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Oh, That’s Right, We Don’t Need SEO Standards



By Marta Turek

What is SEO?

“Suppose it’s got something to do with when doing a search, getting the most and best hits back, i.e. no crap.”

“A practise that improves performance and relevance of result sets for search engines. Never heard of it as a service.”

“No understanding at all…is it something that makes Google work better?”

“My guess is that you pay for a good position on the search engine.”

That is how 4 of 33 respondents in a closed study defined SEO. This very basic study was conducted among tertiary qualified professionals to provide a snapshot of the ‘general public’s ‘ understanding of search engine optimization. All respondents were asked not to perform any research prior to answering the questions.

Interestingly, quite a few people (30%) considered SEO to be a practice performed by the search engines themselves, such as changing the algorithm to improve performance and deliver more relevant results.

In addition, a surprisingly high number of respondents (42%) had a basic idea of the practice of SEO, citing that changes would need to be made to a target website to improve its ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Putting a PRICE on the SEO service was a problem

SEO Service cost expectations

There was a very wide gap in pricing expectations:

  • 46% of respondents had ‘no idea’ how much they could expect to pay for search engine optimization services
  • A collective 21% expected SEO to be either FREE (9%) or to cost less than $1,000 (12%)
  • 21% proposed a performance fee structure based on increase in bottom line generated through the SEO. Notably these were professionals from tertiary service industries such as banking, public relations and consulting

Observation 1: If most people have no idea what to pay for the SEO service while a proportion would hand over potentially $1,000s in percentage based fees this indicates a significant gap in client expectations.

A website offering services at $200 is as believable as one providing the service for $2,000, because people literally do not know what to expect.

For SEO to be considered among other professional fields such as law or medicine, the SEO industry has to deliver its services at a certain benchmark standard in order for those services to be valued at a particular price.

Searching for SEO

Overwhelmingly, most respondents would use Google (64%) or a search engine (15%) to find out more information about SEO.

How Respondents Would Search For SEA

So, if people are using Google to research SEO, what do they find?

Sample of some first page SERP results on Google.ca for phrase ‘search engine optimization’:

  • Guaranteed Page 1 or Pay Nothing, Page 1 in Seven Days $69.95/Month
  • Search engine optimization is the way to pull massive amounts of free traffic
  • Get listed on 200+ search engines in 8 hours!
  • 300+ Top 10 And Top 3 Rankings In Every Search Engine For $179.95

Observation 2: Guarantees! Promises! Refunds! First page Google rankings for a $100 per month! Free search engine submission to hundreds of search engines!

Search for a lawyer or dentist online and you will not see this type of price undercutting. The focus is on quality, expertise, value and years of experience.

The SEO industry is diluting the value of its own service with this type of advertising. Searchers form the opinion that SEO is a cheap; easy-to-implement service offering that any SEO business listed on the SERPs can perform.

Cognitive dissonance begins to form between client expectations and perceived value of the service. Clients expect top rankings to be delivered at a low price point.

Final Thoughts

Though the basic study that has been discussed was small and from a statistical perspective has limitations, the insight that just 33 respondents provided is significant:

  • If most people would search on Google for SEO, where can searchers find quality information that will assist them in developing their expectations of SEO services?
  • SEMPO does feature in the SERPs for some search terms and though the website is a valuable resource, does it adequately help shape a searcher’s understanding of why they would pay $100 for one SEO service and $10,000 for another?
  • A standard definition of SEO would help the public understand what to expect from SEO and more effectively find services that suit their business requirements and budget.
  • SEO standards would assist in setting a minimum benchmark for SEO service delivery, which would ultimately increase the client value perception of these services, and so many SEOs would no longer have to feel like they are working for FREE!

In the words of Ian McAnerin: ‘Standards? We don’t need no stinkin’ standards. But the public does. I think it’s time we grew up and took responsibility for our own profession, before someone does it for us.’

This is an entry to Marketing Pilgrim’s 4th Annual SEM Scholarship contest.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    First off I’d like to say that I really enjoyed your post on this study. I wish more guys within the industry would adopt a similar professional position.

    As for hiring an SEO specialist, the website and/or business owner should first give thought to whether or not their product or service merits an SEO campaign. Granted, an increase in pre-qualified visitors to your site can potentially result in more sales, however if margins are small, the benefits or ROI from SEO could be minimal.

    We price our SEO services proportionate to gains expected. And to garner trust between clients we a guarantee the delivery of positions before their payment is due. If you’re interested, I blogged about how to choose an SEO company without getting burned.

