If you’ve been in the business of selling SEO services at any level, you’ve probably come across a marketing decision-maker or two that is unclear on the concept of SEO. They’ve probably heard of the term SEO or of the phrase “search engine optimization,” but they either think that it’s some sort of dark art veiled in secretive hacking or they treat at as if it where a variant of web design that has a rigid set of deliverables and timelines as well as a defined starting point and end point.
In other words, they typically think that SEO is a one time thing.
More often than not, even if a marketing decision-maker is unclear on the general concept, they’re still comfortable allotting some of their budget towards conventional SEO tasks such as keyword research, optimizing of meta tags, etc. Heck, they may even be open to more complicated architectural and server-level activities.
But when the topic of link building comes up, it’s easy to lose them completely.
That’s because first and foremost, as scary as this sounds, a lot of marketers out there still think that SEO is only about stuff that you can do to the website itself. They are not aware of the fact that external factors, such as hyperlinks from external websites and their associated anchor text are often the tipping point that separates the SEO winners from the SEO also-rans. So what’s an enterprising practitioner to do in this spot? Here are a few scattered ideas that have worked for me in the past:
- Use analogies and anecdotes to paint a picture: I have few different stories that I tell depending on the situation. The first is simply a quick stroll down history lane explaining what citation ranking is and how Google’s founders adopted it from library information retrieval and used it to revolutionize search (Note: on the web, a link is a citation and the link’s anchor text defines said citation). Other times, I’ll use the solar system as a metaphor, explaining how the different site-side factors vary in importance much like the planets vary in size while link and anchor text are like sun in that they are exponentially more powerful (e.g. the planets are nothing in and of themselves without the sun). Lastly, if a potential client is balking at the idea that link building is an ongoing thing as opposed to a one-time project, I explain how link building is like a never-ending marathon, and that the second you stop accruing citations your competitors will creep up and pass you (or continue stretching their existing lead).
- Pull competitive data: Though I’m the first to admit that when it comes to inbound links, quality trumps quantity, sometimes it helps to show a client just how far behind they are in terms of the raw number of external links they’ve accrued compared to their competitors
- Reference well-respected industry voices: One of the easiest ways to do this is show your prospective client the annual SEOmoz ranking factors survey, where links and anchor text sit comfortably at the very top of the list.
- Position link building as hybrid social media tactic (e.g. blogger and webmaster outreach and engagement). This works especially well with decision-makers that are on the social tip. If you can get them to understand this is a form social media engagement that just happens to also influence natural search results, you’ll have a better shot at getting a green light.
- Use analytics data: One of the best things that you can do is show a marketing decision maker how focused link building efforts can make a measurable difference on specific keyword phrases by isolating specific URLs that rank for specific keywords and then providing audit data on how many links said page has from external sources as well as the associated anchor text of those links. Obviously, gaining access to analytics data is a prerequisite here (and a great way to qualify the prospective client…e.g. if they can’t give you read-only access to their analytics data they don’t really trust you yet). In addition, I would recommend not analyzing the homepage if possible, since the homepage URL typically has a high number of inbound links, so auditing links and anchor text for that page can prove a bit more cumbersome.
This is really just a starting point, but I hope that some of these ideas help you overcome objections and win over this type of marketing decision maker. Hopefully, in a few more years, as the industry becomes more and more mature, these types of folks will become extremely rare if not altogether extinct.