Last week I received a phone call from a prospect named Tom who wanted help with SEO. Tom owns a website selling stock trading advice. About 15 seconds into the introduction he asked why he should choose our company as his digital solution? To be honest I didn’t have a great answer. Not because that I didn’t have compelling reasons ready, but because I truly didn’t know his goals just moments into the conversation. How could I possibly answer that question without defining the measurements of success? I then asked him if we could slow down so he could explain his goals:
He stated, ”I want to rank for 800 keywords.”
Wow. OK. That’s a big initial goal I thought to myself. I then took the conversation in a different direction. I asked about his USP (what makes him unique in the space), why he was better than the competition, what he thought of his current website, and a few other relevant questions. He diverted the questions and continued to state his primary goal was to rank for a large quantity of keywords, though he did admit his website needed some work. He was under the assumption that ranking for broad based general keywords would change/improve his business.
After nearly five minutes into the conversation I found myself giving Tom more tips than developing a plan to generate a proposal. I began to educate him on the way SEO really works vs. his perception.
I told him there are no shortcuts.
There’s not a piece of software that I can import his desired ranking phrases and watch them rise in Google, Yahoo and Bing while we eat popcorn and laugh about how smart we are. While the “old school” SEO tactics like buying links, keyword spamming, and buying exact match domains used to work, they don’t anymore — anything he read regarding the effectiveness of these techniques, was simply outdated. To rank for keywords in search engines, there is only one way- and that is to have the best answer.
Yes- you have to have the best answer. Period.
This is not a profound statement. Most people already know that Google’s job is to provide the best answer (although I’m not sure Tom did). What is important is the next thing that I stated. It is something that we, at Launch, inherently practice but I personally never thought about, nor said out loud. To really get optimal rankings you have to be a trust agent online AND offline. Yes, offline, and that’s the key. As the words came out of my mouth I knew I had said something profound.
Thinking about Launch Digital Marketing, we are constantly trying to get involved with associations, communities, charities, and groups. Naturally, these affiliations talk about us, and what I call “offline chatter” is generated. Often times the offline chatter turns into online chatter and content is generated and links are shared. A great example of this is our Chicago Meetup. When we have a physical meetup, generally we get links from the participants with comments and thanks. Another example, is our VP of Digital, Allyn Hane’s “Tweetups”, that he participates in. There are plenty more examples but the links and citations generated from these events help prove our “real world” worth. Believe it or not, Google and the search engines are great at figuring out who can help them provide the best answers. We can debate and create a huge case study about event based links (like meetups and social events) and if they have a high correlation of improved rankings, but what would be the point? There would be “event spam” and manipulation just like there is link spam and manipulation. The bottom line is that if you create or attend an event where you contribute in a meaningful way, you will get some form of payback. That may consist of a new business referral, a simple thank you or in many cases- a mention online.
Back to Tom and the stock website. I shifted from pitching our business to giving him business advice. I told him that he should think about his business goals rather than a KPI like keyword ranking. I recommended that he start with an involvement in member groups and associations. I also stated that he should have his own meetup to help educate people who wanted to learn more. He seemed to think rankings were attainable without any of the above nor any real effort on his part and that was fine.
I didn’t pursue a working proposal for Tom but I do thank him for making me think about writing this. I believe that call was a true moment of realization.
Think about these 10 areas to explore to help you become a “trust agent” offline:
- Meetups (several kinds)
- Speaking Engagements
- Chamber Meetings
- Small Business Association Gatherings
- Charity Events
- Development Associations/Committees
- Clinics (you can offer a free clinic on just about anything)
- Write for a niche magazine (Magazines love content and need good writers)
- Your local paper. Give them a reason to write about you: you’re new in the area, you just moved or you wanted to see how you can be part of the business section (We did and had a nice article in the Naperville Sun).