    Have a look:

    http://www.thevisibledentist.com/blog/7-simple-steps-to-avoid-seo-scams/

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX
    ———————————-

  • http://www.thundertech.com thunder::SEO

    From my own experience I have found that people feel that they should get something commensurate to what they give. Most people have no idea how to properly perform and manage SEO on a website. They don’t want to know, they are content to say “You know how to do it? Then just make it happen.” People just don’t know the time, effort, or energy it takes to make it happen.

    That being said, people want to see results from it. People want to be able to look at the information we provide them on their website and be able to see a definitive improvement. Whether or not they know what SEO is, how much it costs, or what it entails if they can see an improvement they will continue to engage in services to continue to see improvements and sustained excellence.

  • http://semstreetcred.com Marta Turek

    Thanks for the comment John! I think this will remain a sensitive topic within SEO for a while to come before anything is officially done about it. I think part of the problem is that people do not know how to select an SEO provider without getting burnt! :-)

    Marta Turek’s last blog post..SEO Strategies That Will Burn You – Part 1

  • http://www.bluelightseo.co.uk search engine optimisation services

    Selecting an SEO service is the difficult part. Always ask those who have already used some seo services.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    I wish it were more meaty but as far as it goes this is a pretty good essay.

  • Pingback: Talking Standards at SEM Scholarship Contest 2009 | SEM Street Cred

  • Ewa

    So I still don’t know what the true value of SEO is?

  • General Public #1

    Oh, this is how the search engines make their money. Quite interesting.

  • Greg

    I have a degree in computer science, but I’d never heard of SEO before I read this article. Interesting stuff. It makes me want to learn more, but I guess I won’t google it.

  • Rian Douglas

    Interesting results.

    Being such a new service, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that there is such ignorance from “clients” as regards payment and services provided when compared with what a reputable firm offering SEO can realistically offer, leaving plenty of room for the less desirables to ply their trade.

    Articles like this, as well as general “SEO Evangelism” help to narrow that divide, putting client expectations closer to what is possible given the money/time etc, which can only be a good thing, surely.

    Well done Marta!

  • Ralf

    Good and informative post. Some set standards could have saved me a large amount of time an money

  • Brian Monger

    I enjoyed reading this article. It was very interesting and informative. Like “Branding” in marketing, everyone likes to use the letters SEO and some have a little bit of an idea – but most simply don’t get it! Marta does. Good. Hope we get more like this

  • Wavelength

    I cant imagine in a global market place such as IT that standards for this will be introduced when people compete in India, USA etc
    I would assume that a free market would emerge (eventually). If someone wants to spend $20 a month and expects $1000′s in bonus revenue then more fool them. I think any expenditure on SEO is best left up to the marketing department who will develop an expected ROI on any marketing expense which is quantifiable.

    Maybe there is money in setting up your own SEO web portal where every SEO business gets ranked like eBay?

    Thanks for introducing this as a topic btw. Hope to hear more from you.

  • Tee See

    Although the sample of 33 was very small and thus theoretical possible error rate is high, the article makes a lot of sense and the conclusions are proabably fairly accurate. Establishing what clients will pay for such a service will without doubt be a major problem but then just about every firm , even established ones, in service industries faces this same problem from time to time..

  • Gary Alexander

    A good appreciation of the current state of knowledge about SEO.

    I would also have like to have seen some ready reckoner approach to where you might find reputable, reasonably priced services as well.

    gary a.

  • Silky Arora

    Its an interesting article Marta!! SEO is fairly new and catching up with marketers around the world. Recently,I did establish a fair idea about this subject but your article help me to understand much better, well you can say Now,I have more questions to raise from client perspective…I will be meeting up few SEO companies soon and explore more practical side of it..Thanks and keep up the work !!

  • Christel Hansen

    I found this post very interesting and informative, especially regarding the views of the study subjects. And it made it more clear to me what SEO is. Thanks!

  • http://www.casagigliomarketing.co.uk Debby Giglio

    Well written, relevant research article covering the current understanding of SEO. Perhaps it also makes the significant point that technology and its usage remains in the hands of the powerful few that dominate the marketplace keeping it shrouded in a veil of fog, so that client and consumer understanding is controlled. Some of the percentages quoted are obviously reliably sourced and are significantly alarming. There pinpoints a huge hole in the web marketing industry and one which needs web education to fill the void. Perhaps once educated the costing issue will become better regulated – what happened to the cost is what the market will both pay and bear?

  • David Kennedy

    Good article, is this why its so difficult to actually find “information” on the WWW as oposed to “Advermation”? Why arent “paid” SEO sites listed seperately and “best match” listed seperately, the difference would be amazing. Do we really need to know when we search say bycicle, that 29,750 are for sale on eBay righ now?? Well Done. David

  • http://semstreetcred.com Marta Turek

    @everyone who has commented!

