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Suddenly Everyone’s an SEO Pilot with a Team of Experts at their Arms

Catch Me If You Can

There are always going to be those who are real experts offering real products or services with proven strategies and the ability to make changes to their techniques as the market and industries change. There are also always going to be those who put on the uniform, slide on the aviator sunglasses, and pretend like they know how to pilot a passenger jet. Sadly, the latter is starting to outnumber the former, particularly in the world of search marketing.

It happens in many industries, particularly ones where things get easier. For example, owning a custom computer shop was a nice, tight niche just a few years ago. Now, you can drop a paper airplane off a building and have a 50/50 chance of hitting someone who can build a custom computer. It isn’t that they are faking. It’s that the modular design and cross-compatibility of computer hardware components has made building custom computers as easy as building a LEGO house.

The arena of search marketing is different. In both PPC management as well as search engine optimization, there has been a tremendous influx of experts and services filling the ears and inboxes of prospective clients. It’s not that it is easier than it was in the past. In fact, it’s harder today than it has ever been in the past, particularly with the complexities, risks, and quality needs of SEO. The reason that it’s growing is because the pitch is easy. Search is obscure. It’s super easy to fall for the wrong pitch because they’re all starting to sound the same.

In Catch Me if You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s portrayal of the infamous Frank Abagnale Jr. was an example of what I’m seeing more and more of today in the search marketing world. It’s a matter of being able to talk the talk and winging it when it comes to walking the walk. Everyone says the buzzwords. Unique content. Targeting competitors’ cities. Market coverage. Link building. Social signals. I’ve heard pitches from people who can barely spell “SEO” that made them sound like their services were rock solid until you asked them detailed questions or demanded more than one or two example of successes.

Therein lies the two biggest problems. Those who are buying SEO don’t know the right questions to ask or what the correct answers should be. More importantly, every vendor in the industry has at least a couple of examples of where their clients are ranking well even if they had no hand in making it happen. This happened to me first hand this week when a site that I had optimized to rank well two years ago was used as an example of search dominance by their website provider. Their rankings had fallen in the two years since we had optimized them but they were still good enough to be an example of this web provider’s excellence.

There’s really no way to fight this, unfortunately. For my own company, I’ll be collecting dozens of examples of SEO domination to give to the sales team, but what about the smaller companies that are doing it right? If they have a dozen clients and they’re all doing very well, they still look bad compared to the giant company with 2000 clients that has 8 examples of good performance. Is there a solution? Is there a way to wake up the industry and show them how to tell the difference between aggressive, solid search marketing and the type that isn’t worth a buck, let along hundreds or thousands a month?

I will be taking the comments from this post and applying them to the Automotive SEO Study.

Views: 1263

Tags: "Search, Engine, Optimization, SEO


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Comment by Timothy Martell on June 11, 2013 at 7:21am
My only critique, Alex, is that it's only a stereotype if we buy in to it. Salesman is also not a pejorative in my world. Will some people assume that because we provide SEO services that we are "gaming" a system? Sure. I'm ok with that. I don't feel we need to get every customers. Just the right ones. We'll do our part to help educate. The rest will do what they do.
Comment by Alexander Lau on June 11, 2013 at 5:41am

JD and Tim, I completely agree. In terms of SEO, the mega vendors like Cobalt and aren't doing jack squat for dealers. I was one of the managers at a MASSIVE dealership that handled the accounts for the dealership and I ended up doing my own SEO. So yes, if a Cobalt or agent is reading this (and we all know you lurk in these waters), your SEO completely sucks.

Feel free to explain the shabby, deceptive reports you shoot out to your dealership customers. You'd all laugh your @ss off, if I were to post what was just recently sent to a client (who is forced by the OEM to use them) titled 'Advanced SEO'. There was no new content added to the site (on-site), one backlink created (yes a single backlink!), zero mention of social signals, competitive analysis, off-site enhancements, etc.

It's a complete joke and yes Tim, this "Automated SEO" is serving no site well. It's junk. My comment on gaming the system, well that's just the nature of SEO, that doesn't mean there aren't best practices, because there are.

