I'm not a big phone person. People who know me can attest to that. In fact, it's been great having a business partner this past year who IS a phone person, as she fields all the calls for me and actually *likes* it! Today, however, I had 3 scheduled phone calls (and on a newsletter day to boot!). Two were with potential clients to discuss the SEO needs of their sites and to figure out which of my services would be a good fit. The other was pretty cool as it was with someone from Time Magazine who was researching a story on search marketing. (Look for it to be out on stands in a couple of weeks.)

As much as I dislike the phone, I have to admit that it's a great way to get a feel for people -- especially potential clients. Email is great for obtaining the facts, but to really get a feel for someone's vision of where they want their company and website to be, it helps to speak with them on the phone.

So why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with search marketing? Well, after speaking with these particular clients, I have to say that I was really proud of them! Both of them understand the value of search marketing, and they also have great long-term goals in mind when it comes to growing their businesses.

Unfortunately, more often than not, when I speak with potential clients the conversation goes something like this:

Jill: So tell me about your company and the goals you have for your business and website.

Caller: I want to rank #1 in Google for [insert one-word keyword here].

Jill: Let me stop you right there as I don't think we're the right company for you.

Caller: Don't you do SEO?

Jill: Yes, but...

Caller: I'm willing to pay you whatever your fees are, but we just need to be #1.

Jill: Perhaps you should try PPC ads? That's really the only way to ensure that you always show up for the keywords of your choice.

Caller: We already do PPC and it's killing us. We can't afford it anymore, which is why we are looking at natural SEO. We want free search engine visitors.

Jill: Well, that's all fine and dandy, but it's just really not what we do. We optimize your entire site so that it's the best it can be for the search engines as well as your users. We help it to be found in the engines for tons of phrases that relate to it, but we can't simply *place* your site in the engines for a specific keyword, in a certain position.

Caller: But the last company we talked to said they would do that for us. We just thought we'd check with you to see if you might charge less than they do.

Jill: I think you should go with the other company. Good luck! {click}

You can see why I generally avoid the phone! But like I said, today's calls were different. Today I spoke with people who *got it*. Even the reporter from Time seemed to get it, and that's really rare. It's always great to speak with people who understand the long-term value of search marketing, as well as the notion of doing things the right way and making sure that you get expert help along the way as necessary.

It warmed my heart because it showed me that the stuff I've been telling you for years is starting to sink in. These potential clients didn't discuss having us create junk content just for the sake of building content. One of them talked about spending the next few years building up an area of his site that would establish it as an authority on the types of products they sold. The other guy had a small marketing firm with values very much like my own. They wanted to start offering SEO to their clients, but wanted to be sure to do it the right way from the start. They didn't want to just jump in without really knowing what they were doing. One thing that really impressed me was that this small marketing firm talked about having their clients involved in any training sessions that we might provide. Like me, he is not afraid of educating his clients.

I learned long ago how important education is when working with clients. Sometimes it can make or break the relationship and/or the SEO campaign. Unfortunately, SEO companies that are willing to educate their clients are rare.

How often do we hear about "proprietary technology" when it comes to SEO? And how many use scare tactics in order to keep those monthly checks rolling in? Those are not smart, long-term client relationship techniques! If your client eventually gets enough SEO knowledge to take it in-house, so what? Be happy for them, and be available if they still want you to consult with them every now and then. It's a *good* thing because you've helped another company to be successful. Besides, there are always new clients out there that need your help.

It's really no different from raising your kids and letting them leave the nest when it's time. You can certainly hold on to them and beg them not to leave, or you can lay some kind of guilt trip on them, but what's the point? Just think of all the great new things you can start to do and learn when you eventually have that empty nest. Besides, as independent as your kids get, surely they're never too old for a little advice and perhaps a hug or two from Mom and Dad! (My oldest is off to college next week, which made me think of this analogy!)

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

August 18, 2005

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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