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Over the years, I've worked with many clients of all sizes and shapes. Many have been businesses that need help with their internet presence and ongoing internet strategy.

When the discussion turns to SEO, one of the most common misperceptions many clients have is that SEO is a destination; that you can do a few things and you'll reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This is embodied in questions that might be familiar to you:

  • "How long will it take to optimize my site?"
  • "How much would you charge to get me to get a top 10 ranking on Google?"
  • "Can you help me revise my copy with keywords for SEO?"

Inevitably, I have to break the bad news to the client: SEO isn't that simple.

Sure there are SEO-related tasks that, for smaller clients, are usually one-off projects, from creating a good information architecture to developing optimal link structures to making sure that page markup is search engine friendly.

But this is the easy stuff and it's just the beginning.

Unfortunately, I've come face to face with the reality that there are a lot of people out there who don't know this. And frankly, that's often because they people who they hire to help them with SEO aren't telling them.

I've worked on a number of consulting projects so far this year in which the client has retained the services of an 'SEO person'. Even though I don't provide SEO services to clients these days, I like talking SEO because I have been doing it for years with my own websites.

Here are just a few of the things that some of my recent clients have been led to believe:

  • Copy should be written specifically for SEO.
  • Including a list of keywords in page footer text is very important.
  • Building a network of sites that all link to each other can help boost your SERPs.
  • Adding a blog to your site will boost your ranking.
  • Splogging is a great way to create up lots of pages for Google to index.

Most of this is hogwash. Copy should be written for humans. Adding a list of keywords in the footer of each page is not going to work SEO wonders. Setting up a network of sites solely for SEO purposes is a waste of time and money. While Google loves blogs, it's about the content, not the mere presence of a blog. And splogging is far more likely to get you removed from Google's index than it is to get you worthwhile SERPs.

Invariably, few of the clients I've dealt with lately who have retained the services of SEO consultants had been told that SEO was an ongoing process and that, outside of the structural components of SEO that a good content management system and webmaster can easily take care of, there really is no 'destination'.

Instead, it's the journey - producing valuable, authoritative information and getting other sites with authority to link to it - that makes all the difference when it comes to SEO. Unfortunately, if what I've seen lately is any indication, there are still a lot of hit-and-run, self-proclaimed SEO consultants out there selling a one-way trip to a place called SEO disappointment.

Photo credit: wili_hybrid via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 24 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2390 more posts from this author

Comments (48)

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David Quaid

Very true. People get all excited when they see a site or blog of their own rank well for something. They then automatically believe that they understand SEO and can either provide it as a service or blog/write about what they've learnt. SEO is not about cheating or creating spam, it's about stripping away the nonsense and focussing on the message to the end user.

Great post!

over 7 years ago

Bdr London

Bdr London, Internet Advertising Agency at BDR London

Great Post totally agree we have experienced the same thing with our clients many times.

over 7 years ago

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Colin Hardie

You could probably add "How can I be number one on Google?" to the list of questions that clients ask.  They've not even thought about which keywords they want to rank highly for.

Unethical SEO companies must chew clients like this up and it's a shame when clients experience a negative SEO experience.

over 7 years ago

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michigan

I agree with you SEO is not that Much easy Now, a days.

over 7 years ago

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Simon Snelling

Patricio has identified a key issue here: there are no safe quick solutions to obtaining rankings - it is a long, hard and sometimes bitter journey with a destination that can sometimes feel as though it will never be closer than the horizon.

Actually it is refreshing to see colleagues in the industry talking sense. Quite why this should be a rarity in this day and age is beyond me. We have endless clients who have had dismal prior experiences with so-called SEO providers. I was talking to one just the other day who, when she asked a retained SEO consultant what he had been doing for the last few weeks was met with the reply "I can't tell you because knowledge is my capital and I cannot risk transferring it". Unsurprisingly her reply was something along the lines of "well we can't risk transferring any money to you" lol :-)

That said, the industry isn't totally filled with snake oil sales people - there ARE some good firms out there. You need to apply the same discipline in selecting an SEO provider as you would with any other supplier selection process. If you are not given total clarity as to how they are going to approach SEO for you and why that is going to deliver value and rankings, walk away. Ask for some proof and make sure that you can connect the immense list of #1 rankings that invariably follows with the activities of that firm.