    I must quickly say a massive thank you to everyone who has commented thus far! Your comments have been insightful and the questions posed have given me ideas for further posts!

    Your comments further illustrate how much further the SEO industry has to leap forward to mature, i.e.: ‘take responsibility for itself as well as its clients’.

    Marta Turek’s last blog post..Talking Standards at SEM Scholarship Contest 2009

  • Havok

    Great article! I agree that the small sample size introduces uncertainty into the results, but as anecdotal evidence, the conclusions infered are interesting

    It seems that the SEO industry is suffering from immaturity and a lack of quality information being easily available to those wishing to benefit from it. Compilation of a set of industry “best practices” as opposed to some kind of explicit regulation (as is done for engineering, doctors, lawyers etc) seems to be the best course of action to take, in my opinion.

    I have no problem with the those offering unrealistic promises of service, but those who engage them should be able to do so from an informed position, as opposed to the position of ignorance which most seem to have at present.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Rian Douglas

    General Public 1: Oh, this is how the search engines make their money.
    Not at all. This is how you get your site to be returned in search results, and basically involves changes to the HTML etc of the site to make it friendlier to the web crawlers used by search engines to index the internet. At least, that’s my understanding of SEO

    Ewa: So I still don’t know what the true value of SEO is?
    Truth value? This is marketing, and there is no room for truth in marketing :-P

  • Say

    No doubt it is a very interesting article and the way you phrase it makes it lively too and plus with the analysis. Before reading here, i actually have no idea about SEO but this article was kinda interesting and makes me when to look up what is it!:)

  • Alison Monger

    This is a very interesting article. It was well written and very informative!

  • Patrick

    Hi Marta,

    Good article. It definitely opens the floor to customer satisfaction when doing searches. Search engine companies ultimately want their search engine to return relevant results increasing customer satisfaction and keeping them on top. Companies making use of search engines are looking for a good hit ratio translating into sales.

    The problem from a search engine perspective is there are a lot of dirty tricks out there that increase the popularity of a website. These tricks don’t improve the quality of the search. Good search engine companies are geared for this and spend a lot of time and effort to ensuring that this ‘standard’ is kept up. Keeping this ‘standard’ up could easily mean changes to the search engine’s architecture.

    Choosing a good SEO company in my opinion would mean protecting your website investment. This means going with a company that understands the technology it is leveraging. How much to spend? Well you would have to leave that up to an ROI investigation.

    A few ways to tell if the SEO company is serious about your business would be:

    Check their certification programs, are they up-to-date in Google’s, Yahoo’s and MSN opinion? You might say this means nothing as long as the results are top. But it really means that they are building your website presence in a manner that reduces the risk of loosing hits if the search engine changes its search strategy.

    Check their references. Speak to their customers.

    Ensure that they monitor the hit ratios of current customers. This shows active maintenance and that any reoccurring fees that you pay are going where it counts.

  • Gary Southwell

    I enlisted professional SEO services to improve my profile and sales on the search engines.
    From my experience, it is difficult to determine which company to engage with regard to SEO services and fees. Due to the absence of industry pricing and service standards, it is necessary to obtain quotes from various companies in order to provide a comparison of what to expect. However, is a quote for $100 any better than a quote for $1000.
    I can understand public misconceptions regarding the fees for SEO services, because frankly I don’t know if the fees I am paying are value for money. Because these services and fees vary by service provider, the inexperienced can be exploited.
    Other professional associations have a list of basic services and fees. Therefore it would make sense for this industry to have a similar benchmark standard. Though I am not sure why SEO’s feel they are working for free!

  • antonina ford

    Concisely put, Marta. I am one of those trogolodites who have no idea what SEO is, so in response to this article I can only provide the point of view of a ‘lay person’. I think that the industry needs to be put into the spotlight more in the lay person’s world (ie, not the buisness world), for it to be readily known and utilised, and a dollar-value-for-service figure placed on it. It’s almost as if it needs some serious PR in the consumer mainstream. Or maybe this article was over my head. These are simple thoughts from a primary school teacher.

  • Jason Cattach

    I guess every Internet industry will have people making claims like you stated. Guaranteed Page 1 or Pay Nothing, Page 1 in Seven Days $69.95/Month etc. It is just a pity that people choose to invest in companies like this.

    Great Article!

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Jason Cattach,

    Since your summary of SEO services includes condemnation of those who guarantee their work, I resent the implication that The Visible Dentist may in some way be unscrupulous.

    To the contrary, unlike most SEO services which fail to warranty anything, we instead guarantee that unless we deliver on our promise of ranking the website, the client pays nothing.

