... if they can guarantee that they'll actually sell anything if I get traffic to their site....
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Rankings Vs Conversions
Posted 09 May 2004 - 08:33 PM
Posted 09 May 2004 - 09:11 PM
... rankings should never be at the expense of sales or usability.
Nope. Rankings, sales, and usability are all just factors to be optimized for profitability. Although it would be odd to produce more profit from a higher ranked site with lower sales, it's not impossible. Neither rankings, sales, nor usability are the highest business objective.
The foundation upon which all marketing rests is a deep understanding of the customer.
Nope. You don't actually have to understand your customers at all, although it indeed helps tremendously to do so. The foundation upon which all marketing rests is an ability to predict what customers will do. You don't have to understand how it works; you just have to observe some indications and know what to do to produce results.
If they presume to know my customers better than I do they have a problem that will ultimately detract from the job they were hired to do (and if they're right, the problem is only compounded, because that means NEITHER of us knows the customer).
I always presume I understand my clients' customers better than they do -- or more accurately put, can better predict what their market will do in marketing circumstances. It is normal for me to tell my clients that they don't understand their market. Sometimes the gaps are small. The client just needs a tweak because they're too close to the product. Sometimes they're vast. I recently told one prospect that he had a product with massive potential. All he needed to do was to reconfigure it, rename it, reprice it, re-target it, and throw out all the marketing and start over.
I happen to provide SEO, PPC, etc., but what I sell is marketing succes. And if that requires doing something counterintuitive or kicking the client in the head to let him know he's out of touch with his market, I do it.
Edited by cline, 10 May 2004 - 06:36 AM.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:19 AM
Many, Jill? Off the top of my head, I can count four people I've met in the last seven years in this industry who have demonstrated the breadth of knowledge necessary to be a marketing professional. And, uh, one of those four is dead. I think the "many" you reference are the ones pulling a "well, I saw this work over here, so maybe it'll work for you, too" kind of thing.
Jill said: However, many SEO-types have been in the Internet Marketing business for a long time, and often have picked up tips related to other marketing (besides search engines) along the way.
Again, marketing is about understanding the customer. Any SEO/SEM who makes generalities without understanding the target audience isn't engaged in marketing. They're just guessing, or what Cline wants to call "predicting their behavior." Often, they'll be right because, after all, people are usually more similar than they are different. But sometimes they'll be wrong. The trouble is there's no way to know when they'll be right and when they'll be wrong. That's the nature of guessing.
Indeed, I think the experience Liz detailed in her post in a good example of what I mean.
Yes, a Call to Action is important, but the appropriate Call to Action covers a very wide range and can only be determined as a reflection of the audience. A lawyer doesn't respond to the same stimuli as does a high school student, and even a woman will react differently than would a man. "Get a Quick Quote Now" may well be a great Call to Action for this company. But unless Liz intimately knows the demographics and user personas, it's still just guessing and not good marketing.
Does that mean she should just keep her mouth shut?
Of course not. As Jill quite rightly said, many SEOs are working with clients new to the Internet and (worse) new to running a business. From my perspective, that's a very big part of the problem, as I suspect there would be far fewer SEOs passing themselves off as marketing geniuses if they were exposed to "real" professionals. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with telling a client they need a Call to Action, just as there is nothing wrong with telling a sick friend that the pain in his side might be his appendix and won't go well with those laxatives he was planning to take. Sharing our knowledge, to help others, is a good thing. It's why most of us are in the these forums, I think. Sharing knowledge we only THINK we have, however, is rarely a good thing. By all means, tell your friend they should see a doctor before taking a laxative. But don't grab a knife and start cutting! If Liz's client want to accept her Call to Action recommendation as a best guess that's totally cool -- as long as he understands it IS just a best guess and a truly professional answer will cost substantially more.
