Google's trick question?

I dig the fact that Google have updated their SEO page. The update includes two key areas: what an SEO might offer & useful questions to ask an SEO.

It's interesting to note that a few of these bullet points seem to edge towards suggesting that an SEO should offer a little bit more than just SEO analysis; content creation or other complementary marketing services are two suggested extras.

In particular, the question "What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?" caught my eye.

Have you been to an SEO pitch? How much do you like that question?

I'm always keen to stress that ethical SEO is not usually quick. A common analogy is to pair SEO to a marathon and PPC to a sprint. Of course, SEO can produce results quickly if an otherwise authoritative site has some easy to fix and howling issues (like a disallow: / in the robots.txt).

What about results? Do you talk keyword positions any more? Really? Even with geographic results being increasingly common and personalised results frequent. Perhaps you talk about traffic... but then can you predict search frequencies?

A big company once asked me to predict some search frequencies for their brand term. I asked them whether they were planning another year of TV ads and whether they planned to repeat last year's aggressive London Underground poster campaign. They had no idea. It was pretty easy to point out that those offline advertising campaigns have dramatic effects on their search frequencies and I was in no position to even estimate their brand traffic until they knew more about their marketing plans for the year.

Face it; "What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe?" is a tough question to answer.

I'm glad Google's pushed it to the fore, though. SEOs who guarantee high positions, quickly, for new sites in competitive marketplaces should get caught out. They'll probably repeat their unlikely predictions whereas better educated and more ethical SEO agencies in the pitch will likely explain some of the issues around the question.


Chris Price said…
Hi Andrew.

I'd agree with your your perspective, which seems moderate and considered. Let's face it, trying to pin down a firm answer to those common new client SEO results questions is like trying to catch a greased pig. It's different for each site, each budget, and each client of course.

It's amazing how many times you tell people what must be done but they prefer to believe their web designer's version. And he's so knowledgeable that the site is loaded with JavaScript and doesn't validate at the W3C, it's got 150 code errors on the index page. Oh well.

At least it's good to see that Google finally got round to telling people to leave off with the JS; but I don't know what good that will do as regards many web developers, a lot of them seem to have been living in a cave for the last 5 years. Of course, it means we get the work to fix it; I suppose you could take the viewpoint that if the devs actually knew what they were doing, clients wouldn't need us half as much...

Cheers for a good article, it will be useful to point new clients toward. Always helps if we're not the only one singing the song.

Ethical SEO Agency

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