Every once in a while this subject comes up, and the argument is usually the same. Businesses hate SEO because they have confused it with spam or a scam. And there's certainly some truth to that. But I'm here to tell you that this isn't why businesses hate SEO.
Payday loans and insurance scams don't prevent businesses from buying insurance or taking out loans.
No, it's not because of the spammers or the black hats or the newcomers who don't know what they're talking about. It all comes down to a simple principle of business. And if you don't understand it, you're going to have trouble finding clients.
Marketing is an Investment
There is a reason that entrepreneurs and corporations talk about their "marketing portfolio." Businesses play marketing strategies the same way they play the stock market. They look for evidence of a return on their investment and the majority of them don't want to dive into an investment that could be considered "high risk."
So part of the problem is that many of us SEOs still have trouble speaking the language of business. We talk about "rankings" and "domain authority" instead of conversions and ROI. Will Crichlow's recent post on meaningful SEO metrics is a part of the growing trend toward more financial language in the SEO community, and I think that's great. But it's still not what I'm here to talk to you about.
No, the most important takeaway from the "investment" part of the conversation is even more fundamental. I'm talking about the principle of diversification.
The Google Egg Basket
Take some time reading the "anti" SEO articles scattered around the web.
These posts almost always have a similar ring to them. Very rarely will you encounter an article whose central argument is "SEO is spam and it needs to die." The take is usually the less opinionated, more descriptive (if alarmist) proclamation that "SEO is dead."
We need to stop lying to ourselves. Businesses aren't opposed to SEO because of a perception of spam. They are opposed to SEO because they see it as a marketing strategy built entirely on the quirks of an algorithm that they aren't in control of. They see it as a strategy that is easily manipulated by the whims of a search engine monopoly.
It's easy to convince a client that a social strategy will work for the long term. (Not that this was true just a few years ago). It's easy, because all you need to do is convince them that word of mouth is good for business, and it's a strategy that doesn't depend on the whims, or even the existence, of Facebook.
A business will happily invest its marketing strategy in television, because there's a diverse range of channels to choose from, and all of them benefit from taking ad money.
SEO is different. It's built almost entirely around traffic from a single source: Google. Free traffic. Traffic that, quite possibly, goes against Google's immediate business interests. And when you see it that way, you can start to see why businesses aren't necessarily pouncing on SEOs left and right.
SEO Can Be Diverse, Long Term, and Reliable
This is the central message that your clients need to hear. You know it, but your potential clients probably don't. That's why they need to hear things like:
- For all the time we spend talking about Google, we're most interested in establishing you as a thought leader
- For all the effort that goes into building links, the real skills at work are content marketing and influential relationships
- Referrals from links can be just as valuable as visits from search engines
- A solid SEO plan is built to achieve long term profit even in the absence of search engine rankings
And if you don't feel this way yourself, there's a good chance you'll find yourself in the conspiratorial, blame Google first crowd. Sound marketing strategies are built around diversification. Your clients understand this.
Image credit: 401(K) 2013