[Brief detour] Liz asked, "What educated person would say, 'I'm going to give you $5,000 to get more people to my web site regardless of whether or not I see a return on my investment?'" The answer, of course, is anyone who has ever bought traditional advertising. Try buying a 15 second spot on the next Super Bowl with the stipulation you'll get a positive ROI. If you wait long enough (for the laughter to end), they'll explain that what you do with the increased traffic you can expect from your half-million dollar advertisement is pretty much up to you. SEO based on targeted keywords is already far exceeding the historical expectations of business. You should feel no obligation to run their business for them, too. [/Brief detour]
The bottom line is there's a reason Universities offer MBA programs. Picking up tips related to marketing is a bit like learning to beat a few speeding tickets. It doesn't make you a lawyer and you face a serious risk if you start calling yourself one. The greatest danger we face is rarely in what we don't know, but rather in what we don't know we don't know. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" is a cliché for a reason.
Of course, marketing isn't as regulated or structured as law, and it's still entirely possible to learn the profession outside the boundaries of a campus. Many have. Personally, though, I've never met anyone who did it through trial and error or by reading a couple of books. Those lacking a degree (and most of those with a degree) will spend years under the wings of a mentor, probably making self-taught marketer something of an oxymoron.
However they learn their trade, though, they're usually pretty easy to spot. They know you can't accurately predict what a stranger will do, except in the most general terms, so the first thing they always want to do is study the target audience.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:51 AM
The bottom line is there's a reason Universities offer MBA programs. Picking up tips related to marketing is a bit like learning to beat a few speeding tickets. It doesn't make you a lawyer and you face a serious risk if you start calling yourself one.
I happen to have one of those MBA Marketing degrees. And I've worked with scads of other people who have such degrees. And in general I'm quite unimpressed with what passes for an education in Marketing. From an educational standpoint my work has benefited far more from my undergrad social psych training than what I learned in B-school. Many of the best marketers I've known don't have MBAs. One didn't even have a bachelors degree. Some of the worst marketers I've know have had Marketing MBAs.
In my experience there are certain characteristics of mind that are required to be a good marketer. Education is only weakly effective at cultivating these characteristics. There's a gestalt to it. Marketing is a little like the Wizard of Oz. Most people see the big image of the Wizard on the screen and they think that's marketing. Marketing is what goes on behind the curtain.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 07:18 AM
I believe in fact that the first year "dotcom companies" advertised during the Super Bowl one of those companies' websites completely crashed under the deluge of additional traffic.
Try buying a 15 second spot on the next Super Bowl with the stipulation you'll get a positive ROI. If you wait long enough (for the laughter to end), they'll explain that what you do with the increased traffic you can expect from your half-million dollar advertisement is pretty much up to you.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 07:59 AM
Cline said: I happen to have one of those MBA Marketing degrees. And I've worked with scads of other people who have such degrees. And in general I'm quite unimpressed with what passes for an education in Marketing. From an educational standpoint my work has benefited far more from my undergrad social psych training than what I learned in B-school. Many of the best marketers I've known don't have MBAs. One didn't even have a bachelors degree. Some of the worst marketers I've know have had Marketing MBAs.
I would tend to agree with Cline on this part. However, is this the fault of the person or the education? I tend to believe that the fault lies within the person. Too often we allow our egos to stifle learning process.
I love Liz's ideal for an SEO/IMP and have tried to put myself on a path that will eventually allow me to offer all those things to my clients. But I never fool myself in thinking that I'm at my ideal yet. If I'm not comfortable with a particular aspect of Internet marketing, I have no issues referring them to another professional that I respect. In the same fashion, you better believe that I'm working my tail off to make sure that in the future I'll be able to offer that service. It's the perfectionist in me. I want to be able to do it all.
So I learned basic HTML (with an eye to the future of learning more advanced concepts), and I'm enrolling in an MBA program (because I believe it will help me grow as a professional). I'm sure when I finish my MBA, I'll find another aspect of my job that needs improving and do additional training. But that's the fun part of this job, I'm never bored.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 08:59 AM
I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone frequenting an SEO forum isn't qualified to present themselves as a marketing professional. Some are, though clearly most aren't. I hope the latter are well insured, because sooner or later someone will be sued for misrepresentation should their advice prove disastrous. My point, rather, is that a deep understanding of marketing isn't a prerequisite for driving search engine traffic, and a shallow understanding can do more damage than not when it is passed off as more than it is.
