How to approach a company about their SEO?
Posted 07 April 2006 - 05:37 AM
Should I approach them about this? Or should I just set up an affiliate site and SEO mine much better (ha ha)?
If I approach them, how do I do it best? I know I could do a bit of SEO consulting for them, but I'm not sure if I could cover everything.. should I even try? or pass it on to a friend who does this for a living (and hope for a little kickback)? And ... how do I approach them without telling them what they are doing wrong in the first place (eg doing the work before getting a contract)?
Back when I was working on our website security things I found several large companies (locally) that had very basic problems in their sites... I spotted an issue on one of the top-10 IT companies local sites that allowed anyone full access to their main webserver (including driver files, updates, client data, databases, etc) - it took at least 5 mails to even get a reply, and in the end all I got was a nice "thank-you" letter . My lesson there: if I see something, ignore it - let them notice themselves, it's not worth the hassle.
Any tips would be very welcome!
Posted 07 April 2006 - 06:39 AM
From a business point of view, you could send a nice email each time you see a site that's not optimized, it might work, who knows. If not, like you said, you just get a nice "no, thank you" email.
It really just depends on how much you can accept to get negative answers.
Posted 07 April 2006 - 06:41 AM
In the security situation you talked about before, I'd feel differently - there are serious privacy issues at stake when a company has left there client or staff databases wide open. I feel that is a totally reasonable civic obligation to inform the company of that for the sake of those people whose privacy is being abrogated.
However, in this situation, it's a completely different kind of risk situation, and I'd feel very uncomfortable stepping in - even more so because I'm in the industry. I don't want to get into the situation where I'm trying to convince somebody that they've made a mistake hiring the company they hired, so they should hire me. It may be true; but telling an executive that they've made a big mistake isn't a very successful sales proposition. Letting their business sag because of the mistakes is quite different.
If it's a legitimate and serious business, either having these mistakes in their site won't hurt them very much because they don't really depend on internet traffic, or they'll eventually discover the problem and rectify it. It's unlikely that bad SEO will cause an immediate bankruptcy. (Although, it's certainly not impossible.)
Posted 07 April 2006 - 06:56 AM
I've never had any luck in telling companies even about the most damaging problems with their websites. The biggest one now of course is all those websites that were designed only for Internet Explorer and break in other browsers. However you won't be thanked for pointing that out to anyone. Commenting on someone's website is like commenting on their appearance, their clothing or their sense of humor. All you'll do is create a very tense situation.
The converse of that is of course that no one is going to tell you when your website has problems. You've got to invite people to comment and make it clear that you want to hear the truth, not just some flattering remarks.
Posted 07 April 2006 - 07:07 AM
But as you said, Nadir, there are companies out there that do that all day, trying to grab customers that way; and that's certainly something I don't want to be put in the same basket with. (and since I earn my money doing other things than SEO, they won't likely come to me anyway)
Your comments are good too, Joe, you never know who did their SEO (though it's pretty clear that they didn't do any SEO, just let the webdesign company do their work). It certainly won't bankrupt them, that's for sure... and from a rough look no privacy issues are at stake...
It seems such a waste to have large sites out there with such obvious issues, where they really could make a much better impact through the web with just a little bit of tweaking here and there (at least that's what it looks like ... the website will still look the same to anyone who doesn't know better). There are so many similar sites out there that are really missing a chance to be much better known, to have much better rankings on the search engines - do we leave them all to "figure it out" themselves, I guess so.... or at least to have them be contacted by shadey SEOs who ruin it even more for them...
I just noticed that my request for their webmaster's mail-address came back: no mailbox at info@ domain.com (ha ha).
Posted 07 April 2006 - 08:20 AM
At the end of the email I put a simple note that they can contact me if they would like to know how to improve these stats. All of these clients I sent this to were web design clients that didn't have seo done on their site. Right away I got two thank you emails for sending them this information.
Who knows maybe one of them will bite and request further assistance.
