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Anyone who works in the online reputation management industry knows that SEO is king—that in many ways it’s the strategic innovation that makes reputation management possible. And for those of us who work in the industry, the principles of SEO are utterly fascinating. It’s like a puzzle that’s constantly shifting and changing, and poring over every last detail of Google’s algorithmic changes is, for many of us, exhilarating.

But what we often forget is that, for those who don’t work in the reputation management industry, SEO is not exhilarating. In fact, to the lay person, it can seem frustrating, alienating, ineffective, manipulative, or simply a waste of time. If you’re working a reputation management campaign on behalf of, say, a small business, or are trying to attract a small-business entrepreneur to sign a contract with you, it’s vital that you communicate to them just how effective and important SEO can be.

Doing that means understanding some of the reasons why these folks may distrust SEO in the first place. Here is a quick rundown.

  1. The most obvious reason why SEO might frustrate laypeople, and especially small business owners, is that the rules constantly change. What a small business owner may want out of a reputation management campaign, for instance, is essentially a Yellow Pages listing—a way to ensure his or her website is ranked at the very top of a Google results page. But that’s just not how it works, not with ever-changing algorithms, Panda updates, and so forth.
  2. Another reason for fundamental distrust of SEO is that it’s all but impossible to promise ROI. Small business owners may want to know the bottom line, the bang for buck they’re getting, but if you can’t promise them a specific ranking within a specific timeframe, you really can’t give them a very precise ROI estimate.
  3. SEO is something that could turn a small business around, but it’s also something that could essentially sink your reputation management client—that is, if they somehow make it onto Google’s blacklist, which is something that many of them fear.
  4. A very simple reason why it’s sometimes hard to sell your clients on an SEO-intensive campaign strategy is that it is just very hard to even talk about SEO without making it sound extremely technical—and nobody likes hearing a bunch of jargon!
  5. The final reason people don’t want to invest in SEO: They don’t think it works. Convincing them otherwise, of course, is your job, if you want them to hire you to meet their online reputation management needs.

Of course, online reputation management is not just a matter of SEO implementation. SEO is a big part of it, though, and if you’re trying to sell it to someone, you’re probably going to have to get into search rankings sooner or later. Knowing some of these common hurdles to accepting the importance of SEO can prove very helpful. Be ready to combat these doubts and misconceptions with potential and current clients, and remind them that good SEO can translate into very effective reputation management.

  • Renee

    THANK YOU for taking the time to point out that ROI on an SEO campaign is variable. It’s not like you’re paying a specific amount of money for a place on a newspaper page. An effective SEO campaign takes careful planning, then continual execution. The last SEO campaign I worked on was targeted toward a high traffic industry, and it took us two years of dedicated effort to reach the first page. Many businesses, especially small businesses, aren’t going to want to wait that long, or to pay the fees for the hours that it takes to get results faster than that.

  • Ellen R

    Participating in SEO campaigns/projects requires a commitment to a positive outcome. I appreciate the article and next time I embark on a project I will employ the information found within.

  • HPGuthrie

    I have to admit that for the longest time this was all Greek to me. Now that I am working in a related field it is starting to make sense, but the comment that no one wants to hear a bunch of jargon is dead on. I really just want the results. I don’t much care how you get there!

  • Chico

    Getting those involved in reputation management and those who are not to come together may be a big task but could prove to be beneficial to both sides when dealing with SEO implementation.

  • Jason G.

    I think this is probably the best argument for hiring a reputation management company. Those who understand the ins and outs of SEO are much better suited to doing what needs to be done than those of us who are working in the business that needs to be advertised. It wasn’t so long ago that I thought the concept of hiring someone to manage my reputation was foolish – now I’m starting to believe that it is vital!