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SEO catch 22!

 4:03 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

As a client wanting qualified traffic, youve read about search engines and the way they work. You may even have subscibed to SEW.

Anyway, you decide that building an inhouse team specialising in this is too expensive. So, you approach a consultancy whose core business is getting sites to the top 10 on the major portals.

They advocate a performance based model. You pay only for the click thrus for the search terms youve selected. A win - win!

In the terms & conditions, the consultancy stipulates that they own the doorway/gateway/feeder domain(s).

after three - six mths, you are being provided with great traffic. Only problem being that it becomes very difficult to terminate the contract. If you were to end it:
1) you lose the site and traffic to it and,
2) The termination opens up the possibility of your consultancy selling the traffic to a competitor.

How prevalent is this model and is it ethical?



 4:24 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)


There are SEO firms that will provide you with a ppc model and when the pages have paid X they are yours. There are also firms that will provide the pages on a "pay for the labor" basis.

The client needs to be comfortable with the future tweaking of those pages for this to work.

Traffic is a product and very easy to sell - like the money involved in a house loan. Most people don't have and ethical problem with bank interest - it's just part of the expense of getting what I need now.


 4:25 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

hey Pete - I've seen this model a number of times. It reminds me of the days when the webmaster would register the domain for a client but retain control of it to guarantee income.

Personally I think it's ethically questionable but at the same time they are up front with it and the client is made aware of the arrangement.

I choose to run my business a little differently but at the end of the day you will find pretty much every business model you can imagine for SEO.


 4:41 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

This model is insurance for the SEO company, in that suppose they've put in a lot of work and adjustments and are starting to get really good results after (e.g.)six months. If the client then cancels, the SEO company doesn't get the cash for click-throughs or rankings that they've put a lot of hard work into achieving.


 5:07 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

>they are up front with it and the client is made aware of the arrangement.

>This model is insurance for the SEO company....if client cancels.

I think that BOTH of these points should be made to the client. Here's how I phrase it, the client understands exactly what is going to happen...
Our sites will be Siamese twins. As far as traffic generation is concerned, mine will be the one with all the vital organs. If you leave me, the traffic dies.


 7:07 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

Ethical? You don't think the Goto, Sprinks, and other PPC engines are ethical?

I think the title of this thread is better called "PPC catch 22" instead.

It is growing in stature. After massaging and soothing ego's over differences in what is performance a few times, I am almost to the point of taking on ONLY ppc work.

Everyone wins with PPC.

- The client pays only for the traffic they want, get, and need.
- The client gets highly targeted traffic with no brainer no questions asked tracking numbers.
- The client and seo firm have exact numbers from log files to evaluate performance. (personally, the ppc's I've done, I give the client direct access to the raw server log files on-the-fly. They can check them any time they want in real time).
- The seo firm is protected from "cut and run" clients. (optimize the site, get great rankings, they cancel contract).
- SEO protection for trade secrets and proprietary programs. (yes, I've been ripped off of the whole system before).

I think it is the only way to do SEO where both the client and seo firm are satisfied. I just can't imagine going back to 'optimize it and they will come'.


 9:02 pm on Oct 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

I'm with Brett on this one. There is nothing in the profession that hurts more then the client cutting ties or finding a reason not to pay what is owed when they have control over the fruits of your labor. PPC is insurance if they play games with your living they loose the traffic.


 1:45 am on Oct 24, 2000 (gmt 0)

>How prevalent is this model and is it ethical?
Fairly prevalent and IMO ethical. You may feel you are being held hostage by the traffic, but if the traffic is valuable to you, then as you said it is a win - win. You can stop if you want to, the reverse is that in all practicality the optimizer has little recourse in the event the customer defaults, definitely a win - lose.


 6:29 am on Oct 24, 2000 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the input. Great thread to point clients to who question this model :)

Brett - "thread should have been called PPC catch 22 instead" Agreed

RC - "Our sites will be Siamese twins. As far as traffic generation is concerned, mine will be the one with all the vital organs. If you leave me, the traffic dies"

RC, perfectly put. Often, the labour intensive part of the business is invested up front. One can get fantastic listings for a client which dont change for some time (i.e AV at the moment). If the client terminates the contract and retains ownership of the content and the domain, then you the SEO lose. The only way to turn the tap off and not feel hard done by is to sabotage the site in some way. Hardly elegant!

So,in sum taken from the threads above: Up front and honest from the beginning. If you have a client who knows what to do with the referrers, PPC offers fantastic rewards for both parties.