Posted 07 April 2006 - 11:41 AM
I guess that's my problem - I'm a nice guy, I just like to help when I see very obvious errors
If that's the motivation I would certainly give them a heads-up. If you see somebody might have one pulled over him, warning them is not the worst thing in the world. If it were from a marketing perspective I would think trice about it.
At the end of the email I put a simple note that they can contact me if they would like to know how to improve these stats.
Beautiful work! You give them something useful, free, with a small note. Nicely done!
Posted 07 April 2006 - 12:52 PM
In your case, John, I'd contact them as someone considering an affiliate relationship with them, and say - I'm no huge SEO expert, but hey, I noticed your site has some real issues that could really be affecting how well you do in the search engines. Here's a couple of quick things... I know some people don't like to give away anything for free, but it fits the way I like to do business, and tends to open really positive conversations.
Posted 07 April 2006 - 12:56 PM
I try to stay aware in my "internet consumer" mode, and when I find an interesting site with issues, I send emails about my customer experience (usability issues, shopping cart issues, etc
That's a very valuable point - as a web professional, it's easy for a message to be taken badly - but as a potential customer who just happens to be a web professional, there are things you can say much more freely.
If the company just disregards consumer level complaints, then they deserve whatever they get!
I still stand by my view that I wouldn't contact a company as a somebody offering professional advice - I just don't like to work that way - but as a customer I could possibly think differently.
Posted 09 April 2006 - 05:04 PM
I like this approach too. At the very least you're helping someone out. If it works you well you may also get some work from it too. And you'll be creating good karma for yourself in the process.
Beautiful work! You give them something useful, free, with a small note. Nicely done!
Posted 12 April 2006 - 10:15 AM
Several things occur in a seminar not the least important of which is that I am percieved as the expert. Once this has been achieved I can communicate things that I other wise would not be able to.
During the seminar we get permission from those present to review their site and do so (gently).
I find that these seminars which are about 2 hours in length and cost $40 frequently will generate a relationship that a direct sales call will not.
Posted 12 April 2006 - 02:12 PM
I want to help you generate more qualified organic traffic that will lead to more qualified leads and/or sales.
I have found that if you flood you the email with your expertise, it cause the dual effect of overwhelming the average user and tends to appear as spam they receive every day. The key here is to frame your presentation within the knowledge realm and goals of their company, not yours. Remember, they spend their whole day trying to figure out how to sell clothes, hotel rooms or cars, not SEO. Speaking to your client in the business lingo of their perspective industry of how SEO will increase their bottom-line goes a long way in getting your foot in door.
This leads me to my other mantra:
I want to help you make your website the best sales tool in can be. Under your current SEO framework, you are leaving money on the table. You are also allowing your competitors to gain a larger market share of the e-commerce because they are optimized.
Remember, always frame the presentation to their specific needs, not how great you are.
And never, ever, talk bad about their website due to the 'Nephew Rule.' In small to mid-range companies, the 'Nephew' was the 'designer' and you will get no where by insulting a family member of friend's work. Instead of pointing out the obvious disasters in their SEO schema, mention someone has already built a nice foundation for their website, and you would like to offer your skills to help generate more leads and sales using the existing website. This keeps the usual deal killer, the dreaded redesign, off the table, and will make any resident or freelance 'Nephew' webmaster more open to your suggestions. You get more flies with honey than vinegar as they say.
And the last point I want to address is black hat. Here is a gimmick I always use for clients who are risking their ranking by using these evil methods. I mention to the client that there might be a possibility that their current SEO schema will cost them dearly in the Google search environment. Instead of telling them why, I mention the exact violation and then add a hyperlink directly to the Google Webmaster section where Google can tell them why this is considered an illegal practices. The voice of Google will bring them over to reason more times than not. Plus, if you try to personally explain the issue them, they will just think you are trying to sell them a service they do not need by creating a problem to fix.