If I were to write amazon.com a letter suggesting the load time on their pages was excessive and probably costing them customers, I'm sure they would respond with a very polite thank-you note. If I sent them an invoice for my advice, I suspect they would be far less polite. Similarly, were I to hire an SEO to bring me traffic, I would NOT expect to be charged for marketing advice. They don't know my audience as well as I do, and even if I gave them all the demographics I've collected over the years, they *still* would lack the benefit of hundreds of conversations between myself and my customers. If they charge me for what I don't want, they're cheating me. If they give away their advice for nothing, they're cheating themselves. Honestly, I wouldn't trust either to really know what they're doing.
Am I atypical? Maybe.
But I won't be for long. As the Internet attracts more businessmen and fewer get-rich-quick dreamers, I think the ineffective hand-holding (because it *is* ineffective) will become less and less welcome.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:13 AM
Bob Smith - life coach
Bob Smith - LSW (licensed social worker)
Bob Smith - Psychologist
Bob Smith - Psychiatrist
Mary Smith - SEM (most SEM's)
Mary Smith - SEM, IMP (Liz)
Mary Smith - SEM, IMP, MBA (Cline)
Danny Sullivan - Honorary Degree?
Then, at least, people would know who they are hiring and what their expertise is in. In order to be an IMP, you would need a minimum of 5 years additional Internet Marketing experience. Maybe a certification to become an IMP, then you would be a Licensed Internet Marketing Professional, but that acronym isn't very good! ; )
Of course some LSW's are far better counselors than Psychologists, so it's not a truly fair depiction ...
Posted 10 May 2004 - 11:47 AM
I have a friend who never finished his undergraduate degree who can sell anything via a website- it's a talent and a vision, not a skill that can be taught.
I think it would be a real mistake to select a marketer (online or offline) based on their level of formal education. There are highly educated people who don't know a thing about the real world of business and can talk theory for days- but can't quite get the implementation right.
I do give marketing suggestions to my clients- they can take them or leave them. I certainly don't force suggestions on them but they are part of the review process. After 10 years in retail, I have real experiences to base my recommendations on but often they are just creative ideas that could help set the client apart from their competitor- not really rocket science. But it is a different viewpoint to consider that might give them a fresh direction.
Ron, you seem to be describing some pretty agressive internet marketers that sound like they want to take over their client's business... I can't imagine they have many happy clients if they try to butt in and dictate business decisions that have nothing to do with the site. They also sound like they might not have enough to do if they have the time to focus on a single client like that!
Posted 10 May 2004 - 03:12 PM
were I to hire an SEO to bring me traffic, I would NOT expect to be charged for marketing advice
That's one reason I try to hold the SEO label lightly. SEO is just part of the marketing consulting I do. I'll certainly take on clients whose initial interest is SEO or PPC, I won't take them if they're clearly uninterested in a long-term consulting arrangement.
The ability to complete the program (and pay the fees) says absolutely nothing about their ability (or mine) to get results.
Actually I do think it says something. The selective schools at lease provide a selection process. The proportion of dim-wits is reduced. And the willingess of someone to pay all that tuition, lose 2 years' income, and do all that academic work does indicate that they're highly motivated to get ahead. Those behaviors correlate positively with getting results.
They also sound like they might not have enough to do if they have the time to focus on a single client like that!
Actually, it's a different business model. I spend so much time on two of my clients that I'm on their org charts.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 03:47 PM
It comes back to the premise on which SEM was sold. If the buyer needed rankings, and paid for rankings, then the SEO has probably done his/her job by getting rankings. If the client wanted his dishwasher to run, but mistakenly hired a plumber thinking is was the water supply at fault, rather than the actual problem: the electronic control unit in the dishwasher, then the client is going to be disappointed when the plumber says "ah, not my area mate". The dishwasher still won't run and the client is out of pocket.
Clients often don't understand what they need - the more one can do to help the client get a return on investment, the better. Yes, it is quite possible for one person to do SEM and strategy and copy and analysis. Depends on the person. If the client broke those areas up and got five specialists to do them, the client is by no means guaranteed better performance simply because those people have chosen to specialise. The client may have hired five monkeys.
Give me a few brilliant people any day. Five brilliant people will do better work that one hundred average people. This is especially true in software and systems design, of which I have some experience.