 6:33 am on Oct 24, 2000 (gmt 0)

>> - The seo firm is protected from "cut and run" clients. (optimize the site, get great rankings, they cancel contract).

Does anyone have a general contractual model available to ensure that the "cut and run" doesn't happen?


 2:50 pm on Oct 24, 2000 (gmt 0)

>Our sites will be Siamese twins, blah, blah

About 3 years ago, I had to make a presentation to a state government group that didn't know SEO from road apples. I needed a simple way to convey the nature of our relationship. Trust me, no one has ever said I mislead them, though they are sometimes shocked to be reminded of the need to continue the arrangement.


 2:36 pm on Oct 25, 2000 (gmt 0)

I hope this doesn't constitute going off-topic, but it's relevant in principle, and there are all different models.

"RC, perfectly put. Often, the labour intensive part of the business is invested up front. One can get fantastic listings for a client which dont change for some time (i.e AV at the moment). If the client terminates the contract and retains ownership of the content and the domain, then you the SEO lose. The only way to turn the tap off and not feel hard done by is to sabotage the site in some way. Hardly elegant!"

Right on!!!! Couldn't be said better.

When doing "consulting services" simply to make recommendations which a site owner will accept or reject and implement on their own, or even when some HTML redesign is done to make code more spider-friendly and provided for the site owner to use, this is not an issue. It's a simple matter of rendering a certain number of hours of service in return for payment of fees based on an hourly rate, and when it's done, it's done. Very simple and clear-cut and a piece of cake to do.

But there's a related issue that comes up when the optimization and site design are done simultaneously, from the ground up. When a site is done using the client's text and nothing more, that's design alone, and irrelevant to this discussion.

However, it's different when doing what I've sometimes called "minor editing of your text to make the site search engine friendly." Frankly, I've done this at times because I know the limitations of some clients' budgets, and out of conscience, knowing how useless it is to have a site that can't be found, I don't have the heart to take their money do a site that will never do them any good.

All the "meat and potatoes" has gone into the writing of the site text, and incorporation of optimization elements into the site during the design process, as well as the tweaking and resubmission over a period of a few months.

The optimization has actually been done-on a "volunteer" basis in these cases, if you will, and all the work has been done on the client's site.

At this point in time, the site is generating income - the client sees results (they don't know quite what did it - they just know some kind of "magic" was done), and they can surely now afford to pay some extra, and continue the work. But will they?

This is where the different models converge in relevance and in principle. When the client gets the benefit of the meat and potatoes, and the continued benefits - the gravy, so to speak, of continued traffic and income, and the person or company in the equation doesn't also contine to derive benefit, the equation is out of balance - somebody is getting short-changed.

Ethics is way high on my list of values, and I can unequivocally say that with a different skill-set and different target market, I would not hesitate for even one minute to go with a PPC model. It's ethical, balanced, and totally fair for everyone concerned.

Nor would I hesitate to recommend a firm that uses the PPC model if it would be in the client's best interest - that would be the most ethical thing to do - I wouldn't be wasting my time on doing less than what the client actually needs, and wouldn't be wasting their money either.

When the work is done on the client's site, I don't think there's any way to guarantee that they won't run, but somewhere in this thread a model has emerged that's at least a little more fair from a combination/ground-floor-up standpoint:

Design alone=Price A, contract A
Added benefit/service of optimization=Added service at Price B, separate contract B, continuing for a given number of months, with a given amount due and payable up front, and renewable at the end of the time period.

Plus I've started to offer to handle hosting (reselling situation, which I'm open and honest about) ONLY for sites that will have continued maintenance/search engine work done. Two reasons for this. First, I won't do continued work without a control panel where I can pop in and add, delete, or change a bit of text in a hurry. Second, it'll be giving me some gravy on a continuing basis while providing them with a service I know they need.

Not perfect, but slightly more balanced.

Edited by: Marcia


 2:53 pm on Oct 25, 2000 (gmt 0)


great post. Personally I kind of like the idea of getting paid upfront for the consultation, reworking the HTML code and charging some sort of fee (for applicable sites) for the number of hours put in. To be fair to the clients, I believe that the rate charged should be less than normal and you get your extra $ on the backend with the PPC. Kind of a "best of both world" per say.


>Our sites will be Siamese twins, blah, blah

The light goes on :)


 3:26 pm on Oct 25, 2000 (gmt 0)

>>Our sites will be Siamese twins

Here's the kicker, get the Siamese part right and you don't need a contract. Nothing more pathetic than a client that's become a traffic junkie.


