I had an interesting call today with a client who hired us to build a new website for their business. As we got acquainted, he mentioned that they had another website out there, with a national website builder company. While I can’t say their name, I can say that it rhymes with “Blottle”.
Blottle brought this client on 5 months ago and started billing them $600 per month. When I asked the client what they were getting for $600, he couldn’t say. I wanted to help him identify whether or not his advertising dollars were being spent effectively, so I offered to do a 3-way call to get some answers for the client. And for myself.
I’ll be honest, I went into the call fully expecting that Blottle was overcharging the client for whatever services they had promised him. I’ve had my own experiences with national web builder and SEO companies in the past and, for the most part, they are full of aggressive sales reps that spin a good yarn, fail to execute on deliverables, and yield little to no ROI for their clients. However, I kept an open mind, telling my client that I would just help him get answers so he could make an educated decision on the value in the relationship.
We went through their automated phone system and eventually ended up talking with Doug, a customer service rep at Blottle. Doug stumbled through what I like to call the old “Smoke & Mirrors Routine of SEO”. I’d heard this pitch before – heck, I used to give it. In a previous life, I sold online advertising for the yellow pages and did my best to make it sound rosy. I didn’t quite understand what I was selling or what the client was getting, and I could tell poor Doug had received the same level of haphazard training. I can’t fault Doug for what came out of his mouth, but it certainly spoke volumes about Blottle and was eerily reminiscent of calls I’ve had with other national web builder and SEO companies.
Here is what Blottle was doing with the $600 my client was spending:
- Google Adwords
I then asked Doug how much of the $600 was being spent on Adwords. The answer was $270/month. “Okay, so what are you doing for SEO each month?” Doug’s answer: “That’s the dashboard and the website and we put in the keywords. We have the search engines running in the background.”
Okay, now I’m shaking my head.
“We have the search engines running in the background.” I know exactly what that means. There’s this thing about the industry that I’m in… It’s that you can pretty easily pull the wool over a novice’s eyes. If you don’t understand SEO, then you are just going to have to take someone’s word for it. Kind of like an auto repair shop. If your mechanic says your timing belt snapped, are you going to look under the hood and see for yourself? Do you even know where to look?
I hate this thing about my industry. It’s easy for a huckster to mislead an honest business owner who just wants to drive more business to their website. And it’s equally difficult for an honest SEO company to gain the trust of someone who’s been burnt in the past. But my client hadn’t been burnt, he was just in the process of getting burnt. And it wasn’t Doug’s fault.
As it it turns out, there was no SEO being done on a monthly basis. My client was paying $330 per month for simple web hosting. As a point of comparison, we charge roughly 16% of that to host our client websites.
But, just wait – it gets better. Or, should I say, it gets worse.
Doug then told us that there is a balance of $400 with the AdWords spend. This meant that Blottle wasn’t able to spend the entire $270 allocated for Adwords each month, so each unspent dollar was being rolled over into the next month. My client had only been with Blottle for 5 months, so that means $80 of the $270 (for the only legitimate online marketing effort that Blottle was doing on behalf of my client) wasn’t even being spent. By the way, Milwaukee is a fairly large market, and this client is in an industry where there is enough traffic to easily justify spending $500/month on Adwords. And yet, Blottle couldn’t manage to utilize their own predetermined Adwords spend, but instead built up a bank account by rolling over unspent dollars.
Now I wanted to know what kind of terms my client had with Blottle and what would happen if he canceled. This took some back-and-forth and a few hold sessions so Doug could confer with a supervisor. The answer: my client was on a month-to-month contract. And if he canceled, Blottle would NOT refund the accrued $400.
Mind you, I’m getting pretty heated by all of this, but this is a 3-way call and my client is hearing all this for the first time.
Doug tried to ease our angst by telling us that they could run an analysis to see why the full $270 wasn’t being spent and insisted he was sure that they could fix it. But I quickly shot back, “What if we never called in today? Your company most likely would have stayed the course and continued to stack up a bank account that my client would have to forfeit if and when he cancelled. This isn’t very proactive, Doug, and I would certainly expect more if I were the client and spending $600/month.” “And I do too,” said my client.
I wrapped up the call by telling Doug that I was disappointed in what we had uncovered and that the client and I needed to have a tough conversation after hanging up. He had given us everything we needed to make an educated decision as to what needed to be done.
After the call, my client immediately thanked me for my time and told me about the half-dozen other calls he’d had with Blottle that left him banging his head against the wall. “It was great to hear those guys stumble over their words and have someone who knew what they were talking about on the call.”
I didn’t feel good then, and I’m still steaming as I write this article. I feel like I want to do something about it.
I am sharing this story because I want people to know that this is real. You need to work with a local company who will sit down with you and explain everything in detail. You need to leave that meeting with a good understanding – scratch that – a GREAT understanding, of what you are investing in. Good companies are out there; we aren’t the only ones. And you will know when you’ve found one. They won’t sell you anything, they will listen to your needs and make recommendations that are backed up with case studies and solid consultation.
My name is Mark and I’m an SEO Consultant. I will be on your next call with your SEO company if you want. Not as Brew City Marketing, but as an independent SEO consultant. At absolutely no charge to you. Call us today!