In a world of paid video streaming services to avoid commercials, voice operated home automation, one-click taxi or pizza ordering, we expect to get things now.
The marketing world is no different.
Whether it's Google ads targeting users by keywords and locations, or FaceBook ads targeting friends of friends by demographics and devices, businesses want traffic and they want it now. Where does SEO fit and how long should you wait to see the results from it?
In this article I'm going to step way outside of my comfort zone. I'm going to go from being the nice guy that want's everyone to be happy now, and instead become the old grumpy grandfather who's concerned about where this whole thing is headed. I'm going to be blunt. Are you ready?
I don't think most marketers are patient enough for a good SEO campaign to really take root.
Be patient with me here. After all, that's the theme here; patience.
One thing that's been consistent throughout my 10 years in SEO (since 2006) is the client expectation to look at a marketing report and see the results of their SEO efforts matching the results of their Paid Search efforts immediately, and skyrocketing past only a month later.
Because after-all SEO converts better, right? True.
And I'll be getting free traffic at some point won't I? Sort of.
And SEO is the Holy Grail, voodoo-craze no one understands but you need it and it will change the face of your business today wont it? No sir.
No matter how many times I tell marketers that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, they still get nervous and it reminds me of a day trader mentoring under Warren Buffet. Sure, you're not used to this process, but it works doesn't it?
I know what we do works because I've made millions for companies over the years and in one case, over a billion. So it's not about a lack of results. It's about a lack of results yet.
I know our clients need what we're doing for them. I see their traffic numbers before, and I see their opportunities. So it's not a lack of demand.
I also see the path between where they are and where they want to be, and I feel like we do a good job explaining that. So it isn't that.
What is it then? What's really wrong with this whole picture?
I think the truth is marketers aren't patient enough for SEO. They're not really ready to begin SEO as much as they say they are.
So why does that keep me up at night if it's just their impatience, or their problem?
Because ultimately, it's my problem.
Why's it my problem? Well in short, we all suffer due to marketers being impatient about SEO.
What's the more detailed explanation? Because I represent one authentic and genuine SEO agency in a world where for every one of us there are 10 "SEO professionals" around walking around selling snake oil.
It's for that reason so many marketers buy into an SEO campaign and expect to see skyrocket profits in 4 months only to stop all efforts right after the heavy research, audits and strategy have been complete, right before the real push up the hill is about to begin.
We can't win because marketers aren't patient. Ok.
But that drives me crazy! Why aren't they patient?
Could it be because everything else about their business seems to be moving at the speed of light? Sure, except of course that whole branding thing.
It took years to build the brand we see today. It took years of compounding growth to build the business we're serving today. It took one hire and training period after another. It took one disgruntled customer carefully handled after another. It took enough changes and forgiveness from customers before they got it just right. It took one partially effective advertising campaign or media buy after another.
So with all of this slow and steady growth of a good business, why does it all go out the window when we start talking about SEO? Why are SEO clients so impatient? Why is there this unwritten demand on performance from day 1 despite the black and white agreement and oath-in-blood understanding that this will take time? Why are contracts being broken even though SEO is beginning to show tangible results which weren't guaranteed in the first place?
I think I know what's wrong.
Marketers think SEO is advertising.
The harsh truth and the paradigm shift it requires to start truly investing in SEO for the better is to understand that SEO is the polar opposite of advertising.
Where advertising is generalized as "Push marketing", SEO falls into a different camp of "Pull marketing".
Good ad campaigns don't last longer than a year or two max now days. Why? Are they not performing? Hell no, that's not the reason.
Marketers get impatient with their ad agencies and switch every year, creating a blurry history of brand identities, confusing faces, disconnected experiences and broken promises. That's why.
Marketers are addicted to the feeling of marketing instead of the results it produces.
If marketers aren't even patient enough to watch the lights come on after they flip the switch of advertising, then how can we possibly expect them to wait for SEO results that work more like compounding interest to make you rich over time?
Even the top performers like Geico have 5 or 6 different brand identities running simultaneously, just looking for the few that "stick". The little English Gecko, cavemen riding motorcycles, Marco Polo playing Marco Polo, or Eddie Money giving away "Two Tickets to Paradise".
Now I can't hate on Geico, they're huge. Their advertising is working... I assume. But if they were going to invest in SEO, what would it look like? They'd have to do what everyone else does in SEO. They'd have to go after keywords. Keywords like "car insurance, home owners insurance, renters insurance". They can switch brands all they want, but with SEO they can't change keywords all the time because their targets will always be the same. They'd have to stick with it for a while. Oh, and they have an 80 year head-start by the way. Just sayin'.
So what is an uninformed marketer likely to do about their company's SEO now?
They're likely to get 6 months into a campaign and cancel just as soon as the rankings begin to show only to go spend on advertising (the opposite direction). It's ok. They'll reluctantly come back and give SEO another shot 12 months later once all their previous efforts have worn off, and with a different agency that has to run them through the same series of audits and research before executing again. But don't worry, they'll cancel again 3 months in and swear it off forever. I see it all too often.
Let me ask you something; have you ever started going to the gym and felt great about it?
Have you ever eaten a salad and thought "I can do this. I can be healthy." only to cave a few days later and completely give up?
What about investing in your retirement account every pay period?
What about studying that foreign language or reading that stack of books you keep adding to?
What about spending more time with your significant other instead of watching tv?
What about playing one more game with your kids before losing interest yourself?
What about praying, meditating and repairing those few broken relationships in your life?
Just admit it, like all the most important things in life you just don't do what it takes to see the results you want.
That's the cold hard truth about how many companies invest in SEO.
And for the ones of you who do what it takes to see the results in anything in your life, then you know how rewarding those results really are. Same goes for SEO.
So where did all of this come from then? Why the trepidation to commit to a long-term campaign? Well people already don't like to make long-term commitments to begin with.
But that's not all.
To make matters worse and in large margin agencies that offer SEO don't know how to actually deliver it and instead have gotten so good at marketing their own efforts that they pull the wool over their clients' eyes long enough to take the money and run.
That's what's turned SEO into a dirty word.
I've decided that as a veteran in this industry watching it stumble-sprint-stumble every day it's my responsibility to change the perception marketers hold about SEO.
Unless marketers are ready to consistently invest in their SEO efforts they will continue falling into the same cycle of half-assed investing in their brand.
So what are we as an agency going to do about it?
I have a 4-part plan. We're going to:
- Study our clients' history with investing in SEO . There are likely some awful experiences, bad habits and sour tastes in there that need to be cleared out so we can start fresh. We need to know first what we're dealing with so we can all begin on the same page. Rapport and research come first.
- Next; we've always been teachers, but the continuing education course for marketers on the subject of SEO needs a revamp. We've called them SEO campaigns for so long, but just like a diet people don't stick to, we need a better metaphor for something we will stick to. Let's instead just call it an SEO Habit. That ought to be unique enough to get some attention and stick in the memory a little longer.
- Third, we're going to require longer agreements. This isn't as much to "lock people in" for our gain. Instead it's so clients see that SEO is a long-term commitment, put in the time and then see the results.
- Finally and above all we're going to continue doing the best damn SEO money can buy and stay true to our integrity.
The last question is for you.
Are you going to invest in a compounding strategy that will give you some of the best ROI in all of marketing if you let the effects compound, if you trust the process?
If so we're ready to get started. If not you might want to wait until you have the ability to invest and keep investing until you see the results you're actually seeking.