Updated from the original post in May 7th, 2007.

Some critics have noted consumers are growing dissatisfied with the SEO industry due to the lack of accountability (with respect to results) and lack of transparency (with respect to what is actually completed for web sites). It’s true, nearly anybody regardless of qualifications can figure out on-page SEO (changes made to your web site) and create an online firm to start garnering consultation dollars. The problem is the absence of SEO standard for training or governing body policing rogue consultants means the chance of ‘pulling the wool’ over the eyes of unsuspecting consumers grows.

Before we move forward here is a little bit of context. An article called, “A “Market for Lemons”, a Nobel Prize, and Snake Oil SEO” from John Andrews argued for the increase in transparency for an industry where the consultant holds an unfair advantage in service negotiations because of their unique knowledge of the SEO industry that the customer does not have.

Aaron Wall comments in his blog post “Why Selling Selling SEO Services is a Bad Business Model”, by adding some more reasons why selling SEO services is a bad business model.

While I agree with both writers and their take on the SEO business models especially when it comes to contractual discussions, I think they failed to address some key activities that separate the ‘snakes’ from the pros. How then should legitimate SEO’s approach their trade?

Why SEO/SEM is Neither Sales nor Product Focused

A marketing mentor of mine pushed the following:

“Sales focused activities move products or services. Marketing focused activities move customers and turn them into lifelong clients. Nobody wants to be ‘sold to’. We want to be courted, to be romanced. Selling focuses on the needs of the seller; marketing on the needs of the buyer.”

Are you aimlessly pushing your SEO product or service? Sounds like you’re more concerned with showing the prospective client what you’re all about rather than showing how you can benefit their needs. One creates high paying, returning, and referencing clients. The other is usually the focus of a poorly planned business model which reflects what kind of organization operates behind the web design facade.

The first exposure online is obviously your web site. What prospective clients learn and feel about your organization is dependent on what type of message you try to communicate. What message you try to communicate on your web page/site is dependent on the nature of your business plan around your organization.

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing consultation is a marketing based venture interested in meeting the needs of a client. SEO and SEM are not product or service oriented. The difference between the two is the difference between the Rolls Royce dealer and the sleazy used car lot; the difference between breakfast at Tiffany’s and 7-Eleven. The first meets the needs of the client, the other is a vain attempt to push customers into an inferior party.

Your goal of meeting the growing expectation for greater transparency in the SEO industry begins by becoming market oriented rather than product or service oriented. If you can change the ethos of your business model to reflect the needs of the clients, to court and romance the prospects into a relationship, then you can create the foundation for a strong online SEO firm.

[tags]seo services, seo products, seo marketing, business marketing, web marketing, web marketing services[/tags]