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I did a follow-up with a lost client today. We were discussing doing search engine optimization a few months ago and I wanted to make sure that everything was still going well. I, of course, wanted to see if there was any opportunities to earn their business today.
They had signed with another SEO company a few months prior. I asked how it was going. "Just fine," she said.
There was an acute lack of confidence in her voice. I pushed a little harder, telling her that I wasn't necessarily trying to insult the other company, but that I was surprised that someone had been working on it since their rankings hadn't changed in the four months since last we talked.
She said that she had noticed the same thing, but was told that the results were coming. It takes time, her SEO company told her. I agreed, but I said that 4 months was definitely enough time to see a noticeable result.
After a brief silence, she asked me if I would be willing to analyze her site to see what they had done. It was tough for her, as I know that she really wanted to go with us before but there were questions at the time over a conflict of interest. We had another dealership of the same brand in her city and the owner wasn't happy about "sharing" us with them (which, for future reference, is not a problem since there are plenty of keywords for everyone in most major metros).
I checked out their site and compared it to the initial analysis I had done 4 months earlier. There were some meta description, meta keywords, and title tag changes. So far, not bad -- there were many other things they could have done, but at least they were doing something.
Then, I checked the real indicator. I did a check on their inbound links. After 4 months, there wasn't a single new link. In fact, a few had dropped off the list.
At this point, I gulped. When I called her back and told her the news, she was furious. She asked if I would talk to the company on a conference call and act as a dealer representative instead of a competitor. I, of course, complied.
When we talked to "our" representative, he was friendly enough. I asked what they had done. They were actively monitoring the site and the rankings, making adjustments as needed. He noted that the last change was performed just 4 days earlier. I asked about the change -- they had added the telephone number to the inventory title tag.
When I asked about links, they said they had built over 300. I told them that I had checked and hadn't seen a difference in 4 months, which was responded to with "it takes time to get the links indexed". I asked for a list of the links. He declined. I said we would cancel immediately if we couldn't see the links.
After being put on hold, an "SEO Expert" came on the line and asked why I wanted a list of links.
The next 3 minutes of the conversation probably shouldn't be posted here, but in the end, he agreed to send a partial list.
When I received the email, I laughed out loud. I literally laughed out loud.
They were free for all links. FFA.
For those "in the know" you probably understand this private joke in the industry.
What I learned next was not funny at all.
They were paying $699 per month for this service.
I offered a complete, true service for less.
To put this into perspective using an automotive analogy, it was like I was selling a new Honda Accord on sale for $15K, but my customer purchased a 10 year old Daewoo for $20k. Oh, and it didn't have an engine.
Frustrations. SEO is so easy for those who know what they're doing, but it's even easier for scam artists to sell to those who don't know any better.
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More automotive SEO advice can be found on this blog.