Why Give Away the SEO Farm?

++Why Do You Give Away the Farm?++

Hi Jill,

On your last newsletter you provided a long list of how-to articles for optimization. If at least some of your prospects are intelligent enough to implement all your instructions, aren't you afraid to turn your professional optimization services into a useless service? I mean...if you provide all the ingredients and recipe, what would they need your restaurant for?



++Jill's Response++

Hi Thomas,

That's a great question, and one that I am often asked. It seems that there are some people in the world who just can't help sharing what they know with others, which is basically the way I am. Maybe I was really supposed to be a teacher or something like that, but whatever the reason, I do like sharing knowledge.

The really interesting thing about it, however, is that it does NOT hurt my business but helps it immensely. Let me explain with a little bit of history about my company and me so you can see what I mean.

I started in this biz back in 1995 (or even before) as a hobby to figure out how to get my parenting Website to show up in the search engines for parenting phrases. I was also designing sites for small businesses, and was able to put the skills I had taught myself to good use on those client sites. There wasn't much info about SEO in those days, and in fact, it wasn't even called SEO. There were submission services, but that's about it. Sometime in 1997, I think, another Webmaster, whom I had met online through my parenting chat room, told me about the I-Sales discussion newsletter. It was awesome, and I've been hooked on online discussions in one form or another ever since!

I'm one of those who, when someone asks a question that I know the answer to, I just have to chime in. So, I immediately started posting to the I-Sales list when things would come up regarding how to get your site found in the search engines. There was so much misinformation out there, that I really felt it was my duty to make sure that people got the real facts -- at least the facts as I knew them! Interestingly enough, I started getting tons of work because of that. There were some powerful, important people on that list and apparently, little by little, my posts were giving me credibility as well as making a name for myself in the biz.

In 1998 I-Sales spun off a sister publication, I-Search. (If you are the nostalgic type, you can read Danny Sullivan's announcement of it here.)

I-Search was even better than I-Sales to me because it was completely focused on search. I posted often, and business really started booming. Once, a guy asked for people to submit some of their clients' results so that he could run an informal study of how the various SEO companies did, and whether their strategies held up over time. My results beat out all the others who had sent in their info! That certainly gave me lots of business too. Around the same time, in fact, I got a note one day from Danny (whom I had never corresponded with before) that he was looking for companies he could refer work to. Would that have happened if I hadn't told the world exactly how I optimize Websites for high rankings every chance I could? Probably not.

For the next few years I spent a lot of time giving away free site review reports to anyone who filled out the form on my site. This wasn't just a free ranking report like most were doing at that time, but an actual full report telling them exactly how to optimize their site. I did provide a quote for how much it would cost them to have me do the work as outlined in the report, and some did sign on for paid-services. Most of them didn't, but I figured that the few that did, subsidized my time for those that didn't, and meanwhile, I was providing lots of good will.

Here's what I figured out a long time ago: There are two kinds of people in the world...

There are those who just want to learn to do things by themselves. They have more time than money, and they just like learning new stuff. I'm often in that category myself, at least back in the old days when I had no money, so I can totally understand and respect that. I have no problem whatsoever helping those people to learn what they need to learn to do things in a good way for their sites and for the search engines. In fact, I would much prefer that they learn "my way" rather than getting into some crazy black-art SEO scheme. I also hated to see people getting confused (or scammed) by other SEOs who talk a lot of techno-babble that doesn't make any sense.

The other type of person is the kind who simply doesn't have the time or the desire to learn a whole new field. They generally like to understand it a bit to make sure they're on the right track, but they'd much rather hire an expert to do the actual work. I can tell these people anything and everything about SEO, and they would still prefer to just pay me to do it all for them. They just don't want to be bothered, and rightly so. If you can find an expert you trust, and you have the money to pay them, you're much better off to focus on the things you already do well.

Those are the people who hired me way back when and are still hiring me today. The more knowledge I give away and the more I help people, the more I help the Internet as a whole. In turn, I gain more credibility and clients who want to hire someone who knows what they're talking about.

This was never a calculated strategy for me, but it has turned out to be a great one that I would highly recommend to others in just about any business. Never be afraid to give out all the free information that you can. It will never hurt you, and will most definitely help you. And the best part is the feeling you get when many of those people you've helped write to you and thank you. It's amazing how many lives you can touch and even transform through articles, newsletters and forum posts.

Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing?

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines

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