    Would you buy a product, a TV, a car, or other tangible merchandise without assurance of getting your money’s worth? Do you seek to shop in stores that carry no guarantee of their wares?

    FYI, our clients are VERY happy with the service we provide. No “pity” needed or wanted; especially since they recoup 500% – 1,000% of their SEO investment in the first year alone.

    Please, before you expound on issues of which you know little, do some research in advance. Impressionable people might actually take you seriously.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Andrew

    In the current financial crisis where every cent counts, I can only agree with what has been discussed. The industry is underdeveloped, but potential clients soon become disgruntled when being taken advantage of. Standards would clarify expectations and promise greater growth.

  • Rian Douglas

    John: To the contrary, unlike most SEO services which fail to warranty anything, we instead guarantee that unless we deliver on our promise of ranking the website, the client pays nothing.

    How can you absolutely promise that a 3rd party, unrelated to either yourself or your client, is going to behave in the fashion you expect or predict?

    John: Would you buy a product, a TV, a car, or other tangible merchandise without assurance of getting your money’s worth? Do you seek to shop in stores that carry no guarantee of their wares?

    Your analogy with consumer items is not a valid one, as those transactions seem to involve only interested parties. In SEO, Google et. al. couldn’t care less about the promises The Visible Dentist has made to its clients, nor whether you are able to deliver on them.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Rian Douglas,

    Let me break it down for you in the simplest terms:

    1) we DO NOT have any “control” over search engine algorithms

    2) we CANNOT categorically guarantee rankings will be attained

    However, we DO have control over our own actions, abilities and strategy. And unless our SEO provides satisfactory results, the client is not obligated to pay — and even then, they pay only AFTER positions have been verified.

    In essence, the guarantee made by The Visible Dentist is 100% solid, reliable and NOT dependent upon any entity other than he who gives it. We guarantee OUR performance, OUR work, OUR clients’ satisfaction — NOT the search engines’ algorithms.

    It truly escapes me how you cannot grasp the simple concept of someone guaranteeing their work.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John: It truly escapes me how you cannot grasp the simple concept of someone guaranteeing their work.
    Thanks for the condescending tone. I hope none of your prospective clients take note of it :-)

    In review:
    - Jason takes a (well deserved in my opinion) jab at those SEO companies offering ridiculous guarantees and those who give money to them.
    - You take offence at this, indicating (to me) that perhaps you offer such guarantees (and a brief look at your website seems to confirm this suspicion). You then offer some misguided analogy in your defence.
    - I question your ability to meet these guarantees (an ability which you seem to assert with great confidence), given the large role 3rd parties would seem to play in this success.
    - You offer a condescending response, basically confirming what had already been said (results are not assured, though clients don’t pay on failure)

    Did I miss something obvious? ;-)

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Rian Douglas,

    Our clients’ collective success speaks for itself.

    While you spin the facts, complain and criticize, The Visible Dentist remains the only SEO service in the dental industry niche which has actually established quality control standards and operating ethics.

    We are an independent, unique and reputable service with hundreds of successful campaigns and clients to our credit. We prove our value every day of the year. If you have more than only unfounded critique to offer, I’m sure everyone would like to see examples of your expertise.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John, you seemed to agree with the blog post at first, a part of which cast the unrealistic guarantees made by some SEO providers in a negative light. When Jason agreed concerning these unrealistic promises, you mounted a defence, associating yourself (or at least showing yourself to be sympathetic) to these unscrupulous SEO operators. You display unflagging confidence regarding the ability of the “The Visible Dentist” to achieve promises such as these, while seeming to disregard the many factors beyond your control, which ought to serve to reign in that confidence, furthering your association with these people.

    Instead of saying how great your company is, claiming that I’m spinning facts in some fashion, or how you should be trusted due to your claimed experience, perhaps you could point out where I’m mistaken, or what your original point might have been?

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Rian Douglas,

    Your remarks are misleading at best; your feigned innocence earns reproach.

    During your “critique”, the main point that you fail to understand (or choose to ignore) is the simple fact that The Visible Dentist SEO service stands by its promise to clients not to charge them until ranking results have been achieved.

    I think the details and value of our SEO guarantee has been made resolutely clear, yet no matter it’s clarity to most everyone else, you still persist in pointless argument over some obscure “political correctness.”

    Regardless of reality, I suspect you’ll continue to cherry pick, deny and spin whatever facts anyone says to suit your own purpose; and to be sure, whatever that goal is, only you seem to know.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John, you specifically associated your company with the less scrupulous operators by saying “I resent the implication that The Visible Dentist may in some way be unscrupulous.” when no such implication had been made. This, coupled with your poor analogy about consumer goods, and figures quoted without context only reinforced this association.
    You assumed from just 2 sentences that Jason was ignorant, and stated as much at the end of your response. When queried further, you again responded with condescension, when simple clarifications would have sufficed.

