What Your SEO Clients Really Want to Hear…

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I’ve been doing SEO for around 7 years now and probably the single biggest disconnect between my clients and myself revolves around using Rankings versus Traffic/Conversions/Sales/Revenue as a metric to measure my success.

Here’s the thing, When I look at a Search Query Report in Google Webmaster tools, Google Actually reports to me how many impressions, clicks, and my Click Through Rates I get down to the ranking position on the page. What’s most significant about this report is that every single keyword shows rankings fluctuating between multiple positions and pages. Yet, my Traffic Data, My Conversion Data, and Sales and Revenue Data is undisputed FACT about the value of the SEO results I deliver to clients. For example, on one site I do SEO for, I generate roughly $100,000 profit a month from organic search traffic. When I took over the site, it was generating under $20,000 a month in profit. The site draws in Search Traffic from over 7,000 pages, and over 1200 different keywords reported in Google Webmaster Tools. My client has seen over 15x his investment in my services, and I still get phone calls from him asking me about how were ranking in a certain City. In fact, I got an email yesterday from him that read, “David, I searched for Our Keyword in Las Vegas and my site is nowhere to be found, why are we not ranking number one there?”

In truth, the site gets traffic in Las Vegas and surrounding areas, and it’s hardly a strong market for my client. But… When he searches in Google (which he does many times daily) he wonders why he is spending all this money. Even though there are no marketing efforts he has ever seen that show returns even remotely close to his SEO returns. He even knows this and is currently invested in over $150,000 in Web Development projects many to attract online searchers for his services and products. He is scaling back his paid search and doubling down on his SEO, but it still pains him when he searches for his keyword and sees his smaller competitors, many of whom he considers to be unsavory, bait and switch operations, that take advantage of customers, where he invests heavily in pleasing his customers. Yet, it still pains him when he doesn’t see his site ranking.

The Truth is that Rankings are for EGO and Traffic is for making money. The Truth is that even if you rank Number One in Google, there are over 200 known factors that could affect your rankings. In truth that means you are competing with every other website competing with you for that search term on 200 different battlefields. Their efforts are constantly fluctuating. SEO is a competitive sport, but worse, it is weighted to show diversity in results, so even if you were the best at everything, you still wouldn’t rank all the time for all your keywords. The truth is that rank tracking is hogwash that can hardly be indicative of anything other than a visual validation what you feel you deserve.The truth is Good Rankings Today can easily disappear tomorrow, with Google tweaking algorithms 40-50 times a month, and experimenting with who knows how many more, the search landscape is literally so dynamic and every single website, every industry, every keyword, every page, every ranking factor, every link and citation is constantly changing that the best way to figure out how good an SEO is, is to see if he is out of breadth 🙂 Trying to keep up is hard enough, having to please clients with rankings reports that are hardly informative doesn’t help and worst of all, when you client is searching 30 times a day across multiple browsers, locations, devices and keywords, and putting you in a situation of managing expectations, being transparent and honest, and balancing the fact that you feel like you are one slick speaking SEO magician salespitch away from losing your client to the numerous snake oil salesmen pitching them endlessly.

Your clients don’t want to hear about how you returned to them 15 times their investment, They want to hear that Google is giving them the rankings they rightfully earned and deserve by doing their job of serving their end user better than anyone else. They want that pat on the back from grandpa google, letting them know they should keep up the good work. They want to say, see, Even Googles Algorithms know we are the BEST.

The truth is though, if you flip the coin, my need to show my client their Return on Investment is driven by my EGO to defend the high fees I charge them, and to defend my vulnerable position. The insecurity of knowing I can’t guarantee rankings. The knowledge that many times I need to field calls that question what I exact actions I am taking and doing to increase their rankings on a daily basis.

Some people realized this reality and sell blogposts, social media marketing and other unquantifiable efforts, but very visual EGO boosting products to clients. Others, feel fine telling their clients what they want to hear about rankings even if its untrue, as long as the revenue generated justifies their efforts, they can sleep easy at night.Still Others,

I spent years trying to be transparent and honest with clients, and I never managed to convince them that they were looking at the wrong metrics. That rankings won’t pay their bills. I guess, I just need to strike the balance with prioritizing what will produce best for my clients while trying to show them the results in rankings they are looking for. I guess I have no choice to show them the rankings they want to see, or at least let them know I am focusing on improving their rankings, and hope that they see my results both in their bank account and visually.

With Clients, Arguing with them is hardly what they want to hear. The truth is not what they want to hear. In fact, I bet if I gave them a choice between two profitable marketing campaigns, one with much lower returns, but still profitable, but has major visibility, like a big billboard, Number One rankings in Google (via adwords), versus something that will produce 10 times the results, but will be basically invisible, they will probably find a way to defend the higher visibility option, and justify it. After all, the cost of a missed opportunity is NOTHING! However, the benefit of a Warm Fuzzy Feeling inside, feeling accepted, like one the cool kids on the block, with a big proud rankings to show off, Is by far a much stronger motivating emotion that the feeling of missing out on a decent opportunity.

This is also why most small businesses insist referrals are their biggest source of business, yet they almost never proactively ask for or pursue driving more referrals. Because getting an unsolicited referral is a great boost to the ego. Like being recognized by Google as the very best. But asking for the referrals almost defeats the emotional drivers of the validation from referrals.

Human perception is like wet cement. Once someone has a belief it is a fools mission to try to change their minds. Every argue with someone about Obama VS. Romney, I haven’t even though I have very strong political leanings and interest. I learned from experience that changing someones mind is rarely successful and almost never worthwhile. In the same vain, trying to change your clients perspective from trying to rank number one and checking their rankings constantly if that is their current perception and belief is a fools mission.


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About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $50,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.

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