Respectable SEO firms will have an "open book" approach and whilst none of us in the industry control the search engine algorithms (run - don't walk away from anyone who claims to!!), decent content, linking and social media strategies applied with intelligence to your specific sector and site really should assist in building long term sustainable natural search rankings.

Simon Snelling

over 7 years ago

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Chaunna Brooke

The adoption and the implementation of search engine optimization will take time. This means that the publisher needs to have patience while adopting SEO tips and strategies.

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Simon,

You're right that there are plenty of good SEOs out there. Unfortunately my experience lately has left me realizing that the average company probably has to be really lucky to run into one of them instead of a snakeoil type.

I do think clients are in some cases partly to blame. After all if you tell a client that SEO is a journey and not a destination, it sounds like an excuse to milk them for everything they've got. They'd rather go with somebody who might charge a lot but who is willing to tell them that after x weeks or y months the project will be 'done' even when we know that the project really is never done.

I think self-education is the key for businesses. If they don't perform research before selecting a consultant and don't learn that SEO is an ongoing process, they won't know what to look for and ask.

P.

over 7 years ago

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Dan Williamson

Arrogance is a word that often springs to mind when mixing in some SEO circles.

Having written about the industry since 1999, I'm still amazed to see the 'knowledge captial' type SEO consultants mentioned above doing 15 minute presentations with just three slides.   

I won't name names, but SEO event organisers should stipulate that delegates attempt to be fully transparent if they're booked to attend a knowledge sharing forum - no wonder organisations are confused and frustrated.

over 7 years ago

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James Mann

I always thought SEO was a relatively new thing. Im new to the whole Search Engine Optimisation thing, but i find it very interesting, if a little hit and miss at times. I know that too many keywards in a sentence can be perceived as spam and Google does not take kindly to that, but the line between putting just the right amount of keyword in a sentence or home page, and going one too many, is, like i said before, a little hit and miss.

over 7 years ago

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Dawid Ryba - Make Money Online

Good content. Just wanted to add some points here that may be helpful for those looking out for professional SEO services. There are tons of SEO companies offering different SEO packages and solutions at highly competitive rates. However, when looking our for these services, its important to not only look at the affordability factor but also what is unique about their SEO service and what differentiates them from other companies. While choosing an SEO company its equally important to analyze the SEO company’s website in terms of their Rankings, Yahoo links, Google index, Alexa ranking and similar such factors which indicates the company’s expertise in the field of SEO. So make sure you are doing enough research and smart work before investing your advertising spend.

over 7 years ago

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Traffic Geyser

I also had lots of experience with clients and their demands, they usually ask how long, what it takes, and how come.. these was just a few start of their question, not knowing that SEO process ain't just commenting and getting backlinks, its how we interact with other people as well and also its about how we can deal and relate with everything that comes in our way.. I mean I had optimized with a lot of difference niche in which some of them are not in my lines.

over 7 years ago

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Simon Snelling

Dawid,

I agree totally with your focus on differentiation balanced with affordability - cheap isn't always best!

I would, however suggest that in many cases it is clients' rankings rather than those of the SEO firm that are critical to the decision. We are a good example of this. Our own rankings are deliberately non-existent: there is plenty of content on the site because we use it as an online brochure -- but it is otherwise entirely non-optimised and I think you will find this to be the case with many respectable firms, particularly specialists in specific areas of search rather than the full service agencies. There are three reasons for this:-

1 - Time and Resource. Low overhead is vital in a globally competitive marketplace. In our example, we have 100+ staff totally engaged in client work, with myself as the CEO handling sales and marketing in conjunction with partners. Many firms have no resource to optimise their own web properties and their clients and partners cannot afford to pay for any significant element of management and marketing overhead.

2 - Scalability. Most SEO disciplines are resource-centric, requiring the acquisition and lengthy training of new staff to support growth. As a result, many firms can only safely grow at a fairly modest rate without falling into the trap of sacrificing quality for volume, a scenario seen all too often in this industry.

2 - Lead Qualification. In common with many specialist firms, we have a totally channel / partner / referral-based new business strategy which ensures that leads are well qualified before we ever get to talk to them, combined with occasional 'reactive' sales to those leads that just come in as a result of client campaigns. The services of specialist firms are likely to be delivered as part of a wider SEO strategy in conjunction with those of other partners, often pulled together by a full service agency or independent. Thus, for many firms, even if they can grab some of their people away from client engagements to optimise and generate web traffic, they will not necessarily have the resource to handle and qualifiy new bsuiness leads directly.