    It seems you took Jason’s comment and my initial comment as attacks on yourself and/or your company, and have continued to do so.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Rian Douglas,

    While you continue to “play” on the Internet finding fault with honest people, all while hijacking this wonderful post, I have real, actual work to do.

    Please find something more productive to do with your time. You are not impressing me or anyone else.

    My apologies to Marta Turek for continuing this dialog in her article. Please feel free to take appropriate action.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • http://semstreetcred.com Marta Turek

    Hi John,

    No apology necessary, but thank you! I have watched with interest as this verbal debate has played out.

    From an objective perspective, it appears that the debate has now been caught in the literal meaning of certain words, where a ‘pay on performance’ guarantee is being confused with a straight ‘give me your money, but we ‘guarantee’ we can do it’.

    Perhaps if anyone was confused about the two concepts, the dialogue above can help straighten it out!

    I think this is one of the best things about blogging – seeing other opinions play out in an open forum of discussion.

    Marta Turek

    Marta Turek’s last blog post..The New Divide: Sales vs. Web Team

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Hi Marta,

    Reading back, even I can admit to being a bit harsh — though one might appreciate my position once you know that I’m regularly the “approved target”, the third wheel in the SEO industry who has not only exposed SEO scams, but who has also broken tradition by guaranteeing search engine positions.

    Many in the SEO trade see me as a direct threat to their livelihoods. If I offer a guarantee and my clients are happy, then other SEO’s might be forced to do the same, and in many cases, they may be compelled to actually work for a living. :)

    If the SEO plays the “Google card”, they have almost an incontestable license to take the client’s money and give nothing in return. I was asked this in an interview recently. If you’re inclined, read my reply.

    Two tips Google offers on hiring an SEO service…

    John Barremore

  • Paul Bergin

    Marta, this is a very good article. I’d like to say so much more but am suffering from the dreaded “I feel compelled to comment on a post but others have already covered everything you thought of while reading the article” syndrome… :-) The pleasures of getting on board too late!

    I will add that this information has come at a perfect time with our own website going live soon. My graphic designer passed on to me an appalling e-book entitled “Search Engines Revealed” written in 2006 by a company that for some reason no longer exists (hmmm…). I respect this designer so much in his ability to “create” but due to the amount of confusing trash written about such a young unregulated industry we find intelligent people potentially following poor advice.

    I’m a computer consultant and systems engineer. Our side of the IT Industry is relatively ancient compared to this field but consider just how long it took for decent certifications and standards such as ITIL to appear? Ho hum…

    Oh, and more dialog from John and Rian! Perhaps with kit gloves this time? It’s been educational and disturbingly entertaining (I’m already ducking!)

    Thanks again, Marta. Bravo!

  • Zoe L G Noble

    Great article and fantastic feedback!

    It’d be great to see a follow up article looking at some pricing variables: competitive sites SEO strength, country of service provider, # of keywords optimised for, diversification between those keywords, desired outcome etc etc

    Keep up the great work!

    Zo

  • Alberto Rodriguez

    I concur with Zo: Great article and great discussion in the feedback section. It took a while to read the whole thing, but at this point my understanding of SEO and the intricacies around its offering is much clearer now. Looking forward to reading a follow up.

    A.R.

  • Pingback: Guarantees in SEO - 100% Hocus Pocus? | SEM Street Cred

  • http://www.nuselfesteem.spabeautyathome.com Elwira

    Yes, it is all so tricky:) the cyber space is like the Wild Wild West:) you can win or lose big:)
    Keep us updated Marta so we’ll know what to expect.

  • Mike

    Marta, fantastic article! Very informative and a real eye-opener. Good luck with the scholarship, and hope to hear more from you within this industry in the near future.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Hey heads up people — Marta’s followup to the above article — along with my soon to be published, pointed and very opinionated reply (once it’s thoroughly scrutinized) can be found on her excellent blawg.

    http://semstreetcred.com/2009/07/guarantees-in-seo-100-hocus-pocus/

    Come have a good read — or not.

    John Barremore (Mr. SEO Guarantee himself)
    Houston, TX

  • Karen

    Great post! This really highlights and goes quite a way to explain the extreme confusion, trepidation and frustrations many people experience when signing up with any seo company.

    The “smokes and mirrors” around results and proposed services, the guarantees on a third party service (google) that we don’t actually have control over and can only do our best to intelligently manipulate is definitely having a much larger impact on the industry than it was 2-3 years ago.

