SEO Consultants: Use The Tools, Don’t Be The Tool

What defines a successful business?  Sales.  Profits.  Revenue.  ROI.

What defines a successful SEO campaign?  Sales.  Profits.  Revenue.  ROI.

SEO goals mirror business goals.  SEO tools and software measure SEO tactics.

Because many potential clients see SEO as a sort of mystical hocus-pocus exercise, their conversations with SEO vendors frequently stray from their bottom-line business objectives to asking questions that reflect a very imperfect knowledge of a process that will be forever strange to them.

Show us examples of keyword rankings that you’ve earned?  Of course, they might not know that these rankings might be entirely based upon search personalization, search localization, exact match legacy domain names, or a billion other things.

What SEO Software do you use?   They forget even the best SEO tools are as only as good as the person that’s using them.

However, the most important omission in the typical SEO conversation between SEO and prospect has nothing to do with SEO.

If the client website is poorly designed, has terrible messaging, or makes it difficult for the customer to convert, the SEO effort will be wasted no matter the tools, guile & cunning used to deliver qualified prospects to the client website.

An SEO talking to a prospect should push the conversation away from the SEO process and towards the prospect’s business process.  It’s important to first understand how the business earns revenue and then work backwards towards how SEO can facilitate customer acquisition.  The SEO should point out any and all barriers to website conversion so that the SEO can perform at an optimum level.

In my opinion, the best, most experienced SEO consultants will talk very little about search engine optimization tactics with clients.  Sales / Leads / Revenue should dominate the conversation, making the SEO / client conversation not all that different than the conversation the client might have with consultant in a different business vertical.

SEO’s who talk incessantly about rankings, tools & software with SEO prospects should be avoided at all costs.  Why?  They’re feeding the long-running SEO stereotypes instead of acknowledging that SEO is merely using the knowledge of how search engines work to facilitate business goals.

Does that mean that good SEO’s avoid SEO tools and software and the conversations they generate?  Absolutely not.  Measuring and monitoring SEO objectives is a critical function of servicing clients to the best of your ability.  I don’t see how SEO can be practiced effectively in 2012 without some level of SEO automation that frees up the SEO to spend time acting on the information gleaned from the software and tools.

However, such geeky conversations should be limited to the hotel bar during search marketing conferences.

Yet, some in the industry push this jargon into the sales conversation, trying to impress prospects by obscuring the search marketing process instead of clearly explaining how SEO can be used to achieve business goals.  If a client makes the mistake of working with such consultants, they’ll continue to spin the jargon to justify poor search marketing performance after they’re hired.

In an ideal world, an “SEO Tool” should be what the SEO uses to help their clients.  Unfortunately, all too frequently the SEO himself / herself is the “tool”.