6/23: #ThreeMinutesADay: The Worst Mistake in SEO — revealed
Three minutes a day to take bad business decisions away.
Today's tip: Do NOT sign an SEO contract that is solely based on deliverables. You will almost certainly fail. And be sorry.
In a hurry? Just watch the video below
Over the last decade, I’ve worked on SEO campaigns for more than 100 companies in almost every industry. If I didn’t actually work on the campaign, I probably served as a consultant.
When you have exposure to over 100 companies’ marketing and SEO strategies, you see everything - imaginable and unimaginable.
From silly mistakes (publishing content without meta descriptions) to mind blowing mistakes - launching your website with “do-not-index/ do-not-follow” in the text robot file (and then wondering: “where is my organic traffic?”), my SEO journey has included frequent surprising twists and turns.
To help companies avoid some of these problems, I’ve even written an article (which ranks on page 1 of Google Search Results for “SEO fails”): 17 Reasons Why Companies Fail At SEO.
Most of the mistakes covered in that article are about tactical strategies companies fail to implement. As a consequence, they don’t get the results they need in order to propel their business into the future.
But today I want to talk about a specific strategic mistake. It isn’t easily fixable, so you should at least know about it.
Companies evaluating SEO vendors always look for one factor: the deliverables associated with a monthly retainer. Heads of marketing who outsource their SEO efforts look at this element in the same way they inspect the menu at a Robuchon restaurant. “Ok, the price is pretty steep, but what are the exact dishes I’m getting for it?”
SEO is not like dining at a fancy restaurant. A nice dinner is made of specific dishes that appear on your table in a specific, somewhat timed, order.
An SEO package has two components: strategy and deliverables.
Deliverables for SEO contracts are usually pretty standard:
- Technical SEO Optimizations
- Long Form Content
- Short Form Content
- Optimizing Old Content
- Standard Monthly Reporting
- Guest Posts / Backlinks to a Target Website
- Podcasts/ Webinars
- Press Releases
In addition, usually at the beginning of an engagement, a company should also expect to pay a one-time fee for an in-depth SEO audit that shows every single issue a website is facing. This serves as a benchmark report against which an SEO campaign is judged after a contract starts.
That audit should include:
- Site Crawl Report
- Keyword and Ranking Research Report
- Backlinks Profile Report (DA/ DR/ Organic Traffic etc)
- Social Media Analysis
Final list of things to fix, prioritized from High Priority to Low Priority
These are all standard deliverables. Any company worthy of respect will deliver all these items, albeit with some variations. For example, at Digital Authority Partners, we include competitor research data to serve as a benchmark against your own company’s performance. It’s not technically an SEO deliverable but it certainly puts things in perspective.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering: what’s wrong with all of this?
The answer is simple: there’s nothing wrong with these deliverables - only that they are missing “the glue that keeps it all together.”
Since companies have gotten in a habit of only paying for deliverables, SEO companies have turned themselves into a commodity. “What you see is what you get.”
This is the biggest problem with hiring an SEO vendor.
Any SEO expert knows that when you start a contract, you simply don’t know what are all the elements that need to be optimized over time. Priorities change - as a result of either internal or external factors (example: A Google update).
However, clients want only to pay based on deliverables, so most SEO contracts include only a limited number of hours each month for strategic thinking about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to an SEO campaign. Most SEO vendors assign their team a list of deliverables. At the end of the month, they inform their client that those deliverables were met and, if any SEO rankings have changed, they’ll seize on that and say something along the lines of “here’s how great you’re doing.”
Unfortunately, that’s not how SEO truly works. SEO, like any other discipline, requires both strategy and execution. It’s purpose is to bring customers to a website and make sure they do what you want them to do while they are there.
The simplest (and most common) example of an SEO fail is this: they report to you that you’ve improved your rankings in google search results. Sure - great metric. But they don’t report to you the percentage of clicks through from Google to your website (which you get from Google Console). That’s a fantastic “fractured experience.” Why? Because you can improve all your rankings and still leave money on the table by not changing your page titles and meta description for a product page, landing page or blog page to get more people clicking from Google to your site.
Another example occurs when you get more people from Google but no one is monitoring whether your website actually converts those visits to products purchased. As a business user, you are looking at numbers and you see more visitors but not more sales. You assume, “SEO has failed me.”
Bottomline: as B2C and B2B brands have pushed SEO vendors into a corner, SEO companies now provide a commodity. Instead they should provide a service. And buyers should also demand a service - and they should budget accordingly.
The best SEO vendors excel at their job - making clients super happy - when there is a combination of monthly deliverables and budget set aside for strategy, experimentation and in-depth analytics monitoring of the overall website performance.
If you don’t get both - you will fail. Either by failing to see the amazing power of SEO or by failing to reach your full potential.
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