Over the last 15 years of being an SEO consulant, it’s been my experience that, after introducing yourself, you’re going to get one of four responses from the person you’ve just met. They’re either going to say:

  1. “I don’t know what that means. Can you explain it?”
  2. “We’re already working with someone.”
  3. “We hired an SEO company a few years ago and paid them a lot of money for not much value.”
  4. “We’re too small and don’t need to do SEO.”

Every one of those responses represents an opportunity for business. The challenge is to figure out what you’re going to say next to continue the conversation.

“I don’t know what that means. Can you explain it?”

Ah, the question that gives permission for the true SEO to geek out and show off a bit. SEO is hard, and this person has just given us permission to talk about HTML titles, on-page titles, meta descriptions, content, topicality, page structure, story flow, inbound links, user interface, sitemaps, keyword density (not really a “thing” anymore), and 100 other signals.

We’re in heaven.

Along the way though, you have to watch the persons eyes. You have to make sure to stop talking immediately if the eyes move left or right to someone else in the room, or they start to roll back up in their head. That’s a sure sign that you’ve over geek’d and lost them.

The right answer, the only answer that matters to them, is, “I’m the person who helps your customers find your business when they search for it on Google or Bing.”


“We hired an SEO company a few years ago and paid them a lot of money for not much value.”

This is a hard one to answer. There’s almost no way to do this without dumping on “the other guys” in your response.

My tactic, for what it’s worth, is empathize and ask some pointed questions. “Were the goals clearly scoped at the beginning of the engagement?” “Did you have weekly / monthly meetings with them?” And my favorite, “Where was the company based?”

A lot of companies who sell SEO services have US sales offices but the actual work happens in other locations. India. Bangladesh. Latin America. I know because I get phone calls constantly from these companies offering to sell me SEO services.

It annoys me that these people are wasting my time by trying to sell SEO services to an SEO company. But it bothers me even more that they’re trying to sell those services to other companies. Why? Because unless you’re a native English speaker (as in American English) you’re not going to do a good job of understanding the nuances of how American’s search for information, goods and services on the web.

And that gives all SEO professionals a bad name.

So what do you do when someone says they’ve had a bad experience with previous SEO companies? You empathize. You explain that you feel their pain. You talk about all your years in the business, the Client’s you’ve worked with, and that you work hand and glove with all your Clients to make sure that clear goals have been established, that there’s a project plan in place, and that you never, ever, want them to feel like they’re not being hear or part of the process.

And that it’s going to get better.

“We’re already working with someone.”

The brush off. “Thanks, but no thanks.” OK, they’re working with someone. But are they happy working with that someone. What were their expectations? What are the metrics that they’re using to measure the success of the relationship? Have those expectations been met? Or better yet, have the been exceeded?

The big opportunity here is that you don’t have to do a lot of education for this Client. And make no mistake, they are a potential Client. But right now, they’re someone else’s Client, do you have to take out the kid gloves, ask a few pointed questions, and sound smarter and better informed than the other guys.

  • Ask them if they noticed a drop or an increase in traffic (or conversions, or sales) after Google moved it’s index from a desktop crawler to a mobile crawler back in July 2018. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know this.
  • Ask them how much of their traffic comes from people doing voice searches via Alexa or Google or Cortana. It’s not the easiest thing to figure out, but it can be done. But simply asking the question means you’re thinking outside the box, and quite probably looking at their problem differently than their current Agency.
  • Ask them if their SEO company asks to look at their server log files on a regular basis. Most Agencies don’t do this. When you’re asked why this is important, you can say that it’s the only way to make sure how often the search engines are coming to the sure and whether they’re finding and indexing all of the content they (the Client] wants them to.

Don’t show off. Just show that you know how to dot all of the “i’s” and cross all of the “t’s”.

“We’re too small and don’t need to do SEO.”

Personally, I have to stop myself from smiling when I hear this one. With something north of 85% of all consumers doing pre-purchase research on line, there are, in my opinion, no companies too small to begin doing SEO.

Is your business too small to have a phone number? No? I didn’t think so.

When you’re just starting out, having an SEO plan in place can be more important than when you’re already established. In fact, I’d say it’s as important as having your initial business plan in place.

Putting that SEO plan together requires that you do an analysis of your customer. Who are they? Where do you find them? Where are they in the purchase process? Are they looking to make a purchase now, or are they looking for information prior to making a purchase? And most of all, how are they searching for what you’re selling?

There’s a tendency to want to think that your Customers speak the same language you do when it comes to thinking about your business. And that might be true if you’re a one business selling to another. For example, a plumber understands that the thing that keeps the dirty water from that washing machine in the basement from flowing backwards through the drain pipe after it’s been pumped out is called a backflow valve. The person who isn’t a plumber is likely going to be searching some other way. So knowing who you’re selling to is critical in understand how to optimize your web site.

Small businesses need customers. Your customers are searching online. And that means you need a strong SEO campaign.



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