The Bitter Irony of Hiring SEOs via Google…

INTRO: This post had been in SEOno‘s Drafts for over six months, and I never thought that I’d ever publish it. However, following Doc’s open letter post, and particularly this comment – “I’m not whining about my lost organic traffic. I’m fortunate, in that the vast majority of my business comes from client referrals. I don’t need Google, in that regard.” – I thought that I’d post it on here instead.

Bitter Lemons photoIn recent months, I’ve had my SEO skills questioned by other SEOs on two occasions.

The first time was a few months ago, regarding a blog post I’d written for Box UK (my previous employer). Some arsehole lovely individual left an anonymous comment saying that I “should be sacked” from my SEO role at the company because the post’s title and meta description weren’t optimised. Granted, I didn’t write the post to rank for anything (more on that later), but I’m wondering if this person’s opinion on optimisation was the old school “keyword1, keyword2, keyword3, adnauseum” approach, because, y’know, that’s how you SEO things!* But well, yeah, y’know that’s just like your opinion, man.

* Eagle-eyed readers will spot that that sentence was (mostly) sarcasm…

The second time was a few days ago, regarding my new website’s copy. Someone I know told me that while there were instances of some of the keywords in the titles, meta descriptions, body copy, etc., they felt that it may not be enough to rank.

So it’s inspired me to say something that I’ve wanted to say for ages, that I’m sure will rock the boat (or should that be ‘shift the rankings’) of a few people in our industry.

Here goes…

Not everything we write has to rank for something.

Ok, I see that some of you are red with rage. Others are hyperventilating. Take a seat and just take it easy. Just breathebreathe

No, I’m serious. Not every blog post we write has to have a keyword in mind (hell, this one doesn’t)! Not every page of our website has to have a keyword in mind.

Dare I say it: SEOs do not have to rank to win work. It helps, sure, because you can say “look, we do know what we’re talking about!” but it isn’t a necessity. It may mean more enquiries via organic search, and it may even help close a sale when you show a prospect how you rank, but it isn’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all. Of course, there’s a whole host of downsides to this as well, the biggest being this: what if an SEO company ranks well for their own keywords because of dodgy, black-hat tactics? And you want to hire them based off that? But that’s ultimately a discussion for another blog post entirely…

Bitter Lemonade photoDare I say this as well: SEOs worth their salt don’t need to rank to win work. Within the first two months of trading as an SEO freelancer, guess how much of my work was won via SEOno’s page 1 rankings for the keyword “seo cardiff” (which supposedly gets hundreds of searches per month)?** About 5-10%. How much was won via word of mouth and referrals? The other 90-95%. Not only that, but those referrals that have been recommended to me will be so much easier to convert, because there’s a good chance that they really want to work with me and that somebody they know and trust has vouched for me. Alternatively, if someone finds me and a whole bunch of other SEOs via “seo cardiff” then they don’t necessarily know me (or the other SEOs) from Adam.

** When I wrote this, I was actually ranking 2nd-3rd. I’m now bottom of page 1. …Not that I care.

That’s not to say SEO isn’t valuable full-stop, i.e. for other businesses in other industries. There are many businesses that consider SEO to be an important channel for customer/client acquisition (and that’s precisely why we all have jobs). However, for us SEOs, given the industry’s poor reputation, it’s almost ironic that word of mouth referrals and recommendations are likely to be worth so much more than someone finding you through Google itself.

It’s a bitter irony. But one I’m happy to live with.

Aaand… discuss…!

[Lemons/lemonade image credits: abbyladybug & Jessica M. Cross, respectively]

2 thoughts on “The Bitter Irony of Hiring SEOs via Google…

  1. So true Steve. When our agency first started out that was all we cared about. We ranked on a city / state/ county whatever level for all sorts of SEO keywords. Not only are those keywords really not great converters, it isn’t the best use of your time.

    Wanna show clients results? We give them 5 phone numbers of our most active clients and have them ask whatever questions they want.

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