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What stops people paying for SEO?

Here at A1WebStats we’re big fans of businesses that share our ethics.  Those ethics are:

  1. Provide data and insights (or a service) initially at no cost, ensuring there is value to the potential client.
  2. Turn down business if it’s not in the best interest for the potential customer to buy.
  3. Never lock anyone into long contracts.

One of the businesses that we’ve got to know well, that share our ethics is an SEO business, StudioHawk.

Oh dear, there’s an acronym that strikes fear into the burnt fingers of so many people: SEO.

Such fear is often for good reason – there are many cowboys in the SEO (search engine optimisation) industry.

Some intentionally rip off their clients.

Some mean well but ultimately aren’t good enough.

Others take on clients, even when they know their websites couldn’t convert traffic to business even if they had all the Google visibility in the world.

Every business that’s been let down by someone who has provided SEO services is a business that’s going to be reluctant to trust the next SEO expert that comes along.

We have a similar problem – people who have had their fingers burnt by Lead Forensics come to us full of scars and scepticism that there is a good alternative.


Some information about StudioHawk

Founded in Australia with offices there and in London (who we at A1WebStats deal with), they have won multiple prestigious awards, mainly because they focus on just one area that they’re strong in: SEO.

They are particularly proud that never received a manual action (penalisation from Google), which means that their SEO methods are ethical and strong.

They also have an SEO Academy which offers courses from free to fee (for those who want to learn more and possibly do their own SEO, with the option of extra help from them).


The challenge with SEO

With the exception of some relatively quick fixes that can be applied, success from SEO does take time to achieve.

That’s why many businesses turn to other marketing methods (e.g. paid advertising such as Google Ads) instead.

While methods such as paid advertising can certainly get results (if set up correctly and the website itself is strong enough to convert clicks to enquiries and sales), it’s an ongoing cost that often increases over time.

Therefore, it does make sense to focus on SEO so that the website becomes highly visible in organic search results, which effectively becomes ‘free traffic’ (after removing the costs of the SEO expertise that built to that point and partially ongoing).

If, for example, you sell red widgets and pay £500 a month on Google Ads clicks, that’s an overhead on the business that can be reduced if you start becoming highly visible in organic results for the same search phrase.

The overall challenge with SEO services though is that there is a need to see return on investment within a reasonable time period, and very little is gained financially in the early weeks and months because SEO takes time to implement.


Qualifying clients

Here at A1WebStats we have no interest in gaining a paying customer who then cancels their subscription within a few months.  Here’s why:

  1. They will feel they didn’t get a return on investment.
  2. They may share their negative experience with others, which would damage our reputation.

Our free trial period enables us to get a feel for the business of a potential customer, and whether they are going to use website visitors data in the way it should be used.  If they are, then they will be invited to subscribe after the free trial.

StudioHawk have a very similar mindset when the subject of SEO comes up with their potential clients.

What’s interesting about them is that they have rejected lots of potential business because they don’t want clients that will stay with them short-term.

That may sound very negative but, if there’s not a good match, then the relationship won’t flourish.

There are, unfortunately, many SEO companies that will take any client on and ultimately fail to get results because there wasn’t a full alignment of values between them.

What StudioHawk do is ensure that they fully understand the goals of the business (of the potential client) and what they want to achieve from SEO.  In addition, they check to ensure that personalities will enable a strong working relationship.

From that free conversation, they make a decision whether there is potential for a good SEO campaign.  If there is potential, they go onto the next step, which is the SEO audit …


The StudioHawk SEO Audit

Having qualified that there’s a good match between StudioHawk and the potential client, they provide a free SEO audit.

As big fans of data within A1WebStats, it’s infectious to feel the enthusiasm of the guys at StudioHawk, when the subject of auditing is raised.

They genuinely love creating SEO audits because it’s like a treasure hunt to them.  They use software tools to analyse the website and then add in their expertise to find all the missed opportunities (that align to the goals of the potential client).

SEO audits are a contentious point because there are many SEO providers who will initially provide an SEO audit without having assessed if there is a good match between them and the goals of the client.  That’s often a recipe for disaster akin to baking bread without putting in an important ingredient like yeast.

Most agencies use software tools to create the SEO audits, typically putting their branding on a PDF output of the tool.  While that in itself is not a problem, it IS a problem when some agencies charge (sometimes quite high) sums for that SEO audit.

There’s also the problem that the SEO audit output from such software is often full of jargon that no-one would understand within the business.

When StudioHawk do an SEO audit, they ensure that:

  1. They are not too long.
  2. They are plain English.
  3. They include top-level fixes that can be implemented.
  4. They include the SEO issues that are negatively affecting the website at that moment in time.

Here’s where it gets interesting …

As a result of the SEO audit, StudioHawk may identify that some websites are fundamentally flawed in the way they are built, meaning that it would take substantial development work to fix those problems.

We like the fact that when StudioHawk identify that a website is fundamentally flawed, they won’t take that client on for SEO work at that stage.  The only logical options in such cases would be:

  1. Do nothing – leave the website as it is.
  2. Get changes implemented over a period of time, but do no SEO work in the meantime.

StudioHawk have gained many clients who they originally (politely) turned down after the SEO audit, but who came back to them months later.

They have also gained clients who then decided to go to other SEO companies who promised they could get results from their poorly structured websites, but ultimately failed.   End result: wasted time and budget, but then remembering the StudioHawk advice from before and returning to them.

Whether a website is strong enough or not, StudioHawk provide the SEO audit so that people have the option to help tackle some of their website SEO problems themselves, remaining available if those potential clients would like a nudge in the right direction.

We like that approach because it mirrors how we work at A1WebStats.  It’s far better to provide value and that maybe lead to nothing, than it is to get an instant sale at any cost.


SEO commitment period

Many new StudioHawk customers come from existing customers, who have often had their fingers burned by another SEO provider and then enjoy their relationship with StudioHawk.

In terms of commitment, the nature of SEO is that it is a long-term process, which can conflict with the need of a business to gain return on investment at a faster pace.

Many SEO providers insist on a 12 month contract, which is something we’re firmly against at A1WebStats.

Our view (shared by StudioHawk in their own business) is that no-one should ever feel ‘locked in’ and so the commitment is always for one month at a time.

This helps in two ways:

  1. It avoids an agency dragging their heels, knowing that they have the client locked into a 12 month contract so they’ll get consistently paid.
  2. Value has to be supplied every month, showing what progress is being made.


SEO pedigree and ethics are important

To answer the question: What stops people paying for SEO? the simple answer is:

Fingers burnt in the past

While StudioHawk are unlikely to be the only agency to tick all of most of these boxes, these are what you should be looking out for when considering buying in SEO services:

  • No lock-in contracts – value has to be proven month after month
  • Strong focus on SEO – never trust someone who says they’re great at SEO, website strategy, SEM, and more.  It’s only possible to be specialist in one area.
  • Will turn you down as a client short-term if they don’t feel that the relationship would work long-term.  Be wary of those who snap your hand off as soon as you show interest in them, but they haven’t dug deeper into whether or not it’s a good match.
  • Expectation of return of investment within a reasonable timescale, clarified initially and constantly measured.


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