Remember, a large majority of SEO service providers will always tell a potential client how great they are at SEO, but usually always fail to tell the client how their services can increase the clients leads and/or sales. If you can present your SEO expertise as a method for increasing their bottom-line, you will find your success rate dramatically jump.
I am new here, sorry if this is to long.
Edited by Randal Manthei, 12 April 2006 - 02:16 PM.
Posted 12 April 2006 - 02:53 PM
I'll try to get some background on the company's website first and then probably try the "friendly approach". I have the feeling that without knowing who to contact directly, the mail will get lost in the pile of other mails... Let's see if I can find a direct email address for the webmaster (or whoever is in charge of that)...
Thanks for the ideas,
Posted 14 April 2006 - 11:40 AM
Director of Search Marketing
Posted 14 April 2006 - 12:08 PM
Good to see you here. I think that you're probably right in many ways. The only concern that I would have would be the reaction to seeing someone showing up in person, without an appointment of any type.
Randal raises some excellent points about approach, and they are on point. Quite a few of the businesses that own sites around me have had their nephews or cousins, or friends of a friend build their sites for them.
I would consider rather than approaching in person, trying to make that connection by phone first, to schedule an appointment, with a focus on how your services can benefit their business.
Posted 09 May 2006 - 08:46 AM
- I sent them a mail to their corporate email address, nice and friendly, let them know what some of the main issues are and why they matter, the short / "no technical information" type of way to fix them (ie: either the designer knows how to do it or they can contact me): no answer
- I sent a similar mail to the customer-support address, letting them know that this was an issue which could cause problems, etc, I'm a concerned customer and don't want you to get penalized, bla bla: nothing
- I sent a short technical mail to my contact at the affiliate handler (tradedoubler) - they replied and said that they passed it on to the responsible developers + contacts. Nothing.
FWIW, I did not send a mail to the company who did the website (not related to the company, at least not from the last names ). I imagine if I did that they would offer to do the work and take the credit; I'm all for giving them free tips, but not if they sell them and leave me with nothing
So .... what did I learn? If you see a company making obvious mistakes, let them run into their problems themselves. I've got the feeling that the only way to "help" them would be to report them to Google as webspammers, hoping that they even notice when/if their website disappears from Google (I doubt it; and who knows if Google will react anyway).
Is this website-stuff still too much over their head, unimportant, last priority, nobody responsible, etc that the company does not even feel the need to reply? I realize that if they think they're not making "good" sales on the web they might put it on the back-burner, but how do they think they'll ever make better sales on the web if they ignore it completely?? <sigh>
Posted 09 May 2006 - 01:53 PM
(it's called bangin on doors, and it works if you've got the chutzpah.)
way too may spam emails coming in these days starting with "do you want to improve your website results.." never get read past the first para.
and good luck.
Posted 09 May 2006 - 02:56 PM
Anyway, having read all the posts above. (I do like Randal's Nephew Rule), I think it would be interesting to follow up your emails with a phone call, as loki suggested. And let us now the outcome, of course
I'll give a real life example of what the email can't do, that a follow up phone call may achieve much better results:
A major UK high street bank's website had some appalling gaffs in their web design on several of their pages. I mean it was basic stuff like not having page titles, broken links, badly misued webpage templates etc. I noticed it because I was looking around for a job at the time!
The website had no link to the web designer, so I sent an email to the dept of the bank whose pages my observations were about. I got a nice email back which said: "We have forwarded your email onto our IT department who will, no doubt, appreciate your comments." - now, if I'd been a budding SEO wannabe, I'd have realised that that email reply would have been the kiss of death - unless I followed up with a phone call, then at least you could talk turkey to the turkeys, as it were B)
I sent that email on 4th Jan 2005. I just went back to the website and had a look at the offending pages. They are still the same. No adjustments have been made.
Now, how different could that situation had been had I followed up my email to the IT dept of the bank - with a phone call, eh.......?
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