I started my Monday off with a strange phone conversation. I had put together a proposal for a potential client for both SEO and paid search management. The SEO portion of the proposal involved an initial cost which would allow us to develop and implement a strategy to optimize their site so that they could improve their visibility for organic search. Following up today with a phone meeting, my point of contact said they had just spoken to someone at Google who said that “Google” themselves would optimize their site for nothing – no initial investment, no set up costs, free. The potential client’s next question – “Why would we pay you to do something that Google will do for free?”
Now it is common knowledge that Google will set up and optimize an AdWords campaign for their advertisers. But organic search? I don’t think so… at least I hope not. This leads me to question whether Google reps are really promising to optimize web sites for organic search or are they misleading advertisers due to the fact that they are blurring the line that separates organic search from paid search.
I tried to convince the individual I was speaking with that the Google rep was referring to AdWords, not organic search or SEO. If Google were to start optimizing web sites so that they ranked better in their organic results, it would be a major conflict of interest. I even went so far as to explain that having Google optimize their AdWords campaign was not in their best interest. What is Google’s motivation? To make more money. What is the client’s? To gain the best ROI for their dollar. Despite my explanations, I was not getting through.
This led to another question, “Why do I need to hire you to optimize my site anyway? Can’t I do it myself?” You can imagine what I wanted to tell the potential client – “Look, you contacted our company regarding SEO. We did not contact you!” However I decided to be patient and pointed out some of the reasons why a company would hire a professional SEO firm.
Sure they could do it themselves. There are plenty of resources available that will allow anyone to learn SEO. They could educate themselves, develop their own strategy and implement it. However, I pointed out the fact that they requested an RFP from us as they were interested in having us perform this service for them. Still, I did not register. Am I getting frustrated by now? Yes, a little.
Okay, let’s try one more set of examples. Maybe I will get through this time.
One can update their own web site or hire a professional web developer. One can fix their own car or take it to a skilled mechanic. How about a real easy one? One can mow their own lawn or hire a landscaper to do it for them.
Do businesses need SEO? Certainly. Do they need to hire a professional SEO to do it for them? Only if they do not want to do it themselves. Only if they want to take advantage of an organization that has more skill than they do. Only if they want to spend their time doing something else besides the actual work it takes to market a site for organic search. I had to register this time, right? Nope, they hung up on me.
Back to the original topic of this post – is Google now offering SEO services (they do own an SEO company), or are they simply misleading people, whether intentional or not, due to the lack of understanding some people have of the differences between organic and paid search?
I would be interested to hear from other search marketers if they have indeed heard similar reports – that Google is offering SEO services and/or if they have dealt with similar situations, losing potential business because Google has caused confusion between paid and organic search.
I am surprised that you spoke with this person for as long as you did.
Google providing advice on organic results really opens up a massive can of worms. Ultimately if people know that they can get preferential treatment (or advice) sooner or later they are going to set themselves up to have a negative experience with Google — unless they have extremely deep pockets — when they no longer use their services and the next Google customer takes the place at the top of the serps!
I’m sure that (at least I hope so) the people running Google are smarter than that.
I think you’re right David…the prospect has mistaken AdWords optimization with SEO.
The conflict of interest in Google helping site owners optimize their sites for top rankings would be a line they’re not ready to cross surely – well not yet!
What’s more concerning is when prospects, that can’t tell the difference between AdWords optimization and SEO, ask the question – “why shouldn’t I do the optimization myself?
Expect a call back when they realize their mistake…if they’re not too embarrassed 😉
Does Google still have Google Evangelists that help their top AdWords clients with low level SEO tactics? I know my company took advantage of this a few years ago but I am not sure if it is still going on…