At Pubcon in Las Vegas I wore a badge around my neck that was different from everyone else. I made up a bright red SEO business card with SEO big and bold on it, and inserted one into the plastic sleeve of my Pubcon badge. Where everyone else walked around with all white 3×4 paper badges with their name printed in small black letters, I had a bright red “advertisement” for SEO front and center. It worked. I was approached by a good number of small business owners and employees who were looking to meet SEO people, or learn more about how organic search marketing could cut their marketing (PPC) costs.
In conversation they explained to me that if they could learn “even a few tips about SEO”, they would more than cover the cost of attending Pubcon. And of course there were plenty of “SEOs” taking advantage of that market opportunity, spouting trick and after trick to impress these innocents. Tricks are sexy, and SEO consultants are expensive. I routinely got the impression they were very cost conscious.
When the opportunity presented itself, I tried to ask some standard questions, in order to make my point:
Business person: “Consultants are expensive. SEO doesn’t seem that difficult. I have already learned some great tips”
John Andrews, SEO: “Do you participate in Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing?”
Business person: “Yes. But it doesn’t work very well for us.”
John Andrews, SEO: “Do you use bid management software, or have a professional managing the PPC account?”
Business person: “No. We manage it ourselves. What is bid management software?”
John Andrews, SEO: “Can I ask what your monthly spend is for PPC?”
Business person: “Well, it varies, I’m not sure, we’re moving away from some of it, the person doing it is still learning…(evasive) ”
John Andrews, SEO: “Is it $100, $1000, $10,000, $50,000, or more?”
Business person: “$10,000″ <----- this was a typical answer, although it went from $2k to $35k
John Andrews, SEO: “Well, at that rate of spend, you could hire a good SEO and eliminate half of that spend, recovering (typ $60k, as much as $200k+) per year while continuing to benefit from the free organic traffic you’ll get after your SEO consultant is down to a few hundred bucks or so per month of maintenance”
It’s true. If properly managed, an SEO consult should save you half your unmanaged PPC spend after a few months, worst case. A good SEO should be able to do better, and also open up additional opportunities that generate organic momentum with far more value going forward. No matter what, as long as a large unmanaged PPC spend is already under way (and I consider anything over $5k/month to be large), you should be working with an organic SEO.
Invariably the business people responded the same way. They want to bring back tips and start doing their own SEO. Basically, in conversation I learn that the person calling the shots is a higher up executive willing to pay Google for PPC but not a consultant for SEO. The people hired as employees are value employees, not performance employees. They are looking to bring back tips because the reward system in place at the company will credit them wth tips from a conference, but not strategic insights. The company execs can write off PPC spend with little accountability, but have to assume responsibility for the hire of a consultant.
Yet they are still acknowledging that their PPC expenditure is too high, and the PPC performance is too low. And now Google is in a hurry to get to those customers before the SEOs can close a deal. SERoundTable is reporting that Google is using automated phone dialers to cold call AdWords customers, with a recorded voice asking them to “…press 1 if they spend more than $5000 per month, press 2….”. They reportedly send human sales people to follow up on the leads generated.
Automated dialers cold-calling existing AdWords customers? Segmenting via an IVR system so sales can follow-up and pitch the Premium Services program? Funny how Google and I agree that $5k/month spend is worthy of special attention, but not-so-funny that so many business people at Pubcon were already spending more than that (sometimes 7 times that much!) without professional help nor bid management in place.
There are reasons Google is now a $150+ billion dollar company, and I think the same reasons are driving Google to reach out to that low-hanging-fruit before it rots.