The reason I emphasise all of this is that many in the SEO industry use their own SERPs presence as a key marketing tool. Whilst this has validity if you are a generalist or full service agency, for the reasaons above, it may not always be a useful indicator as to the effectiveness of specialist provider. There is an degree of stratification occurring in the industry wth broad spectrum providers (small and large) winning new business and using specialist partners to deliver some (or even all) elements so expect to see a greater number of lower visibility specialists.

Hope that's helpful - Simon :-)

over 7 years ago

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Michel

Patricio,

All of us who do SEO know you are absolutely right.

I will bookmark this post so I can have it at hand the next time I get asked "is SEO done yet?" (which happens almos every other day!)

Thanks, Michel

over 7 years ago

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Redhead77

I love this and have just tweeted it (redhead77).

Such unrealistic expectations have been set by 'cowboy' companies charging £500+ a month! If anyone gets instant results then it's sure they're a black-hat and Google WILL shoot you. Do it properly and strategically and you're on the right road.

It's a multi-faceted process that incorporates all online elements into the mix never a stand-alone task.

Check out SES - Search Engine Strategies -http://www.searchenginestrategies.com/

Rachel

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Good post. Unfortunately a lack of knowledge Client side (i know, i used to be there!) has opened the field for "talk but no substance" service providers to fill their boots. Anyone promising first page ranking for all your keywords should be laughed out of town. That's not to say you can't increase the number of keywords that make it to the top page via sustained SEO but it is a dedicated process.

We offer a dedicated ongoing monthly SEO service that addresses the need to continuously evolve your optimisation. It is amazing how often people are sceptical at the start as to the value of long-term investment but when they see search contribution to revenue increasing beyond the 3 month mark, they take more notice.

Effective SEO requires so much more than putting words on a page. How do you build quality inbound links? How do you increase your presence in relevant forums and discussion groups? How do you manage your sitemap and redundant URLs? Have you got the architecture right to support indexing?

I think many problems arise from lack of time and effort, as Simon alludes to. SEO does not have the instant impact of PPC but in the long-term can drive far higher ROI and hugely valuable traffic.

Another criteria to add when looking for an SEO partner; just how much do they understand your brand and your customers? As well as using optimisation tools there must be an innate understanding of where your customers are online and how to engage them through SEO. 

Interesting debate started!

thanks

james

over 7 years ago

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Max

Agree with you, SEO not much easy right now.

Great post, waiting for another one ^^

Good luck.

over 7 years ago

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Document Scanning Services

great post..

over 7 years ago

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Henk Jan Dulon Barre

Great article, we have the same problems in the Netherlands. Unfortunately we also have a lot of hit-and-run, self-proclaimed SEO consultants out there selling a one-way trip to a place called SEO disappointment.

over 7 years ago

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Louise Desmarais

As an SEO copywriter, I always... always tell my clients that SEO is the sum of its parts - an ongoing effort. Initial results will quickly fade away if they take their eye off the SEO ball. It's frustrating because more often than not, it boils down to budget. If they're not willing to invest the time and money, I have to do my thing and move on.

And I never make any guarantees!

over 7 years ago

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Jennifer Eden Cruz

Hi,

SEO is an investment of time and effort. I believe that SEO is the result of effective strategies from finding keywords, building links, building website traffic etc ... It does take time to build it but if you are dedicated and committed to do even small things one step at a time the result can be very beneficial!

over 7 years ago

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Ammon Johns

The title drew me in, as this has been a saying of mine for a long time.  SEO is indeed a journey and not a destination.  Moreover, it is a journey that you are not alone in taking.  Just as cited where I've discussed this before (e.g. http://blog.cre8asite.net/archives/486 ), the vital fact is that unless you are in an incredibly narrow niche, then at least ten of your competitors are on the journey too.  Possibly ahead of you, picking the fresh fruit on the route.

It is a journey, and your competitors on the same journey are not standing still.  Who is in front at any given point, or predicted point, is largely dependant on the speed of travel.  Journey forever, and if you are only travelling at half the speed of others on the same route, you will never, ever be in front.

