Search Engine Watch
SEO News

Go Back   Search Engine Watch Forums > Search Engine Marketing Strategies > Search Engine Marketing
FAQ Members List Calendar Forum Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 10-19-2005   #1
PerformanceSEO
"Be Accountable"
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 78
PerformanceSEO will become famous soon enoughPerformanceSEO will become famous soon enough
The importance of your own firm's rankings?

As a new SEO firm, we are obviously nowhere in the top rankings yet. 100% of our business comes from networking and referrals, and we are doing just fine.

However, I have spent time at one of the larger SEO firms where the entire business model was based on incoming leads from their top search engine keyword rankings (for "SEO", "Search Engine Optimization", etc.).

Needless to say, when they lost their top rankings, they lost their incoming leads and a very large portion of their growth.

As in any business, the incoming lead business model is simply a numbers game. My own research at my previous job told me that barely 1% of incoming leads converted to actual clients. The other 99% were not ready to buy, could not afford us, or had no idea what they were calling in about.

That said, any SEO firm who is currently acheving top rankings must be able to handle those incoming leads and field through the countless worthless calls and emails just to get to the good ones.

So I am starting to realize that maybe acheiving top rankings is not only unimportant, but possibly dangerous to new firms who aren't geared to handle the amount of volume that comes with those rankings. What ends up happening is you spend 80% of your time fielding crap and answering questions like "what is paperclip?". "Umm Sir, I think you mean Pay Per Click??"

If anything, I believe the most important aspect of acheiving your own rankings would be to show your potential clients that you can "walk the walk". In which case, you would be better off acheiving top rankings for very specific keywords (perhaps geo-targeted) where you can show your site at the top, but know your business model isn't dependent upon those rankings.

I am very curious about other SEO firms' thoughts on this topic.
PerformanceSEO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2005   #2
seobook
I'm blogging this
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: we are Penn State!
Posts: 1,943
seobook is a name known to allseobook is a name known to allseobook is a name known to allseobook is a name known to allseobook is a name known to allseobook is a name known to all
>As in any business, the incoming lead business model is simply a numbers game. My own research at my previous job told me that barely 1% of incoming leads converted to actual clients. The other 99% were not ready to buy, could not afford us, or had no idea what they were calling in about.

it is a small %

>That said, any SEO firm who is currently acheving top rankings must be able to handle those incoming leads and field through the countless worthless calls and emails just to get to the good ones.

that or sell the leads to others...many firms just outsource the work or float the leads in anothers direction.

>So I am starting to realize that maybe acheiving top rankings is not only unimportant, but possibly dangerous to new firms who aren't geared to handle the amount of volume that comes with those rankings. What ends up happening is you spend 80% of your time fielding crap and answering questions like "what is paperclip?". "Umm Sir, I think you mean Pay Per Click??"

well I don't think it is dangerous...most of the search volume is automated, bid checking, rank checking, site scraping, and ego searching.

I get way more traffic for "seo book" than from ranking #5 for SEO in Google.

it is also pretty easy to sort out most bad leads in under a minute. in fact you can recycle bits of different emails. in the same way that prospective clients reject firms you can have your rejection emails ready. copy, paste, change a few words, send, done

>If anything, I believe the most important aspect of acheiving your own rankings would be to show your potential clients that you can "walk the walk".

many of the ebooks about SEO (including mine) use the "wow look where I rank" technique for a somewhat targeted term that reinforces their brand.

if you are new and looking for leads I can tell you I got far more when I regularly wrote & syndicated articles than I ever did from ranking for stuff like search engine marketing or seo etc.
__________________
The SEO Book
seobook is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005   #3
mcanerin
 
mcanerin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,564
mcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond repute
I've been slowly DE-optimizing my site (mainly through neglect) for about a year now. I can't bring myself to just nuke the site (though I keep considering it), but most of my clients come from referrals, articles, etc.

In my case, I've noticed that many people who search for "SEO" or whatever are shopping for a "deal" - which means they are really looking for something automated, cheap and packaged, rather than an actual consultant - which can be expensive and there is no "package" - each site is different.

