SEO Lemons

Dec 28th

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SEO Market for Lemons.

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Thanks to John Andrews for highlighting the above industry trend.

Published: December 28, 2011

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Comments

December 28, 2011 - 9:58am

It seems your answer is to have an in-house seo person that goes through the seobook training. I think this is a great solutions.... but what about working with an independent seo company where the clients still work with the owners fo the site directly. Like [ad removed]. I offer very high quality solutions that will server clients in the long term.

December 28, 2011 - 11:15am

I had to remove your advertising link. If you mentioned your site name without a direct link it wouldn't have felt too overly promotional & people can still find your site's URL from your profile if they click on your name.

I didn't say that people are required to join our site or that it is the only solution to SEO. There are tons of ways to learn SEO & the best way to skin that cat is with testing.

I think setting up test sites of various size & quality & promotional strategies is the best way to learn SEO, but our site/community is mainly a tool for helping to speed up the learning cycle & highlight any known gotchas within a particular strategy.

I do agree with you that working directly with a smaller firm is typically better than working with a larger firm. Of the larger firms that I am aware of the only one I would recommend is We Build Pages / Internet Marketing Ninjas...Jim scaled the business as a side effect of just loving his craft & wanting to help a lot of people. I don't know of any other SEO firm with that size that is that focused on the success of their customers.

The hard part with finding a great SEO to work with directly is that it is hard for a person to tell quality from b/s unless they know a bit about the topic (it is the same way that it is hard to hire a great programmer unless you already know a bit about programming).

The more reassuring the sales material is the more likely there is small print that hoses the customer.

Back when I first started doing client work I way under-priced because I didn't fully appreciate the value of SEO (even after the client made thousands in profits in the first month of working with him for under $200. ;)

He was actually a persistent customer...I sort of refused being hired until he pushed me into it. But I think the only reason he was willing to hire me was because he was foreign & didn't realize how bad my writing was back then! I was the king of passive verbs & made boatloads of other errors.

It is very hard to find the people who are great at SEO but still price it at an accessible rate. Those that are under-priced quickly get swamped and then become inaccessible. My first client passed me around like a community bicycle. And my second client kept wanting to spend more to grow & build more sites.

I would love to help a lot of small businesses out with SEO (and we do have many of them in our community), but it is very hard to provide full service SEO for small businesses in a way that backs out unless one undervalues their time or gets equity in the businesses.

I guess my big question to you would be: how would you assess the quality of services of smaller firms? Is there a way to create a feedback mechanism which would incentivize sharing positive feedback that normally isn't shared? (Everyone wants their complaint to be heard, but nobody wants to share the keys to their success publicly unless they think they are hard to replicate).

The other thing is, if for a lot of people the pricing model of client services doesn't work out well then eventually a lot of folks who were some of the top service providers will eventually move away from client services & mainly create their own sites. I noticed from your profile that you already have over a dozen websites.

January 5, 2012 - 6:50am

Clients want fast result, they wanted to see their website within one week on the first page of Google.

We try to teach them that this is not the one night stand case, we need to build image as authority, providing valuable contents and building links from various sources.

January 5, 2012 - 1:27pm

...they either have inadequate budget, want instant results, or both ... and while claiming low risk.

One guy in real estate recently recently contacted me with a monthly budget that would have been less than the mortgage payment on a single condo in his target market...and he didn't want to target just 1 market, but he wanted that budget spread across a half-dozen markets!

A few back and forth messages later and the guy went from knowing nothing to suddenly knowing a good amount (allegedly). He also went from being all on his own to mentioning how he had help in the 3rd world & so on. So basically the guy repeatedly lied & misrepresented himself. The dirtball then wanted a free in-depth research report done to determine how much budget he should be spending.

"GIVE ME FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

If I were newer to the field, a bit more ignorant of costs and/or desperate for work then any sort of relationship with that person would have been an abject failure.

He might end up feeling he got scammed by whatever SEO there is dumb enough to work with him, but most people expecting a 10,000 to 1 ROI are generally not going to find quality people to work with as the smartest folks will avoid working with them.

December 28, 2011 - 7:28pm

You have a very keen understanding of the client services dilemma :) I think the best way to assess the quality of an seo firm is by their proven results and testimonials. You are right that many customers dont' want to give away their seo service provider, but testimonials are still possible (especially if a link is given in the testimonial). I often agree to not take on a direct competitor of the client when they provide feedback, or let me display some of their first page rankings.

You are also correct that client services can be a pain in the but. Most disappointing is that the business model is not scaleable. The more clients I take on, the more employees I need to manage.

I'm sure you have thought about offering a complete seo management software system? Like Raven, or one of the other providers. I know you offer a set of tools in your program... but why have you not built a software and reporting product? I've been thinking about this myself... and wonder what has held you back, as your skill set is perfect to develop a competing seo software tool. Is it finding solid programmers?

December 28, 2011 - 9:38pm

I think the best way to assess the quality of an seo firm is by their proven results and testimonials.

This is part of the problem though...the people pushing fake testimonials are often far more convincing than those using real testimonials. Also it can be hard to judge results (how competitive is keyword x, how long have they ranked well for it, etc.) if you are new to SEO.

I often agree to not take on a direct competitor of the client when they provide feedback, or let me display some of their first page rankings.

So unless they pay you extra (through the increased risk of having their stuff highlighted) you are willing to work for direct competitors in the same market targeting the same keywords?

Most disappointing is that the business model is not scaleable.

