SEO & Businesses: Expectations & Reality

What do people & businesses think SEO people do? Should do? & What we can really do?

This is just a fun post to blow off some steam. It is based on a casual discussion with friends in digital marketing so read on and let me know your opinions.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving various technical and non-technical aspects of your website so that it appears in search results when people search for products and services related to your business.

In layman’s terms, SEO ensures that when a prospective customer searches for a service or product, you appear more and more frequently.

What is Digital Marketing?

It entails communicating with your target customers via various digital channels such as websites, email, paid ads, social media, TV ads, radio ads, and so on.

If you want to become a brand these days, you must combine digital marketing with traditional marketing methods such as newspaper ads, magazine ads, conferences, summits, events, and so on.

When do businesses think of hiring an SEO or Digital Marketing person?

I’m not referring to individuals or businesses who understand what SEO can do and how to evaluate the money and time spent on it. I’m referring to businesses that don’t know much about SEO except that their competitor has an SEO team as well.  So, when do businesses think of hiring an SEO or digital marketer?

A. When they discover that their main competitor has an SEO team, is making millions, and is rapidly expanding their team.

In this scenario, businesses hire an SEO team without having the proper knowledge of judging the candidates. They evaluate SEO candidates based on these criteria:

  1. Years of experience 
  2. How long is their resume?
  3. How many times do they answer ‘YES’ when asked any question? (Many people answer YES to all their demands which makes these businesses happy)
  4. They also judge a SEO candidate on the number of skills they could hire in a very limited budget. Usually what skills they want from a 1-2 year experienced person
  • SEO
  • Technical SEO
  • PPC
  • Social Media Ads
  • Data Analyst
  • Backlink Expert
  • GTM, GA & GA4 expert
  • CTR & CRO optimization knowledge
  • Canva Expert (Since when did graphic designing become a part of SEO skillset, basic knowledge of UI/UX is required but an expert that too in canva…OMG)
  • Content Writing Experience
  • Excellent Communication Skills
  • Google Optimize (basics)
  • Google Data Studio (rare but basics are a plus)

With a few more years of experience and a slightly higher salary, the SEO job requirements resemble a digital marketing curriculum.

One thing I’m always curious about is why, if I know so much, if I can rank you on highly competitive searches with limited resources (financial as well as manpower), would I work for you for a salary that seems more akin to peanuts?

B. When they have a lot of money and want to spend it on something to make them feel productive.

In this case, they hire a small team without providing them with any resources or manpower, and they don’t even implement any of the SEO person’s recommended changes. Working in such a place erodes your SEO skills, and you must constantly learn in order to get the next high-paying job.

C. They are desperate to grow their business quickly but have no knowledge of true SEO.

They hire someone claiming to be an SEO expert from Fiverr or Upwork at very low prices. Or, on occasion, they will hire an SEO agency that promises top rankings in 3 months at prices that even my local snacks vendor would find amusing.

What are their expectations?

They’ve now hired an SEO specialist, and it’s time to learn what they expect from you. The following are some of the expectations of such clients:

Always appear busy and employ SEO techniques that were obsolete in 2014 or earlier. Here are a few examples of such techniques:

  • Bookmarking
  • Directory submission
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Spamming everywhere, yada yada, yada

They anticipate that within two to three months, their site will generate hundreds of qualified leads per month. They become impatient and decide to learn SEO on their own. After a while, you’ll feel as if you’re just there for fun, while your client lays out a real SEO strategy.

There are a few myths that clients learn and then tell their SEO guy to implement.

  • Meta keywords are extremely important.
  • All important keywords should be bolded and italicised so that Google can easily read them.
  • Keywords should be used at least 8 to 10 times.
  • The title tag should be no more than 60 characters long.
  • Don’t even get me started on the Yoast green lights.
  • It is necessary to publish content in bulk.

Here are some Reddit comments about issues that SEO professionals have with clients and businesses.

The sleazy sales people who email clients after doing a free semrush/moz lookup on their site and say how they could be ranking higher for important keywords if they clean up toxic backlinks and increase domain authority.

