I need to be honest here. I’ve re-written the opening paragraph to this post four times now. I feel like I am walking the fine line between something I truly love and something I truly hate – which are ironically wrapped up in a single entity – the SEO company. It seems that you cannot cruise the marketing blogs without reading a post about how the SEO industry has gotten a bad rap. Now, while these posts tend to be accurate in that there are shady companies out there and that is part of the problem, the thing most people don’t want to admit is that they are doing things themselves to add insult to the injury.

I have had the…fortune, I guess…of being on both sides of the fence when it comes to the SEO pitch; and while I can completely understand the desire of an SEO company to want to sell themselves, I also understand how annoying this can be for the person on the other end of the telephone.

Because of that, I am here to help, dear marketing buddies! Read on and I will tell you the things you are doing that make my (and other marketing managers’) skin crawl.

1.    You are not personalizing the conversation. Not a day goes by where I don’t get an email or a phone call from some random SEO firm wanting to sell me their services. And hey, I get it; you have a LOT of companies to call in your busy day, so it makes sense that you have to hash out an outline of things to discuss. Unfortunately, 98% of the companies that contact me barely even know the company I work for, much less the company’s purpose or mission. I’m telling you, it is clearly stated on my website. Take an hour and dig around. Find out what we are doing and - even more importantly – WHY we are doing it. If you haven’t done this I quit paying attention before you got started.

2.    You are name-dropping like it’s the Oscars. Let me guess; you have done online marketing for the likes of blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH. Seriously, though, I really don’t care. Big companies have twenty different marketing companies working for them and most of them aren’t doing a whole lot. Instead of telling me who you are working for, try telling me what you have actually done. I would rather hear about how you helped a little mom and pop shop increase their sales by x percent than that you worked with Global Superstar Company any day of the week. Oh, and if you talk about companies similar to mine it helps your cause even more. Dropping names makes you look a bit pathetic. Please stop this.

3.    You cannot let go of the marketing jargon (or…keeping it simple). I understand that you are trying to impress me with your marketing knowledge, but spouting acronyms and marketing jargon like you’ve got a case of Tourette’s isn’t helping your cause. Albert Einstein once said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This is true in all walks of life, but holds especially true in SEO and other types of marketing. If you are trying to show off with your dizzying array of complex marketing concepts, I’m going to go ahead and take that to mean you’ve read a book on SEO and memorized the lingo…and you can go away.

4.    You keep talking about rankings. Oh. My. God. Nearly every freaking email or phone call I get from an SEO company starts with something like “Hello Jeffery, I noticed you are not ranking on the first page for your top keywords.” First off, I actually am, because I’m really good. Second, I HATE when SEO companies think all I care about is rankings. This is not 2008 and I am well aware that ranking in the top three in the days of personalization and such doesn’t mean what it did a few years ago. Seriously, you want to impress me? Tell me about how you are going to grow highly relevant traffic in my niche market that will convert the way I want it to. And do this in a way that I KNOW that YOU KNOW what you are talking about (see #3).

5.    You do not understand that this isn’t my first rodeo. Listen; I didn’t get into my position because I need someone to explain simple SEO concepts to me. While I need to understand that you know what you are talking about, I do not need you to talk to me like a child who has never even heard about search optimization before. In fact, myself and many other marketing managers have actually written about it quite a bit. Along with researching my company, why not do a search for me as well. This may give you a better understanding of where I am at from a knowledge-perspective and help you meet me at a place where we can speak intelligently about what you may be able to offer me.

6.    You just don’t know when to give up. I’m a pretty nice guy to be honest, and more than likely if you can get through to me I will give you a few minutes to impress me. However, if I tell you I am not interested or have ignored more than three of your contact attempts, just let it go. Stop calling. Stop emailing. And for the love of Buddha, DO NOT lie to the person that answers the phone and tell them I am expecting your call when I am not. You will never get that conversation and I may even call you out on Twitter about it. It’s simply bad form.

Pitching SEO is not the easiest thing to do, I know, but if you do it well the results can be fantastic. Everything I have talked about here is not made up. This is the crap I deal with almost every single day through phone calls and emails. I have kids that sell themselves better than the majority of marketing companies out there when they need something, and you are supposed to be professionals. How can you expect me to believe that you can market my company when you can’t even market your own properly? Take my advice, avoid the mistakes above, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.


by Jeff Loquist | Jeff likes his wife and kids, his dog, a good scotch, a fine cigar and great conversation – pretty much in that order. He enjoys meditation, yoga, and making soap. Oh, and he is also the Search Marketing Manager for ShoppersChoice.com and sometimes writes about online marketing on his Zen Search Marketing blog.

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