, and Aaron frames the service in terms of these needs.

So when you're pitching your goods or services, think carefully about the frame of reference.

Make it positive. Make sure it resonates i.e it touches on attributes the customer actually wants. If the customer perceives widespread dodgy practices, then it is a good idea to address them, but be reluctant about framing your service in such a way to everyone. No good comes from starting on the back-foot.

A good way to frame an SEO business is to talk about solving problems and providing benefits i.e. lack of traffic/more traffic, lack of business/more business, lack of exposure/more exposure etc.

Let this flow through into the language you use. And the language you avoid.

Published: July 27, 2009

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Comments

July 28, 2009 - 12:58am

Potential clients would undoubtedly see such a frame in terms of "where there is smoke, there is fire". Would you trust a car dealer who, upon meeting you, launched into a long explanation of why car dealers have a bad reputation, but he's not like the other dealers, no sir? Why even bring it up? I'd think that he was trying too hard, and really all I'm interested in is buying a car.

any time i've attended media training, they refer to this as "defending against an accusation that has not been made."

it's one of the most surefire ways to make yourself seem potentially guilty of exactly what you're defending yourself against:

"Hi, my name's Tom. I'm a used car salesman, and I have *never* been convicted of fraud."

whoops.

July 28, 2009 - 9:04am

My goal is to tell people what I'm going to do. When people call me up I tell them everything I'm going to do. I bill by the hour. I tell them how much they are paying for each hour and what I'm doing with those hours. If somebody calls me from my website I convert them most the time with my honesty. Very few SEO firms do this. I'm also very blunt about what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to spend a lot of time writing meta tags or h1 tags. The main thing is I'm going to make sure Google can find and crawl the site then make sure they have proper use of the title tag and then I'm going to work on links. I tell them how I'm going to get those links. I always tell people there is no secret to SEO it is just hard work and they can hire my company to do that for them so they can use their time running their business.

July 28, 2009 - 6:24pm

A lot of potential customers want to believe that there is some big secret because it justifies them being able to outsource it, justifies their own lack of research in that outsourcing, and makes them think that they are going to see millions in return (even if they are so cheap that they could only afford scammy service providers).

The honest person partnering up with an honest person is the best way to build value, but most prospective customers don't seem to want to approach it that way. Luckily many of the good ones do. :)

July 28, 2009 - 1:02pm

I think most customers don't really care about how they get more traffic and better rankings, as long they get it! Their only real fear is that they probably have to pay a price that is too high, means getting their site banned from the search engines. I think that's the real reason why people search for "ethical" SEO.

Gunter

July 28, 2009 - 6:27pm

Spot on Gunter. When we did some Fortune 500 consulting some of the clients wanted to do stuff that was far spammier than we would have suggested doing (given the associated risk to reward ratio).

July 29, 2009 - 3:58am

It's the same with potential SEO customers. What are they really looking for? Once you've answered this question, then you can begin to work on your frame.

I find that a pretty decent number of my potential clients are looking for someone who won't do anything risky to their site and who'll educate them and advise them against anything that could be dangerous.

As it happens, the only place on my site where the word "ethical" appears is in a testimonial from a client. I'm sure I'm nowhere to be found in the results for the [ethical SEO company] search.

I don't really think my strategy is more ethical than that of any SEO who's completely honest with their clients, no matter what level of risk they may approach, but I do think the idea of long-term, non-risky SEO is a perfectly valid model to market my services.

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