Undersell Your SEO Service, Overachieve Your SEO Results

By Stoney deGeyter – August 01, 2006

You’ve heard of people that are so good at sales that they could sell ice to an Eskimo, water to a fish and prescription glasses the blind. Every company wants to employ such a salesman for their products or services. Big sales producers such as this are invaluable to the companies that have them.

For many companies, the sell-at-all-cost approach can often come back to bite. The good salesperson is doing his job, but a problem arises when the products or services don’t live up to the sales rhetoric being to entice the buyer. It’s the result of a salesperson that oversells and over promises but the products or services don’t (or can’t) meet the expectations of the buyer.

This happens frequently with search engine optimization companies. It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear: “19 days to #1!”, “Ranked in the top three!”, “First page placement for all your key phrases,” it’s something more to actually be able to fulfill such promises. In a previous article I debunked SEO top ranking guarantees. Others in the industry have discussed this topic, quite extensively and even Google has weighed in with their own statement, saying “no one can guarantee a #1 ranking”. Still there are lots of “SEO” companies out there that insist that they’ll magically make your site appear in the number one position. The truth is that they actually might be able to achieve this, but for keywords that nobody really searches for, or for a very limited time until getting your site banned in the process. And if the SEO doesn’t live up to these promises, he or she simply points you to the many loopholes spelled out in small print in the contract.

The SEO industry is aggressive; every SEO’s motive is to convince potential clients that the services he or she provides are a cut above those offered by competitors. This is why so many oversell with the promise of spectacular results that may or may not be achievable. Few SEOs go out of their way to provide a truthful assessment of what is possible and on what kind of timeline. New sites will take a year or more. Competitive industries require a bigger budget. And, poor websites… well, top rankings can be achieved, but you may need to make drastic changes if you want to improve conversions.

SEOs that are honest with potential clients find that they lose many who are looking for the quick fix, instant results or a guarantee. But they’ll also discover that those who do become clients have a much better grasp on what’s at stake, how long it’ll take and what kind of results to expect. And if you’re both honest and capable, you’ll always be able to meet and often exceed the client’s expectations.

My firm makes it a point to let our clients know that we set benchmarks for achievement throughout the fist year of their campaign. Currently 70% of our clients are performing better than expected and over 80% are performing at or above expectations. Yes, that means 20% are currently performing below expected levels, but this isn’t necessarily a failure rate. In reality it reflects the percentage of clients that are not performing as strongly as we hoped, but many of them have shown significant improvement in targeted traffic and ROI since the campaigns inception.

But this is something most SEOs won’t tell you, especially those that make pie in the sky claims. They know that they have oversold their service and largely underperformed in results. When our clients call asking about their ranking performance, we give them an honest assessment, which includes letting them know if we feel they should be performing better. We also let them know that their site is being aggressively analyzed, tweaked and linked and we expect to bring them up to perform at or above benchmark levels soon. We are rarely wrong.

We go by the Scottie Principle, based on Scottie of the original Star Trek series, which is all about underselling your capabilities and then overachieving in results. While the client might be expecting certain results in top rankings, you can overachieve by having actually helped them increase their sales and return on investment. If you can do that, top search engine rankings don’t matter as much because the client is busy handling the new sales that they are getting as a result of the optimization and marketing efforts.

SEOs don’t need to oversell by making promises and increasing expectations beyond their ability to deliver. Those that educate clients, providing a truthful assessment of expectations, then work aggressively to achieve results beyond those expectations will find they have to worry less about getting their next client to replace the three that just left. Focus can instead center on developing and maintaining a strong and profitable relationship with each client for years to come.

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