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How Can I Convince People of the Value of SEO?

April 20, 2011
Hi Jill,

I have a client who was called by [one of those online Yellow Pages–type companies] that would build him a website for $39 a month, which he wants to look into. The website that he initially hired me for is not built yet. In other words, he is considering "firing" me. I now understand from your lynda.com SEO course just how important it is to do keyword research BEFORE building the site and developing content.

When I told him that I charge $250 a month for SEO, he thought that was outrageous. I am trying to "save" him as a client and I just really want the best for him. I told him that I feel it would be the wrong way to go for me to just get a site "up there" without doing the SEO research and implementation.

What could I tell him that would convince him to go with me? By the way, it really doesn't look like the cheap company includes SEO in their web design, other than "submitting to Image Credit: James Cridlandsearch engines."

Sincerely,

RR


++Jill's Response++

Dear RR,

I've been in business long enough to know that you can't convince people to pay for SEO who don't understand SEO or its value. You can certainly try to educate him, but it's likely you'd be wasting your time because this client seems to be basing his decision on price alone. It sounds as if the client might not be a good fit for you if he's prepared to go with an extremely low-end solution.

While I'm sure you don't want to be in the habit of turning away business (or at least not trying to win it), you'll be much better off not working with this person. Believe me when I say that he will likely end up costing you much more than the $250 a month you would charge him -- in both time and aggravation. If he already thinks your prices are outrageous, he'll probably also have unrealistic expectations about the results of the SEO you do for him -- that is, wondering why he's not ranking #1 in Google for some arbitrary 1-word general keyword that he thinks he should!

Some people will purchase SEO purely by price, in which case you can't really compete, nor should you. If it were me (and I know it's easy for me to say), I'd simply let him go. He'll find out soon enough that he won't receive much value in the low-end offer, in which case he may come back to you later after he becomes more educated.

That said, the best way to sell the value of SEO to those who don't really understand it is to show them the hard numbers from any of your current or previous clients. After you have gained some data about how much additional targeted traffic and conversions your work has brought in for others, you can show it to potential clients. This will lend credibility to your skills and give them some sense of what you might do for them.

Best,

Jill

 
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Services Company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalenJill Whalen

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Post Comment

 David Culbertson said:
I completely agree with Jill. During my 8+ years of doing SEO independently, I've found that about 80% of my potential clients understand the value of SEO or perhaps need a little data to be convinced. Just like, I've run into some folks who can't be convinced - or least claim they can't be convinced to beat down my prices. They're not a good fit and I politely decline the opportunity.
 NK said:
Sadly, I found myself in the same position. A client bought into the Yellowbook "free website" pitch if you also buy $700 / month pay per click. My client thought he was getting good visibility until I showed him that his search terms were only relevant if a customer actually went to Yellowbook to begin their search for his firm. Ironically, with every search term we entered, only the site I created displayed, not the Yellowbook site.
 Nancy said:
Thank you for adding the last paragraph here - trust and credibility are very hard concepts to sell when someone doesn't know you, and especially when they do not understand the process. I am always grateful to hear that good content, keyword research and methods taught on your lynda.com class have carried you through so many years - so I gain trust in that as well.

Sometimes clients don't 'get' it. I am considering dropping one who I thought 'got' it - paid for my organic research, but doesn't implement it now that a quick fix/google ad/non researched trial and error flag was raised by this client's friend. Instead of implementing my research and working on new content, he jumped track to this new quick fix for awhile. I should have seen the warning signs - for example this client wanted to know why he needed SEO when he shows number 1 on searches when he types in the exact first sentence of his website content. I worked alongside him, felt the explanations were finally understood before I started. But in effect I am in the same boat as RR, only paid for the research and chalking it up to experience - I did let the client know that I was not going to do any more work until my research was implemented by his designer...who now wants to redesign the site and could care less about W3C standards and HTML good practices. Lessons!
 Al Toman said:
I and some 24,000,000 other small businesses simply cannot afford SEO delights. You people are in a class of your own and should only solicit peoples of your upper class who have expendable cash. Perhaps your educating practices are not up to par? A good education program would be:

1. You put $250 into my pocket. Cash is real. It has value. It can be traded at the grocery store.
2. And I will put [fill in the blank] into your pocket. Is your [fill in the blank] real? Can I trade it at the grocery store?

That's a winning education program. GUARANTEED!

$250 a month is $3,000 a year. Without crunching numbers, that's a lot of widgets to be sold just to break even. Minimum business liability insurance is $7k annually. Insurance over-powered payroll 20 years ago. It appears the SEO is attempting to over-power the insurance industry.

You people speak subjectively. You speak of "getting it". Since you are their professional what was the client's allowable budget BEFORE, you as a professional, even started working with the client!?! Why did you start the project, then!?!