Plus, I hate saying NO all the time, but feel bad when I don't answer at all, as well.

I've got some great leads and excellent clients from positions on search engines, but (and it sounds odd for an SEO to be saying this) your search engine rankings are not automatically directly connected to your income.

Sometimes it is (for my clients, for example), but it's not an automatic link in all cases (like me personally).

The only reason I would go for a ranking in an SEO term today is if it was localized and I was just building my business, I had largely automated systems or clear and discrete "packages", or for ego.

But that's just me. And if you had asked me 2 years ago, the answer would have been completely different. It might be different next year. But right now, it suits my business model.

Ian
__________________
International SEO
mcanerin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005   #4
rogerd
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 109
rogerd is a jewel in the roughrogerd is a jewel in the roughrogerd is a jewel in the roughrogerd is a jewel in the rough
Chasing rankings for SEO terms is a business decision. It will take not only content creation and optimization of the site, but extensive off-site work, i.e., directory listings, link development, link purchases, etc.

You may find that some other approach has a higher ROI (in terms of both time and money): networking, cold calling, PPC ads, print advertising, sponsorships, etc. If you choose another route that works well for your business, I wouldn't give the lack of SEO-term ranking a second thought. If a potential client says, "Well, if you are so good, how come you aren't #1 for SEO?", explain your business decision briefly. A competent business person will understand; the ones who don't will most likely be problem clients down the road."

Having said that, I'd certainly give kudos to the firms that have invested the time and money to rank well for those terms; it's a competitive area, and they have demonstrated their competence and motivation.
rogerd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005   #5
mcanerin
 
mcanerin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,564
mcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond reputemcanerin has a reputation beyond repute
Quote:
Having said that, I'd certainly give kudos to the firms that have invested the time and money to rank well for those terms; it's a competitive area, and they have demonstrated their competence and motivation.
Agreed - it's a clear indication that they know how to get rankings in a competitive market, which is a very good thing to show. If you don't show it on your own site, you'd better be able to show it on a client site.

On a related note, my rankings appear to have gone UP during the recent Google update - apparently benign neglect is an SEO tool now <sigh>.

Ian
__________________
International SEO
mcanerin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #6
ephricon
<!-- Insert Clever Tagline Here --!>
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Posts: 77
ephricon has a spectacular aura aboutephricon has a spectacular aura aboutephricon has a spectacular aura about
My site ranks pretty well for the above listed general terms when qualified by my region. I get typically a lead or two per day and really haven't invested alot of time in it lately - most was a year or two ago. When I was starting out it was a source of valuable leads, but now as I'm pretty booked I'm no longer looking for the small and mid-sized leads. As such, I usually either refer one of a few other firms I know and respect, or simply tell the lead that I'm not taking any new clients.

Right now I'm not taking many new project - I'm only looking for large projects, and being quite picky. I've found that for my business, those general searchers do not result in high-end leads nearly as much as 1) personal referrals from current clients, or 2) published articles, presentations or speaking engagements. That said, without my site's rankings for those regional but general phrases, I would not have had my initial client base and possibly would not be in business.

It does help to some degree to validate to clients - as most of my clients have lead generating sites, and I can say that the fact that I'm speaking with them right now on the phone is evidence of my work in action - exactly the same process. Optimize, get rankings, get traffic, convert to leads. I simply illustrate how they are participating in the process as my lead - and I'll do the same thing for them and their prospects. Believe it or not, some clients that contact me that way have trouble believing that sites can generate leads via search engines, until I illustrate that that's exactly what happened when they contacted me.

That's just my two cents.
ephricon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #7
ephricon
<!-- Insert Clever Tagline Here --!>
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Posts: 77
ephricon has a spectacular aura aboutephricon has a spectacular aura aboutephricon has a spectacular aura about
Quote:
Originally Posted by PerformanceSEO
That said, any SEO firm who is currently acheving top rankings must be able to handle those incoming leads and field through the countless worthless calls and emails just to get to the good ones.

