The bandwidth involved working with my SEM colleagues, twittering, staying in touch with Facebook peeps and processing clients is delightfully staggering. Sometimes an innocuous written exchange blasts across my desk amidst the noise, strikes a nerve and leaves me in thought.
In this case a state-level branch of a well known national brand, pinged me by email to ask common SEO shopping questions, including classic misunderstandings: personalized search and “site submissions.” The inquiry was a bit of a “Dear John” letter, so other firms likely received a similar inquiry. We don’t respond to RFPs but make it our practice to answer polity to reasonable questions time-allowing, with the corporate mantra being to support potential clients.
I’m memorializing my answers to that inquiry in this post, for the benefit of future clients and our Account Managers. I’ve fictionalized names to protect anonymity.
Cold Call: SEO Shopping Letter To aimClear, 2/23/2009 3:33:30 PM
Saint Louis, MO
a.winter@BigNameBrand . com
One of the states that we operate in is interested in Search Engine Optimization for their _______ division. This would certainly bear a possible opportunity in other states, but for now we are specifically looking for this one state (CA). I have a couple questions about your company and how you do SEO:
- Do you have materials about what your business has to offer in terms of Search Engine Optimization?
- How do your fees break down (cost per click, overall project cost etc.)?
- How do you ensure that you get your companies at the top of search lists?
- How many times per day to you feed this information to the search
- Do you have an example of a company that you do SEO for?
Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!
BigBrand Marketing Specialist
Our Response: Angela, My answers are in-line below.
Great question. We build performance-based incentives into the deal more and more, usually after the client hires us to audit the site’s technical/SEO health. We’re open to an ongoing business model that best suits your firm and ours. We do a lot of hourly retainer work as well.
The SEO audit is a flat fee and results in our recommendations to modify the CMS, usually to eliminate fragmentation of the site’s authority by way of duplicate content and other issues. We also “hand” optimize 10-30 pages along with making formulaic recommendations to squeeze as many semantic clues for Google out of the existing CMS database.
We evaluate the internal/external linking structure, competitiveness of the SERPs to evaluate objectives in light of what is immediately attainable and what might be in the future. This is the step where the “SEO” you think of takes place, including keyword research, buzz pocket mining and an evaluation of the social media landscape.
Because SEO is so inbound-link-dependent, SMO bears scrutiny in many SEO deployments because it can be an excellent source of links along with traffic and “making friends” with your customers. We usually build out content feeds if the site does not already have them.
SMO can be a great way to “take up” more of page one in the SERPs with friendly controlled content. Also, in an age of Universal Search, videos, pictures and other sharing index beautifully–again social. As part of the audit, we do an SMO (social media optimization) eval’ and recommendations.
First of all, we need to coordinate what “top of the search engines means. If you have not studied Personalized Search and it’s implications for measuring your SEO efforts, please read Measuring SEO Success: Solve Personalized Search Misperceptions.
At the end of the day, you want as high a percentage of folks that search for a keyword cluster to show up on your site and do something. We measure “percentage of available search traffic” and goal conversion. As a rule, your personal perception of where a site “ranks” is probably seriously skewed by your own or others’ surfing history.
That said, here’s some of what we do:
- Rigorous publishing best practices
- Support client’s technical team in attaining technical SEO health for CMS
- Appropriate attention to Google’s Terms of Services
- Foster an editorial ethic in our clients’ shops to always publish content informed by research and tagged properly.
- Unique Title Tags and meta description pages on every page, by hand or formulaic CMS alteration
- Aggressive goal setting and the best analytics in the world, with organic conversion tracking
- Engage additional vendors if needed to facilitate client’s link-building, beginning with understanding of existing inbound links, contact existing linkers to change anchor text, low hanging fruit, etc…
- We stay tuned into a number of great tools, beginning with Google WebMasterCentral. We use a number of third party tools along with a proprietary SEO Toolkit. You would be astounded what we can see :).
- Ongoing analysis and reporting
Do you have an example of a company that you do SEO for?
Of course. If you become more serious about working with us, we’ll share part of our current client list which includes, what can only be described as, treasured American publications, well-known brands and cool boutique operations. We show prospective clients case studies once both sides are under NDA.
Do you have more materials about what your business has to offer in terms of Search Engine Optimization?
Yes, please visit aimClear Blog. You can find specific writings regarding our SEO practice and philosophy there as well. We are widely considered an excellent choice for identifying demographics and marketing to segments by “attainable” SEO.”
Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!
My pleasure. I will be in MO next week if you would like to have coffee.