Where are your objective statements? What responsibility as a professional do you attach to your $250. 1 extra customer? 2? None? ZERO? A top position on SERP 1 (big whoop).

To see how effective the SEO industry has truly been, see the number (in billions) that did NOT make SERP 1. That's not a good score for SEO, is it? I'll bet SEO blame the client?

It simply proves that SEO is out of reach, out of touch, just way out there.

I think some SEO guy touts he SEO's IBM, Microsoft and Google. Really impressive, says Joe and Mary small business people.
 Rob said:
Excellent example and response Jill.

I try as much as possible to educate people who call me (or email) by showing them some of the results that can be gained by good, sustainable SEO. It also helps to know how other companies try to bamboozle them.

One classic I love is "sign up for (eg) six months, and if we haven't got you onto page one in Google at the end of the term, we will work for nothing for you until we do." DUH! ;-)

Anyway, love your work Jill.

Cheers.
 NJK said:
Definitely Rob - education and always discussing budget beforehand because that is just plain good business. I also include a step-by-step contract that shows what I will do, and what they can expect and explains that all of the steps are important to achieve results - and also show the means of tracking results. There are no surprises - I guess it is just discouraging to see people fall for the scams even after doing as much as possible to educate folks. It definitely is expensive - and it is extremely time consuming work that most people understand once they see what is involved.
 JD said:
1) Build the site!!!
2) If the client fires you... Build it any way!
(contact via a form to your email)
3) Rank it well!!
4) send on the business (keeps the communication open)

SEO is only valuable to a client if can see the additional business it brings!!!
 Futonic said:
A great post! Fortunately I havn't come across to many people like that and i hope it remains that way :)
 Loren Weaver said:
While most of you have avoided reponding to the Al Toman his rant he elevates a point that other comments here have missed: SEO is a marketing spend and any marketer must compared it's value against other options in terms of ROI (incremental profit created compared to cost to execute).

Many factors may come into play (business model, target prospects, etc.); if other marketing tactics and strategies are producing stronger results than SEO then a good marketer invests in them instead - and you have to respect that decision. Case in point: A regional, boutique law firm specializing in building construction contract litigation engaged a competent SEO to work on their Website SERPs - and he was successful at high placement for several well-researched keywords. Unfortunately the prospects that arrived through this channel were poor or unqualified (seeking free legal advice, with low-value litigation, needs not aligned with services despite targeted keyword research). The conclusion was that investing more budget in traditional forms of marketing - networking, workshops, relationship selling, etc. yeilded better business prospects.

SEO cannot always be assumed to be the best answer and a necessity - approaching a customer like it is is somewhat arrogant (and probably lies at the roots of Al Tomans reaction). I am an SEO - remember that what you do is merely a piece of the overall marketing puzzle...and that in some cases it DOES make sense for your client to spend their scarce marketing budget elsewhere. But coming to that conclusion must involve more than gut instincts and knee-jerk reactions...it takes testing, analysis and comparison of all options being considered.
 steve said:
Al Toman - if you can't afford to pay $250 for more (targeted) visibility for your business, what else do you skimp on? Really, you're only hurting yourself and your business.
 Jim Rudnick said:
@Al....what a load of crap.

dont want to pay for SEO?

then don't....it's that easy....and there's clients who do not understand the rationale for paying for traffic....and then there's the successful clients who do!

choice is yours...and yup, I's still so busy I can't find good staff....so there is a large number of clients out there....

...sigh...

Jim
 Keyworded Name and Link Removed said:
I couldn't agree with you more Jill, some clients are simply not worth having for the simple fact that they won't leave you alone and complain about everything. I once made the mistake of given my skype to one of my clients, oh boy what a nightmare. Thanks God he was fired as the marketing director of company X and I still do SEO for them.

About showing the value for money of SEO I agree wit Jill again nothing better than showing positive results from successful clients. What works best for me a quick walkthrough the possibilities offered by Google Analytics.
 Dave said:
Before I ever discuss my SEO pricing with clients, I ask A LOT of questions. One thing that concerned me about this thread is someone claiming they cannot afford SEO as a small Business.

If you are selling any type of marketing like internet, print, radio, TV, etc... and you are speaking to a decision maker you should always ask what % of the gross annual sales they are currently investing in marketing. If its not 5-12% of their gross sales (make sure not profit) or they claim they do not know then you may want to question why you were even invited to sit down with them.

I only deal with business who want to grow, expand, keep pace with the competition and understand they have to invest to do so. Good SEO is no different than a retirement 401k or IRA. If you put 5-12% a year in your retirement, shouldn't you be doing the same with your business so it will survive?