So I am starting to realize that maybe acheiving top rankings is not only unimportant, but possibly dangerous to new firms who aren't geared to handle the amount of volume that comes with those rankings. What ends up happening is you spend 80% of your time fielding crap and answering questions like "what is paperclip?". "Umm Sir, I think you mean Pay Per Click??"
I think you are right on here. Especially if you are talkative like me. I have spent far too many 45-60 minute phone conversations educating people who had no intention of buying anything and in most cases had no legitimate business model. I hope that I have since learned from this. Yet to be determined...
ephricon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #8
Phoenix
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 97
Phoenix is just really nicePhoenix is just really nicePhoenix is just really nicePhoenix is just really nicePhoenix is just really nice
Quote:
That said, any SEO firm who is currently acheving top rankings must be able to handle those incoming leads and field through the countless worthless calls and emails just to get to the good ones.
Ain't that the truth. I have spent time optimizing for SEO terms and ranking for them highly only to find out it was more of a hassle then a blessing. The quality sometimes can be less than desirable, and other times it can be great. It just becomes a problem when you have too many leads and not enough time, and your spend too much time chasing said leads only to have very few convert.

With that said though, I have seen a lot of bigger companies base their decisions for an SEO company on the top rankings they have for terms like "search engine optimization". Often times these larger companies are so short-sighted (due to inexperienced marketing directors) that they need something to believe in before committing. Hard evidence to say they are not throwing there money away.

Last edited by Phoenix : 10-21-2005 at 11:54 AM.
Phoenix is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #9
strategicrankings
Seolid.com - Ranking Websites First - since 1999
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 216
strategicrankings will become famous soon enough
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
I've noticed that many people who search for "SEO" or whatever are shopping for a "deal" - which means they are really looking for something automated, cheap and packaged, rather than an actual consultant - which can be expensive and there is no "package" - each site is different.
this has been true for us too for the past 9 to 12 months, ranking high for seo related terms and either seeing the leads shopping around for deals or simply stuck in a sort of infinite buying life cycle, with no real end.

There are sites owners who found us through search engines 7 months ago, asked for a proposal and never had their site optimized - i mean a high percentage of those coming through organic results are like that - the time they take the decision to optimize their site and the time they will ever sign up is a scary unkown.
strategicrankings is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #10
PerformanceSEO
"Be Accountable"
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 78
PerformanceSEO will become famous soon enoughPerformanceSEO will become famous soon enough
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix
With that said though, I have seen a lot of bigger companies base their decisions for an SEO company on the top rankings they have for terms like "search engine optimization". Often times these larger companies are so short-sighted (due to inexperienced marketing directors) that they need something to believe in before committing. Hard evidence to say they are not throwing there money away.
At my previous job, it was very easy to sell people on the fact that we were #1, while selling against SEO companies who didn't have their own rankings. For most people, that is really all they need to see. They are already sold when they call in....it's just a matter of if they can afford you or not...which 99% of them could not.

Now, I tell potential clients "it's definately a choice to be up there, and many companies don't want the intense volume of leads that comes from those rankings because we are too busy helping our current clients".

That tells people that A) you could be there if you really chose to, B) you are going to spend more time helping that client than helping yourself, and C) achieving top rankings comes with an IMMENSE amount of leads so they better be prepared.

And I agree with mcanerin. If you can't show them your site, you BETTER be able to show them some client samples.

And on a side note - I would never EVER put my business in the position to rely 100% on incoming leads from Organic rankings. That is a disaster waiting to happen. And I've seen it countless times before.
PerformanceSEO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #11
toprank
Lee Odden
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 74
toprank will become famous soon enoughtoprank will become famous soon enough
Allocating resources (time/money) on any kind of marketing whether it be SEO, PPC, direct mail, blog marketing, public relations, trade shows, etc should take into account the return.

If high rankings for tough SEO terms attract too many tire kickers and information suckers that are happy to waste your time, then it may not be worth it.