Indeed. Nowhere near as scalable as affiliate or AdSense or making your own products.

I'm sure you have thought about offering a complete seo management software system? Like Raven, or one of the other providers. I know you offer a set of tools in your program... but why have you not built a software and reporting product? I've been thinking about this myself... and wonder what has held you back, as your skill set is perfect to develop a competing seo software tool. Is it finding solid programmers?

We mainly wanted to focus on lightweight browser extensions. We have a great programmer, but I didn't want to build to the point where we needed 5 or 10 programmers just to keep the lights on. This site also is not ran as a profit-maximizing business...it is almost rank more like a hobby of a topic of interest & I haven't pushed growing it hard because I like its current size.

The 3 or 4 big reasons we haven't pushed too hard on building a ton of tightly integrated onsite tools (beyond the loads of them we already offer) are

  • our tools using decentralization gets over some scaling issues with scraping (I believe Raven outsources rank checking via Authority Labs)
  • anything we do with tools that is innovative & marketed aggressively will invariably be cloned by competing sites with more employees
  • to some degree (though it is sorta passing now) the fear that Google could swoop in and offer more tools if they wanted to smoke the business models of any high cost structure tool providers
  • not wanting to create a huge company that has to grow and grow just to survive
December 29, 2011 - 12:25pm

[quote]Back when I first started doing client work I way under-priced because I didn't fully appreciate the value of SEO (even after the client made thousands in profits in the first month of working with him for under $200. ;)[/quote]
You always were a bit self-deprecating Aaron!

December 30, 2011 - 6:21am

I've given alot of thought to your responses. I do hear you. I think you are a master of running scaleable businesses. I do enjoy your product reviews... even though they are affiliate driven, they are very comprehensive and honest.
I've never been the biggest fan of Adsense as a long term business model.

I believe Raven has 20 employees now... doubled from last year. A lot of employees to run in my book... but I do like how they pull in api data from third parties for their data.

I've just never been satisfied with any of the seo software out there (including raven). I subscribe to 4 separate services to compile the data I want. And it is always lacking in how they compile and present the data. You have to export the data into excel, or another database, to manipulate properly.

Hopefully the software out there continues to get better.

Thank your for providing your feedback to my questions Aaron.

December 30, 2011 - 6:33pm

I've given alot of thought to your responses. I do hear you. I think you are a master of running scaleable businesses.

I don't think I am particularly great at it...but I am just a person with many scars from believing too much in humanity & being repeatedly let down by core flaws embedded in human nature.

When people are anonymous & engaging in business the default notion is that they probably will screw you over...especially if they demand something before giving anything themselves.

I do enjoy your product reviews... even though they are affiliate driven, they are very comprehensive and honest.

Most of them lose money & a lot of them don't even have affiliate links in them. It is done for diversity of content on the site rather than as a primary revenue generator. Affiliate almost never works in markets where the core audience is other affiliates, unless you are selling to desperate get-rich-quick newbs...and we don't cater to that audience.

I've never been the biggest fan of Adsense as a long term business model.

On a long enough timeline the survival rate of everything drops to 0.

I believe Raven has 20 employees now... doubled from last year. A lot of employees to run in my book... but I do like how they pull in api data from third parties for their data. I've just never been satisfied with any of the seo software out there (including raven).

This is part of the reason we work more on understanding concepts and applying them than on building the tools. I don't want to have dozens of employees that I have to manage, as I am sure I would burn myself out.

However, on this next bit...

I subscribe to 4 separate services to compile the data I want. And it is always lacking in how they compile and present the data. You have to export the data into excel, or another database, to manipulate properly.

I think it will always be this way because the best marketing isn't easy bake formula, but applies lateral thinking skills and so on. So there will always be new ways to leverage different data sources & sometimes mixing them will require manipulating data in a local database.

January 5, 2012 - 6:46am

Love your words about badge. In fact many SEO Service provide simply copy the badge file as jpg and add to their website without any right at all.

For this Adwords Qualified Individuals are the most common one.

January 10, 2012 - 3:08pm

I'm impressed how well this post collerate with situation on central europeans markets (in my case polish market)… exactly the same problems… Call Centers selling bullshit, a lot of SEO's putting AdWords Qualified badge on their websites and more that kind of crap!

I would like to translate Your infographic into Polish and publish it on SprawnyMarketing.pl - the biggest SEM commiunity website in Poland. Do You think it is possible?
I will link back of course… We did something similar with SEOmoz SEO Beginners Guide: (http://www.sprawnymarketing.pl/artykuly/podrecznik-seo-dla-poczatkujacyc...)

January 10, 2012 - 8:03pm

...that works for us. :)

January 16, 2012 - 3:48pm

Love it!!! It touches upon so many problems in the SEO industry. In Canada small and medium size companies are just now starting to realize how important SEO is to their bottom lines but there are so many scammers and pretenders out there it is sad.

January 24, 2012 - 12:54pm

Are we still allowed to translate this infographics and publish it on SprawnyMarketing.pl? My colleague Maciej Janas has sent you an e-mail about that and asked about PSD version.

January 27, 2012 - 8:04pm

...I thought that was already emailed over. I just emailed Maciej.

July 10, 2012 - 9:36am
February 19, 2013 - 7:57am

This infographic is still excellent, a year (plus) since its creation. Nice work! I featured it on my blog today. Thanks for the great stuff. (You can see how I used it at www.RonVanPeursem.com).
PS. I found no way to comment on the new post where this infographic was included (about ranking).

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