You don’t have to look far to find a small business that has been burned by SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). In fact, I’m sure if you surveyed small business owners that have used marketing agencies and been left unhappy (and with much lighter wallets), SEO agencies would be at the top of the list.
At best, SEO is a fantastic marketing tool to increase traffic to your website and build brand awareness. At worst, SEO is a money pit that compromises your brand and website for the sake of the algorithm.
In the past 20 years, Google has updated its algorithm several times to improve the quality of results in its search engine.
Even in its documentation, Google has said that SEO is all about “making the user experience better”.
And yet, all you need to do is take one look at the SEO pages on LinkedIn to see that many people in the SEO industry have missed this point completely.
When SEO specialists and agencies talk about SEO, it almost always focuses on the business side of things. High-quality content has been swapped for mass-produced AI-generated pieces with the sole purpose of ranking for specific keywords. Beautiful websites have been replaced by boring cookie-cutter designs to fulfil an arbitrary word count. Brand strategy has been ignored, and “convert at any cost” is the new strategy.
And look, there is nothing wrong with that. Businesses invest in marketing channels so they can make money.
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But the way most SEO providers do this completely forgets about one thing in the equation: the customers.
I have a few theories as to why this is.
- The SEO industry doesn’t attract creative marketing people (who instead head over to the branding and design industries). This means the strategies and tactics tend to focus less on customer psychology and more on data;
- Because it can take time to see results, and most small business owners don’t understand SEO, providers would rather focus on quick wins that they can use to justify the investment in their services rather than play the long brand-building SEO game; and
- Unethical SEO providers would rather keep collecting money than do anything above the bare minimum. They rely on quantity over quality and don’t plan on keeping their clients for a long time, just a profitable time.
It’s no wonder many small business owners feel cheated when they’ve come off the back of an SEO campaign with minimal results and a butchered website.
Playing the long game of SEO might be more time-consuming, more difficult, and more expensive. Still, in the end, it will produce a higher-quality website and better, more sustainable results for the business.
And if we all just took the time to explain this to business owners, maybe the SEO industry wouldn’t have such a bad reputation.