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 11, 2013 at 5:31am

Its a fair point JD, but do we really need them to do it? Let's face it, if they all did it right, there wouldn't be a need for small businesses like mine. Most of my clients have one of the worst offenders as their web provider. The websites themselves are fine. Its the "Automated SEO" service they provide thats the problem. Its what makes it so ironic really. They build a decent website and then torpedo it with an automated system that creates duplicate meta tags, descriptions and titles. In essence they create some of the need for our industry. If they did nothing and charged for it they'd be doing their clients a favor. 

Thats the part that pisses me off. Dealers are paying website vendors to ruin their domain, spam the index and then tell them, "yep we got that covered." Then when the dealer asks a question they blame the dealer for any lack of result.

Great point about our differences, JD. While our approaches may be different, it seems the common theme is content consumption. We may differ on what makes the best content to consume, but the end goal should be the same. In the end the consumption should lead to conversion. If your marketing strategy doesn't include measurement of that end result, then you don't have a marketing strategy.

Consumption alone is not enough... As long as, Manny, Alex, and Larry land that plane (already know JD does), and prove tangible, consistent results, I would name them all as worthy competitors. 

So to wrap it up, I think you're right, JD. It is a futile fight. I'm just saying, perhaps its not a fight we need to win. Sure it would be great, but to quote one of the great scholars of our time, "...when everyone's super, no one will be." -Syndrome

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 11, 2013 at 4:25am

OK, that was fun. I had planned on replying to all of the comments but it seems like they're best left as resolved as they'll be.

There's a point here, though, and it's very clear based upon the reactions to this post. We're all feeling it. Dealers, vendors, big and small, we're seeing that there is just a huge mess in our industry when it comes to search marketing and automotive digital advertising in general. So far, none of the nameless "bad guys" I've been focused on have stood up and commented. This is a bad thing for one reason - they bigger companies are sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to real marketing strategies.

The difference between Tim's, Manny's, Alexander's, Larry's, and my strategies are much more narrow than how different each our strategies are with the bulk SEO services provided by the big web vendors out there. In some ways, this is a blessing at it reduces the competition levels for the savvy dealers out there that do not fall for these worst practices that their web vendors are peddling.

In other ways, it's a bad thing. Think about it. All of our SEO clients combined are not equal to the number of dealers buying SEO "services" from a single mega vendor. That means that there are still thousands of dealers out there who are paying hundreds of dollars a month to have improper SEO done to their websites. Anyone can do improper SEO on their own. Why are they paying someone to do improper SEO on their behalf?

As I said in the original post, this is a futile fight. Most dealers see what the OEM mega vendors are calling SEO and they think that it's doing something for them. We won't be able to reach these dealers because they don't realize that they're not getting anything out of it. There was a comment a while back by a dealer that called out his website provider and they refunded them $60K since they didn't really do SEO for a long time. The fact that these types of vendors are still doing "SEO" for their clients infuriates me.

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 10, 2013 at 4:37pm

Alexander, great video and I already claimed JDs post as a favorite!

Comment by Chip Dorman on June 10, 2013 at 2:49pm

Great post JD.

Geeze, I unplug my computer for a couple of days to fix up my office and I missed all the fun!



Comment by Timothy Martell on June 10, 2013 at 10:25am

Thanks A.L. Looking forward to it JD

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 10, 2013 at 10:17am

Nice work Timothy!

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 10, 2013 at 10:14am

Quick FYI - I'll be chiming in tonight. I don't want anyone to think I'm ignoring this thread. It's grown so long that I haven't had a chance to read it all yet, but I will read it this evening and hopefully get everything sorted out.

Comment by Timothy Martell on June 10, 2013 at 8:00am

@Manny. Nope. First image is just one landing page we build. The second is the overall site traffic. So 3,703 visits just to the landing page. 16,633 to the site. They are for the same time period. So it is easy to understand the influence/responsibility for success... time on site... bounce rate... etc...

This is a used car independent. Increased sales 37% as a result of initiative. Not a bad roi for $1500/month.

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