SEO as Customer Service: Or Why Marketing’s Most ‘Shameful’ Secret Should Come Out of the Closet

Ridiculous Screaming Woman

To many people’s minds, search engine optimization is on par with direct mail, telemarketing, and Katherine Heigl. (Well, maybe not Heigl-bad…)

As Brand Manager of Portent, one of my ongoing directives is to gather case studies of our good work. But unlike conventional agencies who regularly tout their big marketing wins, I often have a difficult time pushing case studies through the client approval process.  Why?

Because SEO is in the closet.

No one likes to admit they need it and no one likes to admit they pay people (us) to do it. There is a colossal misconception that if you optimize, you haven’t ‘earned’ your ranking. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Site optimization is merely customer service at the FRONT end; the true benefactor of good SEO is not the client, but the consumer.

And companies who are good at it – or pay an agency like Portent to BE good at it – should brag, not brush their SEO prowess under the rug.

First, full disclosure: I’m not much of an SEO fanboy (or girl as the case is). I don’t go to SMXs or MOZs or search-anythings. I work at an Internet marketing agency and recognize the value of optimization, but my passions lie in content and strategy.

However the longer I’ve worked at Portent, the more I’ve noticed that search strategists often get painted with “snake oil”… and like that one time (at band camp) I choked a bully for my little brother, I am compelled to stand up for my title-tag, alt-text, H1-loving comrades.

Cross my heart and kiss my elbow, they’re not tricking anyone or ‘gaming’ anything.

They’re connecting a product or service to the person who is already searching for said product or service.  Good optimization values a potential consumer’s time, saving them from slogging through pages of irrelevant and inferior listings.

Once the visitor is onsite, good SEO guarantees the best possible user experience with efficient navigation, appropriately described offerings, and clear calls to action.

Again, good optimization is just plain old customer service (minus the 12 minute hold time).

Of course, optimization is not altruistic. We serve specific clients. (And guess what! They pay us!) But commerce and value are not mutually exclusive.

Even if you have the best widget on the planet, it only sells if people know about it – think tree falling in the forest and all that jazz.

Luckily, our clients ARE good at what they do. They deserve good rankings. And it’s our mandate to blast their messages efficiently into the universe so that everyone knows it.

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  1. Developers are among those who deride SEO services, but you need everything to have a stellar website: user experience, design, speed, and most importantly content. Content wants to be found, but the truth is most clients (and many in web development and design) do not know how to better their odds of getting found in search. Gaming the results is near impossible, but many people I talk to still see it as a sort of “trick” that is being pulled on the search engines. If Design is a process, and Code is Poetry, then SEO can be a science. We’re always going to need it.

  2. “They’re connecting a product or service to the person who is already searching for said product or service. Good optimization values a potential consumer’s time, saving them from slogging through pages of irrelevant and inferior listings.”
    I absolutely agree! There’s nothing shameful about using proven techniques to get your content in front of people who are looking for it. Companies who are not doing it are missing out!

    1. 1000% Jennifer. I really do view it as something you do equally for yourself and your customer.

  3. All very valid points. The most frustrating thing for me as an SEO is that when our company is successful in explaining the value of SEO, they expect immediate results. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, on-page optimization can help a website see an increase in ranking/traffic within a very short amount of time. But sustainable SEO can take a long time to see the results of what’s actually been done.

    1. I’m with you, Jeremy — and often (sadly) once people realize they NEED good optimization, they’re already in a position where they need immediate results…

  4. Yes, it’s a great customer service tool, but it’s also a sales tool, since we are also trying to sway that customers buying decision in our favor. Kind of like wooing Missy DeVries at band camp 🙂 Love the article…I feel your pain.

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