SEO is not only a journey, it is also a race without a finish line.  Are you putting in the speed and effort to get to the front?  Are you maintaining the speed to stay in front?

over 7 years ago

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Eric Sornoso

Great Article.

over 7 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

The title of this post says it all. Too many people think you do something quick to your website and the traffic starts pouring in. It takes time to build up your SEO.

over 7 years ago

Felix Adewoye

Felix Adewoye, search & e-marketing at mvgmedia

I agree totallly with the title and is a great post. I still think that on the client side there is a misunderstanding of what seo really is and what it can do for their business. If they knew the great value of seo they would allocate a lot more resource to making it work.

over 7 years ago

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Rusty Squire

Good day,

Sorry for intruding here, it is ok to delete this message. I just want to gather some insight. I want to invite you to my seo contest hosted on my blog http://heartratewatchcompany.com/blog. I  am new to blogging and hoping you could share any comments and suggestions. Negative or postive comments are very much welcome. I have facebook link on my blog, please have time to view my profile. As a pay of respect, I already submitted your link to my onlywire.com account.

Thank you and have a good day.

Sincerely,
Rusty Squire

over 7 years ago

Jerry Okorie

Jerry Okorie, Search Consultant at UK

I agree with you SEO is not that Much easy Now, a days.

over 7 years ago

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Hire Seo Experts

Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

about 7 years ago

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Seo Firm

I want to fly high in this journey.

Thanks to this post.

almost 7 years ago

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Mark van Loon

Great post! I'll ad your feeds to my reader!!

almost 7 years ago

Brian Ashe

Brian Ashe, Leading SEO Consultant at Hosting & Web Solutions

Well Done. Your right

over 6 years ago

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gerald | link company

Good post.It's definitely a journey, you've got a long way to go. And in your way, you'll meet options that will help improve your status.

over 6 years ago

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Krystian Szastok

SEO is indeed a journey, that's why it's crucial to use the best tools and the best methods out there.

You don't want to race an old Toyota against a Ferrari, that's why budget plays such a big role in SEO.

over 6 years ago

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SEO Vietnam

Agree. But most of my clients just care about the destination, not the journey.

over 6 years ago

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Futures Metals

exactly! SEO need to do day by day, and wait for long time to see the result.

however, most of people prefer to seee the result on some weeks.

over 6 years ago

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Liverpool Builders

I think seo process has no end, it must be continus work to get ranking and maintain it, thanks

about 6 years ago

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Mark Loud

As professional SEO's I think we all have to accept the fact that most business owners are looking for the "quick and cheap" fix to the search engine problem they face. Most people think it is the guys who are living hand to mouth who try to shake down every good SEO for a free tip or bit of help but even the most rich and succesful website owners want to do it on the cheap. I guess education is the best and only way. By the way, good article

about 6 years ago

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winter tires

You know. SEO changes every day it seems. I do get the same question all the time and that is How Do I get #1 in Google? The reality is the question really is how do I stay at the top in Google..

almost 6 years ago

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SEO Services

SEO can never finish, Google can not keep a site on top always, they try to feed user with fresh content always. So if we stop the SEO for a site then eventually it will come down in the SERP.

over 5 years ago

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dai ly quang cao

I'm having problems with the robot should not see google update content and keywords

over 5 years ago

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Chau rua

thanks so much this information 

over 5 years ago

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du lich

hi,good :) ! great article

over 5 years ago

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bandoc corp

Most people think it is the guys who are living hand to mouth who try to shake down every good SEO

almost 5 years ago

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SEO Vietnam

More and more customers just want to pay per results acheived. This will just push the SEO provider to take short cuts in order to get highest results with less work and in the shortest timeframe....we know what happens later on.

almost 5 years ago

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may loc nuoc

"SEO is a journey, not a destination" I think so , thanks a lot

almost 5 years ago

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cong ty du lich

good :) ! great article

over 4 years ago

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Mae

Very true, SEO is a never-ending process as long as your website is there. Any website could reach the top spot in the SERPs, but it definitely will not stop there as more websites can replace you anytime. You have to continuously optimize to stay at the top.

over 4 years ago

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tiếng anh giao tiếp

You're right. There were so many people want to work with seo in a short time. But I think they're wrong.

about 4 years ago

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Mua thanh lý đồ cũ

Thanks for the info Ross.Is there any software to help us at this analysis?

almost 4 years ago

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