    I found your article extremely interesting – the way most seo companies work is the more they can keep the client in the dark as to what they’re actually delivering the longer they’ll get away with doing pretty much nothing – I would argue the opposite – perhaps if todays SEO companies concentrated more on reporting on the benefits and becoming much more accountable for the traffic – and conversions – that they deliver it’s much easier to justify a larger spend for your client to invest in more expensive SEO services once you are delivering results. I personally wonder how long it will take these companies with their guarantees etc to figure that one out?

  • Leigh

    Very interesting post Marta.

    The posts to follow definitely gave a very interesting/informative insight into how SEO is perceived and the Challenges & Changes the industry has seen over the years.

    Look forward to reading more of your informative articles and very intriguing posts to follow.

  • Corine Auzou

    Great Article… I guess SEO is still really new to people as a form of advertising compared to Print ads and the like, especially as a lot of people still see it as a fair game system. So, I think it’s safe to say the industry and google are still finding their feet in regards to what’s allowed and how far they can push or allow the boundaries to be pushed. thanks.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    To Karen (3 posts up)…

    SEO is spice — applied to various HTML elements used to emphasize, to “flavor” page content — content which is already wholesome and good. Its proper use urges the search engines to take notice of the file(s), thus sending the website more, pre-qualified traffic.

    Conversions on the other hand — are dependent upon website design and how well your website can convert visitors into customers. Although they are both necessary for success, SEO has nothing to do with causing people to take action once on your site.

    Pop over to Marta’s part 2 of this article and see if anyone’s discussing this…

    http://semstreetcred.com/2009/07/guarantees-in-seo-100-hocus-pocus/

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Karen

    Hey John,

    I’m not sure I agree with you 100% on the SEO and conversion side of things – your SEO needs to be positioned correctly to obtain the visitors that would convert the best for your website/the product you are selling.

    Yes the landing page is very important obviously but I would say that also the approach, how you optimise, what you optimise (pages and or keywords ) and where you optimise has a big impact on conversion rate/bounce rate as well.

    My main point I was trying to make is that most SEO companies only talk about rankings – why not have this as the secondary measure and lets talk about the traffic and the conversions and subsequent sales/ROI the customer is receiving?

    Most SEO companies are reluctant to put the focus on this area because they become a hell of a lot more accountable for their work and the results.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com/ The Visible Dentist

    Karen,

    I talk with clients about the full spectrum of website success everyday, not just SEO and positioning. Site design and conversions are just as, if not more important than positions in the search engines.

    If your site doesn’t convert well, you’re not making best use of whatever visitor traffic received. Again, even though they’re related, SEO and rankings are usually considered separate from tweaking a design for better conversions.

    Have a look around my website. You’ll find much information on both subjects.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Karen

    Hey John,

    With my comment I meant that the SEO decisions and focus that you decide on directly effect the conversions and sales to your website.

    So for example the strategy around what phrases you choose to optimise for and target and very important depending on what target market you are trying to get to visit your site.

    Also the other SEO decision that directly effects the conversions and sales is what page you choose to optimise for what search term. Getting this right and choosing the correct landing page for maximum conversion of visitors also directly impacts conversion rate. For example targeting everything on the home page isn’t going to get as great a result as successfully optimising an inner page that gives the searcher exactly what they are looking for.

    The initial point in my first point that I was trying to get across is that most SEO companies report on SERP but this in itself actually doesn’t mean anything. My point was if you focus on the actual conversions and sales that you are helping to deliver to a clients site via an increased amount of qualified traffic – which you can track and report on via an analytics program – than it’s much easier and a simple matter for your clients then to justify their spend with you – and easier for them to see the benefits and increase this amount.

    The second point I was trying to make is that it’s a little ironic that many companies keep their clients in the dark by not providing them this data – which may mean less work and accountability but it also means much less growth within your existing client base and harder work to get new clients on board. After all word of mouth is effortless sales and if you educate your clients as to what benefits they are receiving you can justify a bigger spend.

  • Robert

    Interesting post. I myself was until recently part of the “No idea” group

  • Agnieszka Zawislak-Bajer

    Marta,

    I liked your clear presentation of the topic. For me, it was an informative introduction to the SEO world.

    All the best!

  • Petrus

    After some frustrating days trying to find some idea of what to expect from SEO, I can fully appreciate the article. I want to know that what I read is what is generally expected

  • Birgit

    The above study as well as subsequent discussions have been very insightful about a topic that I did not have any understanding of prior to reading these posts.

  • Tim Hill

    Hi Marta, great article and well reasoned. I think it could be further improved with looking into the actual buying (or likely to purchase) market of SEO services to really lend weigh to your arguments.

