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“I got up so tight I couldn’t unwind…I saw so much I broke my mind…I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”   Kenny Rogers


If you don’t know what movie this picture is from, shame on you :.)

Let me tell you about an SEO gig I didn’t get.  I was told the reason why was that I couldn’t show the prospect that I had done SEO a site that had an obvious big $$$ keyword (e.g. shoes) at the top of Google.  The prospect’s top money keyword was ranked #2 in Google; he desired it to be #1; and although his previous SEO generated excellent results for him, he wasn’t comfortable with how the relationship had progressed and desired a change.  However, in his case, I firmly believe that he was seeking out the wrong type of SEO for his site.

SEO for huge, global e-Commerce sites that compete for big B to C search terms is an entirely different job than what I’ve performed up until now.  These “big game hunters” spent much of their time evangelizing search marketing to different departments & to the C-level folks in order to get the necessary buy-in to get any effort started.

Also, such folks have to be focused on very large scale technical issues like site architecture, spider crawling & large-scale permutations of the conversion funnel.  If the site is really big, he/she might also have to bring-in outside search marketing consultants (and manage those relationships), and or manage an in-house staff.  Friends of mine like Adam Audette and Matthew Brown play this game and when I listen to them talk about stuff, I realize that there is basically zero overlap between their experiences and mine.  I’m tempted to call Adam / Matthew’s function “SEO Project Management” because there is very little of the “hands-on aspect” of the work that has been almost entirely my experience.

The prospect in question did not have a global e-commerce site that needed “SEO Project Management”.  He ran a lead generation site in a very niche vertical.  He needed someone who excelled in manipulating the on-page factors of SEO, keyword research & link-building.  He also needed to understand that the best way to ramp up his lead generation wasn’t SEO but conversion optimization.  Increasing his conversion percentage combined with a categorical broadening of his targeted terms would ultimately generate more revenue for him than pushing his #2 term up to #1.  I ultimately wasn’t successful in convincing the prospect of this…of course, I don’t claim to be particularly good at the SEO Sales process.

Choosing the right SEO is like choosing the right lawyer.  SEO, like law, has specialties and subspecialties and the best person in one area of SEO can be totally clueless in another.  The key is to match the consultant’s experience with your needs in order to achieve the desired results…a bad mapping can seriously damage your business.


Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz knows PPC...knows Social Media...knows SEO...knows Blogging...knows Domaining...and knows them all real well. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland,... Read Full Bio
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  • Everett

    I've been a bit of both and I'm really starting to miss the nitty gritty.

  • Dr. Peter J. Meyers

    Even in a “pure” SEO sense, I've seen too many people chasing broad keywords at the expense of everything else. Getting one of my clients from #2 to #1 on their primary keyword (a fairly popular 1-word term) maybe boosted traffic 5%. Fixing their site architecture and duplicate content to get important long-tail pages indexed increased their traffic more than 200%.

    Sometimes, though, you just gotta known when to say “no” and move on.

  • duane forrester

    Love it Todd! I've been the small company inhouse SEO guy for a while (7 years), and for the past 3 years, I'm the big company inhouse SEO guy. I might not go so far as to suggest there is NO overlap, but I go see the direction you're going in so I'll agree – managing SEO work at a big company like MSFT/MSN/Bing is vastly different for me from my days at my small company back in Eastern Canada.

    Many days I find myself missing the ability to “go make a change” and see results a short time later. Most days I find myself in meetings fielding requests for more information before a decision is made, predicted ROIs for “inserting that H1 tag”, or enabling ALT tags, etc. and trying to actually balance multiple needs from various parties. The work is the same, but the scale is different, I feel.

    There's truth to this need to balance, too, given the high cost to spin up people to implment work items at this scale.

    Heck, let's not even look into if/when something goes wrong. I mean, you want to talk about duplicate content issues…? Look to big company SEOs for the best stories around how fast those numbers can spin up.

    …yet, amongst all this craziness, there is hope. When a big site gets it right, they plow to the top of results, can build links organically like no one's business and have near-instant brand lift across social activities. Energizing a large working group to complete dedicated SEO work might be tough, but when the machine swings into action, amazing things happen. You go from Bruce Banner to The Hulk in rapid fashion.

    Another big plus is the ability to forge truly great working relationships with other content partners and websites. These are win-win for both sides and usually, everyone appreciates all the value each other brings to the table. I haven't met a partner yet who wasn't super-pleased to work with our SEO team to improve the product.

    …and still there remains that desire to get one's fingers dirty… which is why I maintain my own websites to this day. Some make money each month (thanks, Google. 🙂 ) and some exist as placeholders for future developments. All exist as personal play-things where I can test ideas and try new things.

    I may work with a worldwide team of professional landscapers at work, but at home it's my own green thumb that gets the work done. Once and SEO, always an SEO!

  • Renthemighty

    my favorite example of the power of backlinks remain – “click here” – googles no1 result.. adobe. ive never turned down work. if theres a multi thousand page site.. thats paying good money i just say yessir and anchor with a few hundred thousand links with “shoes” then get a 98%-99% on page score for about 10% of them.. the customer never wantes to hear a better plan then thiers .. the key to good seo sales is leaving open questions for them to answer with knowledge you gave them. 🙂

  • Juan jose

    This is about specialization, Mintzberg started writing about specialization hundred years ago, and the concept and it´s benefits is ofcourse appliable to inet, and to seo.