Qualifications have little to do with it. I do have the university degree and other industry qualifications, as do many of my colleagues. It means something, but little about performance capability. But I take Ron's point: it's an indicator of acumen. The less qualifications you have, the more you need to come up with real world experience and performance. If you have neither, then you should be careful not to get out of your depth too soon.
Edited by peter_d, 10 May 2004 - 03:57 PM.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:38 PM
As the Internet attracts more businessmen and fewer get-rich-quick dreamers, I think the ineffective hand-holding (because it *is* ineffective) will become less and less welcome.
Peter makes a good point
With out the traffic one can not obtain one of marketing's basic princies, meeting the desired levels of net profitibility or ROI
It comes back to the premise on which SEM was sold. If the buyer needed rankings, and paid for rankings, then the SEO has probably done his/her job by getting rankings
In rankings (traffic) vs conversions, it is like asking what end of a circle does one want. In a general sense the needs and ultimate objectives of one are inextricably linked with those of the other.
Although all marketing strategies have a common basis and pattern, each plan must be tailored for the specific business model. The strategy planned for the land developer will not work for the trinket seller. Again, Ron I concur
Unfortunately, many practitioners have done and are still doing this.
a deep understanding of marketing isn't a prerequisite for driving search engine traffic, and a shallow understanding can do more damage than not when it is passed off as more than it is.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 07:46 PM
Of course, marketing isn't as regulated or structured as law, and it's still entirely possible to learn the profession outside the boundaries of a campus. Many have. Personally, though, I've never met anyone who did it through trial and error or by reading a couple of books. Those lacking a degree (and most of those with a degree) will spend years under the wings of a mentor, probably making self-taught marketer something of an oxymoron....However they learn their trade, though, they're usually pretty easy to spot. They know you can't accurately predict what a stranger will do, except in the most general terms, so the first thing they always want to do is study the target audience.
(My emphasis added)
So degrees are not vital, but they are a good indicator.
To go back to the question of the thread, conversions vs rankings, coversions are more important, but the pursuit of conversions doesn't need to be a pro-active thing i.e. An SEMs aim is to ttrack conversions, not to know what needs improving on the site, but to ensure the campaign works. This is the online equivilant of the customer testing offline businesses do, and it is the most important metric in optimising a site.
As an example, it is virtually impossible to run a PPC campaign without conversion data. To work out what values one can afford to bid, one needs to know what words convert, and what is the break even point, or more likely what the businesses maximum CPA is.
In real figures, if a site converts needs to acheive a CPA of $30, then you need to know is what volume of sales originated from Search, and what that cost. Even if the site converts like a dog, as long as you have these figures to work towards, then you can achieve the objectives laid out.
IMHO, an SEO / SEM needs to work towards some predefined goal in terms of spend to value. Otherwise, there is no need for an SEM at all, as the client can do all the CPC stuff for themselves.
I guess it really just depends upon the client and the relationship. A pure SEO consultancy contract will be structured differently to full online marketing spend control. If you go for teh former, many people will do. If you go for the latter, as far too many businesses do, then you will inevitably be at the mercy of how talented yourSEm is.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:55 PM
So SEO professionals need to match up their skills with customers who want what they are offering. If you are good with getting high rankings but less interested in marketing - terrific, find clients who are looking for high rankings. If you are an internet marketer and looking to help people create a website and seo campaign that creates traffic and sales. Fine. There are probably plenty of people that want that too. The trick is to find out what your prospect wants and then focus on those solutions (if you have them). Just because you want to sell the prospect something (that you think is important) doesn't mean your client wants or needs it.
I personally feel like Ron. I really don't want you to help me with my marketing or converting to sales. I want you to get me high rankings in the search engines. The most marketing I want you to do is help me figure out what key words my prospects search for when they are looking for what I offer.
If you see my site and have some ideas for making it better - great, I welcome your advice. But bottom line, I want you to get me high rankings for my keywords and I would prefer to worry about the rest myself.
Posted 10 May 2004 - 10:54 PM
That said, I sure am not going to pretend that I know and can help every client with what they need. I sometimes have ideas, but I'm no marketing rocket scientist, I have no MBA, and have basically learned by the seat of my pants. I try to make this clear to clients, but there are always some who think I have some magic potion or whatever, just cuz i write a few interesting articles.
I don't, and really neither does anyone else.
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