    Just on your final thoughts:
    “If most people would search on Google for SEO, where can searchers find quality information…
    A standard definition of SEO would help the public understand what to expect from SEO…
    SEO standards would assist in setting a minimum benchmark for SEO service delivery, which would ultimately increase the client value perception of these services…”
    - People will search where they feel comfortable, given that google puts up ‘services’ very high in search results would suggest to me that people who are purcashing SEO services use google (among other things of course) to research options. Also it may lean weight that many people aren’t interested in the topic perhaps? Do they care about SEO… maybe not. This may lend weight to having one standard definition of SEO that describes the benefits more so than the how. Companies would probably differentiate themselves on both counts. Also do we have a standard definition (widely known by the public) on Marketing? Ultimately SEO is a category of Marketing really…
    - SEO standards; not sure would be worth investment, who would police it? Sure companies could promise XYZ but results would speak for themselves, people looking to spend a significant investment on SEO wouldn’t rely on a ’5 star’ rating to meet a standard but more on customer feedback, referrals, advice from colleagues etc. If its a small investment (read small commitment from buyer) then does it really matter?

    On flip side, I expect you could have same argument about social media and argue for standards as well; having a clear definition and a ‘standard’ would make it easier for people to understand the space.

    Oh and just to stir the pot again on the Visible Dentist debate; hahah.

    John: Would you buy a product, a TV, a car, or other tangible merchandise without assurance of getting your money’s worth? Do you seek to shop in stores that carry no guarantee of their wares?

    Rian Douglas (cool name): Your analogy with consumer items is not a valid one, as those transactions seem to involve only interested parties. In SEO, Google et. al. couldn’t care less about the promises The Visible Dentist has made to its clients, nor whether you are able to deliver on them.

    I disagree, the consumer in this case isn’t making a purchase through google of The Visible Dentist’s services, its with the visible dentist company itself. So the guarantee lies with them and by backing it up they can provide that guarantee.
    If for example it was to purchase a TV through a retailer (like in a store); then in most cases the warranty (so won’t break down for 5 years or whatever) lies with the TV provider and not the shop (sure you could go into the shop to complain but in most cases they would refer onto provider). And so really if the TV is selling, the retailer couldn’t care less – especially if they aren’t involved in returns or warranty issues.
    Now you might say, well their reputation is on the line with faulty products etc etc so they need to ensure high quality and that’s correct – but I would argue that’s the same for google; people would start to regard the search results less (although Google wouldn’t find out by people walking into a store.)

  • http://.semstreetcred.com Marta Turek

    @Tim Hill

    And everyone else who got involved in the discussion, I wanted to say a big thank you. There has been some great debate among commenters as well as some insightful observations as to how the article could be extended upon.

    Tim, you have managed very eloquently to present points that attribute to each side of the coin in the standards argument. Of course in this complex issue there is no right or wrong. Certainly, I do not advocate a stranglehold on SEO creativity, but think that at the moment there are perhaps a tad many loopholes in the system that are being exploited.

    Looks like your boat stirring was to no avail… perhaps the combatants are all debated out.

  • Rian Douglas

    Tim: I disagree, the consumer in this case isn’t making a purchase through google of The Visible Dentist’s services, its with the visible dentist company itself. So the guarantee lies with them and by backing it up they can provide that guarantee.
    No quarrel with that. I don’t think I implied that people were making purchases through google :-)

    The problem with the analogy is simply that there is a third party who is solely responsible for the rankings (though they tend to be impartial, and follow a set of rules) over which the Visible Dentist (or whoever else) has no control (apart from adhering to their set of rules and hoping for a favourable result).
    It is almost like contracting an architect to design a building, and have them guarantee the work of the builder, even though they have no relationship with them. At least, that’s how I understand it (and it’s still a poor analogy) :-)

    Marta: Looks like your boat stirring was to no avail… perhaps the combatants are all debated out.
    That would be “pot stirring” ;-)
    And I’m not “debated out”, it’s just that the discussion was going around in circles :-)

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    Marta, there’s plenty of wind left in my sail — though as Rian Douglas, the sh*t stirrer points out, the “debate” was going nowhere, especially since the concept of guaranteeing one’s work was an elusive notion.

    Allow me to reiterate…

    Regardless of our inability to control the search engines, if the application of our SEO fails to meet specific keyword goals for the client, there is no charge. We invoice only after positions have been achieved.

    If you’re looking for a common safeguard to protect the client and keep the SEO service straight and valuable, a performance warranty seems to be the best choice.

    Cheers!