 3:31 pm on Oct 25, 2000 (gmt 0)

This thread reminded me of a client I was doing SEO for until about six weeks ago. I spent months pestering the web design company who made my client's website (and thus had the source code) but they were just sitting on my recommendations. Then after three months of this, my client told me to work on another domain out of the blue, and ignore the original stuff.
Annoyingly, I could hardly alter any text on the new site(I fought tooth and nail to get the keywords onto their pages) but they let me do the tags exactly as I wanted so I spent a lot of time on them. I submitted the site to www.uk.altavista.com initially (which for me has been a very good weathervane for seeing how the site will rank across the board).
Anyway, my client got taken over and as far as Internet strategy goes they were rudderless, not knowing which websites they would continue using etc. I also found out that the other web design company had been ordered (by my client)not to implement my optimisation on the original site because they knew they would be taken over, but couldn't say anything about it.
Since the situation was not ideal from my side, and also because they really couldn't say if they were keeping the site or not, we agreed to part company. It was entirely amicable, they'd been paying a good retainer, we had a friendly relationship anyway despite all the annoyances, no problem.
After reading this thread today I thought "oh, I'll just see what happened with their site recently" and guess what? Yep, on UK.AV all their phrases were bang on the nail, about eight no.1 places for various phrases, the theme thing (first time I really worked hard at a theme :) ) was working like a dream. (Million thanks to Brett Tabke owed, also to NFFC whose explanation of themes made it clear as day for me !!!)
So the point of all this is that if the ending of the contract had not been amicable, and if I hadn't just submitted to AV.UK initially, you can imagine what mood I'd be in now seeing them reaping the hard work I put in to it. So have a good long look at the 'insurance' option, it could save you a lot of grief.


 5:27 pm on Oct 25, 2000 (gmt 0)

Marcia, I really appreciate your ethical dilemma about doing any design that doesn't incoroporate what you know about SEO. Our business grew out of a pure design offering, and design is still my first love. But as I learn more and more about SEO, I can't ignore what I know.

For the last year or so, our company has been working at up-front client education. This is because we prefer to develop new sites that are SEO'd from the ground up, but the client needs to accept what that means in extra development costs and time. So we present SEO as a significant -- and not optional -- component of our service.

This tends to put us in a challenging position during the prospecting period, where we need to invest more than the usual time and resources in persuing a contract -- certainly more than a "design-only" house. However, when a client is on board, the going is usually much smoother. We help them understand that they are buying "top shelf", and bypassing a host of troubles by doing so. In the long run, it's the cost-effective choice.

We have only one client right now who brought us an established site, and they are delighted to have the whole thing gutted and re-worked. After 3 years of next to no traffic, they felt the big pinch and are no longer very "precious" about their copy and layout. Nevertheless, the education is essential for them as well. They've been amazed at how much their previous developers didn't understand.


 12:16 pm on Nov 19, 2000 (gmt 0)

Going all the way back up to Pete's original question, I think the ppc model just got a huge shot in the arm, due to Goto.com showing up everywhere. Now that Goto has legitimized PPC work, and many major portals have sold out to them, there is nothing stopping SEO's from milking PPC work for all it is worth. Goto, has given us the road map to follow.


 12:21 pm on Nov 19, 2000 (gmt 0)

Look at it from our point of view. If we do all the work (most of it when in the beginning of the contract) and the client do not want to pay for it after six months, we would loose big time.
A serious SEO would not offer the traffic to a competitor, just terminate the positions.


 9:59 am on Nov 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

"A serious SEO would not offer the traffic to a competitor, just terminate the positions"

This system definitely works and I like the above. It keeps it ethical and as long as you do your job and the client knows what to do with the referers, you wont lose them.

Im serious about SEOP, but I dont think in the way that you meant henki ;) Although being tempted to recoup the initial investment via selling the traffic to a competitor, we wouldnt do it. We do include the name of our client in the title and description where we can thus giving them some brand exposure.


 11:34 am on Nov 23, 2000 (gmt 0)

Well I do mention the client´s brand in the description so it would be hard to resell them. I.e. Running shoes from Nike... Would not be rellable to Rebook.

But then again, my goal is to have a long term relationship, that is where we make the money. In the end happy clients do not want to terminate their contracts.

Marshall Clark

 7:07 pm on Aug 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

This thread has been out of circulation for a while but I'd like to revive it given the recent increased importance of links from directories.

How do most of you deal with link popularity on these pointer domains given that the pointer will be competing with the client's site for links? Do you actually go after Yahoo and ODP listings for these sites or do you rely on other methods for building link pop?

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