There are plenty of SEO firms and consultants that do very good business with minimal visibility on search engines. But they put effort into other channels to generate new business and most certainly have client success stories to share in lieu of their own rankings.

What seem like perfectly logical and understandable resons for not ranking to those in the biz does not always hold water with prospects. My opinion is that it is very reasonable to expect a SEO firm to rank well on at least niche phrases that are very relevant for their business or marketplace, like "search engine optimization + city" or tied into branding, like "seo book". It's a rationale I hear from prospects pretty often.

Taking advantage of as many touchpoints as possible is a good strategy and search engine rankings are only a part of that. Articles, forum activity, conferences, being quoted in business pubs, social networking, referralls from clients, etc.. all contribute to your credibility. When prospective clients see you consistently accross several channels it can shorten the sales cylce to a bare minimum and can also increase quality.
toprank is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005   #12
PerformanceSEO
"Be Accountable"
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 78
PerformanceSEO will become famous soon enoughPerformanceSEO will become famous soon enough
Quote:
Originally Posted by toprank
If high rankings for tough SEO terms attract too many tire kickers and information suckers that are happy to waste your time, then it may not be worth it.
I personally have had enough of the tire kickers and the information suckers. If I were to add up all the hours I've educated people on Search Engine Marketing, I would have made MUCH more money becoming a consultant or writing a book like Aaron did.

I honestly had a guy call me JUST yesterday and ask me, "how can I optimize my bids on Google"? Yes, he wanted to know how he could get his PPC ads up to the #1 position on Google, and thought we could "optimize" his bids for him.

A) What??? B) What was this guy planning on paying somebody to "optimize" his PPC bids...my first thought was $0. C) Is this guy actually spending money on Google without knowing how their program works? How sad.

When I'm looking to make a large puchase decision, I study it until I am an EXPERT in that field and I know exactly what I'm looking for. THEN I look around for the best deal.

I don't go into Hugo Boss and sit the Sales clerk down for 30 minutes asking him questions about thread count and suit cuts so I can then decide that Hugo Boss is WAY out of my price range; only to then take my newfound FREE knowlege to the Men's Warehouse to buy a $200 suit (and have it fall apart a year later).

SEO is no different. People need to educate themselves on the basics of SEO FIRST. There is no shortage of free information on the web (we offer a 45 second crash course on our own site). We are happy to discuss our own services and pricing to the people who have taken a few minutes to educate themselves. But I've decided to quit the business of handing out countless hours of free information.
PerformanceSEO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-22-2005   #13
Jill Whalen
SEO Consulting
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 650
Jill Whalen is just really niceJill Whalen is just really niceJill Whalen is just really niceJill Whalen is just really niceJill Whalen is just really nice
The quality of leads from a high search engine ranking on highly competitive search engine optimization phrases, in a word -- sucks!

I even notice the difference between having a #3 ranking and a #2 ranking, with even worse leads when I'm #2.

For some reason, people who see that you are #2 assume that you have some sort of magical way that you can get them to be the same. They completely disregard 10 years of hard work in living, breathing, eating and sleeping search engine optimization and pouring all that into the site. THAT's what gets a site high rankings for competitive terms.

I've had to tell a bunch of potential "clients" this week that if I could simply put your site at the top for that one-word keyword, don't you think I'd be a millionaire right now? (They think I'm just holding back on them, regardless of what I say though!)
Jill Whalen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2005   #14
toprank
Lee Odden
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 74
toprank will become famous soon enoughtoprank will become famous soon enough
Thanks for that post Jill, I was thinking of you when reading this thread. If anyone could give great feedback on this one it would be you.
toprank is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-24-2005   #15
PerformanceSEO
"Be Accountable"
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 78
PerformanceSEO will become famous soon enoughPerformanceSEO will become famous soon enough
We've actually been buying a few keywords here and there just to test the waters. I think these leads are probably the bottom of the barrell.

It's ironic that we would even get leads from the "Paid" listings while we basically have no organic rankings. It tells me that these people REALLY have NO clue what they are looking for.
PerformanceSEO is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off