Reddit

The #influencers who rarely, if ever, do actual SEO but rely on their past accomplishments the gain respect. Then they blog about how the way SEO has worked for 20 years is dead and you need to do something way different because they read a “study” of 5 or 10 websites that saw growth. 

Google literally tells you how to do SEO. Yes that won’t get you ranking #1 for the toughest keywords, but for probably 80% of websites, simply following those guidelines would go a very long way. Instead, people buy into the magic tricks and have bad experiences, thus we have to convince folks we’re different from the dude who built 500 localized pages on their site or spent a ton of money to do guest posts on totally unrelated sites/topics.

Reddit

The second part of the above comment is real gold. 

Clients, sometimes their wants are not their needs.

Reddit

Clients with small budgets who expect quick results.

Clients who try to make “improvements” without consulting me. I had a client pay for someone on Fiverr who can get you “100%” real organic traffic for $10 bucks. I didn’t realize what had happened until I saw direct traffic shoot up along with a 100% bounce rate.

Reddit

One reddit user said it right

Rule of thumb in SEO: the smaller the client, the bigger the expectations.

Reddit

Marketing Budget = SEO expectations (Is it?)

As a result, the most significant issue with small clients and businesses is a significant mismatch between marketing budget and SEO expectations.

I’ve been reading Andrew Holland’s (Head of Organic at Embryo) posts on Linkedin for the past year and really like how he explains what SEO is and what it can do for you.

Andrew has a Linkedin post that sheds some light on this topic.

£23 Billion was spent on ads in the UK in 2020 and that figure is expected to grow by 15% this year.

And yet, marketing master Dave Trott famously wrote that 89% of advertising is not noticed or remembered.

There are well over 4000 billboards in the UK and it’s rare to see one without an ad.

£614 Million was spent on radio advertising in the UK in 2020.

In 2020, cinema advertising spending amounted to £54.7 million which was a huge drop due to Covid19

In 2021 cinema ad spend is forecast to see a growth of 266.8 per cent.

The fact is, businesses will spend billions on advertising routes that are likely to be ignored, cost a fortune and have little to zero analytical data of any use.

And then there is SEO.

A method of brand marketing that is both packed with performance data, supports every other type of marketing activity and places your site in front of your target audience…when they are searching for expertise or answers to questions that a traditional salesperson would normally answer.

Shifting your marketing budget into content and SEO isn’t a sensible thing to do.

It’s a logical thing to do.

Large businesses with big budgets ignore SEO and content marketing all the time.

And yet, we know of its power.

Despite this most SEO costs less than hiring a full-time member of staff.

Why? Because no one ever got fired for putting a billboard campaign up.

The boss will love it that her business is being displayed so openly and prominently.

The boss wouldn’t ask what sales came from the billboard, or how many of their ideal prospects saw it and read it.

The thing is.

SEO success and performance are both over analysed and criminally underfunded.

Especially when compared with other advertising methods.

The sad thing is that performance data is what hurts SEO campaigns because they focus on short term results and ranking gains.

The obsession with acquiring links and page 1 rankings forces many SEO agencies to create content that doesn’t help the target customers and indeed engage in tactics that could risk your site.

If you reframe SEO from being about rankings to instead being about building the most useful website in your industry for your target customers.

SEO becomes a long term game.

And long term games make sense.

Long term games require proper investment.

I appreciate this mindset is a tough pill to swallow for marketing managers and business owners who live in a results-driven high ROI world.

But it’s logical.

And if it helps, don’t look at this as being an investment in SEO.

Look at this as creating the best website for your customers.

One that educates, inspires and answers their questions.

SEO turns your website into your best salesperson.

Billboards and other ads will never do that in the same way.

Invest in SEO and build a website that can’t be ignored.

Need help? Message me.

There is a significant mismatch between the SEO budget and expectations, but this is not the client’s fault; rather, it is the responsibility of SEO professionals to educate and explain how SEO works to the client.