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    Here we go again…

    John: Marta, there’s plenty of wind left in my sail — though as Rian Douglas, the sh*t stirrer points out, the “debate” was going nowhere, especially since the concept of guaranteeing one’s work was an elusive notion.
    I find it funny that you accuse me of stirring, when you’re the one being aggressive and insulting.
    Pot, meet kettle :-)

    John: Regardless of our inability to control the search engines, if the application of our SEO fails to meet specific keyword goals for the client, there is no charge. We invoice only after positions have been achieved.

    Great. I’ve never had a problem with your (final) position on guarantees.
    I asked my initial question because you willingly associated your services with those who are less reputable, were unclear, when a simple clarification would have sufficed you were aggressive whilst playing the victim card, and you were insulting and condescending to Jason and myself.

    In short, you made an ass of yourself :-)

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    Rian, you really are the “sensitive” sort of guy. Sorry if your feelings got bruised; didn’t mean to offend you; hope you can forgive me. From now on I’ll be careful to speak with tender, delicate inflection. Again, I’m sorry; you were right and I was a callous ruffian. Hey what’s your favorite color? :)

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John, you’re an idiot

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    LOL! :) Let me guess — your favorite color is pink!

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John, for someone who takes offence where none is given, with a well developed persecution complex and aggressive tendencies, I’m surprised to find that you have, what appears to be, a small sense of humour ;-)

    Now, if you have nothing constructive to add, and are left with poor attempts at taunts and insults, I suggest we forego further heckling of each other on this blog post.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    Just for the record, Rian, you never answered my questions; e.g. what are your qualifications to “critique” anyone’s webmaster or SEO skills or their business model? What are your accomplishments on the Web? Have you conducted many (or any) SEO campaigns?

    If you have zero successful SEO campaigns nor any satisfied clients to your credit, if you have no abilities in the SEO industry whatsoever, how can you expect your analysis to be well received by anyone?

    How do you justify your dialog to be constructive and valid if you have no professional hands-on experience? I mean hey, no offense pal, but to me you’re just blowing smoke. As the saying goes, either put up or shut up.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    I’m a software developer. I have never conducted an SEO campaign, and am not directly involved in the SEO/SEM industry.

    As this all started due to your bad attitude, aggressive posture, condescension, lack of clarity, and loud boastful claims, I fail to see why my experience in this industry is of any relevance. I’ve not made much in the way of statements relating to SEO.

    Do I need to be an industry expert before I can point out that you’re acting like a petulant child?
    Or perhaps anything I say must be worthless because you’re more experienced?

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    Finally some clearness — all this time and at last you reveal that you have no experience in search engine optimization. Everything you’ve said is purely speculation and opinion. Other than wearing your feelings on your shirt sleeve and finding fault with my every word, just what in the hell are you talking about?

    What is your point; do you have a perspective on SEO standards, or are you campaigning for Ms Manners or Mr Blog Cop?

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • Rian Douglas

    John, I haven’t claimed expertise in SEO, nor have a made any pronouncements from authority, unlike yourself. You’ve provided nothing more than anecdote to support your own “speculation and opinion”.
    You don’t seem able to conduct yourself other than peevishly. Any slight against you or your company, real or imagined, mostly results in an attack on the person making the comment, not on the substance of the comment itself.
    You seem too dense or emotionally involved to realise that, after you cleared it up (amongst the invective), I agree that the idea of a guarantee as you’ve presented it, does seem reasonable.

    If you think discussions are “won” by yelling louder than the other guy, the slinging of insults, or claims of being “correct” due to greater experience, then I can only feel pity for anyone who has to deal with you on a day to day basis, including your customers.

    And here we are, back on the merry go round…wheeeee!

    I suggest we again, leave it here John, unless you have something substantive to add to the discussion.

  • http://www.thevisibledentist.com The Visible Dentist

    I might as well waste more of everyone’s time answering your “he said she said” BS.

    Your post do indeed purport some degree of “authority” as the following assertions suggest:

    Being such a new service, it (SEO) probably shouldn’t be too surprising that there is such ignorance from “clients” as regards payment and services provided when compared with what a reputable firm offering SEO can realistically offer, leaving plenty of room for the less desirables to ply their trade.

    This (SEO) is how you get your site to be returned in search results, and basically involves changes to the HTML etc of the site to make it friendlier to the web crawlers used by search engines to index the internet.

    However it’s obvious you’re clueless since SEO has been around for more than a decade.

    So that is that — and now I will leave it, for you to argue with yourself, or have the last word, or whatever it is you wish to accomplish. Again, no one seems to know your purpose, but you.

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  • http://.semstreetcred.com Marta Turek

    Gentlemen, I think it is time for a cease-fire.