Packaged SEO vs. Custom Solutions: Which Works Best?
For nearly as long as the black hat versus white hat battle has raged, a fierce but dedicated subset of people have argued for or against SEO “packages.”
Today, we are going to look at both sides of the argument and when we’re finished, you can weigh in below with your thoughts on the matter. Here are the three key points to this Internet-age-old argument.
- Which is Easier to Sell?
As an agency, your services or products can do very little to help clients if you don’t have any to begin with. Some SEO agencies are started by SEO professionals who decided to go out on their own and run a business while other agencies are started by entrepreneurs who use SEO as the core product for their new venture. The background of the person starting the business will determine which is easier to sell. If you are not from the industry and your sales team is not familiar with the inner workings of SEO, packages are by far the easiest to sell. That is not to say the packages themselves or even the company selling them are not great, we will save that argument for point three.
On the flipside, whenever you sell custom SEO strategies you are often left with two choices. Do you put in several hours of upfront work to identify issues and build a strategy to pitch the client? The technique works great, but you won’t close every client, so a lot of time is wasted on unclosed deals. This is where the packages have an advantage. Without doing upfront SEO research, you can pitch and close clients. A good SEO package should allow the agency to have freedom to adapt as needed, so the research can be added after the deal is closed.
- Which is Easier for the Client to Understand?
Whenever your agency tries to turn prospects into clients, you must be able to communicate the VALUE of your offering to the client. Generally, value statements are not focused on specific features but rather the desired outcome of a service. As an example: ABC Agency’s content marketing package yields an average increase in organic traffic of 350 percent or content marketing will help you generate highly qualified referral traffic that often turns into your best clients.
When you sell SEO packages, you can deliver value statements like the examples above, however, many new sales reps will default to selling the line item actions of an SEO package, which is not good for the company or the client. If you have pre-made packages that allow a client to see upfront exactly what you will do, and you focus on outcomes instead of details, packages may be the easiest for clients to understand.
As mentioned above, custom SEO strategies require more upfront research. Unless you are going to do the bulk of that research for free, you must effectively communicate to the client that the first few weeks or month of working with your agency will be dedicated to conducting extensive research and building an action plan to improve their site. Medium to large companies are familiar with this type of approach so you shouldn’t face a lot of resistance from them on the paid research. Small businesses however are less accustomed to paying for research and planning, so building the value of this to them is somewhat more challenging. If you can do it though, clients will appreciate the clear plan you will lay out for them once the research is completed.
- Which Should Yield the Best Results?
Let me start by saying that even as an agency owner, I am thankful that Google has continued to update their algorithm and have killed off many of the spam tactics of the past. In 2012 and earlier, cheap tricks that could easily be packaged and sold inexpensively boosted rankings. As many business owners found out in 2012, those quick rankings don’t last forever, or even past a link focused update.
Unfortunately, not every business owner is aware of this fact. The lack of SEO education among business owners is what allows many unsavory companies to continue to sell “cheap” SEO packages that do more harm than good. Because of companies that make claims like “$99 package to make you #1 on Google,” many people assume all packages are low quality.
A growing group of reputable service providers, especially those working in specific niches do offer quality work, bundled as a package. As more and more marketing dollars shift away from TV, print and radio, the marketing directors from companies are looking for new methods of promoting their companies. Packages are familiar to many of them since that is how the old methods were presented and sold, and as you know, many people don’t like change! These packages can work great, but, the key to the success of those packages is flexibility though. As your campaign progresses, as new problems are uncovered, and as best practices change, the SEO package you are offering or paying for should evolve.
So, I will leave you with these two questions.
If it is sold as a package that can evolve to meet your specific needs, did you really pay for a package or was it a cleverly marketed, easily digested custom plan?
Are packages and custom plans just both methods of marketing the same service to different demographics?