June 23, 2013
About the Author:
Long time SEO enthusiast, IT & Billing director of FrostSEO UK, involved in dynamic web design since 1996, published in popular magazines across Europe. Huge fan of Star Talk & Burn Notice. Follow at @tmpkn
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Search Engine Optimization is a very unusual market. The mathematical algorithms, which run the whole show, are not only hidden from the outside world by the search engine companies, but are also constantly evolving. There is a reason for these everlasting changes, which we covered in depth in a different article (SEO & Content Quality). That is why you cannot simply study professional SEO techniques at a university. By the time you have finished your education, most of your knowledge would already be obsolete.
Since there are no ultimate guidelines for organic optimization, there is only one way for SEO customers to define if the service they’re getting is meeting the industry standards: and that is by looking at the results. A company that invests money in promotion of their website would only benefit from this investment, if the actions performed by the SEO agency bear certain fruits and their website does in fact go up in the search results listings. This is the only outcome which provides the customer with measurable results. By appearing higher in search results, their website attracts more visitors, which in turn provides more leads to their business.
No other consequence of SEO actions can be considered a true return on investment. Surely – the website might be more compliant with W3C standards, or can be easier to read for visitors using mobile devices, but none of these results is what the customer expected when signing up. That said, one cannot underestimate the role of proper website optimization and joint services (SEO & PPC).
To make things more complicated, a successful SEO approach requires certain level of cooperation from the customer himself. All the efforts of SEO specialists working on a website can be rendered vain by variety of factors which are not in control of the agency. For example: a simple change to the website structure can take away most of the SEO friendliness and months of high quality content creation. At the same time, a successful campaign requires certain commitments from the agency, especially during the early stages. There are a lot of resources that need to be dedicated to a customer’s account in order to deliver certain level of service. This initial investment of the SEO agency will be lost if the campaign fails because of certain actions of the customer.
These two facts combined – the constant evolution of SEO market and the shared responsibility for organic results – make it very challenging to constitute a business model that can be considered fair for both sides of an SEO deal. Unfortunately, the most common outcome is a setup which only favors one side of the contract. Some big agencies decide to play safe with no warranty claims smuggled in the agreements. Others would retrain from allocating enough manpower to the deal until their gain is sufficient to cover the cost of potential failure. In both scenarios, it’s the customer that has to pay the insurance policy of what is a common effort.
But that is not always the case – at the other side of the spectrum we have the freelance specialists, many times quite new to the market, who try to attract customers by promising them certain results. And the problem begins, when these customers fail to cooperate, instead expecting the SEO to simply “do its magic” without any commitment from their side. Since the freelancer cannot deliver what was promised, the customer might not feel obliged to pay. And SEO collections are very difficult to pull through, since the service is not considered “vital” by the non-payers, and even if it ceases to be provided, the consequences might not be harmful enough for them to worry about.
What I found to be the best solution to this turmoil is simple honesty. The Search Engine Optimization provider has to clearly state the rules and point out what is expected from the other party instead of simply hoping for the best. Also, your customer has all the right to know the risk. If you don’t offer any warranties, then disguising this fact as a “guarantee of good service” is probably not a good idea. Obviously, a sneaky fine print is definitely not the answer. It’s very easy to make someone feel played, at which stage you can kiss all chances for good communication (and therefore – good cooperation) goodbye.
You can also have a look at how we handle the Guaranteed SEO offer here at FrostSEO. Our solution simply combines the policy of honesty and shared efforts with a clear definition of warranties you can expect when signing up with us.