The following tips are just a few of the things I do to set my service apart from the crowd. In general, the weakest areas in the Internet marketing and Web development business are "customer communications" and "customer service." Set your effort towards learning to deliver "excellence" in both customer service and communication, and you'll have distinct advantages over many of your competitors. These tips are based on the tried and true philosophy of "under promising and over delivering."
Do NOT tell your prospect that you will get their Web site in the top 10 search results immediately. Don't guarantee that you will get them thousands of visitors right away. I tell my prospects that I will do my best to position them within the top 30 search results initially. As you know, in this business there are no absolute guarantees, but even if you can often position a client within the top 10 search results on at least a few of the major engines right off the bat. Think about what you say before you say it.
People are tired of hearing a lot of hype. Many firms make the mistake of selling a lot of trumped up claims, even before they learn and understand a prospect's business. With so many people out there who will promise the world to get a sale, a little realism goes a long way toward establishing your credibility. Setting a client's expectations conservatively from the outset only enhances the effect of achieving a high-ranking later.
I like to teach the client to expect top placement over a period of 3 to 6 months. It's much more realistic and for each time you immediately place within the top 10 quickly, the client has another exciting surprise! To ensure happy customers, try to set realistic expectations that you can attain every time. Focus on educating your clients and teaching them the truths that others only gloss over, or are not aware of themselves.
While no credible search engine marketer can guarantee a certain organic search position without qualification, you must put the client's mind at ease, particularly before you've had time to build a relationship. While competitors may promise the world, if you can guarantee to at least achieve a certain number of top rankings or traffic over a certain period of time, you will gain the trust of skeptical prospects. If you don't achieve your minimum stated goal, then you could offer at least a partial refund, or to continue working until the goal is met. Of course you must know your own abilities and examine how competitive the client's keywords are before jumping right in. While a guarantee is riskier for you, it will encourage clients to choose you over your competitors by giving them additional peace of mind.
While some Web firms talk about the huge volume of "hits" to their customer's sites, I teach my prospects very early that "hits" are irrelevant. Hits are not the best means of determining site activity. A hit is NOT a visitor. A hit can be any action from the server. For example a page that displays 1 image, 10 buttons, 1 logo and plays music in the background might generate up to 14 hits for every visitor to that page.
This is best explained by showing the client an activity report and pointing out the difference between hits (any action from the server) and User Sessions (actual visitors). Eliminating any of the common misconceptions about traffic right from the start will serve you well in a marketplace where others are selling nothing more than hype. Set yourself apart from the crowd. Instead of letting customers believe old ideas, educate them and help your customer to grasp how things really work.
I tell my client not to expect much site activity right away. I like to prepare them for the time it takes robots to visit their site for the first time. Once again, this is a great opportunity to set your client's expectations. If we give them an expectation of waiting approximately 6 weeks after registration, before traffic commences, we know that some search engines will probably begin to visit in 3 to 5 weeks. Indeed a few may occasionally visit within just 48 hours from the time you register. However, creating an expectation of 6 to 8 weeks gives you a better chance of out-performing your goals. If your client must have results more quickly, discuss paid inclusion and paid placement options. Offer them the choice.
Success Principle: Teach your client's the truth and learn to manage their expectations. If you deliver above average results and communicate well, you will have a client for a lifetime. Customer loyalty is the key to long-term profitability.
Have you been telling your client about how you are going to register them with 250 search engines for free? This is an old, out dated approach but you may be surprised at how many competitors will be saying the very same thing. That's because literally anyone can buy auto submission software and press a button to submit a site.
I take a different approach. I ask the prospect this question:
"Have you ever wondered why some web developers may offer to register you with 250 search engines for free?" The answer is simple...that's exactly what it's worth -- ZERO. I then go on to teach them how traffic is only realized through achieving a high ranking on the major search engines. Show them an activity report to validate it. Then educate them about how you will remain focused on optimizing their Web site for the major search engines.
By setting realistic expectations on search engine registration, and telling them the truth about where most of their traffic will come from, you once again are providing an education that many others in the business fail to give their clients.
FFA Links (which stands for Free For All links) are NOT search engines. What you may have learned by now is that FFA sites are often times nothing more than e-mail collection sites hoping to spam your e-mail address after submission. Over the years I have tried subscribing to these services at times just to determine if there may be any benefit. I can determine no benefit in FFA links and I like to educate my clients so that the many "special offers" do not suck them in. Educate your clients and save them headaches.
Taking the consultancy approach with SEO offers many opportunities to not only build customer rapport but also to maintain it on a long term basis. I see my role as teaching my clients as much as I can about the Internet side of their business. The time you spend educating your client pays big dividends in terms of customer loyalty. What happens after a while is that your customers will seek your advice on issues rather than just being taken advantage of by one of those e-mail offers that sounds too good to be true. Care for your client's business as if it were your own!
This may be a stretch for some SEO's, but look for opportunities to help your client promote their Web site in different ways. I like to assist my clients by doing little things that are easy for me to do, don't really take too much time, and add extra value to my service. Examples of these services might be to help your client write a good media release or the creation of little counter top signs that advertise the clients URL. Do they need a checklist of ways to help them promote their URL? Think value added!
One of the biggest tragedies in the Internet marketing and SEO business is lack of quality customer service. Do you return customer calls promptly? Do you keep them informed about the newest trends?
Care for your customer's business as much as you can with full attention to detail. Most business owners are far too busy running their business to look after all of their "Web presence" issues. This is why they hire you in the first place. If you remember to deliver "excellence" in both customer service and communication, you'll have distinct advantages over other competitors. Take care of your customers, and they will take care of you.
John Alexander is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops with Robin Nobles. John also teaches online search engine marketing courses and he's a member of Wordtracker's official question support team.