SEO: The toughest sell

by Tom Albrighton 6 November 2009 SEO

Imagine you’re selling your car through a trade magazine. You call them to discuss options and pricing. The conversation goes like this.

You: Hello, I’d like to advertise on your front page. What will it cost?

Salesperson: Well, there are two options: the slow, cheap way and the quick, expensive way.

You: I see. And which do you recommend?

Salesperson: Both at the same time.

You: Really? I’m on a budget here. Let’s talk slow and cheap. How cheap is cheap?

Give me a break, how many good metaphors for search are there?

Give me a break, how many good metaphors for search are there?

Salesperson: Well, it’s only cheap if you do some of the work yourself, which takes ages. Or we could do it for you, but then it’s not quite so cheap, of course.

You: So how much would I have to spend?

Salesperson: I really don’t know. It all depends.

You: I see. And ‘slow’ means…?

Salesperson: Several weeks. Months, probably.

You: But then I’ll be on the front page, won’t I?

Salesperson: You might be. I really don’t know. It all depends. You could spend hundreds and end up on page 3.

You: Riiight. Let’s talk about the quick, expensive way. How much do I have to spend to get on the front page?

Salesperson: Ah, well, it all depends on what other people are paying.

You: But if I pay enough, I can get on the front page?

Salesperson: Yes.

You: And that will sell my car?

Salesperson: Not necessarily. You see, there are still lots of other things to take into account…

It’s fair to say that, by now, you wouldn’t be giving off buying signals. Yet this isn’t that far from the typical conversation that I have when clients ask me about SEO.

It’s entirely reasonable for someone buying something new to ask ‘what will it cost?’ and ‘what am I buying?’ But with SEO, there are literally no guarantees of achieving any particular goal for any particular outlay. In fact, the outlay can go on and on, endlessly. Even getting a handle on what might be achievable takes time, which means cost.

Yet, despite all this, I still recommend SEO as by far the most cost-effective and appropriate marketing channel, online or offline, for nearly everyone who asks!

It’s no wonder people are starting to ask some searching questions about the value of SEO and the ethics of its practitioners. It’s up to the industry to justify their price – even as it rises due to ever-increasing competition. It really is the toughest sell of all.

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