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October 4, 2007

Convincing Clients to Invest In Search Engine Optimization

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I sat down to read this week’s edition of Jill Whalen’s High Rankings Advisor Newsletter and almost immediately started giggling. It had nothing to do with Jill, it was just that one of the issues being discussed was how you convince a client to invest in search engine optimization when the client is watching their competitors rank well by breaking every optimization rule in the book. I giggled because, huzzah, it’s not only us that have to deal with situations like these! ;)

In case you want to share in some of my giggles, let’s highlight some of the types of sites I’m talking about:

Check out the top result for the query [free web poll]:


Looks pretty normal, right? Yep, until you try and grab the copy/paste code required to embed a poll on your site. Then, as the folks at the CogDogBlog found out, the site goes from innocuous free poll site to leading drug and porn ring. Here’s a somewhat obscured look at a section of the code:

I apologize for the blacking out of things, but we’re a family-friendly blog around here. Let’s just say there were mentions of drugs and child rings, and they weren’t talking about the rings little kids wear on their tiny innocent little fingers either.

If that’s not enough, how about this query for [career suicide] (hat tip Keri Morgret):


More like search engine optimization suicide. [rimshot]

We laugh because these examples are just so completely ridiculous. But they’re ridiculous and ranking. How do you explain that to clients?

We always try to bring the focus back on the client, not on their competitors. There will always be sites and scammy webmasters trying to cheat the system. That doesn’t mean you or your client should join them. When clients start asking us if long-term search engine optimization is really necessary and start pointing at sites like these, we feel their pain, but we still explain to them that, yes, it really is.

Anyone can steal a ranking for a short, noncompetitive keyword phrase. We’re not impressed by that. Search engine optimization isn’t about ranking for random phrases; it’s about ranking for the terms that are important to your site. And it’s about earning rankings by being an authority in that subject area. Sooner or later Google is going to figure out that there’s a touch of keyword stuffing going on in that site currently ranking number one for career suicide and it’s going to get blasted. Eventually, Google will realize that the site offering free Web polls isn’t really offering them for "free".

It’s always hard to look a pained client in the eye and have to explain why those types are ranking. Those sites are ranking because Google or Yahoo or Ask hasn’t found them yet. But they will. You don’t launch a search engine optimization campaign to "beat" your cheating competitors. You launch it and then maintain it because you want to create a better Web site and better serve your users.

Those sites spamming and scamming their way up the SERPs don’t really bother me (that much). Sure, they’re annoying as hell and we’d all be better off if they’d disappear, but they won’t be there forever. They’ll be found out. And as the engines start rewarding sites based on personalization factors, those sites are going to have a harder and harder time trying to maintain their stolen rankings. Your client’s site, however, the site that is based on excellent content and meeting users’ needs, is going to shoot up and gain the rankings it deserves.

We’ve been doing this long enough that spammers don’t scare us. Proper search engine optimization is worth the investment, and it always will be.





One response to “Convincing Clients to Invest In Search Engine Optimization”

  1. Asia writes:

    I don’t so much have a problem convincing a client they need to invest in SEO due to the problems you are describing. I’m having a difficult problem, describing the events this form of spam will result in – i.e. banned from Google – when after 2 years, no such ban or clean up has been done. I almost feel dishonest when I’m being honest.

    If search engines want to tie us down by guidelines, and have us out there preaching honest good SEO – wouldn’t they try to clean up the crap so we can seem honest when we have to explain these effects to our clients?



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