People believe that SEO, like God, works in mysterious ways. But that is not the case; it is a difficult science to master because the rules are constantly changing and new players are constantly innovating.

What do clients think we should do?

Clients believe they are very knowledgeable and experienced. And they are correct, as they have unquestionably built a business on their own. However, they forget that SEO is not their area of expertise and begin interfering with our work.

They want us to satisfy their demands, even if those demands don’t always propel us toward the business goals we want to achieve.

What do we really do?

Businesses believe that if they conduct keyword research, write content, publish it, share it on social media, build some backlinks, and follow basic SEO guidelines, their work is done.

SEO rankings should arrive at any time.

The truth is that if properly trained, I can train a dumb monkey to perform all of these tasks. (#sarcasm)

We do a lot more than this, and these are some of the things that come to mind:

We spend hours identifying your competitors, analysing how they operate, and determining what we can learn from them.

We identify valuable keywords for which we can easily rank and still make money.

SEO is not about publishing content on every keyword and hoping to rank. This strategy is what I call SEP (Search Engine Pray). This strategy includes writing bulk content and then praying to SEO God Google to rank us. If you let us do our own thing we can make the process of content marketing very efficient. Writing on selective keywords, writing less content and still making money is what makes SEO awesome.

Aside from that, we take care of internal linking, EAT factors, backlinks, schema, social media, and so on.

What can we really do if given some freedom to implement our own strategy?

We have the ability to make you filthy rich. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but we can make you richer than you ever imagined. All you have to do is put your trust in us. We want you to argue with us, to take your time understanding how we intend to make you wealthy, but please don’t interfere with our work.

Here are a few things we can do if given the chance:

  • Increase the return on investment (ROI) from content marketing.
  • Create a brand for yourself by using audio, video, and textual content. Increase your social media following.
  • Obtain genuine leads from high-paying clients.
  • Make your site look great by utilising our speed and UI/UX optimization skills.
  • Improve your CTR to get the most out of your rankings.
  • Do CRO in order to increase your profits.
  • Make better use of data collected by using our regex, spreadsheet, and Python skills to automate SEO tasks. (I’m still in the early stages of learning Python for SEO, by the way.)

Who is at fault in this whole SEO vs Clients/Business People?

Both, in my opinion, are at fault. Businesses don’t take the time to learn everything there is to know about digital marketing, they have unrealistic expectations, they lack patience, they have a small budget, and they hire cheap resources.

SEO professionals, on the other hand, do not take the time to educate their clients, agree to work on a low budget, take advantage of the client’s lack of knowledge, and make false promises.

As a result, both parties should work to understand each other’s expectations and capabilities.

  • Businesses should not hire on a shoestring budget.
  • Clients who are impatient or have a limited budget should be dropped by SEOs.
  • SEOs should set reasonable expectations, demonstrate industry standards, and request a reasonable budget.

Another factor that contributes to the disparity between SEO Reality and SEO Expectations is the presence of SEO Scammers.

This is a critical factor that is widening the gap between SEO reality and SEO expectations. Businesses that are looking for SEO experts are frequently entangled with SEO scammers. These are the people who know a little bit about SEO but are very good at making you a fool, taking your money, and fleeing with it.

This model is used by many SEO agencies and freelancers, and they make a lot of money. However, businesses suffer as a result of this process, and they are less likely to trust a digital marketer in the future.

If you want to protect yourself from such con artists, please read Google’s guide>> (Do You Need An SEO?) to at least grasp the fundamentals.

What can we do to help digital marketers and businesses alike?

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with some of my online marketing colleagues. These are my opinions, and if you disagree, I’d like to hear yours as well.

To benefit both parties, we should be truthful during the meetings that take place prior to signing a contract. Both parties should be aware of the short-term risks and long-term benefits of embarking on an SEO journey. Also, if you do not find each other compatible, do not collaborate because it will not benefit you both in the long run.

Arman Mathur Digital Marketer

About the author

An expert digital marketer and content strategist working in this industry since 2012.

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